Continuing on, now the sixty something art student…..MFA Art, Society and Publics.

Masters Exhibition August 2017

The Masters Show in August  is at the Cooper Gallery in Dundee. It opens on the 18th August and runs for a week. I have a ‘white cube space’ in the upper foundation space.

It will be quite simple.  Two mannequins showing FGM dresses, a projection of the cross stitch film on one of the walls and a sound piece which can be heard thro’ headphones. I will keep the lighting low in the space to enable viewers to see the film and there will be two spotlights on the dresses. I am getting two bean bags for people to relax on while listening to the sound piece. At the back will be a table with my postcards and badges for people to take and some leaflets that Forward are sending me.

I want to make it an immersive experience, informative, educational but not too shocking. The soundpiece is the most disturbing. Other messages are dressed up or disguised with colourful sewing . I will be around most of the week if people want to chat about anything.


Final Decision – January 2017

I have been thinking about making the exhibition more focussed and specific.  I have decided to drop the bread dough part of my work and concentrate on my FGM work.  It has been my aim since coming on this course to make a public platform for raising awareness about FGM and the final Masters show in August  is a great opportunity for this.   Its not an easy decision as my bread dough is a large part of my art practice.   It is about prioritising what feels right  for a public show.



 Exhibition Ideas for August 2017

Over the last few days I have been starting to think about the MFA final exhibition in August. What do I want to show? Is it about showing all the work I have done over the last two years?  It needs to be seen as separate to the assessment to pass the course – thats about showing and documenting what I have been doing.  But going public-thats a bit different…… What makes a good show?  It needs to be interesting to the public. Intriguing even.  It would be good to involve them in making the art work, make it a bit hands-on. I  can think about when I visit exhibitions. What catches my eye? What do I enjoy and what do I find boring or irritating?

I see my work falling into two pieces of artwork.  And they are not really anything I will have made to show. They are simple ideas but ones that I feel comfortable with.  A daily performance  in a small intimate space, like maybe a tent or a booth, a space curtained off from the gallery and in this space I will daily give a storytelling , in one of my FGM dresses,  about FGM to a small audience, I am thinking 6 to 8 people.  I did wonder about  having other  information in the space and artwork or the film ‘needlecraft’ but Ed thinks simple is best.  Less is more.  And I feel I agree with him.

The second artwork will be an activity space with two tables. One for people to pick up a piece of dough and squeeze it to make a dough fist and the other table to show all the pieces that people have made.  This will grow and change daily which I can document and maybe post on Facebook. So here I see myself as the facilitator and it is the public making the artwork. It is a record, a document of an event. Its like I will be standing back but I like that idea. I don’t have to be making things myself.

These thoughts are so interesting to me. Its what my course is all about, art going public and its not what I had imagined.

Positioning Paper 3 and Assessment, 6th December 2016


For my Position Paper 3, I made a small book in the form of a ‘recipe book’.  This was in two sections, the first explaining about my dough therapy and putting my work in context and the second section, the ‘recipes’  describing some of the workshops I have done.

My assessment was a 10 minute presentation  in front of my tutors and peers.  I decided not to use powerpoint but just talk about my work in my space. Somehow it felt less sterile and I wanted to engage my peers in my work by them seeing it firsthand. I wore my second fgm dress .img_8783  This was its first outing and I felt very special wearing it. It made people look and comment, it felt nice because it is well fitted and hugs my body. I feel very feminine in it which was the idea.

I gave everyone a piece of dough to play with and asked them to make a fist and leave them with me at the end. It was interesting how that seemed to wake people up, there was a buzz went round the room.

 I pretty much stuck to the script I had prepared for the powerpoint, moving from conference to Bulgaria to dough therapy workshops, FGM and then a bit about the unconscious and the fishtank, my process and whats next?

Questions were: do I see my workshops as collaborations? I thought this was a bit odd. I don’t see them as collaborations but then it did make me question what collabs actually are when I talked about the fgm dress. Do I want control or is it a 50:50 arrangement? I decided its about communication and being honest with each other.

