Assignment Two – Publication proposal
I have always had the sense that for me to comprehend what it is that I am trying to say at any point, that I need to say it out loud. To continue to discuss with myself in an on-going conversation that almost seems to fear resolution, but volubly expressing it has generally been my way of calibrating what it is that might be concerning me. And so I know that not only is the work at the end of this course a significant expression of that conversation, but also it’s eloquence has been developed and its scope more focused with a deeper sense of its place – because of this course. And this is where I might use the term ‘impact’, that in a deeply personal sense I have found something that I want to centre my practice around. That’s where ‘my ambition’ is. I have something that is beckoning me as much as I feel I am driven towards it; success for me will therefore be how I feel it has been described, not whether the artworld has felt any kind of minor tremor.
I have recently received an invitation to participate in a seminar where my work “I look for him, I think I always will” has been deemed to fit the underlying theme of the event – which is concerned with ‘landscape and autobiography’. The event will be staged in late July and it presents an ideal, if somewhat earlier than expected, opportunity to make my work public. And therefore this assignment will plot the course to that point in time.
The first task I have is to prepare and supply a short text on my practice, how it relates to the theme of the symposium, which I suspect will be used to contextualize the event for marketing purposes. I have not been informed of the scheduling of the event, my chief concern will be to comprehend the presentation time allotted and begin the editing process to accommodate. The event has this: “The symposium will consider how contemporary landscape practice has shifted from its pastoral traditions and embraced more nuanced and personal approaches and narrative strategies…”
I am supposing at this stage that I will receive some more information about the schedule – when I need to provide material, what time I have etc, but for course purposes I shall work under the premise that the presentation will need to be ready 1 month beforehand and therefore Assignment Four of this course will need to be complete by the 1st June. I will take advice regarding Assignment Three
One of the chief lessons I have learned through the Body of Work course is that I should expect to edit my work to fit the occasion. The work for assessors met a set of needs that was different for the web incarnation and I should expect to reconsider the sequencing and narrative flow of the work for this symposium. I am fortunate in that I have presented to audiences of many types multiple times and the one thing I am absolutely sure of is that I cannot predict the response of that audience and that I will need to have some flexibility in presentation, if not material, on the day.
The recently created website at www.johnumney.co.uk has provided me with an opportunity in that I have submitted the BoW project – via a link to the website (and accompanying words – to Source magazine for publication consideration. The guidelines for submission are as follows http://www.source.ie/main/submissions.html. I have received a response from the editor on the 14th March thanking me for it and suggesting that it normally takes no less than a month to consider work. I am under no illusions about the likely success, though I am grateful that he has acknowledged receipt. I am hopeful nonetheless that in the rejection letter, he might provide advice about moving forward which will then feed into my practice. If I am very lucky to be selected I suspect that the editor will either want to meet – that is the usual process from what I understand – or send representative prints. Either way there will need to be a set of prints for inspection, most of which already exist at exhibition quality (however I expect they will continue to collect dust).
The website has received comments, mostly positive, and my plan is to leave it to rest for a few more weeks, after which I plan to introduce my “Legacy” blog site which will be the chief mechanism to add new work to the site. I feel the website to be a vital means by which I introduce my practice work to interested parties as well as new work in progress. I will need to consider the style of the blog in respect of how ‘student-like’ it is, however I currently see it as a natural development in building the practice.
One of the chief ways I have been able to develop is by nurturing a network. It is abundantly clear to me that my work has developed by having other students/tutors and practicing artists critique my work, and by doing so it has helped me to build a framework of contacts that I can turn to at critical moments. The website provides a platform and the blog might provide an interface, but at this stage of my development as a practicing artist I fully appreciate that constant effort will be vital in developing a sustainable network. I am also aware that I have concerns about how far to ‘push’ a network, something I could/should address with my tutor, having the feeling that under-stressing a ‘node’ would be better that its polar opposite.
The artist talk: is till my favoured approach and the event in July mentioned above clearly provides that opportunity though I haven’t completely “written-off” Family Ties Network and I hope to attend their next event in June, though no firm date seems to have been published. I sense the need for a long-term investment and involvement. The “Network” could provide an opportunity for Assignment Three regarding work experience, but I have to have that conversation with my tutor before committing to any ideas.
