Contextual LEVEL6

Artist Talk 1

Anna Mayer and Simona Dossi. Dec 8th 2021

”After several initial conversations about our intersecting interests and shared questions, we determined it would be helpful to speak to people who have experienced firsthand an ember shower or storm. Our focus on embers is two fold. Embers are one of the ways in which fire enters built structures, so understanding how they move is important to designing homes that can better withstand fire (a primary concern of Simona’s current research). Also, embers are a very small instance of fire that can nevertheless have a huge impact on the severity of a wildfire. There are practicalities and poetics to embers, in particular how there are many intersecting factors that determine how they move through space. With our interviews we would like to hear from those who have observed these intersecting factors directly. ‘

I listened to an artist talk from Artist Anna Mayer and chemical engineer Simona Dossi, who worked together collaboratively.

Anna started the talk by introducing her work which she really began in her early 20s, initially she was much more interested in books, literature, book production, which then lead her into print making and then from there onto sculpture. She got a BA degree in literature and gender. In her early work she has an interest in pattern, such as camouflage and the history of craft. She found an interest in artists like Bridgette Riley, who also uses pattern and optical illusion art.

From her website, “Anna Mayer’s art practice is sculptural and social, with an emphasis on hand-built ceramics and another molten material: bronze. Her methodology emerges from site-specific analogue firing projects and critical engagement with pre- and post-petro culture. Mayer revels in the fact that ceramics historically has been used to create highly functional items as well as intensely symbolic objects. Her work is part of this lineage, with equal concern for the future and a dramatically shifting climate—ecological and political.”

Anna and Simona’s interests overlap when considering fire, its behaviours and how it can be controlled. For Anna these are considered when working in ceramics, which have to be heated in a very specific and controlled way to be strong and durable.

Simona, as a scientist, looks at fire safety in the aim to reduce damage to homes from wild fires. Hoe can we help existing structures withstand wild fires? How to Embers behave, which often are seen to be what ignites homes?

Anna put unfired ceramics out in the open in the path of wild fires to allow them to fire the pieces, and they would stay I the landscape until this happened. Each is about torso sides and has some text on it. She was critiquing other land art and wanted to make something of a modest scale. The quotes also relate to her criticism of land art. She said that many of these sculptures, she understands, may never be fired in her lifetime. 10 years into the project the wildfires in California, specifically the Woolsey Fire, fired 6 of her pieces. Eventually she was able to go and pull some out once the fire was contained. 2 are still buried by mud in the land scape, but she managed to pull 4 out.

  Installation view. Background:  Caribbean Petroleum Fire Near San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2009 , 2021; printed fabric with holes created while crushing inherited dinnerware; 193 x 144 inches

My work similarly deals with changes I nature, as her work went on it began to be associated with climate change due to its nature. In some ways this relates to my work where life is regrowing from decayed things, in her case things are being destroyed (decayed?) by wildfires.

While this collaboration is distinctly different to the collaboration I did with one of my peers on the course, as this was between a scientist and an artist and has a different relationship, there are still similarities in the way 2 people come together to work on the piece. Our piece also included some scientific drawing from other artists which could relate to the collaboration with science.

Another artist I met at an event recently who also works in collaboration with scientists is Lucy Stevens, who is based in Leicester and collaborates with many experts in the natural world.

Contextual LEVEL6

Artist Talk 2

GardenShip and State: Jeff Thomas, Patrick Mahon, Mark Kasumovic

From this talk I was particularly interested in Mark Kasumovic, all of his photographs shown were taken on conservation grounds. The first photo he showed was taken on one such conservation ground, it shows the inside of a bird watching hut, but from the hut you can see the heavy industry surrounding the hut intended to view nature. Although many birds probably do visit this are he sees it as a symbol of a place to slowly watch the world exhaust itself or a place to discuss the current environmental crisis.

He also talks about how he moved to an area near where there was an apocalyptic scene shot for the opening sequence for blade runner, which was associated with society collapsing, maybe due to industrialisation.

He began being interested in working with scientists to look at how artists and scientists represent the world and hoe sometimes the methodologies can be quite similar but have different output. He began to be interested In the subtle, quiet representation of things collapsing and falling apart. This can be beautiful and something we are drawn to. I myself find myself drawn to these things and is the basis for my work.

He says that to be successful these images showing effects of climate change have to be subtle but they also have to be romantic in order to be interesting. He shows images of land and roads falling back into the sea. Even as a child he says he was thinking about how even if we become extinct as humans the planet will move on, it doesn’t matter, everything will be okay. He spent time walking around looking at he landscape for subtle clues of strange occurrences, such as sand dunes occurring on the conservation grounds which are surrounded by heavy industry.

Part of what began my work currently was thinking about the downfall of people and what would happen if we vanished, and nature began to take back over, and in some work lately I have been using a combination of decaying human made structures and the plants growing from their ruins. This is a similar combining of nature and human life hinting to our downfall that Mark uses in his photographs. His phones also appear very quiet in a similar way to my paintings, which is something I continue to take forward with my work.

