Archive by Author

Jane Dixon

21 Dec

Jane Dixon was highly commended in this year’s Drawing Prize. An artist with an almost forensic attention to drawing, she painstakingly builds up her images over a long period of time. Here she talks about her inspirations from Modernist Architecture to Surrealism.

You go through quite a complex process to make your drawings.

With all my work there is a strong alignment between subject and method, it’s a conceptual marriage in which the materials and the construction are as much a part of the meaning of the work as is the image. The complexity of the making is something inherent to the work, rather than an arbitrarily difficult process.


What was the inspiration behind Model Series?


I’ve always found 3D models interesting: that they can be scaled up or down versions of something that already exists and we are making them to explain or inform, such as the natural history models where a microscopic insect, for example, is scaled up to the size of a guinea pig and in immaculate detail. I think they have a touch of Gregor Samsa about them…a surreal metamorphosis. Also there are models made as pure replicas, a 1:1 scale model of a real thing.


I find Architect’s models very beautiful, particularly the simple wooden ones where everything is pared down to the structure rather than thinking about local colour or material changes.  I think that’s something I’ve often sought to do in my work: to edit objects or spaces down to the minimum information – it’s like trying to distil something.


Can we talk about the texture of the pictures?


The texture is illusory, the paper remains very smooth whilst the marks and tonal variation implies depth or something in relief.  I think the ambiguity of apparent texture traced from a substance with real texture (wood, earth etc.) is the appeal for me.


Rubbing (frottage) is a technique that I’ve adapted in previous series, particularly in Regeneration (2006 – 2010) where the drawings were made from layers of rubbings taken from the surfaces of both real buildings and painted images.  In the case of the architectural model drawings I constructed the whole image by taking rubbings from numerous pieces of wood.  The tone builds up to create a very three dimensional illusion whilst the discrepancy in scale of the grain in the wood plays on the ambiguity of this thing existing or not as an object.


The ‘boxed earth’ drawings in Model Series refer to the natural history specimens that I’ve seen, the 1:1 replicas made from cast resin.  For these drawings I made rubbings from actual soil samples to create a direct trace of the real thing whilst the foliage or turf is entirely invented and drawn.


Are your drawings taken from real places or are they imagined?


A combination of both. The architectural models I used are not mine, they are found and quite deliberately I don’t take details of what they are, I photograph them and then use them as a basis for adaptation and transformation into something else.  The original models may or may not have been of an existing place, in many ways it’s important to me not to know. It is the idea of representation and transformation that matters: whether that is a building for the future or something from the past, part real or part invention, it’s an ambiguity I’m happy to foster.


The earth drawings look like specimens from a geology expedition, or perhaps samples taken from the moon.


I agree that the boxed earth drawings have very much a sense of almost forensic detail.  The idea of rubbing, of revealing an object or surface slowly by painstaking process is something I adapted as a reference to archaeological methodology whilst making the Regeneration work.  For the Model Series it was re developed as a means of making direct traces of the real materials: a 2D representation of a 3D substance.


They also look like the tampered remains of a forensic investigation, something I find quite disturbing.


I guess I hadn’t thought of them in that way, not in a literal sense anyway. A lot of my work deals with loss and impermanence, a sense of fragility. The drawings are metaphorical.


What is your favourite style of architecture?


I think Modernist architecture has the biggest appeal for me, especially to live in.


Where would you like your pictures to be exhibited?

The Guggenheim Museum, NYC, a wonderful building.


What is your favourite drawing material?


Graphite, without a doubt.  I love its properties – the sharpness of a lead pencil point but with a smoothness that can seem almost liquid.  The greys that seem almost silver, a tonal subtlety and luminescence that can equate for me with black and white film and X-rays.








Shamanic Consultancy Services

5 Dec

Marcus Coates has spent the morning in a wooden soundproof box. It is where he holds his life classes, individual hour-long sessions for members of the public where he tries to find solutions to people’s problems through his role as an artist. With all sessions fully booked, and participants describing his approach as ‘life changing’, Coates is guardedly pleased with the response. “We have been asking for a £10 donation afterwards and I think everyone has been happy to pay.” He says the issues people bring him vary, although many are about a crisis in creativity.  “Artists not knowing whether to carry on or get a proper job, or if what they are doing is meaningful.” Coates, in his Shaman form, listens to their issues and tries to help, either by recounting similar experiences or taking them on a spiritual journey. “The story I tell them is then theirs to take away and do what they like with.”

