A Shifting Subjects conference took place in Leeds on the 20th October. I joined the audience to listen to speakers Wendy Elia on Self Portraiture by women from the Renaissance to the present; Dr. Alison Rowley, of the University of Huddersfield, on Four Portraits of Sarah Lucas as an Artist and Poppy Bowers, curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, on Sarah Lucas: Situation Absolute Beach Man Rubble. I feel privileged to be showing work alongside Wendy Elia, Sarah Lucas, Linda Ingham and Miranda Whall in the Shifting Subjects Exhibition, which is drawing to a close on Saturday. There are plans to bring the show to London early next year which is exciting news!
Shifting Subjects is now open at the Abbey Walk Gallery. The show opened on Wednesday. It features commissioned work by Wendy Elia, Linda Ingham and myself, and pieces by Sarah Lucas and Miranda Whall.
Annay McNay writes:
“Out of the three commissioned artists, Margaret Ashman deals with the notion of artist-audience communication the most directly. The sign dance she performs in her film comprises an artistic combination of dance steps and sign language for the deaf, rendering a rough translation of a poem she wrote in the journal she kept as part of this project. Throughout the dance Ashman seems partly to be communicating with, partly to be unaware of the audience. As a devout Christian, whose religiosity infuses her work, she might perhaps be deemed to be in communication with God. The sequence could be a slow meditation, a yoga-like salutation. Holding her hands together in prayer, uttering ‘Amen’, and then towards the end of the film, a sudden burst of spoken speech: ‘In the beginning was the word’. Ashman makes explicit the significance of language and communication as a means to define the self. Her choice to show the film alongside photo etchings gives rise to a multiplicity of languages and different levels of metarepresentation, emphasising the many possible translations and modes of expression of the self; there is no one sign, or subject+identity, that defines an autobiography. Across time and space everything shifts.”
Freelance Arts writer Anna McNay has written a great essay for the exhibition catalogue. She has a background in academic linguistics with particular interests in art and gender, art and the body and art and sexuality.
The catalogue will be available from the Abbey Walk Gallery.
Just one week to go and my dry mounted prints have gone off in a van for delivery to the gallery later today. I’ll be at the Opening on Tuesday evening 2nd September and talking to a group from a local school on Wednesday 3rd September.
I have updated my website with images of the etchings on a new page in my gallery.
Contemporary Women Telling the self through the Visual Arts
3rd September – 31st October
Sarah Lucas | Miranda Whall | Wendy Elia
Margaret Ashman | Linda Ingham
A completed set of prints has gone to be professionally dry mounted for display in the exhibition. The film has been sent off too. Art writer Anna McNay has written a brilliant essay for the catalogue and interviewed the artists for a catalogue Q&A piece.
I have been enjoying working on the last two plates for the exhibition. I’ve been a bit more experimental. I had fun overlaying one image with lace. It seems to add privacy, mystery, femininity and does wonders for less than youthful skin all in one go. I think I will try this plate with lighter coloured inks too. It works in black but it may work better in a pastel shade.
Professional musician Hannah Ashman (who happens to be my daughter) has composed and recorded a piano composition for the soundtrack of the film. The piano is one of Hannah’s main instruments and so it was a natural choice for her. It also ties in well visually with the film as there is a rather beautiful grandpiano a corner of the dance studio where the filming took place.
Starting with Rachel Manns’s photographs, I spend hours on my computer, working on the image in photoshop changing background detail,altering the tones and contrast, and cropping the image to create a new composition. Once I’m happy with the result I have my new file printed onto a transparency which I then take to the workshop to spend a day or two transferring the image onto copper. The photo etching process involves a light sensitive medium which is rolled onto the plate, hardened by heat, cooled, exposed to UV light (with the transparency in place), developed in sodium carbonate solution, etched in ferric chloride, aquatinted, and etched again. Then the printing begins – first experimenting with various inks, papers and wiping techniques to produce the desired result. I do the printing at my own studio in N4, listening to radio 4. Here are two of my prints at the proofing stage, with the original photographs for comparison.
Chisato arranged for two BSL interpreters to come and interpret during the practice and filming sessions. This is Sophie who was interpreting when Rachel Manns took the photographs. Natasha interpreted at the beginning and end of the week. It was great to be able to communicate properly with Chisato and she with me – on previous occasions when she had modelled for me we had communicated slowly by writing on a pad.
I’m not someone who attends exercise classes, neither do I know how to sign in BSL and so it was quite tough learning the sequence of signs and movements that comprised the sign dance. At the beginning of the week I doubted whether I would ever get the hang of it! Fortunately Chisato was very patient and broke it all down into very small parts. She simplified sections that I struggled with to make it easier for me. Everyday we had a warm up session, essential for loosening up so that the dance was more fluid and graceful.
Margaret has been commissioned by the Arts Council to make a series of self portrait photo etchings, as part of a wider project, Shifting Subjects, led by Linda Ingham of the Abbey Walk Gallery. The photo etchings, based on photographs taken by Rachel Manns and the film made in collaboration with Chisato Minamimura and Emil Kunda will be shown in an exhibition at the Abbey Walk Gallery in autumn 2015. The exhibition will include self portraits by Wenda Elia and Linda Ingham.