FGM dress do I see myself as an Activist? I don’t really see myself as an activist I just want to inform people about the issue. Ed suggests that I am though, as I am already bringing these subjects into the political domain. By wearing the dress I am exposing everybody to it, they have to look at it! I spoke about how I might change it into a performance piece more.   Raising awareness presenting is an issue. What do I want to give or get?

What groups am I interested in working with beyond the course? Still getting experience and next semester, working with diverse groups

I feel it went well and I felt confident about my work. I can see how much I have ‘grown’ since last year.   I felt enthusiastic and passionate about my work, like I am immersed in it. Here are some of the shapes my peers made:



Julie, Tina and I visited the Glasgow Womens Library, its in Bridgeton, a two stop train ride from Central station.   It’s a beautiful old listed building and Gabrielle showed us around. What a nice atmosphere, really relaxed and lots of pockets of activity going on from a circle of story reading to women discussing issues, having their lunch, preparing for the evening cinema show,  to painting and decorating.  It was a hive of industry.   I found three books on FGM.  One was a very old report from 1977 of women who had been interviewed in America. The Hosken Report. Its hard to get this report and its reference only but it was interesting because it had a good section on the myths and beliefs of women around FGM and a solid historical section.

There were also two small exhibitions.  The Chandelier of Lost Earrings by Lauren Sager and Sharon Campbell. And Changing Room by Jo Hodges and Denise Zygadlo.   This exhibition was a very powerful and moving look at menopause. It so resonated with me because I have been menopausal for 9 years now.   I loved the fact it was an interactive exhibition, that was really important to me.   We could open doors of the cupboards, the boxes and drawers and rummage about amongst the stuff on the shelves.

While I was there, I just wanted to stay there and visit regularly. I felt so comfortable amongst the women there.


Damian Ortega,  Fruitmarket gallery, Edinburgh 24/08/2016

Ortega’s work is mostly clay either unfired or glazed. His work is mainly abstract sculpture. I felt drawn to the red clay and the simple shapes.

He comments about using clay:- it is classical, conventional, common, ordinary, a complete world/system, moving, working, shaping, new forms, shapes, ideas,   flexible, receptive.   He started using it when he was feeling quite low and found he used it to create his own energy. It was peaceful. It made him feel he wanted to work with the soil, the earth/ground and the environment.

When he saw the gallery space, he wanted to respond to the space and have a dialogue with it.   In response he made the ‘curtain’ of clay blobs on string just over the stairs and the erosion piece on the ground floor of the gallery.   He said at one point in the beginning” I didn’t feel confident to go ahead”

He used a book on geology to get the idea for the Erosion piece. He enjoyed using both his hands and machines to work on the stone. And thoroughly enjoyed the process, he loves the processing in his working. The erosion piece was very simple and narrative and I loved the last pieces where he dug right into the rock and it became quite cavernous and deep.

The other piece on the ground floor was ‘broken sac’   which was a clay receptacle with the insides scooped out and the material deposited on the gallery floor. ‘pulling out the insides’ , left with nothingness’ . He shared his fascination for tools.   He made tools to remove the material from the sac/pot and has researched tools, what is the idea of tools, extensions/extended our possibilities/ senses.

What I like about the Fruitmarket gallery is they always have a short 5 minute video interview with the artist and this gives fascinating insight into how he works, what is their inspiration and process.   I kind of hang on their every word!!

3D Make

I finally got down to  the ‘Make’  department  at DJCAD this summer. This is where you can laser cut and do 3D printing.   I took my wax pelvis and Rob helped me scan it into the computer using a hand held scanner.  This wasn’t as easy as it looks, it took a few goes to get the angles right.   Then its a steep learning curve using Rhino which is the software programme to edit the image, bat it off to the printer and four hours later, I had a wee grey   pelvis.  Its fascinating watching it being made and the final product has lots of supports and structures that have to be broken off or filed down to get the final piece.


