Bristol Colour

Test tubes filled with different coloured sands. Bristol

My sand collection, started in Australia last year (Collecting Colour) continues to grow whenever I visit the great outdoors, but I hadn’t really considered the fact that I could add to my collection whilst I was in the city.  I have been reading ‘Origins’ by Lewis Dartnell and the following sentence made me think – ‘the story of civilisation is the story of humanity digging up the fabric of the planet beneath our feet and piling it up to build our cities.   Everyday my walk to my studio takes me through the building works of Temple Gate – a huge road improvement scheme that had meant for the last two years you are never quite sure which way you will end up going to get past Temple Meads and into the city.

As I wander past in my morning or late afternoon daydream, I have seen constantly changing piles of sand, aggregate, concrete etc. as great holes and trenches  have been dug , had mysterious things happen within their depths, and then been filled in again .  But because these sands were building materials, they didn’t fit with my idea of collecting colours specific to place.  Reading the text by Dartnell made me realise that these imported sand would become the colours of Bristol.

Eurovia site, Temple Gate, Bristol

So, on a slightly soggy Tuesday at the end of August, I could be found in the company of Becky, the site Quantity Surveyor, in full fluorescent gear, searching the site for sand.  We found 24 different sands (including a lovely soft grey that Becky went out of her way to track down for me, remembering that it had been one of the first sands to be delivered to site), gravels, and rock fragments that I was able to crush into powder.  I am amazed at the variety, if asked beforehand I think I would have expected to find just one or two different types of sand on building site.

Emily Ketteringham in fluorescent jacket and hard hat
Test tubes filled with different coloured sands. Bristol

As well as adding to my test tube collection, I had enough to make this tower of sand – I feel a trip to Alum bay in the Isle of Wight might be needed…

Measuring tube filled with layers of sand from Temple Gate, Bristol

Thank you very much to all at Eurovia for letting me visit the site.

Collecting Colour

119 test tubes of sand from Western Australia collected by Emily Ketteringham
119 Small test tubes of sand and rock from Western Australia, collected over a two month period in 2018

I had been to Western Australia before in 2011, and the thing that really stuck in my mind was the colour. When we were preparing to visit again in 2018, I wanted a way of physically bringing that memory back with me. I had just finished my MA design project ‘Shifting Sands‘ where friends had been collecting sand from around the UK for me to turn into concrete pebbles. As a result, I had a house full of left over pots of sand – the perfect inspiration for a holiday project to collect colour.

Over the two months we travelled round Western Australia, I filled 119 tiny test tubes with sand, gravel, ochre, ore, and if I am very lucky, one test tube might even have tiny bits of fossilised stromatolite in it. None of my samples were taken from sacred Aboriginal sites. I found more colour, and more variety, than I could have dreamed of.

Close up of test tubes filled with sand from Western Australia

I started being restrained and collecting only one sample a day. That went out of the window on the day we found this extrodinary place by the side of the road. I think I collected 10 colours in under an hour.

Close up of test tubes filled with sand from Western Australia

I have samples from places that are contradictory – such as this iron mine
that was wondrous and horrendous at the same time.

My favourite is dark metallic sand collected with a magnet from a perfect circle
of sand around the top of an ant hole found behind Dales camp site in Karijini
National Park. Just steps away, in one of the most beautiful, magical place I
have places I have ever been to, we saw this graffiti – you do have to wonder.

Every time I look at this collection, I am back in Australia.

119 test tubes of sand from Western Australia collected by Emily Ketteringham
119 Small test tubes of sand and rock from Western Australia, collected over a two month period in 2018

Finding a Language

I spent July and August 2018 travelling around Western Australia in a camper van with my husband Laurence.  I went to indulge my love of rocks and to revisit the layers and colours I have had stuck in my mind since our last visit nine years ago.  I left feeling saturated with colours.

Since we got back I have been struggling to find a way to make work about the landscape we travelled through.  The photos I took don’t do justice to the vastness of the landscapes, so how could a print? I didn’t want to make representational work as my brain doesn’t work that way, but more abstract ideas refused to resolve themselves.  Several false starts left me disheartened. 

In this print I think I have finally found a way to explore my memories of Australia.  By focusing in on a specific circle within a photo, I am containing part of that vast landscape, selecting an area to analyse in detail, rather than being overwhelmed by the whole.  The colour of the place becomes the all-important subject of the print.  I have found a visual language that works to express what I want to say, as well as being challenging to me as a print maker. I hope this is the start of a whole new body of work.

Syntax of a Circle

My starting point is a photo taken just before sunset from the top of a small hill, at Cheela Plains Station camp site, on the way to Karijini National Park.

I chose a circular section of the photo, and a focal point within it (the yellow flowers above right of centre).  As this had the potential to be a highly complicated print, I did something I don’t often do, which is to try a mock up on the computer first, just to check it wasn’t going to be another false start.

