Wandering Into Stillness

“We have forgotten what rocks and plants still know, we have forgotten how to be, to be still, to be ourselves, to be where life is here and now” – Eckhart Tolle

Transition, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2020
Transition, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2020

There was a time when I found it difficult to be still at all, or to be alone for that matter. I would constantly find ways in which to distract myself from well, myself ultimately; people, parties, food, alcohol, relationships, work, shopping etc etc…. but then there comes a time, hopefully, when you get really tired of your own BS! You start to go within, get to know yourself and slowly but surely, you can begin to heal what needs to be healed, and become authentically who you were in fact, always meant to be. Being in nature has definitely helped me with this process, plus a lot of therapy over the years!?!

Learning to allow myself to simply be, here, now, in this very moment has been a game changer. It’s a pretty cool place to be, but don’t get me wrong, I slip in and out of this place quite often and have to practice it daily, hourly, minute by minute even, but it feels great to be evolving, albeit slowly.

All of these aspects are proving extremely important to me, personally and within my art practice. I think the time spent throughout my undergraduate degree was, for me a huge catalyst for change, especially in my attitude towards myself and others, as well as a growth in confidence generally. Through learning, exploring and practicing art, I really feel that I have found my place and a deeper sense of connection to my ultimate muse; nature, and in doing so bringing me back to myself.

Almost There, Samantha Boulanger, Photo Etching, 2019
Almost There, Samantha Boulanger, Photo Etching, 2019

All the processes that I have been exploring these past few years, have essentially been working with and connecting to nature in the least toxic way possible. With my etchings I was introduced to a non-toxic ground called ‘BIG’, which was created and developed by our very own Andrew Baldwin (My main tutor throughout the past two years of my BA), the ground is really lovely to use, easy to clean and very effective (see above image).

You can get more information on BIG and Andrew’s workshops here.

Gratitude, Samantha Boulanger, Circular Cyanotype, 2019
Gratitude, Samantha Boulanger, Circular Cyanotype, 2019

With the simple process of Cyanotype, I found that I could create very freely in the varying tones and colours of Prussian blue, using sunlight and nature, as well as my photographic imagery.

My explorations then took me into the natural worlds of Eco-printing and Chlorophyll processes, in which I create images using nature itself, see previous two blog posts; From Eco-prints to the Chlorophyll Process and Botanical Bounty

Slow Stitch by Claire Wallesley-Smith and Natural Processes in Textile Art by Alice Fox
Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith and Natural Processes in Textile Art by Alice Fox

Currently, I am looking a little deeper into various forms of nature art and during my research, I discovered two fantastic books; Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith and Natural Processes in Textile Art by Alice Fox, as an up-cycler and forager, the concepts described in these books are not news to me, though I have found them immensely interesting and I am learning so much more from them.

Both of these wonderful nature inspired artists share their work, processes and the other artists that have inspired them. I decided to finally ‘have a go’ at slow stitching, something I have been longing to try for ages!

Alice Fox explores making inks using the earth, kitchen waste and plants as well as creating art using rusty metals on papers and fabrics. I love her work, check out her fabulous website here.

Slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Test squares of slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket
Test squares of slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket

Getting a little more adventurous;

Landscape, slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket and rusty washer!
Landscape, slow stitch on eco-printed recycled wool blanket and rusty washer!

I would really like to incorporate slow stitching and the concept of mindful, almost meditative creating into my prints, both on paper and fabric in the future…

It has been soooo lovely to simply sit outside in the warm sun with a cup of tea, mindfully and gently stitching away on my foraged eco-printed recycled wool blanket fragments, just being in the moment and allowing the creativity to unfold; from wandering, into stillness.

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

From Eco-prints to the Chlorophyll Process

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not Man the less, but Nature more”. – Lord Byron

Hashtag Nature is my Muse
Hashtag Nature is my Muse

I have always loved this verse by Lord Byron, and during this time of lockdown, which is set to continue here in Wales for another three weeks at least, I thought it was very apt.

Having this extra time, along with the continuing sunny weather, has meant that I can spend a lot more time than usual in nature, also giving me the opportunity to experiment further with my nature themed processes such as cyanotype, cyanolumen, eco-printing and even the chlorophyll process.

Curve, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2020
Curve, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2020

Since the beginning of the MA last September, I have kind of been waiting for the trees and plants to fully bloom so that I could go full steam ahead into my art practice. Up until recently, I have been using whatever foliage I could find and grasping the sunny winter days when I could, which has been an interesting and enlightening process in itself.

