Day Tripper: Ho Chi Minh City

 From my note book written last week, the following is a brief travelogue documenting an experience in Vietnam while en-route to Tokyo. 

“Yesterday I got back to Tokyo. The trip was more exhausting as usual and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll go down that avenue again, just in pursuit of a bit of adventure that is (I know, I’m sounding old). No problem with the place, I just wasn’t really prepared. Anyway…. 

Last month I spotted a cheapy flight from London Heathrow to Narita Tokyo via Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The cheap price relates to the fact that I would be in transit in Vietnam for just over 12 hours. As there are no visa restrictions for Brits to enter Vietnam, I thought I could make a day trip of Ho Chi Minh City and do a bit of exploring.

After the 12-hour flight, I’m in the airport, it must have been about 35 degrees. The humidity was quite intense even at 9 in the morning. After a quick airport toilet wash and gulping down a few bottles of mineral water, I studied the map at the airport tourist office. Psychogeography  was the next part of the plan. I considered doing a ‘Will Self’ which was to walk from the airport into the city. By doing so, I could get to grips with the environment, atmosphere and its surroundings which would give me a better perspective. However, on second thoughts, the controller voice inside me was telling me that if I get lost, mugged or injured somehow along the way, the consequences would cause serious problems as I had a full-on schedule the following day in Tokyo. I took the safe option and hopped on the bus instead. On the semi-packed bus I got talking to an American/Vietnamese woman. She gave me a few useful survival tips. One of them being, when crossing busy roads, don’t run, just hold up your hand.     ???? I thought.

Ho Chi Minh City (2016)

45 minutes later the bus had transported me into the city. It was frenetic beyond belief! The main roads were just a total free-for-all. Buses, trucks, cars, bicycles and scooters in their thousands moving in all directions. The woman directed me to the first port of call, the  Bitexco Financial Tower  . “Over there” She said. Then I tentatively crossed the busiest road ever amid the mayhem around me, taking her advice, walking slowly with my arm held aloft. It worked; I was still in one piece!”

Saigon Sky Tower
Bitexco Financial Tower Sky Deck

 

Bitexco Financial Tower (2) Bitexco Financial Tower (3)

Bitexco Financial Tower (1)

The Bitexco Financial Tower (what an awful name!) is a very impressive structure. While in the Saigon Sky Deck on the 40 something floor, I found myself  drawn more to the ceilings than the view. Like a hall of mirrors at a fair, there is an abundance of glass facets on the ceiling. Here I’ve enlarged areas of interest where the natural light is clashing with the reflected surfaces. The textured, geometric abstractions are just absorbing . 

April 22nd, 2016      

 

 

 

 

Evan Baden-Technically Intimate

Chicago-based photographer, Even Baden’s photographic series, ‘Technically Intimate’ explores an issue, sexting which is briefly documented in my latest project. Baden’s series of photographs, explores adolescent sexting. Incidentally, the word ‘sexting’ became a word in its own right and entered the dictionary in 2012.

For the process, he uses  models to recreate scenes in adolescent environments  from intimate photos found online.I find the images startlingly graphic. They really make us consider the issues that surround privacy today. The word in the title ‘intimate’ has to be a contradiction though. These shared intimate photos between people may begin as private. However, will remain in the domain of social media where intimacy and privacy is pretty much non-existent. Claire Lontis from Base Magazine adds further comment:

Starting the body of work in 2008, Baden’s premise is this; to observe and display how “the Internet was changing how youth culture viewed sex, intimacy, and privacy”. It is not uncommon to have, among a circle of friends, a few who have been made a fool of after an intimate self-taken photo intended for their significant other has been circulated once the relationship turned sour. Baden stumbled across websites which paid for such photos. “I began to find many sites that trafficked in sexually charged and explicit images that had been taken by young women and sent to a second person, most presumably a boyfriend. These images then somehow ended up on the Internet for the world to see. And what’s more, the images seem to move from one site to the next, spreading like a virus across the web”.