In the context of NOW I GOTTA REASON, Coates project is a curious one. Whereas many of the other artists in the exhibition have sought to energise the collective spirit of the enterprise, Coates’ work is intensely private, and more like a confessional. Perhaps this is not surprising in the context of Coates’ larger practice, where he uses himself as the catalyst for change, be it in Israel, trying to solve the Israel/Palestine conflict or helping the residents of a housing estate in Elephant and Castle. Yet he acknowledges that this project has been different. Partly this has been down to what was possible in the four-week time frame. “It has been normal, in the past, for me to work with a community and to perform consultations with groups of clients who have a collective problem. This usually necessitates a longer-term involvement. It was four years when I worked in Elephant and Castle. But I will be running a session for eight or so artists who ‘don’t have a reason’ this Tuesday evening and this is more of a group session with shared responsibility for seeking resolutions.”

Through both his private and public audiences Coates is performing a heroic act. He is challenging us to measure his worth as an artist, in time, money and usefulness.  “How do you put a price on what I do?” he says, “it’s not as if there is a guide.” Putting into doubt the very fabric of the art world’s value system such as it is, is a brave, and vulnerable position to be in. The question is whether other artists will thank him for it.



Money Money Money

27 Nov

What is the value of money in a society that is becoming increasingly hostile to its worth? Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck have been talking to economists, statisticians, bankers, social historians and the public to understand how the financial world might look in the future. Charting the history of money from the Georgian economist Adam Smith to contemporary theoretician Charles Eisenstien who propounds the theory of Gift Culture, the artists ask how we, as individuals can directly change the way our economy is valued.



What have you been up to in the gallery?

We have created an alternative, moneyless economy within the space inspired by Robert Owen’s Equitable Labour Exchange. We have had some great swaps so far ranging from street dance to bicycle repairs.

You are also running a study group.

We have been hosting informal study group meetings addressing the topic of money every Saturday between 11am–12noon. The study group’s aim is to unpick the mystery of money for the individual negotiating day-to-day life in neoliberal capitalism.


The stated aims of the study group are:

To think about money – what it means and how it works

To examine both historical precedents and contemporary experience  

To promote independent and non-hierarchical learning

To think about how we might engage and intervene with capitalism


Do you pick a specific topic to talk about?

The one last Saturday focused on ‘Money and human behaviour: debt and desire’. We are using books loaned by the Working Class Movement Library in Salford, and inviting ‘discussants’ with specialist knowledge.

Next Saturday we will be looking at what alternative economies exist, or could exist. We are interested in the idea of anti-growth as a progressive way of thinking about how an economy could work, how anti-growth could be more sustainable – perhaps especially in relation to climate change for example.

What has been the most interesting aspect of the Study groups?

The input from the participants. For example we have had an ex-City-worker and a political economics academic, both of whom were excited about the quotes and material we had pulled out, but were also able to offer their own perspective.

Have there been any frustrations?

It’s a rush to get the material ready in time, and ideally we’d like more time to develop an audience beyond an art context.

Who is William Kherbek and why did you want him to participate?

William Kherbek taught an Economic Literacy course at the Bank of Ideas, part of Occupy London. Although we are doing a lot of reading and researching around topics of discussion, we wanted at least one person present at the study groups who could act as a ‘discussant’ – someone who had particular knowledge, (practical or academic) of economics. William is great because not only is he interested in informal or non-institutional types of learning/education, he is self-taught in economics – something he developed through his activism, although he did study probability theory, statistics and calculus at university. But alongside that, his knowledge is broad ranging and he doesn’t necessarily teach with an overt political agenda.

The cost of putting on NOW I GOTTA REASON is written up on the gallery’s walls. Do you think financial transparency of an exhibition is a good idea?

It’s interesting to address this within the context of an exhibition about useful art as it throws up lots of questions about what art is and how it’s valued. Just doing it highlights issues about unpaid labour, collective decision-making, who controls the budget and what constitutes work – we’re not sure if this is properly represented as yet.