Now that Spring is really springing and most of the written work has been completed (with only a few more deadlines looming), I can experiment to my hearts’ content!

When Green Meets Grey, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2020
When Green Meets Grey, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2020

In my last blog Botanical Bounty I talked a little bit about the process of eco-printing and showed examples of some that I’d created using various autumn leaves, dried eucalyptus leaves and some dried leaves gifted to me by my late mother.

My most recent batch of eco-prints were created using fresh Spring leaves, a few small rusty pieces and a little natural acid dye, which I think worked quite well despite the leaves being so young.

Eco prints drying
Eco-prints using fresh Spring leaves drying

I will be trying with the same kind of leaves again as they mature throughout the year, as well as adding more rusty pieces of metal and perhaps some bits of wood bark and various mordants etc.

Eco Print on paper, Samantha Boulanger, 2020
Eco print on paper, 2020
Eco Print and rust pieces on paper, Samantha Boulanger, 2020
Eco print and rust pieces on paper, 2020
Eco Print on paper, Samantha Boulanger, 2020
Eco print on paper, 2020
Eco Print on paper, Samantha Boulanger, 2020
Eco print on paper, 2020

I really have enjoyed exploring this form of botanical printing and I am sure that I will continue my experimentations in the weeks ahead, really slow down into it, go deeper and look for ways to take this process further.

I’ve always quite liked to learn the art of bookbinding. I’d really like to turn some of my printed papers into little handmade books; watch this space!

Untitled, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype on Dried Leaf, 2020
Cyanotype on dried leaf, 2020

Also, I have been exploring printing onto various natural substrates, such as a dried leaves (above) and some tree bark; Birch tree I think (below), creating some interesting marks on them. I split the tree bark into sections, much like the trunks of trees in a forest, then fixed them to recycled packaging card and displayed in a concertina style booklet.

Cyanotyped Birch tree bark on recycled packaging in a concertina style, 2020
Cyanotype on Birch tree bark on recycled packaging in a concertina style, 2020

The next step on my leafy journey took me to the Chlorophyll process, which is another organic alternative photographic process, where I basically printed photographic images onto some fresh lily leaves using the sunlight to bleach the areas left open of the negative/positive transparencies, it is so simple and yet totally magical!

My first Chlorophyll experiment, May 2020
My first Chlorophyll experiment, May 2020
My first Chlorophyll experiment, May 2020
More Chlorophyll experiments, May 2020
A close up of one of my first Chlorophyll experiments, May 2020
A close up of one of my Chlorophyll experiments, May 2020

Unfortunately for the time being, I have to keep these printed leaves in the dark so that they don’t fade, just until I am able to fix them. I would like to do more of these using different leaves and images. There are some really wonderful examples of this process by artists such as Binh Danh, Tiffany Pereira and more locally Mary Thomas.

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

 

Botanical Bounty

“Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated” – Auguste Rodin

Some dried leaves collected and gifted to me by my late mum.
Some dried leaves collected and gifted to me by my late mother

During this time of lockdown, I have had the opportunity to revisit various processes and ideas. Thanks to the wonderful weather we have been having as well as living in the countryside and being so close to a few little woodland areas. I have been able to spend some time soaking up the sunlight through the trees, the general energy, inspiration and sense of calm from nature as she blooms into her Springtime being.

One of the processes I have been exploring further is eco-printing, this is where you place fresh foliage onto paper or fabric, adding various mordants, rusty bits of metal and onion skins for example (I sometimes also add a little acid dye), then sandwich them together tight and boil/simmer for around an hour, this releases the plants goodness combined with the added ingredients onto the paper/fabric leaving wonderous imprints. The reveal at the end is always a pleasure as you never quite know what you will get!

Close up of recycled tin cans rusting nicely over time.
Close up of recycled tin cans rusting nicely over time.
Botanical Eco-Printing session preparation.
Botanical Eco-Printing session preparation.
Close up of prints being boiled in the pot
Close up of prints being boiled in the pot
Eco-Print on Paper 2020
Eco-Print on Paper 2020
Eco-Print on Recycled Wool Blanket. 2020
Eco-Print on Recycled Wool Blanket. 2020

I recently bought a book by Susan Brooks called ‘Eco-Dyed Art Journals, Using Nature’s Imprints’ and it has been extremely useful and interesting, helping me to develop my eco-printing skills much further. I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in trying this process.