Night Time – 3AM


Where do I go in the night?

Pouches of disturbance. I am slithering and sliding down into the hole/pocket. Skulking around inside, its glutinous, muddy, dark , like a mire. Like the wallow mud bath of a stag.

I feel directionless, restless, tossing and turning. Then I climb out the other side, stagger along the surface and then slip down into another one…….

Positioning Paper  2

I am getting ideas for my positioning paper 2 which is due in May. Its 2000 words about my current practice but to be presented in an imaginative and innovate way.



I have moved away from the big heap of dough idea and see my practice  heading towards experimenting with dough  as a type of art therapy.   I see it as a combination of the hands working with the dough as a means of expression and some listening skills on my part.     The sculpture above is “Two Seated on the Wall”  2000 by Juan Munoz and it inspired me to make a scene in my studio of two of my bread men sitting on a shelf having a conversation which will be all about my dough work.  I am looking into having two little microphones near the bread men and getting two of my peers to record the conversation.    It ‘positions’ my work as follows:

Bread History,  Artists that have worked in Bread, Socially Engaged Art, Unconscious Processes including Symbolism, Counselling Skills like Mirroring and Body Language and Art Therapy. It will be called ‘A Conversation Between Two Very Well Educated and Self-Aware Bread Men’ .

Words, Words, Words…..

One thing I am finding quite difficult with my studying is some of the articles and books I have to read;  they have a lot of words in them I don’t know the meaning of, so I have to have my faithful Chambers English Dictionary with me.  The following words keep coming up and I like them and want to use them:

dichotomy ( division into two strongly contrasting groups)

paradox (that which is contrary to  received opinion, may sound absurd but may be true)

enigma (statement with a hidden meaning to be guessed,  anything obscure, a riddle)

ambiguity (doubtful, undetermined, indistinct, wavering)

anomaly ( irregularity, deviation from the rule, irregular)

so I will endeavour to work these into my blog!

The Art of Doris Zinkeisen – A Dichotomy.

Modern Scottish Women is an exhibition on at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh at the moment.  It features Scottish women painters and sculptors from 1885 – 1965.  I loved reading about the strong women  in those years  who battled to be acknowledged as artists and have their work shown. There was the story of Joan  Eardley who painted a nude male in 1955 and caused uproar in the establishment.  But men had been painting naked women for centuries!

But the two paintings that got my attention were by Doris Zinkeisen painted 16 years apart. One a self portrait of her as Mrs Graham Johnstone 1929 and the next  Human Laundry, Belsen, 1945.


Automatism, Doodling and the Unconscious.

For years I have been trying to get my head around this.  In my teens I read about Jung and found  the whole idea of archetypes fascinating.

Automatism in art is “involuntary actions and processes not under the control of the conscious mind.”  The Surrealists explored this in their art.  The two ways I understand this is doodling and in dreams. When I googled ‘doodling’, this web page came up that put it all quite simply:

It is well established that much of our creative expression is birthed in the unconscious mind. To use creative expression and solutions in your everyday life, it is necessary to dip into the unconscious at will. Doodling is one way of doing this.

Doodling allows the unconscious to render in symbolic expression. Symbols have universal as well as personal meaning. When you are stuck for an answer to a problem or looking for creative innovation, the technique of doodling will unleash the hidden symbolic powers of the unconscious mind.

Symbols are a universal means of expression. Regardless of culture or geographic location, certain symbols have similar if not exactly the same meaning across the human spectrum. Carl Jung pioneered the investigation of symbols as archetypal attributes of the collective unconscious. He realized that the universe projects itself to our unconscious minds symbolically, utilizing imagery to transmit ideas that language cannot. Symbols are the universal language.