What will the study group produce at the end?

We are making a poster/booklet with An Endless Supply that will hopefully be a tool for others to make their own study group about economics.






Encounters: The Working Class Movement Library

22 Nov

Artists Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck met in 2006 when they worked together at the interdisciplinary collective, General Public Agency. They began collaborating in 2010. In the first of two posts for the JVA Blog, the artists write about The Working Class Movement Library and how important a resource it has been to their practice.

The Working Class Movement Library was started by Ruth and Eddie Frow and was initially a semi-private collection kept in their house in Manchester. Their passion for acquiring anything to do with working class history and struggle meant that by 1987 the collection had become too big and was moved to its current location at 51 The Crescent, becoming a public reference library, and eventually a charity. The amazing collection includes books, pamphlets, personal archives, photographs, plays, poetry, songs, banners, posters, badges, cartoons, journals, biographies, newspaper reports and more. It tells the story of Britain’s working classes from the early days of industrialisation to today. Given its beginnings as a personal collection and transition to public resource, we are really interested in the library as a legacy of self-education, and as a political tool.

In January 2011 we approached the library with a proposal for a programme of artists residencies and commissions. Amy then undertook a six-month residency there, concluding with an exhibition of new artwork and library material. Following this we re-thought the idea of the programme and realised that there was an exciting opportunity for something bigger, something beyond the library. Since then, we have been developing ideas for artworks that will take the collection out into the world.

We are particularly fascinated by the library’s unique character and interested in how it could provide a means of reflecting upon current political and social issues, for example: What working class means and the fragmented workforce of the neo-liberal economic climate and how the collection defines the ‘class struggle’. We are also interested in the library/archive’s relationship to contemporary culture. The lineage between historical events and current politics and the relationship between arts and activism. Finally we see it as a living history, which raises questions about how history is told and retold; how archiving produces and defines history and how multiple histories can co-exist.









Now I Gotta Religion: Steven Ounanian

15 Nov

How is Christianity evolving in the twenty-first Century? Over the past few weeks, artist Steven Ounanian has been talking to the public and religious organisations about the role of Christianity in an increasingly secular and technologically sophisticated society. Can it adapt or is it time to design a new religion for the not so distant future? Below Ounanian outlines six thoughts on the state of human wisdom and despair, and the possibilities for a new way of being. Ounanian’s project will culminate with a blessing in the gallery space on Thursday 22 November between 2-3pm by the Eastern Orthodox Priest Alexander Tefft.

1. Labour as way of self-understanding vs. an aid to consuming

Behind the creation of a hand-made object is a need for catharsis. It is a desire for knowledge by doing, making, and participating in something. This activity is at odds with advancements in technology that seem to disconnect humans from the form and content, from what they are (as incarnate human beings) and what they make.

2. Consuming as a distraction from the turmoil of our inner state 

When we are disconnected and discontent we notice that design and art tend to focus on entertainment, consumption, and distraction, rather than problem solving, beauty and joy. Transformation and change causes nothing but anxiety in a social system that doesn’t facilitate it.

3. The design of an inner life (the idea of an ‘inner life’ pre-supposes there is a soul) as the subject of religion

Religious people can be irritating, patriarchal bigots, who are incapable of creative output beyond their own community. Some are simply religious because it provides a moral structure to their lives, without them having to invest too much thought in the process. They will fight anything that causes them cognitive-disorder.

On the other hand, I’ve been to Mount Athos and met monks who use their religion as a way of keeping the spirit of discontent alive. I have met priests who never lost the revolutionary verve of 1968 and joined a religious order so that their protests could not be consumed by the culture machine, which turns protest into saleable commodities, entertainment, or an advertising aesthetic.

Here in England you can visit the Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Essex where a thriving cooperative exists completely self-sufficiently using modern farming techniques. It is important to study these examples when embarking on a utopian community experiment.

4. Technological research as a type of theology

Let’s look at our tools in another way, perhaps microchip manufacture, biotechnology, cabinetmaking, and even cobbling, can be seen as research into the nature of this world, it is the study of ultimate reality, and thus it is theology. This text is taken from a film I made (Ritual Ride: a 1000 mile Bicycle Pilgrimage, which included an interview with the artist Pim Conradi, who lives in Peckham in a series of ‘orbidesic domes’ (similar to Fuller’s geodesic dome, but of his own design) installed within themselves like a Russian doll. Pim is over 60 years old and seems to be living out his design proposals.