Some eco-prints drying
Some eco-prints drying

It is an easy process and quite difficult to make ‘bad’ prints, occasionally some leaves don’t transfer but all the prints that I have made over the past year or so have turned out ok, some I have applied cyanotype onto creating some very interesting effects, some that I have printed onto both in relief and intaglio, others can be framed in their own right or made into books (my next step) and/or used simply as notelets. The possibilities are endless, and again, working with a process that involves going into and working with nature is a HUGE plus for me.

Dragonfly, Samantha Boulanger, Etching on Eco-printed Paper 2019
Dragonfly, Samantha Boulanger, Etching on Eco-printed Paper 2019

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

 

Creating In The Time Of Corona

“Art is too important not to share” – Romero Britto

During the first few months of this year I have mostly been recovering from the art theory aspect of the MA, plus getting into the swing of the vocational practice module but alongside this I have been continuing experimentation with toning cyanotypes using coffee and green tea, mainly because we hadn’t had too many sunny days during January and February…

Then, just before the Covid19 (Corona virus) lockdown began at the end of March, the sun came out in full force and just I seemed to go crazy, creating all day and it felt so good!

Cyanotypes cooking in the midday sun!
Cyanotypes cooking in the midday sun!

I decided to go back to basics with the cyanotypes, recreating some of the experiments that I had done in the past, mostly in haste for my undergraduate portfolios and assessments I have to say, but this time I really wanted to see more clearly what happened when I added other ingredients, try new things, really play, but mindfully and documenting the exposure times and results etc, the following three images are close ups of cyanotypes with added natural food colourings and lemon juice…

So, I've been experimenting again, back to basics, no foliage or acetate just Cyanotype solution and a lil splash of this and a sprinkle of that, some cling film and full sun! 🌞 Heaven 💙.

So, I've been experimenting again, back to basics, no foliage or acetate just Cyanotype solution and a lil splash of this and a sprinkle of that, some cling film and full sun! 🌞 Heaven 💙.

So, I've been experimenting again, back to basics, no foliage or acetate just Cyanotype solution and a lil splash of this and a sprinkle of that, some cling film and full sun! 🌞 Heaven 💙.

I also experimented with applying the cyanotype solution onto various different substrates, here is one example of a cyanotype printed onto paper previously painted with metallic acrylic paints;

Cyanotype photogram on paper pre painted with metalic acrylic paint
Cyanotype photogram on paper pre painted with metallic acrylic paint

This experimental phase hit a whole new level when I finally dared to try my hand at creating my very own ‘Cyanolumen’ prints. What on earth are these I hear you ask? Well, basically it’s when you apply the usual cyanotype solution onto darkroom photographic paper (in the darkroom or low red light), you can then add your plant matter and/or acetate photo negatives, clip into your contact frames and then expose as usual in sunlight. I was leaving mine out in the sun for around 3-4hours.

I discovered this fascinating process from a very lovely lady from North Wales called Mary Thomas (thank you Mary!), I have been following and admiring her very inspirational work on various social media platforms for some time, but I recently plucked up the courage to actually contact her about this process and we have since become friends.

I strongly urge you to check out Mary’s work, it is just fantastic; Mary Cyanolumen – Instagram

Cyanolumen is a great progression on from cyanotype, I am loving my results so far, but I do have a long way to go with these yet, still so much to learn, unfortunately I’ve run out of the fix that I had, so I can’t really do any more of these in my home studio at the moment, but I am really looking forward to getting back into the university darkrooms in the autumn hopefully so I can experiment further…

Cyanolumen on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) photographic Paper
Cyanolumen on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) Photographic Paper
Cyanolumen on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) photographic Paper
Cyanolumen on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) Photographic Paper
Cyanolumen on Barclay Poly-Grade B/W Glossy Photograpic Paper (Before rinsing and fixing)
Cyanolumen on Barclay Poly-Grade B/W Glossy Photographic Paper (Before rinsing and fixing)
Cyanolumen on Barclay Poly-Grade B/W Glossy Photograpic Paper (After rinsing and fixing)
Cyanolumen on Barclay Poly-Grade B/W Glossy Photographic Paper (After rinsing and fixing)

I also tried creating a simple ‘Lumen’ print but couldn’t get strong results. I mean they are rather nice in their own subtle way, but not quite the effect I was going for…

Lumen print on Fuji Colour Crystal photographic paper
Lumen print on Fuji Colour Crystal Archive Professional (Type MP) Photographic Paper

In times like these it is important to really go with the flow, take the rough with the smooth, the good days and not so good days just as they are, contemplate on all the things you are grateful for and all the ways in which you would like your life to be after all this is over.

