Tuesday 31 August 2010

No sh*t Sherlock!

I really enjoyed the updated series of Sherlock Holmes recently shown on the BBC. While reading an article about it in the Gay Times of all places I was intigued by this description of the set for Holmes' flat

'The kitchen has been deployed as a lab, with the table covered in jars and stuff the production team has found on eBay, authentic things. This probably explains the authentically old smell. There’s a silver box with test tubes and a syringe. We’re on set for the crime-fighting duo’s first encounter so it’s explained that ‘there aren’t bullet holes in the wall yet’. Blimey. If you’re wondering whether that familiar tobacco pipe will be putting in an appearance, we spotted a box of NicoBud patches scattered with the piles of gun magazines and unanswered correspondence with a knife in it. '

This is exactly the kind of thing I am now looking at for my 'set' which I am planning to be displayed at Stoke Pottery Museum and Art Gallery for our collborative project. Well, when I say exactly, syringes and test tubes aren't really my thing, but, I am really interested in how items are put together to create a character or back story. I like the fact Sherlock's inquisitive nature is illustrated through his weird collection of belongings and his short temper is explained through nicotine patches and a stabbed message!

Upon my last visit to the museum I was able to view and photograph some of the many interesting historical items from the decorative arts store (see Treasures of the past ) which I am going to use to construct a dressing table/room. Not only do I want to display these beautiful objects but I want to show them in a way that will illustrate a story. I am using 'artifice' as my main theme, as I want to explore not just the moment of transformation a woman undergoes in her boudoir but also the true character behind the public facade.

In my last post about Stoke I mentioned how a room can be read like a crime scene. So with that in mind I decided to look a little further into crime scene investigation and I found an interesting paper with the snappy title, 'Crime scene and physical evidence awarness for non-forensic personnel'.

'Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as silent evidence against him... This evidence does not forget, it is not confused with excitiment of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong. Only it's interpretation can err. Only human failure to find it study it and understand it can diminish its value'

Kirk Paul
Crime Investigation
John Wiley and Sons, Cananda Limited 1953

So how do you interpret physical evidence?

'Typically the recognition of physical evidence starts by observing the scene. Based on initial observations and taking into consideration the context of the case, possilbe scenarios, the nature of the incident, as well of characteristics of surface that may bear potential evidence'

I think it would be interesting to apply this information to one of my favourite photos from the Dressing Table Gallery focusing on the evidence and possible scenarios that could make up the individual's personality and circumstances.

How would Sherlock begin?. The most important thing Holmes does is to focus acutely on every detail and turn something commonplace and anonymous into something singular and significant. He then combines this with social and moral assumptions to produce his deduction. There is a great article called Sherlock Holmes ~ Modernist though, modernist cities & the solving intellect where you can read him doing just this.

So here goes:

I'd say this was a female aged between 23-30, who lives in a shared house. She is creative and inqusitive, and leads a busy lifestyle. She always has more than one project on the go and likes to keep busy. Family is very important to her as are friends. She is gregarious and slightly sentimental, but also can be scatty brained and forgetful.

Here's how I came to that conclusion:

The perfume featuring the cute character is aimed at young women in a 20-30 age bracket .
The amount of objects crammed into one area suggests space is an issue, which leads me to think given social assumptions, that she must live in a house with other people, so she only has one room.
I think she must be a busy person due to the haphazard way her belongings are placed down, suggesting she is always on the go. Someone who spent more time at home would have more time to display and maintain their belongings. Also someone who is active most of the time and has such a range of items stuffed together may be forgetful and easily loose things.

The ornamental figurines don't particularly fit with the other objects, so make me think they must be a gift or inherited from an older person, so family is important to her.
I think she likes to try out different looks and styles and enjoys sewing because she has a good supply of perfume and beauty products and there is a tape measure on the bed post.
Some items such as the fabric bee and frog ornament lead me to believe she may be setimental and these represent different moments in her life.

This has been a good challenge for me and this line of thought will definately feed into my work with Stoke Museum. I'd love to know how accurate I've been so I'm going to to try and find out from the person who took this photo....If anyone has a different analysis please let me know!

Thursday 26 August 2010

Monroe by Eve Arnold

A thoughtful moment, The Misfits 1960, Eve Arnold

I thought I better write about this before I forget and it's too late. Castle Galleries situated in Manchester on Deansgate is currently showing an exhibition of Marilyn Monroe limited edition prints of the famous photographs by Eve Arnold (who incidentally is now 98!)

I had read about the rare photos online last week and then literally stumbled upon the gallery the following day! It is well worth a visit and the staff are really knowledgable about the subject matter and happy to chat. It seems Marilyn inspires opinions and anecdotes whenever her image appears.

These particular images show Marilyn in a very different guise to her normal publicity shots, rather than an iconic golden goddess we see Monroe off guard, pensive, imperfect and almost rough around the edges.

It only serves to remind us that she was a real person and for me complements her appeal as a female idol rather than a one dimesional caracature.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Treasures of the past

This Monday saw me getting on a train and travelling to the birth place Robbie Williams, Xtreme tea drinking and the first jar of Marmite... any ideas yet?
Yes, I was in Staffordshire! (obvious wasn't it!)