5. The Soul as the Source of Art:

‘“The heart is deep,” said St. Isaac the Syrian. The soul is inexhaustible because the human being is created in the image and likeness of God. We know from experience however, that the soul is the part of us that thinks, feels, imagines, and moves the body. It is invisible and thus not limited to the senses. It survives the death of the body, but the soul is not the spirit, or nous, which is the part of us that communicates with God. Thus, the soul is the source of art, not faith. They meet in the soul but originate separately.’ Father Alexander Tefft.

6. An important non sequitur: the not too distant future

A future with less religion will generate a people who see technology as the solution to the problems of an inner emotional life. If this happens we can imagine a series of hybrid futures.

For instance, it might be logical to imagine Christ will come back as some kind of technology rather than in human form. The body is losing its importance as a tool for labour and understanding. Why would Christ choose an outdated and slow moving vessel of communication when he could come back as an industrial glass manufacturing plant, or as the Internet? This idea is not new, it is a variation of what Ray Kurzweil outlined in his book ‘Spiritual Machines’.

‘Moors Law’ below, explains the exponential advancement of computing power in the fifth paradigm of microprocessors, the sixth paradigm (molecular machines) is predicted to provide the computational solutions for greed and despair.





Encounters: Buckminster Fuller

12 Nov

Steven Ounanian was born in Redlands, California, he studied design at UCLA and the Royal College of Arts. In the first of two posts for the JVA Blog, Ounanian writes about the twentieth-century American inventor and theorist Buckminster Fuller, famous for engineering the geodesic dome and how his ideas inspired Ounanian’s project for ‘NOW I GOTTA REASON’.


I started thinking again about Buckminster Fuller in June this year after attending the SFMOMA show ‘Utopian Impulse’. The diagram below is a photo that I took at the exhibition. He interests me because he had an ability to think about the possibilities of the future without ignoring the problems of the present day. His texts are inspirational, and these days I need a bit of that.

“On first priority

in design consideration

is the full realization

of individual potential

in order to reach the second derivative — full realization for all individuals”

No More Secondhand God (1963)

Buckminster Fuller

This is a diagram of Fuller’s life entitled the ‘Grand Strategy of World Problem Solving.’ One of the subject’s graphed in the diagram is ‘the total number of humans directly informed by Buckminster Fuller in his lifetime.’ On the diagram you also see Fuller’s prolific output, which includes books, designs, and architecture. These are placed alongside the problems of history, in particular world wars.

I’ve always had a problem by what I saw as Fuller’s dream of perpetual progress: the promise of a world made perfect by technology, innovation, and human labour.

“For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. Only ten years ago the ‘more with less’ technology reached the point where this could be done. All humanity now has the option of becoming enduringly successful.”  Buckminster Fuller, 1980.

But, on second look, the above diagram doesn’t outline progress at all. It just shows Fuller’s productivity alongside a series of wars that seem to continue into the future. Fuller’s ‘Grand Strategy for World Problem Solving’ is impossible to achieve, the problems on the diagram can’t be solved in a life-time (or ever?) and I’m sure he was well aware of this point. Perhaps Fuller’s legacy is the message that we shouldn’t stop trying…regardless of whether our problem solving abilities ever become suited to the task. The problem of war cannot be solved by innovations in technology alone. In spite of our best efforts we haven’t found an adequate design solution for the psychological, spiritual, nonsensical, human problem of not knowing how to account for our desires (desires which often trump our reason.) We want more than our share and then we aren’t happy when we get it and we become violent. I’m sure it is more complex than this, but it is a good place to start.

Marcus Coates and Adam Sutherland

7 Nov

Marcus Coates and Adam Sutherland met in 1999 when Coates was invited to do an artist residency at Grizedale arts, the curatorial project set up by Sutherland in Cumbria. Since then, Coates and Sutherland have collaborated on several projects both in Britain and internationally. Here, the curators of ‘NOW I GOTTA REASON’ discuss the motivations of artists and how to reignite an art world monopolised by a small but forceful elite of the super rich.