I feel immensely lucky to have a small outside space where Guto (my whippet ) and I can sit in the sun, whilst also attempting to grow my own food and flowers (so far so good, they are still alive 😉 ) plus, I do have a brilliant studio space to create in.

I do have much less income now due to shows being cancelled and the galleries being closed etc, (although I do have some extremely kind friends and more recently I have been making a few sales via social media which has really helped!), but this means that I am driving less, saving fuel as well as my impact on the planet however small, I am relaxing and meditating more, eating less, creating more, getting out in to nature more, been having some fabulous whippet woodland walkies, getting more exercise and having more time to reconnect and rebalance.

I still have to make do with all that I have, but I feel that this actually creates an opportunity to be more resourceful and therefore more creative, all part of the fun I guess. I hope you are all staying safe and well… this too shall pass.

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

Goodbye Perfection, Hello Authenticity

“Trust the wait, embrace the uncertainty, enjoy the beauty of becoming, when nothing is certain, anything is possible” – Mandy Hale

Shadow Self, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph 2020
Shadow Self, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph 2020

There seems to be a number of recurring themes showing up for me to contemplate this year, both creatively and personally, all very much highlighted during this extraordinary time of lockdown due to the Covid19 pandemic. I also believe that on a collective level, there is an opportunity to reflect and slow down, become more present and mindful about what is truly important to us, to really think about what we are doing and why.

Creatively I think that I’m again being invited to really embrace the not knowing and just have fun exploring, investigating, playing and learning. I mean isn’t that partly what doing an MA is about, developing, investigating, exploring, practising and therefore achieving a deeper understanding of your chosen subject and of yourself as an art practitioner?

It is time to start accepting myself just as I am and go with the flow, to allow exploration to lead the way and let the mistakes happen. In fact I think these mistakes need to be made in order to learn and push the boundaries further, so we can stumble upon unplanned roads to meander down, these roads are often where the hidden gems of possibility are found; known as ‘happy accidents‘.

I sometimes think a good way to practice this is to try your hand at teaching others, to put yourself back into the place of the beginner again, back to basics, this being both humbling and enlightening…

Back In The Swing Of It, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2019
Back In The Swing Of It, Samantha Boulanger, Digital Photograph, 2019

Earlier this year during the second semester, I had the fantastic opportunity to assist with the BA first year photography module, specifically introducing the students to the ‘wet cyanotype‘ process that I had been specialising in.

Now, I have previously had a little experience with talking about my work and process to BA first year students, back in my final year as an undergraduate, which I found to be both terrifying and exciting in equal measures, probably due to the fact that I had only just started exploring this process myself at that time.

Morning Group BA Fine Art first year cyanotype workshop
Morning Group BA Fine Art first year cyanotype workshop

This year was different, I would not only be talking to students about my own work and process, I would also be running the workshops myself and getting paid for it! Introducing the traditional cyanotype process in a unique and contemporary way like this is something that I don’t believe has ever been done with students on this module before. I was definitely feeling the pressure, but I did feel less nervous than before. I think the difference being that this time, I had accumulated more of a working knowledge about the process and therefore felt a little more confident discussing it.

It did feel very satisfying to watch how, after some encouragement they quickly started exploring and experimenting with this medium with some really interesting results! I felt very proud, of myself and the students too, the workshops went very well with some really positive feedback.

Afternoon Group BA Fine Art first year cyanotype workshop
Afternoon Group BA Fine Art first year cyanotype workshop

I also took part in first year photography assessments and a photography group critique session with second year students. It was really interesting to experience both of these from another angle, having recently been on the other side of the fence as an undergraduate student at this Uni myself.

There was some really interesting work evolving, I look forward to seeing how they progress!

BA Fine Art Second Year Photography Group Critique 2020
BA Fine Art Second Year Photography Group Critique 2020

Being able to encourage someone to ease up on that striving for perfection, to push boundaries and simply believe in the infinite possibilities within themselves is a great thing to do for someone, I know that I experienced this from my tutors during the latter part of my degree and it has been life changing!

More so, I think that being able to find that encouragement and drive within yourself is not only the ultimate gift to give yourself and your creative practice but also to the world.