Contextual LEVEL6

Derby Museum and Art Gallery

On the 27th of February 2022 I went to Derby Museum and Art Gallery, primarily to look at their natural history section, although they also have various art pieces, including a collection of Joseph Wright paintings, and at the time they also had an exhibit of Claude Cahun’s work.

My work this year has been very centred around various parts of our environment and nature, growth, and decay. I went to the museum to collect images and inspiration from their specimens, which include a selection of animal bones, which were the starting point of my work this year.

From this trip I collected images to work from to ad visual variety to my work, as previously I was limited to skulls in my collection and images from the internet, which I didn’t want to use due to the possibility of copyright issues. It also gave me the opportunity to explore the variety of skulls and insects which I could use in my work., as the museum also has a wide variety of insect specimens.

The Notice Nature Feel Joy collection shows almost 2,000 specimens from their natural history collection.

At the time the museum was also hosting a touring exhibition of Claude Cahun’s work, containing 42 contemporary giclee prints made from scans of Cahun’s original photographic self-portraits, as the majority of the negatives have been lost.

“Born Lucy Schwob, she adopted the pseudonym in 1917 to free herself from the narrow confines of gender. At the beginning of her career she was aligned to the Surrealist movement and was friends with André Breton; however she distanced herself both politically and physically after fleeing France on the eve of Nazi occupation.

Cahun settled in Jersey where she embarked upon her defining photographic series, in which the subversion of traditional portraiture and the constructed nature of identity and gender are pressing concerns. In these now famous images, Cahun anticipated the performative work of contemporary artists such as Cindy Sherman.

This Hayward Touring exhibition is in collaboration with Jersey Heritage and was first presented at the Women of the World Festival 2015, Southbank Centre.”

Although the work was interesting to see and explore it was not particularly relevant to my current line of work but was relevant to my own experiences with gender expression.

LEVEL6 Professional

Commercial Art

Commercial art is different to fine art due to reason it was made. Its purpose. Fine art is made to say something, commercial art is made primarily to be sold in some way, either itself as decoration, illustrations in books or book covers, graphic design, advertising etc.

When I leave university, I would like to be able to work towards being at least partially self-employed, selling paintings and prints, doing commissions. There are a few ways to go about this, such as selling online on places such as Etsy or on a dedicated website or in person at markets or fairs. Commercial galleries exist but I can’t find them, they don’t label themselves this way.

Dedicated websites need you to have a way to bring traffic to them yourself, such as a social media following or seeing people in person at events, handing out business cards etc. there’s also often extra fees, such as in WIX you need to upgrade your account to set up a store and be able to accept online payments through the store.

 Sites such as etsy and other online marketplaces bring traffic themselves. I already have some experience selling handmade items on Etsy and running a shop there. The downside of places like Etsy are the fees that they take, for example last year around a third of what I made on Etsy through sales went to paying the fees etsy takes for advertising, processing fees, listing fees etc.

I went to an exhibition in October, which was more of a niche craft fair aimed at artists who create worked based around taxidermy and bones, and dead things in general, rather than a traditional fine art exhibition. They currently have applications open for artist tables for next year’s events in Nottingham and Leicester which I am hoping to apply for to sell prints and perhaps original paintings.

Part of doing this which intimidates me the most is the steps required for setting us a business. Once you make £1000 or more a year through self-employment you must register as a sole trader and start doing tax returns, keeping records and such.

From the government website,

How to set up as a sole trader

To set up as a sole trader, you need to tell HMRC that you pay tax through Self-Assessment. You’ll need to file a tax return every year.

Your responsibilities

You’ll need to:

  • keep business records and records of expenses
  • send a Self-Assessment tax return every year
  • pay Income Tax on your profits and Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance – use HMRC’s calculator to help you budget for this
  • You’ll need to apply for a National Insurance number if you’re moving to the UK to set up a business.

Naming your business

You can trade under your own name, or you can choose another name for your business. You do not need to register your name.

You must include your name and business name (if you have one) on official paperwork, for example invoices and letters.

Business names

Sole trader names must not:

  • include ‘limited’, ‘Ltd’, ‘limited liability partnership’, ‘LLP’, ‘public limited company’ or ‘plc’
  • be offensive
  • be the same as an existing trademark
  • Your name also cannot contain a ‘sensitive’ word or expression, or suggest a connection with government or local authorities, unless you get permission.

What records to keep

You’ll need to keep records of:

  • all sales and income
  • all business expenses
  • VAT records if you’re registered for VAT
  • PAYE records if you employ people
  • records about your personal income
  • your grants, if you claimed through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme – check how much you were paid if you made a claim

Why you keep records

You do not need to send your records in when you submit your tax return but you need to keep them so you can:

  • work out your profit or loss for your tax return
  • show them to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if asked
  • You must make sure your records are accurate.