Adam Sutherland: Do you ever think your skills are wasted on an art world audience?

Marcus Coates: I don’t think artists care about their audience. They usually deal with a small group of people, namely commissioners, gallery dealers and curators, who are the staff that aid their promotion.

AS: Wouldn’t it be great if we could draw on all our resources in our work? The stock of unused skills is reflective of a society that has become too specialized. The all rounder is lost in the drive to be outstanding. Art is not an end in itself; it is more of a way of doing things. There is not really a job called ‘artist’, it is just a mode of communication.

MC: You say art is not a job, but I think it is. I have tried to create a place for myself in society where a role is necessary but currently does not exist. I think that is arts’ role. It can respond and develop with society in a way that jobs in our market economy cannot. The problem is that artists have adopted this romantically marginal position (being different and special), and instead of using that as a powerful position they have used it to appeal to an equally marginal market. Everything in art seems a million miles away from my front door.

AS: Ever since we stopped helping artists create art for galleries at Grizedale I have had a renewed energy in making art. Society has lost its connection with everyday creativity, lost that awareness of aesthetics, craft and beauty. A life without these things is arid, we need to add manure to society and the art world has plenty of it that.

MC: I always thought you were very cynical about art and that you were almost anti art. But when I asked you about this you surprised me by saying that you believe art changes peoples lives, citing the project we were both working on at the time in Japan as an example. I think after that I went to Israel to help solve the Israeli/Palestinian crisis, which was maybe a step too far, but you showed me that artists could be very powerful in everyday life and on a global and political level.

I think it can be frightening for artists to take their skills beyond their studios. They see their skills as exclusive and protect them as such; their trade is based on exclusivity and scarcity, which means they can only operate in the one area where they are celebrated.

AS: For me, creative success is the practical application of an idea that is integrated into the everyday and then sustained by a community inspiring involvement and development. It seems a small ask

MC: But there are already people doing this in society, why should artists make this their work? What is so special about what they have to offer?

AS: Yes there are people doing this, like social workers and vicars but they often work without any kind of connected thinking. I am not suggesting artists become social workers but I do see a role for a creative way of working.

Why can’t an arts organisation also be a housing trust? After all arts organisations demonstrate their vision of a rich and cultural way of life; they build iconic spaces, open attractive shops and cafes, promote educational ideas.

A £28m gallery is not a useful model but 56 galleries costing £500,000 are. 56 creative, imaginative, artistic, design and architecture led developments that aim to connect with people and not live in an esoteric ghetto are useful. I often despair of the art world, but then I think “Why should the shit version win?” I will reclaim a role in art; we will give back to people’s lives what is missing and it will act as a catalyst to get other disconnected activities back into dialogue. It is often the case that work undertaken in an altruistic effort to improve society ends up as a major economic driver.

MC: Do you work with artists because you see their actions as altruistic? I would say artists are only altruistic if it’s conceptually interesting for them to be so.

AS: I don’t really think of altruism as the motivation. In many ways it is self-interest because I want to live in a more interesting and creative community.

MC: The art market doesn’t know how to buy and collect useful work yet. Do you think that is why useful art is interesting to artists? Or is that as narrow as doing something simply for the art market? I think the challenge for artists is to work outside the art world and that includes the purchasing of their services.

AS: To me that’s a bit of a game. I don’t care whether the art market gets it, art history will. There are plenty of artists who have worked the social engaged ticket within the art market. Seeing the art market and collectors as a means of support is a deeply flawed idea. I am much more interested in getting support from the poor in exchange for something that is needed and valued. In that way you make work for people rather than create niche consumer goods for the super rich.

MC: You have stopped helping artists make art for galleries and their audiences so why would you be interested in staging an exhibition at the Jerwood Space in London?

AS: Galleries act as showrooms, they are a white space from which to sell ideas. I want to change the way art works. How do artists see their role in society and what are their aspirations? Art schools and the art sector promote the idea that the only way to be an artist is through the gallery system. They have marginalised art as a tool, in effect they have sterilised it. Artists and galleries need to find new ways of working and it starts with simple things like being honest, focusing on the real world and dissolving the hierarchy. I hope the exhibition illustrates clearly some of the ways of going about doing this.