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

A Glimpse Into The Contemporary Artworld

“The rule in the art world is: you cater to the masses or you kowtow to the elite; you can’t have both”  – Ben Hecht

Keeping Grounded, Samantha Boulanger, 2019
Keeping Grounded, Samantha Boulanger,  Digital Photograph, 2019

One of the things we were asked to contemplate during the Artworld art theory module in the first semester of the MA was; how do we as artists and our work fit in to the contemporary art world? Good question I thought, as an already practising freelance artist and having just graduated with a BA Fine Art, I’ve noticed that I have this constant feeling of trying to straddle the two worlds that Ben Hecht is talking about in his quote “The rule in the art world is: you cater to the masses or you kowtow to the elite; you can’t have both”. It certainly feels like an impossible task sometimes.

My Stand at the Corn Exchange Cardigan 2019
My Stand in a group show at the Corn Exchange Cardigan 2019

I am hoping that during this MA I will find this balance, or at least continue to find the confidence within myself to just get on with being an authentic artist in my own right, regardless of which ‘camp’ I am in creatively. Maybe by being someone who is not necessarily trying to make a statement, rebel or critique the institution in a grand and obvious way, I actually inadvertently do just that! A new wave of rebellion perhaps?

Solo Show Oriel Rhiannons 2019
My Solo Exhibition at Oriel Rhiannon’s 2019

“It’s not a question of being against the institution: We are the institution. It’s a question of what kind of institution we are, what kind of values we institutionalize, what forms of practice we reward, what kind of rewards we aspire to” – Andrea Fraser

For the Artworld module I chose to explore the different ways in which globalisation and commodification impact on the contemporary art market and institutions, focussing on some broader theories which impinge on artists and art institutions. I also looked into the ways in which artists respond to the changing climate of the contemporary art world, and as a result how they challenge these establishments. In this blog I will discuss the latter, for this I chose two case studies, the first was Dayanita Singh with her exhibition Museum Bhavan, the second was the four 2019 Turner Prize winners; Helen Cammock, Lawrance Abu Hamdan, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani.

Dayanita SinghMuseum Bhavan (Image: Open The Magazine)
Museum Bhavan, Dayanita Singh (Image: Open The Magazine)

Dayanita Singh was born in Delhi, India in 1961, a self-described ‘book maker who works with photography’. Singh chose photography as a career to find her freedom, away from society’s expectations of marriage and family. Singh trained as a photojournalist but has since become interested in creating new ways of thinking about photography and making it available for people to see.

Despite living and working amongst the colourful sights of India, she usually works in black and white to create ‘something elusive’ in her images. Her subjects vary from families at home to abandoned rooms full of paper, to an outcast called Mona Ahmed living in a cemetery. (Tate)

Museum Bhavan is a collection of portable museums made by Dayanita Singh. Museums within a museum. There are 9 museums installed, each one holding images old and new, from the time Singh began photography in 1981 until the present.

The show is permanently installed at her home in the Visant Vihar neighbourhood in New Delhi, (open to the public on the first and second full moon of each year. At other times it may be viewed by appointment only). The show has previously been shown at the;
Hayward Gallery, London (2013). Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2014). Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2014) and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2016).

Museum Bhavan, Dayanita Singh, 2013 (Image: Global Canon)
Museum Bhavan, Dayanita Singh, 2013 (Image: Global Canon)

Each large, handmade wooden structure can be moved around, placed and opened in different ways, it holds around a hundred framed images, some of which are on view whilst others wait their turn in the reserved collection stored within the structure. Some also have smaller structures within them, which can be displayed inside the museum structures or separately on a wall. The museums sometimes form small chambers, with their own tables and benches, for reflection and conversation. Dayanita Singh – Museum Bhavan

From this exhibition birthed a smaller, more mobile exhibition, created by turning the images into book forms that were then displayed in suitcases. Singh’s publisher Steidl said: “In Museum Bhavan Dayanita Singh creates a new space between publishing and the museum, an experience where books have the same if not greater artistic value than prints hanging on a gallery wall. Consisting of nine individual “museums” in book form, Museum Bhavan is a miniature version of Singh’s traveling exhibition of the same name whose prints are placed in folding expanding wooden structures (her “photo-architecture”) which she likes to interchange at will (Steidl).