 

 

The Art of Dinky: Shop Fronts Tokyo (Shinjuku & Koenji)

The adjective ‘dinky’ means small and neat. For me, it’s the most appropriate word that springs to mind when describing typical characteristics of bars and eateries which can be found in the labyrinths in the Tokyo Metropolis. The capacity for most bars are room for barely half a dozen. A few tables and a bar area inside the cozy interior, though in summer time, stacked up plastic bottle crates are used as makeshift chairs and the clientele spill out into the street. However, despite the size, it doesn’t seem to perturb the publicans. Business as usual.

SHINJUKU

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It is well known that the Japanese are renowned for attention to detail and that opinion can be justified here. Even though the detail might not be aesthetically pleasing. Western influences are increasingly evident, for instance, bar names using English words or expressions. Postcards, signage, stickers and ripped up pages from glossy film, rock and fashion magazines, an overload of references to popular culture. Decorative styles you might see in a stereotypical student’s flat. Another predominant feature is that beauty bodes well with the unsightly. Part of the ubiquitous exterior decoration which seems ever-present outside the dwellings are the abundance of electric matter. Air conditioner ventilators, electric meters, masses of painted wire. Evidence of beauty vs ugly combinations working in harmony.

KOENJI

 2 Koenji3 Koenji

1 Koenji5 Koenji

Workers

Part of my contextual inspiration comes from the Brazilian Social documentary photographer and photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado and a project of his called ‘Workers’ (1993)which depicts the kinds of extremities people have to endure in their daily working lives.

Salgado 1 Salgado 2 Salgado 3

From my own commuter drawings over the years, the Commuter Collage Triptych is a nod to Salgado’s work. The masses, compartmentalized, busily and sleepily fill the textured zones.

Collage 1 (Paper & Grunge & Nature  texture) Collage 2 (Grunge & Materials texture) Collage 3 (Grunge & Nature)

 

Fuchu no Mori Park-Tokyo

Was watching an old South Bank Show (1998) last night featuring the novelist/journalist Will Self. The man interests me a lot, I’ve only just started to read his work with more regularity since living back in England (2011). During the program, it was interesting to note what measures he takes when needing that ‘creative fix’ Apparently, Self heads off to the Orkney Islands, it is there he feels isolation and bacause of the presence of large quantities of water, it has a deep impact on his imagination. It got me thinking about my own strategies when searching for utopia for project inspiration . Well, it’s usually a place where I can be both inside and outside and with visual stimulus. I’m yet to find that idyllic spot in the UK. However, in Tokyo, I often go to Fuchu no Mori Park, ‘tooled up’ with sketch book, note book or just a book. You can often spot like-minded people with their sketch books or easels though they are usually pensioners! Apart from the park’s attractions (sports areas, children’s adventure playground, a woodland area, a fountain, a flower promenade and sculptures) , there are many secluded areas and hidden pockets of tranquillity if you search hard. But it gets better, there is also an Art Museum.

Fuchu Art Museum Collage

The Fuchu Art Museum inside Fuchunomori Park was opened in October 2000. Natural materials such as limestone and glass were used for this impressive building in order to create a feeling of unity with the park, which overflows with light and greenery. In addition to planned and permanent exhibition areas, the Noriyuki Ushijima Memorial Hall displays around 60 works from this Western-style artist that were donated by his family. The first floor features a public studio, work room, children’s modeling room, citizens’ gallery, and art library. Anyone can use these facilities for free, allowing them to experience art in an intimate way while appreciating famous masterpieces. There is also a museum shop and tea room where visitors can relax, and the museum has been designed with consideration given to the elderly and physically handicapped persons. These art museum surrounded by greenery is a wonderful place to enrich your spirit while viewing the changing seasons of the natural world.
Information from: gotokyo.org

Fortunately for me, when staying in Tokyo, Fuchu no Mori Park is just a 10-minute bicycle ride from my apartment. Today was a scorcher so I biked it to the park this morning and made this shaky little film just to give you an idea of my ‘heavenly hangout’. Also, I popped into the museum too and found out there is a typography workshop in June; I got my name down and luckily it’s on a Sunday. Apparently, we’re designing our own bag.

A blast from the past! These were taken by me and Torie with Anne & Michelle back in 2001.