MC: Is it a moral compulsion of yours to make art useful? Is it a political move to extricate art production from the luxury goods market and a reaction to how art is produced by artists and organisations now? You have created a farm at Grizedale where manual work is part of the running of the organization. Is there something about being active and even manual that is important to creativity? People don’t become artists to be useful or to help others, or for that matter get up early in the morning!

AS: But that doesn’t mean to say they can’t. What do people become artists for? I hope it is not to be an artist. When I was at art school the head of Marlborough Fine Arts asked us who would be happy to be a good working artist? Three people put their hands up. He then asked who wanted to be a superstar artist? The rest of the art school put their hands up. I was shocked and disillusioned, how could my peers have so little ambition?

Sarah Lightman: Laydeez do Comics

1 Nov

Sarah Lightman is a graphic artist and co-founder of Laydeez do Comics, the first women’s led autobiographical comics forum in the UK. She co-curated the exhibition Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women which has just opened at The Oregon Jewish Museum in the US and her book Graphic Details: The Book, will be published by McFarland in 2013. Here she talks about the inspiration behind her comic masterpieces.

There is very little sequential art in the Jerwood Drawing Prize, why do you think that is?
Whilst there were no traditional comics there, there was more narrative art than I thought there would be, although these were pretty much limited to animations. I really enjoyed Karolina Glusiec’s winning animation, Velocity (2012) and Carl Randall’s Notes from Tokyo’s Underground (2011), the series of drawings was framed in panels like a comic, which I found very effective and beautiful. But I think narrative drawing just isn’t valued by many people, more from ignorance about the fine art qualities of comics, than anything else.

How do you think the art world perceive comics and graphic novels these days?`
I think comics are an undervalued an art form considering the care and attention involved in their creation. It often surprises an audience to come face to face with the original artwork and see skill, dexterity and innovation of the art of comics. Perhaps also comics have been dismissed because of their perceived emphasis on being stories for children – all super heroes and world saving, instead of being a form to tell adult experiences and the portrayal of the superpowers of just surviving our often difficult real lives.

What was the first comic you drew?
When I was younger I’d make comics for my family on their birthdays. I also often drew humorous comics about the family holidays we went on and all the mishaps and squabbles. My mum has kept them all, and likes to bring them out as impressive evidence of my precocious talent.

The first comic book I remember reading was a comic book version of the Old Testament. It was amazing to see biblical characters I heard about in my dull Sunday school classes in colour on the page. I’d stare at the images for ages, all those bearded men and brightly robed women. I recall how the printing had slipped somewhat so they all seems to bleed colour from their outlines giving an almost 3 dimensional effect.

You studied Fine Art at the Slade, what made you decide that comics were the medium in which to work?
I have always loved reading and literature as well as drawing; I did consider whether to study English or Art at University. It’s funny how I felt I had to decide and split myself into sections when I was young, like squeezing into an ill-fitting pair of shoes! I was letting the courses choose yet what really works for me is to combine both text and image. Making comics and a visual memoir was the natural fit I just didn’t know it then although I was introduced quite early on to Charlotte Salomon’s brilliant Life or Theatre? which made a huge impression on me.

I started drawing my visual narratives more seriously when I went to art school.  I made a large one-page comic based on a poem by Sylvia Plath on my Foundation Course at Central/St Martins. Then, when I was an undergraduate at The Slade School of Art, I started drawing my life story. I decided to focus on making the simplest art I could think of which were pencil drawings. I didn’t enjoy having a communal art space, making art in public even today fills me with dread, so I went back to my parents house to draw, where I found some old family photos. The work I made on my own was always really powerful and true to me.

Since then I’ve always been thinking about how can my life story can be presented in words and images? My drawings can bring my life experiences to the public in a meaningful and powerful way. I am not embarrassed to show the bad as well as good times and I have always found making art about difficulties a way to make sense of my life so I agree with this text by Stephen Joseph in his new book, “The key to enabling […] growth is to take control of the stories that survivors tell themselves, [and] re-author these stories,” (What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth Piatkus, 2011 p.148.) I want to take pain and unhappiness in my life and make something beautiful from them. The distillation of time and experience in the drawing process can produce beautiful and poignant art that, although based on my own personal experience, can also have universal appeal.