Museum Bhavan Suitcase Exhibition, Dayanita Singh 2013
Museum Bhavan Suitcase Exhibition, Dayanita Singh, 2013

Museum Bhavan was then made into concertina books in small box sets, published in 2017 by Steidl, mirroring the original larger exhibition. *These books can still be bought online despite being out of print. Currently just over £100 on Amazon UK “The books are housed in a handmade box and fold out into accordion-like strips which Singh encourages viewers to install and curate as they wish in their own homes. The exhibition thus becomes a book, and the book becomes an exhibition” (Steidl).

Museum Bhavan - Dayanita Singh, Published by Steidl, 2017
Museum Bhavan, Dayanita Singh, Published by Steidl, 2017

For me, it feels like Singh addresses both ends of the spectrum, embracing the institutions and their grandeur and elitism whilst at the same time also making the exhibition available to the general public in book form. I feel that there is shift taking place in which artists (myself included) are seriously questioning their exhibiting experiences and their part in this changing contemporary ‘art’ world.

Artists have been challenging the institutions through institutional critique since the sixties, this is not a new concept within the artworld (Tate). My second case study the 2019 Turner prize is a great example of how contemporary artists are still attempting to have their voices heard within the institutional platform.

The Turner Prize joint winners, from left: Tai Shani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo. (Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA)
The Turner Prize joint winners, from left: Tai Shani, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Helen Cammock and Oscar Murillo. (Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA)

The four nominated artists, pictured above, Helen Cammock, Lawrance Abu Hamdan, Oscar Murillo and Tai Shani surprised everyone, including the judges, with the joint statement that they were to form a temporary collective in order to win the prize as one.

They all felt that the problem was that each of their individual political themes and messages are so different and yet equally valid. They were concerned that being pitted against one another would imply that “one was more important, significant or worthy of more attention than the others” Turner Prize 2019.

The timing of this event was interesting too as it was at the same time of the general election campaigns in the UK. One of the winners Tai Shani wore a necklace with the slogan ‘Tories out’ on it and fellow winner, Oscar Murillo, a ‘Vote Labour’ badge on his t-shirt.

In their joint statement they spoke about the current political crisis in the UK and how the country is at a point where the people and their communities are feeling increasingly isolated and divided. Something that I believe is being highlighted even further during the current Covid-19 pandemic. People from all walks of life are being invited to not only question and change the way in which they want to live on a personal, localised level but also what kind of society do they want to be a part of and governed by, globally. Interesting and exciting times indeed.

So, in conclusion, whilst the antiquated system of elitism still underpins the establishments which have the primary control over the art world, artists are becoming more confident in reclaiming agency and control in their own right and this is increasingly picking up momentum. The global market available through the internet and the ability to access this on an individual level, both as a seller and buyer has taken agency away from the established institutions and handed it back to the artists, should they wish to take this option. Having choices has given strength to the voices of the individual artists, so that they feel more able to speak out about how future developments in the artistic field should be addressed; as was seen with the Turner prize winners this year. Times are a changing for sure!

Thanks for reading…

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

 

First Solo Exhibition – Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

“Art is contemplation. It is the pleasure of the mind which searches into nature and which there divines the spirit of which nature herself is animated” – Auguste Rodin

Self Portrait, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2019
Self Portrait, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2019

As a part of my vocational practice module for the MA that I’m currently studying, I am invited to write blog posts about my art practice, inspirations and life as a fine art practitioner. The past few months since I started have been full of art theory writing, researching and generally landing into the MA, as well as this crazy limbo space we find ourselves in with Covid-19, so I decided to go back to basics, to when my degree came to an end…

Samantha Boulanger BA Degree Show 2019
Samantha Boulanger BA Degree Show 2019

So, let’s go back in time a little, not too far back, just to the summer of 2019 where soon after graduating with a BA in Fine Art (First Class Hons) in the July, I was invited to have a solo exhibition at Oriel Rhiannon’s Gallery, Crafts and Gold Centre in Tregaron.

The space was large and I would need time to raise the money in order to have all my work professionally framed, so I opted for the October exhibition slot with the private view being on the 12th October 2019.

Oriel Rhiannon Poster 2019
Oriel Rhiannon Poster 2019

“Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”

The title of the show was “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost”, this title was a continuation on from and a culmination of all the creative roads that had been wandered down during the final two years of my degree leading up to the final exhibition for the BA.

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2019
Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost, Samantha Boulanger, Circular Cyanotype, 2019

This, my first solo exhibition, would be a superb opportunity for me to not only exhibit so close to home (I live only 6 miles away), but also to really celebrate the work that I created during the final two years of my BA, plus creating a bridge between the degree and the MA that I would begin studying in the September. The work included circular cyanotypes, stone lithographs and digital black & white photographs.