To create the computer version, I looked carefully at the colours within the photo, and in particular, at the colours that touched the circumference of the circle.  I choose the colours that covered the largest areas of circumference, drew a point where they first and last touched on the circle, and used the focal point as the third point to draw a wedge shape.  As some of the colours mixed and intermingled within the photo, I ended up with some wedges overlapping.  As my inks would be translucent, these would create additional colours. 

I received positive reactions; I decided to try it in print.  I could have started with a simpler image, but where would be the fun in that?

More precise analysing and planning of my layers followed.  What amazes me is that I could look as this photo one day and plan one set of colours, then come back the next day and think that I needed something totally different. 

Two afternoons of colour mixing and three days of printing later…

The dots down the side show the 24 different ink colours that I used (some were printed more than once).

The only problem now is that because I had no faith in myself or my idea, I only printed five prints, and everyone has a mistake or flaw of some kind.  So if I want to have a edition of this print, it means I have to print it all over again.  But actually I think this is no bad thing.  I was quite seduced by how the print looked when I had printed about 5 colours.  It was very calm and quite minimal, the temptation was to leave it as it was, but then I wouldn’t have known if my idea was worth pursuing.  So the fact that the prints had flaws from the very beginning meant that I was less precious about them, I felt that it was OK to keep going to the very end, that if I ruined them by putting a bad colour on it would be justified as they were only a proof of concept.  And it worked, and I am happy, and it is OK to print 30 layers all over again, I just hope I don’t run out of any of my colours.

Creative Reactions

Creative Reactions is a Bristol University project exploring the relationships between science and art. 50 artists and 50 scientists were selected to collaborated on works from sculptures and wood carvings to canvas, digital and performance art.  The resulting work was show at two exhibition, the first at North Gallery (May 2-19), and then at The Island (May 20 – June 1).

I had the great fortune to be paired with Ailsa Naismith, from the School of Earth Sciences, who is focusing her research on Volcan de Fuego, an active stratovolcano in southern Guatemala.

I loved working with Ailsa.  She was enthusiastic and engaging when talking about her subject, clear and patient in her explanations.  Through our conversations, I have created an image of a possible cross section though Fuego volcano.  This has had several iterations with Ailsa noting what is right, and suggesting changes to improve my understanding.

What has surprised me is how different the final image looks from the standard, tidily layered, diagrams you find in books.

Diagrammatic cross section showing how layers of Pyroclastic Flow, Ash, and Lava might build up and interact to create Fuego Volcano in Gutamala.

Talking with Ailsa has sparked numerous.  I have really enjoyed the whole process of collaboration, talking through ideas, thinking hard to grasp new concepts.  I find it interesting that the end result is so different to the image I imagine I would have produced without Ailsa’s contribution.

The Hepworth Print Fair

I am very excited to be taking part in the Hepworth Print Fair in Wakefield (1-3 March).  I visited the fair last year and was extremely impressed by the range and talent of printmaking on show.  I am honoured to be 1/60th of this year’s celebration of print.  If you are in the area, come and say ‘hello’, or make a trip to Wakefield especially for the fair – I am sure it will be worth the drive.

Glowing Rocks

The time I thought would never come is almost here!  A bit more polishing and I will have a final version of my light up pebble.  Depending on which orientation you hold him in, he can display 6 different light patterns.  Due to my aversion to flashing lights, all his transitions are quite slow and subtle, so you have to take your time, hold him steady and let him settle if you want to see a new pattern – this is not a pebble to be rushed.  My favourite is when you hold him upside down, he pulses with light at approximately the same speed as my heart rate.

Below you can see the electronics built by Laurence to make pebble work, along with a flow diagram explaining the different light patterns.

 

Exploring Memories of Landscape in Print

I’ve been working on a new way of creating images in response to landscape. These smaller circle prints are created in a similar way to my big geological circles in that I use a single circle stencil and mask off areas to create the different shapes. I have placed each section of colour in a different position on each print, so although each one in the series is created from the same shapes and colours, each one is unique rather than being part of an edition.

The forms and colours in these prints come from a memory of a walk along the coast near Minehead. I find it very difficult to hold an image of place in my mind, but colours seem to stay put.


Evolution of an Idea

I’ve been emptying photos off my phone and found these. I thought it was interesting to see how an idea developed from seeing these wonderful concrete chunks on a building site in Rome, through to finished pendants. These were a collaboration with the lovely Sarah from Flux and are currently on sale in the gallery on Upper Maudlin Street.

Light-Up Pebble

Mould making is a strange business!  It may look like I am making very odd Christmas puddings and hybrid jellyfish / doll heads, but this is actually my first experiment into finding the best fibre optics to use for my light up pebble.

Process & Progress Exhibition

My fellow part time MA Design students and I recently put on a show of work in progress  at UWE.  I found it really interesting to show preparatory work, the work that has actually taken me longest and caused most heart ache, alongside finished pieces – the hideously ugly mould which took me months to make, alongside the carefully polished concrete piece that finally came out of it, eight of the many colour experiments with the finished pebble screenprint which they eventually led to. A really helpful and instructive experience.