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Fuchu no Mori Koen 2001.jpg

 

The Golden Gai-Shinjuku

Most of my project material will be gathered either in or near Shinjuku train station. Near Shinjuku train station is a rather unique little area called The Golden Gai. It is situated a few minutes away on foot from the East exit of Shinjuku station. It’s a well-known spot for its buzzing nightlife. Though what fascinates me is how the area is architecturally arranged. The area is made up of a simple network; six alleyways which are connected by even narrower alleyways. Incredibly over 200 bars, clubs and eateries are squeezed together.
For me, it’s a very important part of Tokyo as it provides the viewer with a small glimpse of Modernist Tokyo. Miniature like two-story buildings and narrow alleyways are just a few charismatic features of this remarkable area. In today’s Tokyo, most of the surrounding buildings in the Shinjuku area have been redeveloped, roads have been made wider and the conurbation stretching well into the suburbs. The Golden Gai stands alone surrounded by this concrete post-modernism overload. The buildings practically touch each other and are no more than a few feet wide. Most of the buildings have a simple two-story structure. The structures generally consist of a bar on the ground floor and a flat or another bar on the first floor. A steep staircase separating the stories. Each bar caters for half a dozen in one time at the very most. The buildings are elegantly dilapidated and at night the alleyways are dimly lit, resembling dirty and misty back streets in Victorian London times but not as menacing.  The area is frequented by a bohemian society. Artists, writers, musicians, film-makers, poets and actors descend on its bars. Most of the bars only welcome regular patrons though some bars try to attract ‘Gaijins (foreigners) by adding price lists and menus in English. It’s very quiet during the day and early evening as most of the bars open around 9p.m.  Below are a few snaps I took early one Sunday morning. Very different from images you might expect of Tokyo. No neon, no people, no colour, no gadgets etc.  Sadly there are very few places like this that still exist in Tokyo.

Kabuki 15.jpg Kabuki 13.jpg Kabuki 10.jpg Kabuki 8.jpg

 

 

Eastbourne: The 10th Unhealthiest Town Centre in the UK

Sometime last week, while watching the local news on the BBC. The adorable Polly Evans informed us that Eastbourne (where I reside in the UK)  is currently ranked number 10 as one of the unhealthiest town centres in the UK. Actually, considering the assortment of shops that surround the main bus stops outside the Arndale Centre, the report didn’t surprise me. In the context of this issue, I’ve given my take on the report in the form of a photographic representation. So last Friday, I popped into the town centre with my camera to see if there was any truth in the report. Here’s my effort aptly titled, ‘Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea’

 

Not Everyone's Cup of Tea.jpg

 

If you’re interested, here is the link to see if your high street is ranked in the healthy /unhealthy list:

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/mar/26/report-britains-unhealthiest-high-streets

Ori Gersht-Don’t Look Back

As part of my research for my next project, Don’t Have Nightmares 0.2, I am looking at site-specific art where the artist uses a specific location to create a body of work. Last week I went to the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne to see the Ori Gersht exhibition-Don’t Look Back’. Ori Gersht was born in Israel in 1967. He is a fine art photographer and currently works as a professor of Photography at the University for Creative Arts in Rochester, Kent. In short, this exhibition focuses in areas which have endured extreme devastation. The show is divided into three bodies of work.

White Noise   documents a train journey from Krakow to Austvitz in Poland. The images echo the prisoners that were taken to the concentration camps.

Liquidation focuses the border between Ukraine and Romania. Gersht revives personal history. The imagery is based around his father surviving the holocaust as a 5 year old boy. Places where he was hiding or places he was staying during the WWII. In Gersht’s own words, ‘this work is exploring the subjective and the objective between what we know and what is seen’

Evaders  follows the journey by German philosopher Walter Benjamin. This is represented by a split screen reconstructing the journey of Benjamin. Screen one using an actor walking walking along the Pyrenees (apparently fleeing from the Nazis). Screen two uses footage of still images of the Pyrenees. Ambient sounds from the location connect the still and the moving.

Many of Gersht’s images have a very painterly characteristic. The images have an intense beauty heavily contrasting to the context. Having prior knowledge about the exhibition, I assumed I would be viewing dark, sombre landscapes (thinking representationally as usual!). I was very impressed with the body of work and how the artist combines his concepts with conflict, time, history and landscape.