Homeward bound, Samantha Boulanger, Stone Lithograph, 2018
Homeward bound, Samantha Boulanger, Stone Lithograph, 2018

The private view was extremely well attended, with a number of sales of my black & white photographs. The whole exhibition experience was indeed very interesting and a real eye opener. Something I was able to touch upon in my essay during the first semester of the MA.

Aiming High, Samantha Boulanger. photograph, 2019
Aiming High, Samantha Boulanger, Photograph, 2019

In my BA dissertation, I talk about how the circular cyanotypes express the dynamics and contradictions between the interconnectedness and isolation experienced whilst immersed in the natural world.

The desire was to convey the feeling of being lost and found, pushing boundaries, with explorations through both printmaking and photographic processes, ending with something that was suspended somewhere between the two, simultaneously creating a sense of connection with all things and belonging.

Slowly this cyanotype process had given way to a zen-like insight into the possibilities of overlap of innovative exploration and inspiring imagery.

Solo Show Oriel Rhiannons 2019
Solo Show Oriel Rhiannon’s 2019
Solo Show Oriel Rhiannons 2019
Solo Show Oriel Rhiannon’s 2019
Solo Show Oriel Rhiannons 2019
Solo Show Oriel Rhiannon’s 2019
Solo Show Oriel Rhiannons 2019
Solo Show Oriel Rhiannon’s 2019

I felt so proud to see all my work from the last two years beautifully framed and hanging on the gallery walls. The cyanotypes were greatly admired, with people coming up to me to let me know which ones were their favourites. It was a busy PV, both my own social media advertising campaign and the support of those I know really helped, the wine flowed as did the positive feedback.

Inspiration

The inspiration for my work definitely comes from my love of nature. There is a Welsh phrase; “Dod yn ôl at fy nghoed” that means “To return to a balanced state of mind”, it literally translates as; “I return to my trees”. This really resonated personally, being in nature, particularly woodlands and forests feels to me as essential as breathing, it certainly brings me back to a balance state of mind.

Elevation, Samantha Boulanger, Photograph, 2018
Elevation, Samantha Boulanger, Photograph, 2018

The feeling of ‘other wordliness’ and escape in nature, although it is much more than that, it is like being suspended in time and space and yet grounded at the same time, the soul being fed and nourished, the smell, the sounds, the sense of well-being and being at one with everything.

Juxtaposing this, inspiration also comes from the instinctive ‘hunter and gatherer’ feeling of foraging, there is an innate connection with the planet and to oneself, heightened when out bimbling around a forest or walking on the beach. The sunshine is particularly alluring, it enhances the sights, sensations and sounds, it directs the gaze towards interesting natural treasures and captures the myriad of textures, shapes, colours, tones and the interplay between light and dark through the camera’s eye.

The journey so far is just the beginning, with so much more exploration, experimentation and research to be had. There is a strong feeling of endless creative possibilities….

Infuse, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2019
Infuse, Samantha Boulanger, Cyanotype, 2019

Thanks for reading… 

You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

 

Creeping Out Of Hibernation – 3 March 20

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” – Paul Theroux

 

Has winter finished yet?? Spring is in the air but it still kind of feels like winter… the sun is out today and yet here I sit in my university post graduate studio pretty much hugging a borrowed heater!?! I don’t like the cold, at all.

I have barely stopped since the festive season, always seems to be something to do, work to make, stewarding to do, an event to prepare for, an essay to complete, a whippet to walk etc… if winter is really the season of recovery and preperation then I don’t think it’s over yet, not for me anyway… still so much to do!

I have to say though, that even though I have been a busy winter bee, I am really enjoying my post graduate MA experience thus far. I do believe that I am getting a lot out of it, even amidst the theoretical chaos in my head.

The ‘Artworld’ art theory element of the MA has now ended (hurrah!!) but seriously, it really was a very interesting module and I do believe I passed, just 😉

Now it is time to focus on my practical work and the ‘Vocational Practice’ module. This module is mostly about teaching practice and working as a freelance professional artist. It has been really interesting so far.

I have even had the opportunity to get some real paid teaching experience; introducing BA Fine Art first year students to my Cyanotype world for a start…..

BA Fine Art first years cyanotype workshop- afternoon group exposing their work in the sun!
BA Fine Art first years cyanotype workshop- afternoon group exposing their work in the sun!