Well, Stoke on Trent to be precise and my first visit to The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery for the beginning of a collaborative project based around my research on dressing tables, femininty and narrative through belongings (see my last post for a full update).

I was really impressed by the broad variety of exhibits at the museum including the famous Staffordshire Hoard, an impressive collection of local slipware and even a full size spitfire! There were many weird and wonderful objects, and I particularly enjoyed the frog mugs and Ozzy the famous pottery owl.

But my visit was focused on the decorative arts collection, as, with the help of Laura the museum's Documentation Assisitant, I began to uncover the treasures of the past!

The purpose of our collaboration is to give my research a platform resulting in new art work whilst also displaying the museum's artifacts in a new and interesting way. I'm hoping to build up a collection of selected pieces that will tell a story, and can be displayed like a dressing room similar to a theatre set.

We spent a long time sifting through drawers and unwrapping tissue paper; I gasped with delight at a bundle of Berry Pins and shuddered with discomfort at real hair twinned into keepsakes and love tokens.

The store held pieces from all eras
and covered a range of genres including cosmetics, anyone recognise these?:

It was eye opening to me to find out that certain items made from the earliest plastics are very few due to their combustable nature. When they were first being made producers didn't know how the materials would age hence things like tortoise shell style combs and mirrors discintegrating and becoming very fragile. Luckily there were many other examples of historic accessories in the store including Victorian fans and antique sewing kits :

I found it very affecting as I viewed each item to think they had once belonged to someone and had some kind of emotional value or place within that person's daily routine.

Yet it was the items which seemed somewhat out of place in the decorative arts store which gave my ideas full direction; the unassuming handwritten note inside a gift box, a hotel reciept and a dance card half filled with promising suitors!

These items were clues to lives that have been lived. They offered windows into moments in time which actually took place, unlike the decorative items which are very objective when viewed seperately these documents had an immediate link to various individuals.

It seems the best way for me to progress with my project is to mix both decorative objects and documents together and create layers of information that when viewed as a whole can be read almost like a crime scene, giving clues to a characater and her story.

I can't help wondering how an item's meaning could alter depending on what it was displayed next to. For instance what would my character keep in her giftbox when it had such a sweet message written inside? would it be innocent or a secret she wouldn't want anyone to find out? This is where it gets exciting!

I have some strong ideas about where to take this but my intuition is telling me to let the items within the decorative arts collection take the lead and guide me. So my next job is to delve deeper into the possiblities of what I've recorded and source likely items within the store which I might not have seen yet. We only managed to look through about half of it this week so I am going back to view the shoes, clothes and costumes next time.

Get ready for corsets and frilly 50's knickers!

Thursday 12 August 2010

The art of dressing up...part 2

For those of you with a good memory, you may recall a while back I announced an upcoming collaboration with the Stoke Pottery Museum and Art Gallery based on my ideas around dressing tables, female artifice and narrative through feminine belongings:

I did a run of posts called the Dressing Table Gallery where, you, the lovely readers of this blog sent in photos of your dressing tables to be showcased every week and used as research into my ideas;

Harriet Cooper's dressing table

I also looked into the theatrical side of dressing up by visiting the amazing Wigs Up North shop in Manchester, where I discovered the importance of appearance means more than just looking good, it covers gender, identity and comfort...

...and I also studied vintage dressing tables and Hollywood glamour of the past and present...

Dita Von Teese makes some last minute adjustments

...as well as looking into how other artists have tackled the idea of feminine belongings and their meanings;

'Chanel' Audrey Flack 1974

My research took on a poignant note as I looked into the narritive of feminine belongings. I was inspired by the collection of supposed belongings Marilyn Monroe left after her death, which really gave a deeper empathy with the person behind the public veneer.

Image by Mark Anderson www.markanderson.com

And when my lovely Nan passed away earlier this year I was compelled to celebrate her life through talking about the objects she left behind.

This coming Monday I am visiting Stoke Pottery Museum and Art Gallery
for the first viewing of their costume and decorative art collection! We are to collaborate on a project that should give the collection a new lease of life and a fresh appeal for the public.

I'm also going to be able to have access to the collection for my work and I hope to encompass all my research and ideas into some fabulous new art work!

I'll be posting about my visit next week, so see you then...

Thursday 5 August 2010

Glamourpuss Art

There is now a new way to buy my saucy art work for yourself as I've just set up my shop Glamourpuss Art on Etsy! The store currently stocks limited edition prints and original paintings and ships to countries within the European Union, the United States and of course the United Kingdom. Drop in and come and see me!

Etsy: Your place to buy & sell all things handmade

Monday 2 August 2010

Cotton Candy

Last week I was awed by this amazing painting by artist Will Cotton. Candy loving Cotton, was commissioned by Katy Perry to create a cover for her new album Teenage Dream. He was also a creative director for her recent single 'California Gurls'. You can see the inspirations behind Perry's sugary pop video in his sensual work, a delight for the eyes and the tastebuds!

Peppermint Hideaway www.willcotton.com

Candy Curls www.willcotton.com

I was also inspired by the twin themes of girls and sweets in my 2008 series 'Bon Bons'. With models ranging from Kylie Minogue to Beatrix Von Bourbon this series was a big hit with sweetie lovers!

'Allsorts' Acrylic on canvas www.gemmaparker.co.uk