As a Jewish artist, and someone who cares about her culture and heritage my artwork also incorporates religious themes. I call my on going life-drawing The Book of Sarah. In the Bible it is really only the male characters that are written about, the women are just incidental to the narrative. In Genesis, Sarah, my namesake and Abraham’s wife gets her own chapter but it only includes a line about her death and then moves quickly on to other people and events. I’ve been creating The Book of Sarah in response to the silence of my biblical namesake, and also because my brother and sister are Esther and Daniel, and they both have their own Biblical literature; The Book of Daniel, and The Scroll of Esther. Since there is no Book of Sarah, I need to create one.

Do you approach making comics any differently to the way you made drawings in the past?
I want each of my drawings to be a stand alone art work as well as part of a series, but I like how I can play the text and the image against each other, like with my food diary drawings when I draw the anxious thoughts that prompt me to eat: “Two bananas when I thought my boyfriend no longer loved me”.

What is your PhD about?
I am researching my PhD on Hurting and Healing in Autobiographical Comics at the University of Glasgow. In my academic research I ask how does a comic draw out a traumatic story in words and images, and how far can the production of this comic heal the artist and reader? My methodology has included interviews with female comic artists as well as exploring theories of trauma and mourning, art therapy, and posttraumatic growth.  The artists I interview include comic artists Diane Noomin, Sharon Rudahl, Nicola Streeten and Sarah Leavitt. These artists have all created art about traumatic events, including miscarriages, divorce, family illness and bereavement. I have also interviewed Bobby Baker, her Diary Drawings are beautiful and inspiring.

Finally, what is your favourite comic word?
My favourite moment is “oh” in Diane Noomin, Baby Talk: A Tale of 34 Miscarriages. The character, Glenda is telling her friend she is pregnant, and her friend suggests she wait till she is 3 months gone before she tells people.  Suddenly all Glenda’s previous exuberance is crushed. Her “oh” is visualised silence a big speech bubble, with only a little text inside.

Only comics can make a silence a sound and a space. It’s a poignant moment.

The Reluctant Bride from The Book of Sarah on Vimeo.

Bada Song

15 Oct

Ta-iL 20, 2012 Copyright © 2012 BADA SONG


Bada Song was born in Korea and moved to London in 1997 to study sculpture at Camberwell College of Arts. Last month she was awarded second place in the Jerwood Drawing Prize for ‘Ta-iL’, a collection of images depicting traditional Korean roof tiles. Here she talks to Jessica Lack about the inspiration behind the series.


I was born on a beautiful island called Jeju, in the southern most part of the Korean peninsular. It is famous for three things; women, black Basalt rocks and the wind. My mother used to be a skilful diver who collected shellfish and other valuable things from the ocean, and our house was right in front of the sea. There was no beach, just black rock, from which my mother would dive, and as a child I would watch her from the shore. I have this vivid memory of an incident that happened when I was about two or three years old. There was a great storm one night and the roof of our house blew off into the ocean and floated away. This memory stayed with me and developed a kind of mythical status in my mind and I never spoke about it to anyone, but I would dream about it all the time. A few years ago I was talking to my mother and I mentioned the storm and the roof escaping. My mother said “What are you talking about?” It wasn’t true.

So I began to incorporate this strange dream I must have had into my practice. The first thing I did was to make some etchings of Korean traditional roofs floating in the darkness. Then I discovered a little fishing village called Jeoksung in Busan in Korea where old roofs have been resurfaced and repainted repeatedly over a long period of time. The paint is now so thick that all shape has been lost. Earlier this year I took my first trip to New York, and what I saw was a roofless city, all the buildings have flat roofs. This was enough to consolidate my practice.

I chose graphite as my material not only because it echoed my memory of moonlight glinting on the tiles of my roof in the black water but also because it reminded me of another story from my childhood. Outside my school there was an old man who sold pencils. They were all different sizes, and he would sharpen them until the lead was very long. He would then throw the pencils, point end down into a piece of wood, to show us just how strong the graphite was. I always wanted one of these pencils and when I had one I would sharpen it with a razor blade. When the pencil got too small to hold onto, I would push the end of it into the casing of a biro, so that I could use it until it was nothing more than a stub. I still sharpen my pencils this way. It is something that is part of me and integral to my practice, just like the dream I had of our roof all those years ago.