Ori Gersht will be talking about his work at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne on Saturday, March 28th at 3 p.m. Tickets: £6/£5

White Noise 1 White Noise 2

 

 

 

Digital Vellum

Last weekend, when visiting my step-dad (87 years), he gave me old photo of my mum (pictured below) from her wedding day, March 1st 1962 . “I was having a clear-out and thought you might like it” he said. I gratefully received it. An original 10″ x 8″ monochromatic print preserved for 53 years under decorative acid paper.

Jackie ( March 1st, 1962)

Yesterday I came across an interesting article in the Guardian (below) that made me consider what measures will be taken when preserving photographic prints such as old family snaps. The article states that webpioneer Vint Cerf is warning us that without the development of ‘Digital Vellum’ , we could face, “a forgotten generation, or even forgotten century” through what is called as bit rot”  The article was also followed up in the leader comment (an article in digital conversation, The Guardian p32) with more thought-provoking views, “An album of analogue prints of family photographs may fade with the years, but digital printouts will disappear altogether, and the media on which they are stored electronically will almost certainly have failed long before the people in them die. The pictures of your grandparents are going to be preserved much better than the pictures of your children or your grandchildren will be

So does this mean that animal membrane (ancient parchment) will become more prevalent in  preserving our prints in the future?

 

The Guardian (February 13th, 2015 )

Google boss warns of ‘forgotten century’ with email and photos at risk

 

 

 

 

The Ome Shack

This weekend I stayed with my in-laws (or ‘The Out-laws’ as I sometimes cheekily refer to them!) in Ome. Ome (Translation: Japanese apricot) is in the Kanto region of Japan; a beautiful, scenic area about an hour away by express train from central Tokyo. Unfortunately, my father-in-law hasn’t been very well in recent years so every now and again, when my mother-in-law needs assistance, I go up and help out.

Their bungalow is deep in the Ome countryside. A 25 minute walk or a 5 minute bus ride from Ome train station. Depending on weather conditions, I usually opt for the walk. It’s a pleasurable stroll through the old town, snapping ancient shop fronts and stunning decaying structures along the way then across the bridge and into the Hatanaka area. Whenever I’m in this part of the world, it’s a welcome relief to get away from Tokyo’s overbearing concreted metropolis and find myself engulfed in the natural surroundings.

Ome Shop front 3.jpgOme Shop front 4.jpg

Their bungalow was built in the mid-60s and it still retains a lot of its original features though in a serious state of decay now. I’ve always been fascinated by the higgledy-piggledy interiors. Dated British sitcoms spring to mind; Steptoe & Son and Only Fools and Horses. In photographic terms, to some degree, I can see characteristics of Richard Billingham’s photobook, Ray’s a Laugh. Due to my mother-in-law’s reluctance to throw things away, the bungalow has become a cross between a bric-a-brac shop and a history museum.

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Each room is filled with objet d’ art and lost ephemera can be found everywhere. National and local newspapers stacked up high in the corners of each room. Collections of Badminton journals, books on botany, wildlife, cookery, judo etc dating back from the 70s and 80s.

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My mother-in-law’s shodo (Japanese calligraphy) proudly decorates some of the walls in the living room. The crème coloured washi paper now orangey brown. The sliding doors that no longer slide, nicotine stained walls, cat claw marks, crumpled boxes of vegetables, trays of dried fruits and chili peppers drying out, broken draws, cassettes, telephones, fax machines, empty boxes, greasy surfaces,  hole-ridden curtains, dead plants, turtles, the list is endless. Such a colourful visual spectacle!

Omtosando (Tokyo): The Art of Designer Shop Fronts

Sunday, October 12th

I arrived at the Rat Hole gallery in Omotosando at 10:00 a.m. , only to find out that the gallery opens at 12:00. Rather than hang about in a cafe for a few hours, I thought this would be a good opportunity to go on a photo shoot around the Omotosando neighborhood. Omotosando is a mecca for high fashion designer clothes and accessories.

1/ Educate Yourself

Here, you will find the latest garments from designers such as Issey Miyake, Miu Miu, Prada etc. The area encompasses an urban cool, power and chic aesthetic. However, I found these architectural structures all a bit overbearing though it was  very absorbing watching the designer clad Tokyoites strutting around the Omotosando `catwalk`

 

2/Prada

After walking through a few streets, I was amazed by the large expanses of glass used by each shop to display their goods; I was impressed too by the innovative shop displays. The Prada building being a noticeable example and visually stunning. As I looked through the glass, the mannequins and goods became distorted; losing their representation . An attractive concept to entice the consumer? I thought so, and I gained some visual ideas for my own project .