I see the short-term future as taking advantage of the opportunity at the symposium, whilst continuing to develop new work that will shape the longer-term aspects of my burgeoning practice. I see the symposium both as a vehicle to present the BoW but also as an opportunity to preview newer work coming through – see https://vimeo.com/159936337 and https://vimeo.com/160073694 . This could be viewed/presented both as accomplished work as well as on-going development, perhaps under the umbrella project term ‘Legacy’.
“My work though considers interpretations and responses to personal memory, much as Gibbons reminds us: “in the way that Pierre Nora expresses in the notion lieux de mémoire referring not only to places but to events or objects”. I’m interested in the malleable, capricious and fallible nature of memory and how what is vested in the subconscious continues to reinterpret for us in the present. How the temporality of memory is found so often to be wanting; confusing us with what Freud called memory screens. Allowing and encouraging environments that supports the pathological impulse to seek and record.”
I’m thinking of the above as a first shot at “describing in a few sentences” what my work is all about.
My thoughts about costs are that it simply isn’t easy to apportion direct costs to the work; rather it would be better/easier to consider allocating those costs to the practice. The website was developed after I opened a new contract with my web-supplier and which costs me just under £2 per month for the next twelve months and then about £5 per month – I say ‘about’ because I fully expect another round of negotiation. However the ‘ball-park’ is about right. The webs-site was designed using Muse under an “Adobe Cloud” contract that provides significant discounts for students. If I graduate and cease to be a student I have two choices, firstly to upgrade my subscription to include Muse thereby allowing me to upgrade the website at will, or simply to decide the website is fine and will stay extant in the form it is when I drop out. I suspect at this stage I will opt for the former.
Having an active website will allow me to add new work as it develops, which brings me to other costs. I was interested to hear of the “Kickstarter” campaign that Michal Iwanowski developed for his project “Clear of People”, I have invested in the project and the book is due in a couple of months or so; however what made it so pertinent is the timing of it all. I went to see the exhibition when it was at the ffotogallery in Newport in early 2014 and the show has travelled a long way since then before becoming a book project, and that length of time echoes something I have been thinking about with respect to “I look for him…”. I feel my BoW project is in a continuous sate of flux and will continue to develop, so apportioning direct costs to it, at this stage, will be difficult. Of course if I get the opportunity to exhibit I will certainly consider that very closely and it is that stage when it will drive the costs significantly I suspect – despite having exhibited all of the landscapes already at the South Street Gallery in Oxford and those costs (printing/framing etc.) can be deemed as “written-off”.
So my chief investment at this stage will be time and effort (travel costs notwithstanding), though if things develop from where they are currently, it might be pertinent to consider myself more as a ‘freelancer’ in respect to tax etc. – but I think from that perspective I am somewhat under the radar in respect of earnings from my work.
It seems clear to me that by supporting the project, by taking opportunities to discuss the work and, in a sense, believing in it, that the work will find a way to emerge. One of those ways of supporting it is by continuing the work and by making it available. There are other ways to publicize the work, enter competitions, contacting other periodicals – both physical and ‘on-line’ presences, as I have the sense that editor’s are continuing to search for new work. In some ways it might be said that the work might gravitate to where it is best suited, but that will depend on impetus and energy that can only come from within.
Attached is the publicity sheet for the Seminar: “New Pastoral Paradigms: Explorations in Landscape and the Self”, held in Bank Street Arts – Sheffield, July 2016. The following became my associated text on the sheet:
“Family ties and place also underpin John Umney’s I keep looking for Him – I think I always will, which uses landscape photography as a vehicle to reflect on personal memory and autobiography. Using the relationship with his deceased father as a starting point, John explores the complex nature of the father-son relationship through the combination of text, personal artefacts and landscape images set in an unsettled place in Oxfordshire called Purgatory.”
Obviously I feel very encouraged by the opportunities that are developing, it will be up to me to make best use of them.
 From my SYP course blog entry January 11th 2016 https://sypjsu.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/concerning-assignment-two/
 Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollections and Remembrance – John Gibbons
My website now contains a blog: https://johnumneyblog.wordpress.com