Interview with Karolina Glusiec

3 Oct

Karolina Glusiec was born in Lublin in Poland in 1986 and studied Audiovisual Communication at The Academy of Humanity and Economics in Lodz.  In 2009 she moved to London and has just completed an MA in animation at The Royal College of Art. She is the winner of this year’s Jerwood Drawing Prize.

What was the inspiration behind your animated film Velocity that won the Jerwood Drawing Prize 2012?

I think it was all about going to places and seeing different things and then coming back to where you are from, and realizing that your life there had been really fascinating. I wanted to make a film about my memories of Siennica Nadoina. I moved there when I was seven and a half, and left when I was 19.  I didn’t go back very often and have never felt homesick or nostalgic about it. But I would talk to my friends and family on the phone and ask; “how is it now? Who moved out? Who moved in?” So last summer I started to draw things that I remembered and it transpired that this is the only proof I have that some places, people and things ever existed.

But I did not want to make a film about Siennica Nadoina, I wanted to make one about memory, drawing and drawings. So it looks like the main inspiration behind the film is…drawing.

Who narrated the film, and why did you think it necessary? 

Dougie Hastings, who is an actor and lives in London. I wrote the script myself. It was just a collection of words that recalled my village, but I hope the words are familiar to the viewer as well, that they might recognize in them images from their own memories. I did not want to use my own voice and I did not want the voice to sound dramatic or sentimental. I wanted it to sound distant and unemotional.

What do you like to draw with?

I have no preferred tool or method, although I feel most comfortable when the work is monochromatic. I think my works are mostly grey or black and white.

What is the best thing about drawing?

That you don’t have to pretend, and you can be as sincere as you want to be. It is a primary art medium for us. When we are children we draw with crayons on paper, with a stick on sand, with felt tips on walls. I love it because you can be spontaneous and free. I’m shy and awkward and I don’t really talk much. So when I draw I feel like I can be myself and do what I really want.

If you hadn’t been an artist, what would you have been?

I don’t know. I’ve had many odd jobs, just like everyone I guess but drawing is the best thing I’ve ever done. Not that long ago I was afraid that I would never be able to draw, because of my health (I have a problem with my eyes.) So, drawing is the best thing ever. But if I had to choose, I would like to work on radio and play records, preferably between 2 and 4 am, when it’s not necessary to talk much, so I could just play the music.

Is there a dream place you would like to see your work exhibited?

Not really. I like the idea of moving drawings, not an animation, but physically moving them, like throwing them out of a speeding train, or sending them across the water. And I wish I could be brave enough just to approach someone and say, “can I give you a drawing?” Yes I think that would be something.

How many hours a day do you draw?

It depends. It can be 15 minutes or 14 hours. But I don’t really count time when I’m drawing. Drawing is like a holiday, although you have to work at it too. After several years of non art-related jobs I threw myself into drawing again when I got a place in the Royal College of Art. I wanted to draw as much as I could. And I still want to draw as much as I can now.

What is the strangest object in your studio?

I’m staying with my mum at the moment, so I don’t have a studio. But when I was sharing a studio space at the RCA, I kept on labeling everything, including messy bits of paper. So there were all these Post it notes about with  “this is really a drawing. Please don’t throw it away.”

What is the oddest art experience you have ever had?

I was at the Off Music Festival in Myslowice in Poland, in 2008.  There was a performance by Joanna Rajkowska that was on some sort of viaduct; you could see the cars going underneath when you looked down. There was a long table covered in a white tablecloth with platters of oysters on it and she invited everyone to take part and eat, but it looked too luxurious in this industrial environment. When I see an exhibition I often feel a bit odd when I leave, as if everything outdoors now looks different, like it’s a different world. I think that Rajkowska’s performance was like that, but inverted. Like we are all in a big gallery and it only takes a couple of steps to experience the art… like the big elegant table with platters of oysters. Incidentally, approached the table but then I turned around and went away. I was too shy.