 

3/ Moncler

Just round the corner, Educate Yourself, employed a telephone box-looking structure display detached from the shop.Interesting. Other familiar themes involved using graffiti, retro designs, industrial settings and the use of historical characters (samurai)  in a sporting context. Funny! Overall, it was a well-spent few hours and the shoot has encouraged me to do more shop fronts in unfamiliar neighborhoods around Tokyo.

 

4/ Once Upon A Time
5/ Miu Miu
6/ Dress Camp
7/ Jill Sander

Daniel Rozen’s The Wooden Mirror/’Kirishin’ Exhibition-Nobuyoshi Araki

After scanning the Tokyo Metropolis Arts and Entertainment guide last Thursday evening, I didn’t see much in the way of exhibitions which caught my attention. Then, I noticed that I had just missed an exhibition at the Bunkamura in Shibuya which featured a piece of work (The Wooden Mirror) by Daniel Rozen. I had noted him at The Digital Revolution for his innovative piece called Mirror Number 10. The Wooden Mirror follows similar themes to Mirror Number 10. See below:

Anyway, I decided that as I had not been a photography exhibition for a while, that would be my aim. Finally, I came across an exhibition by the photographer and contemporary artist, Nobuyoshi Araki. I’m familiar with his work which to some is considered extreme and disturbing, I suppose it depends on how you interpret his work. He’s collaborated with quite a few famous artists over the years. I recall a collaboration with the musician, Bjork back in the 90s. His current exhibition is called ‘Kirishin’. There isn’t a direct translation for this word but the nearest is something like cutting photos with sentimentality. Basically, a play on words but as I later found out, the artist had been recently diagnosed with retinal artery occlusion that has caused the loss of his right eye. This explained the title of his last exhibition, ‘Sagan No Koi’ (Love in the left eye) and connections to his current exhibition. The 30 photographs printed from slide film and then cut and pasted together. Most of the images depict urban areas, daily life and humour. The awkwardly cut images suggest his state of mind from the loss of his eye. I wasn’t awestruck by this work but what I did get out of it was how the emotional narrative was clearly evident in Araki’s work and the methods he used to convey his state of mind.

Image from Kirishin exhibition by Nobuyoshi Araki

Maquette No 1 (Part 3)

Last night I drew a few frames and went through the following procedures: Testing the thickness of brushstrokes, determining the %s to magnify areas of the image, considering colours and gradients. All provisional but it gives me a platform to work on. This morning I set up the polystyrene maquette and used the images to continue with my experiments. Each image is clearly marked; the image number is in the bottom right corner. Details of each image are noted below:

1 Maquette with vinyl window decoration as curtain. Ice blue colouration for image.

2 Maquette with empty just washed PET bottles, close up, no curtain. Ice blue colouration for image

3 Maquette with empty just washed PET bottles, and cling film as curtain. Ice blue colouration for image

4 Maquette with cling film as curtain. Ice blue colouration for image.

5 Maquette with just washed PET bottles. Soft grey gradient for image.

6 Maquette with empty just washed PET bottles, and cling film as curtain. Mixed hues of browns, nectarine colouration for image. Lighting effect used.

7 Maquette with empty just washed PET bottles. Mixed hues of browns, nectarine colouration for image. Lighting effect used.

From my experiments, I gained many ideas and different possibilities for future maquettes and images. It was obvious from Fig 1 that I needed to consider softer transparent materials in order to project imagery through layers. Also, I found out that the maquette was too wide so I altered the shape to cube and as a result, the maquette looked more compact and structurally balanced. I thought about abandoning the curtain idea altogether and use transparent objects. PET bottles worked fine but looked a bit flat by appearance so after cleaning them, I got some interesting effects with the drops of water (Fig 2). I thought about a transparent material. Rhiannon’s drawing on cling film and tracing paper gave me the idea to use cling film (Fig 3). I think I’ll use tracing paper next time. I removed the PET bottles but the effect wasn’t particularly interesting visually (Fig 4). Next, I experimented with colours and photography effects. I used greys and blacks and continued with using the PET bottles (Figs 5/6/7). Using multiple layers worked well for me. Next time, I’ll consider glass, tracing paper and other materials for the maquette.