Thanks for reading…

 You can see daily visual diary updates on Instagram 

 

Happy Solstice 2019

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” – John Steinbeck

Dance on the Horizon - Bleached Cyanotype 2019 ©
Dance on the Horizon – Bleached Cyanotype 2019 ©

Happy Solstice to you all! I hope you are keeping warm and enjoying the holidays so far.

It has been a busy, crazy and yet fascinating time since starting my MA in September?! I haven’t been able to create much in the way of new work  mostly due to the intenseness of the Artworld theory module, but also the various small fairs, solo and group exhibitions, making, framing and delivering work to Oriel Seren Gallery in Machynlleth and Origin in Carmarthen where I have also had to steward a few times. Then of course, the yearly winter fair at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre with my Kaotic Kittus upcycled clothing label and a few prints (fair ends on 23rd Dec 2019).

@Corn Exchange Cardigan 2019
@Corn Exchange Cardigan 2019

Now I have some time ‘off’ to try relax and catch up with house duties, not too much uni work to do except write an essay and prepare my artist and process research of the past few months ready for January assessments etc…I am really looking forward to getting fully back into my art practice again, with lots of experiments and investigations in the coming new year… watch this space!

Happy holidays folks, see you in 2020!

 

 

What’s next? 10 June 19

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ – Lao Tzu

Apologies for the blogging silence, it has been an incredibly busy time over the past couple of months; there was an intense surge in written work needing to be completed including my dissertation, as well as finalising everything for my part in the degree show.

Studying for exams…

The run up to the degree show was filled with the slightly chaotic hustle and bustle of everyone in various groups on different days building the exhibition space itself, we then had to prepare and paint our own boards, I was lucky, mine wasn’t in too bad a condition.

And so it begins…

Every step of the way has been a rich learning curve, including the preparation and hanging the exhibition. So many details needing to be attended to, tricks learned to make life easier and needing to have ones brain fully engaged!

Ta Daaaaa!! My Degree Show 2019

I was incredibly happy with my space, it was in a great position in the room and really showed my work off well. The opening day of the show was exciting and nerve wrecking, busy and the sun beamed through the roof windows making it very hot!! A fantastic day though, people were genuinely interested in my cyanotypes and the process behind them.

Around 200 business cards were taken in the first day, mainly due to the fact that I had done about 8 or so different designs, so multiples were being taken at one time; another learning curve 😉 Very flattering though I guess.

Proud as punch!

Thanks to all those who managed to make the show!

After the excitement and adrenaline fuelled build up to the show opening, came the final assessment! It was a very positive one indeed, with talk of the possibility of doing an MA… main advice that stood out was to try not to lose the momentum that I had created; I am just about getting back into that place now. Really does feel like I am at the beginning of a very exciting path indeed creatively, thanks to the past three years!

Keeping grounded

Now the dust has settled somewhat, I am preparing my application to do the MA part time from September this year. Watch this space…

Recently took a visit to an open day at GS Artists Studio in Swansea to check out (fellow Aberystwyth School of Art Alumni) Sarah Poland’s fantastic work from her recent residency. So glad I took the trip down, well worth it! Such a lovely lady who has created some beautiful and very inspirational work. The way she juxtaposed her black and white photography with her paintings was just brilliant! I also loved the fact that she has used ink made from oak trees from her local woodland; gall ink, something I will be investigating further to perhaps incorporate into my own work. It was really interesting to see such large pieces of work, definitely makes an impact. Sarah was intrigued by my cyanotype work, we even discussed a possible skills swap!

Sarah Poland with her work in Swansea 2019

In other news; I have been busily creating catnip chaos in the Kaotic Kittus studio getting my funky foraged finery ready for this years Wool and Willow Festival in Llanidloes. The festival is a celebration of all things woolly and willowy. Around 25 exhibitors, free entry, open 7 days a week from 10.30-4.30. Hope you can make it… Llanidloes is a lovely little town, very quirky and alternative, full of history and has a great whole-food cafe!

Kaotic Kittus @The Wool and Willow Festival 2019

So, what is next?

My MA application is now well underway, been creating lots of artwork for the Oriel Seren Gallery in Machynlleth as well as for an upcoming two day event with The Bay Gallery and friends at the Bandstand in Aberystwyth this month (please check out my events page). I am also making lots of woolly Kittus stock for The Wool and Willow Festival… plus waiting for the sun to come out so I can do some more cyanotypes too?! Lots to do, and think about… 🙂