Keep proof

Types of proof include:

  • all receipts for goods and stock
  • bank statements, chequebook stubs
  • sales invoices, till rolls and bank slips
  • If you’re using traditional accounting
  • As well as the standard records, you’ll also need to keep further records so that your tax return includes:

what you’re owed but have not received yet

  • what you’ve committed to spend but have not paid out yet, for example you’ve received an invoice but have not paid it yet
  • the value of stock and work in progress at the end of your accounting period
  • your year-end bank balances
  • how much you’ve invested in the business in the year
  • how much money you’ve taken out for your own use
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Over the past 2 years at uni I have done a few comissions for private collections, one of whcih has been this year. I would consider this comission more commercial/illustration that fine art. As most of my comission work has been, this peice was digital.

I think these experiences are helpful for me in terms of helping me get experience communicating with a client, as well as working towards a deadline. for example, there were some changes requested for this piece and I was working towards a deadline so that the client could get the work printed in time for christmas.

A difficult part of doing work such as this, for me is learning how much my art is worth, and becoming comfortable charging for my work. in this case it was a relative i was working for, and they offered an amout which i though was fair, and accepted. this is not something I’ll really be able to do in the future and i need to be more comfortable charging for my work.

When doing freelance, self employed work such as this an important factor to consider, that ill have to learn and do in the future if i continue this kind of work is tax returns and registering as self employed. if you make over £1,000 a year working as a self employed person you have to do this, eventhough its far below the personal allowance of 12,500 (the amount you earn before paying income tax) (more detail on this in Comercial Art)

Contextual LEVEL6 Uncategorised

Tessa Farmer

“Tessa Farmer was born in 1978 in Birmingham and  lives and works in London. She is the great granddaughter of the influential writer of supernatural horror Arthur Machen. She studied at The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, The University of Oxford  where she received a BFA and an MFA. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and is in many collections including those of The Saatchi Gallery, London, The David Roberts Collection, London and The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania.

In 2007 she was artist in residence at the Natural History Museum in London and was nominated for The Times/ Southbank Show Breakthrough Award. In 2011 she was awarded a Kindle Project ‘Makers Muse’ Award.

Recent exhibitions include a solo exhibition ‘Unwelcome Visitors’ at The Holburne Museum, Bath, ‘The Nature of the Beast’ at New Art Gallery Walsall, ‘Victoriana’ at Guildhall Art Gallery, London and ‘Red Queen’ at MONA, Tasmania.

Tessa is represented by Danielle Arnaud London and Spencer Brownstone Gallery, New York.”

I found Farmers work in a text while researching for my essay on the use of animalsin contempty art. She uses found creatures innher work, insects she has found or sourced from somewhere that lets them live out their natural lives, Farmer dows not belive in killing animals specifically for making art (something which i fully agree with). “I collect them from the streets in summer, from greenhouse, windowsills etc – all dead already. I don’t kill anything, and although I can see the importance of collecting insects for scientific purposes, I don’t think this can be justified for art.”

She puts a lot of care into putting together her fairies and the way she talks about them as if refferring to real animals is interesting to watch.

The time and care she puts into these is something reflected in my work, where i am painting creatures and objects which people dont look at or actively avoid or dislike. i do not feel this way about what i paint and out a lot of care into my work.

the mood given off my farmers work is very different to mine, “The artist herself notes: “the fairies’ macabre appearance echoes their disconcerting behaviour. On peering closely into the ‘Swarm’, sinister scenes of abuse and bewildering chimeras emerge as we become absorbed into this almost apocalyptic vision.”” Her work is quite unsettling, and while mine is not happy by any means, my paintings are quiet and calm.

Part of what influenced my current work and what got me to this point of interest was the idea of the appocalypse, whch led me on to decay and abandonment, what happens to things when we leave them along and how nature takes everything back. Farmer mentions the possibility of her fairies attacking humans in the furure, “I suspect once the fairies start attacking humans, they may be in a for a challenge.”, perhaps in this world its the fairies which will bring outbout the end or reduction in human life.

Contextual LEVEL6



“In the long run, nothing escapes the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The pull of entropy is relentless. Everything decays. Disorder always increases.”

“Why Art is Beautiful

Entropy offers a good explanation for why art and beauty are so aesthetically pleasing. Artists create a form of order and symmetry that, odds are, the universe would never generate on its own. It is so rare in the grand scheme of possibilities. The number of beautiful combinations is far less than the number of total combinations. Similarly, seeing a symmetrical face is rare and beautiful when there are so many ways for a face to be asymmetrical.

Beauty is rare and unlikely in a universe of disorder. And this gives us good reason to protect art. We should guard it and treat it as something sacred.”

I really exited to look into this more in relation to my work, it was only bought to my attemtion right t the end of term as i was getting everything ready for formative assessment.

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