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UWE: Sound and Rotoscoping

Sound
My Graphics B.A. (Hons) program at the The University of the West of England offered modular courses in Year 1 and 2. The modules are designed to develop the student in areas which would be beneficial in their self-directed project in Year 3. As I had a project in mind involving  film and animation for Year 3, it was necessary for me to become accustomed to working with sound. The sound modules enabled me to experiment creatively and explore different possibilities. The more I experimented, the more ideas were generated. A Play Without Words: The Suicide was a  sound module project in Year 1.  The project had to be under 1 minute in duration, voices could be recorded though not in dialogue form. The process of the assignment made me consider the following questions: How is the suicide committed? Which sounds/ sound bites will be used bites? How much time is needed recording outdoor ambience’s? Which sound effects should I employ? In which order will I use the sounds? At which points should the audio levels be high/low? Do I want the listener to understand what is happening? Will my concepts be too abstract or pretentious? The process allowed me to be creative, original and audacious. I could learn how sounds worked together. Also, there were times when I created new sounds accidentally. Smooth transitions from one sound to another were very challenging and often frustrating. Too much going on at once would end up as a cacophony of disorder. By the end of the first sound module I had taken a lot of notes which helped me reflect on how I worked through the process. The experience gained from the modules and my reflective diary became invaluable to me when working on a rotoscope project in Year 3.

Rotoscoping
Rotoscoping involves the process of drawing on film. A lot of early Disney films were rotoscoped and more recent examples can be seen in Richard Linklater’s work. He employed the rotoscoping technique in films such as Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006).

The first time I used this technique was when making a short film called The Duellists in my final year at university. The process- Initially, I shot about 9 minutes of footage on Super 8 film then transferred the 8mm film onto a camcorder. After editing ,the film was about 4 minutes long.  To animate, my portable 14″ TV was placed face up on the carpet while I positioned myself over the TV with pen and paper. An animator’s peg bar was cello taped to one side of the screen to ensure that the paper would always be placed in exactly the same position. I drew about 3 frames every second. As you can see it’s VERY jerky!  I can still vividly remember the laborious process of clicking the VHS frame counter every time I drew a frame. By the end of the week the VHS player was seriously damaged the and tape was just one big glitch. At the time I never contemplated making the sequel for sanity reasons! All in all, it took around 700 drawings before being shot under an old EOS stop frame camera. The sound score is mainly Morricone, though I used soundbites from other well-known films. Looking back at this animation 18 years on, the work employs the same principles as DIY punk ethics. Basically, a heap of shoddy charcoal drawings awkwardly mashed together. The result being a confusing manic montage. After editing the rotoscoped version, it was whittled down to 2:32 seconds in duration.   I still have the Super 8 footage-for a future project, I intend to make a digital version of The Duellists.        

Portraits & Self-Portraits

 

During a college trip to Amsterdam in 1992, I visited the Stedelijk museum. The museum has a wealth of modern and contemporary art. It was here that I first viewed many works of the Expressionist art movement. While at college I had only read about painters such as Kandinsky, Kirchner and Schiele. However, to see their work in a museum made a big impact on me. At the time, I was particularly interested in German and Austrian Artists especially the figurative work. I was fascinated by how figurative forms were almost caracturesque by appearance; their features distorted and elongated. For me, this approach was so visually engaging. By contrast, my drawings and paintings were still very much representational, photographic looking and flat. I was usually too over-concerned about ‘correctness’ and my approach being very tentative when marking a mark on the paper. I was very inspired after the trip to Amsterdam. I began researching more into Expressionism. For example, the Die Brucke artists and Austrian Secessionism. The Expressionism movement had an overwhelming effect on my figurative drawings and also broadened my horizons in my approach to drawings in general. As a result, my drawings became very linear and outlines were much bolder than before. I was increasingly looking at ways to exaggerate forms with more intensity. When assembling work for entrance to university, the series of self-portraits drawn in conte (below) were very much the spine of my portfolio.

Self-Portrait Series 1993 (Conte on paper)

 

    

Self-Portraits Mixed Media 1993-2008

 

Portraits

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