Doodling essentially allows our intuitive feelings to express themselves in pictorial symbolic form. Interpreting these symbols can help to unveil meanings that are not apparent to our linear mind. A symbol conveys an entire thought in one image. Language depends upon a linear procession of symbols to convey a thought. While doodling, words may form themselves, and these should be accepted. But, for the most part, doodling allows the unconscious to come to the surface without judgment or critical analysis from the conscious mind”

Student  Crit  December 2015

Position Paper 1, student led crit,  next week so I have been working on that.    PP1  is about putting my practice into a critical/theoretical/broader art/social context in 1000 words and doing it imaginatively. I can also use any other form I want to.   I am using The Big Dough Project for this so my 1000 words are  in a mound of text. It outlines the ideas behind my project and describes an imaginary meeting with a participant.


A few days after deciding this, I was looking  through an art book and found an image called ‘A Heap of Language’ by Robert Smithson.  I love it when little coincidences like this happen. Its really satisfying. I am also showing some little bread men that I made this week. The have the names of artists that inform my work coming out of their mouths.  They seem a bit random but I enjoy making them and love seeing the funny expressions and character in their faces.


At the student crit on Tuesday we have to discuss each others work and this can be quite challenging  giving feedback to each other.  You have to be careful what you say and how you say it but at the same time be honest about what you think.  These crits are very useful, you can get a lot of good feedback  and ideas in a very short time and as we get to know each other on the course,I think they will get more productive.

Current projects. October 2015

When I started this course, I had to introduce myself and my work to my peers. This was a good opportunity to focus  on where I am with my practice and what my ambitions are for the next two years.

  1.  The Big Dough Project – social/sculptural project for the Edinburgh Fringe next summer. Invite participants to make dough with me, have a blether and then add to a pile of dough which will grow  during the festival.  Maybe have a ceremonial  burning at the end.
  2.  Pelvis –   a few years ago I made  a beeswax pelvis. It was an interesting object and I would like to make some more and possibly  melt parts of them in a series rather like Olbram Zoubeks human rights sculpture in Prague.olbram_zoubek_communism_victims_memorial_2_3977494622For the victims of Communism, Olbram Zubek, Prague

3.  FGM, female genital mutilation – I have done art work on this for several years now  and would like to get an exhibition together with maybe two/three pieces of work accompanied with information about FGM and the work of the charity Forward, who campaign against FGM. Below is a poster I designed.


19th October   Ideas

What crawled out in the night?   Some slither out of my brain like slugs, moving slowly, taking ages to get out.  Others are like caterpillars, wiggly, arching their backs, fast little legs, nipping along.  I have to catch them or they just make off into  corner, almost back to where they came from, only to be seen in the quiet of the night, in my half consciousness/wakefulness.

After a busy day, I go to bed and my brain just will not process one more piece of information. I get to sleep almost instantly then at 3am I wake up, images, text, ideas, artists are all swirling around in my head. I put the light on and scribble down some notes, then I can get back to sleep. The other morning when I woke up, two pieces of work by different artists were just there in front of me. Some unconscious connection that had happened during the night. A piece by Ainslie Yule I saw a few years ago, called Wave & Ziggurat.


….and House by Wolfgang Laib


They both look like houses. I don’t know the significance of that. I had been thinking about mounds re the big dough project and also a mound of text for positioning paper 1.

September 2015

I finished my last blog about 3 years ago when I was at Edinburgh college of art and haven’t kept a blog since. The start of this blog coincides with starting an MFA at Dundee college of art. It is called Society, Art and Publics.
So whats this course about?

Its about me furthering my art work , especially my interest in sculpture and also developing a critical awareness about contemporary art. I have strands of previous work left from a few years ago and I need to bring these together into a cohesive body of work. The modules ‘artistic research and writing’ will further hone my skills in discussing and critiquing other artists work and help me put my work into context.

Between then and now, I went to night school and made Kwifwebe. It is a mask I carved out of a tree trunk, Ash I think, and is based on a mask from the Songye people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is a female mask and is used in initiation ceremonies.



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