Monday, 21 December 2015
Playing with Words: Painting on Books (whatever next!)
Things are still going really well at the Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives. I am loving the opportunity to immerse myself in such a long-term sketching project and really getting into my long, concertina-format books. But one aspect of the residency which was only on the periphery of my plans before it all kicked off, is proving to be a significant part of my pleasure.
The sketching workshops, to enable the core team of about a dozen academics, were something I confess I was just slightly apprehensive about. The group is a bit different to any I have worked with before: mostly no drawing experience since school, but all high achievers in their field. I needn't have worried. They are being very brave and pitching in with whatever ideas I throw at them.
For the latest homework, I decided to give them back just a corner of their comfort zone as a reward. I want to open their approach to a blank sketchbook page as wide as possible so, since they are all used to words, I used Tom Phillips' Heart of a Humament project as inspiration. While in a 2nd hand bookshop, Phillips came across a rather tedious Victorian novel, called 'A Humament'. Back in his studio, he set about re-created every page by highlighting individual words from the text and joining them in new ways to create new meanings, before painting out the rest of the words in a way which illustrated the new text.
These are just some examples. They are all uniquely powerful and all different.
For my sketch-group, I scanned lots of pages from my copy of the Heart of a Humament book, as inspiration, as well as some randomly chosen, but pleasingly verbose pages from Salman Rushdie and Gunter Grass novels, for them to work on. Fear not fair readers: they painted on print-outs, not actual books!
Each of the academics was asked to make the new text relevant to their individual research projects, so that their finished work still fitted with the theme of documenting life at the Morgan Centre. This is a selection of what they brought back in to show me:
I was bowled over. Remember, these are people with almost no drawing or painting experience. The 'new text' was great too - some was very poetic, some hilarious. Somebody actually managed to incorporate Mr Rushdie's word 'witchnipples' into a comment on their research. What do these sociologist get up to, we wonder!