The Patron’s Legacy: Links, decisions and research.

Poorly, and from the comfort of the sick-bed (settee), last October: I began the ‘Patron’s Legacy’ project by watching all of the films back to back – twice. That got past being distracted by ‘plot, narrative, characterisation, script, redundancy etc …….. (I love film analysis). As my husband often says “Can you not just bl**dy watch the film?!!!” This allowed me to pick two films to concentrate upon visually – they would be ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ (2012) and ‘Scandal’ (1989). I was drawn to the latter because the story has a rather odd personal resonance – I was Christened ‘Christine’ right at the height of the Profumo affair being in the news and apparently, my Grandparents (as featured in ‘Ars Moriendi’) were absolutely horrified. They couldn’t believe that my Mum and Dad would even think it was an appropriate name at the time. I was their first grandchild AND the first not to be named following family tradition and to choose such a sullied name with which to break the pattern was ‘just not right’. The former film appealed because of all the technical stuff …. NO redundancy, complex and engaging, beautifully filmed…..

I saw links and connections between the two films. Both reference espionage, they refer to a similar period of time politically etc but more hidden are little links like the bees. Mendel’s beekeeping in TTSS and the escaped bee that goes with him, Smiley and Guillam in the car, linking with the infamous ‘bee jar’ in the orgy scene in Scandal. There is the ‘Witchcraft’ Sinatra theme in Scandal that links with the ‘Witchcraft’ code name in TTSS. Plus in the TTSS script there are nods…’There’s too much scandal in here’ …. Then of course there is this.

Ubiquitous blue cup. TTSS and Christine K. & Police Officers drink out of them during her interview in the police station.

I sat down to watch these two films again with a sketch book, to discover what might catch my eye in a purely visually responsive way… as PT says ‘Notice what you notice’. Overwhelmingly, TTSS won the day!

I began to analyse it in visual detail and to do secondary research, reading interviews and articles with Alfredson, Hoytema and Djurkovic as well as studying film criticisms relating to the movie. This extended through the second part of Autumn term.

Research TTSS
Research TTSS -some Scandal too.

Over the Christmas break, when the brief was ‘revived’, I began to make detailed studies

An idea was forming that I would like to build an installation/sculpture as a tribute to the cinematography …. to explore perspective, angle, framing, structure, layered windows, etc and the claustrophobic feel of the internal and external ‘architecture’ of the film.

I would build it out of heather honey-comb bee hive boxes (of which I had a mountain in my loft) and create walls, filing stacks, windows, corridors etc. with a layout based around the chess theme in the film. It would consume an 8x8x8(honey box) cubic volume and I would attempt to balance positive and negative space within that. Some boxes would be ‘blocked’ by fillers that I derived from the colour palette, fabrics, artwork and interior design textures from the film. As the installation took shape I had to consider what to present it on and the left over, ribbed perspex from making ‘Neuroimagining’ came to mind. As soon as I placed the elements of the installation -‘Circus’ – on the board, the possibility of mood lighting it and taking photographs came to mind.

For the festival next month I now intend to present the ‘Circus’ installation, a set of photographs and an interpretive curatorial video called ‘A Melancholic World.’

Third Roll Of The Dice.

MIND …plastic…photography.

Another mind map.

Initial visual research… looking for photographs of ‘the mind’ might be a bit futile so instead I have been thinking about images that depict mental/brain activity and my first few sketch book pages reveal how prevalent un-accredited artwork is …. much info- graphic, and illustrative material being produced for American clinic brochures and websites …. no artists’ names which is such a pity given that although, a lot of rather cliched visualisations are ‘out there’, the skills, time and effort that has gone into creating them really should be acknowledged !

Mind images.

To explore the ‘photography’ methodology I dice-rolled, I am going to use the notion of ‘neuroimagingAS ‘photography’ and do a bit of research about the history of this field while I contemplate the ‘plastic’ aspect of this week’s experiments.


Ideas vacuum now gone! Head full of ideas! BUZZING! (but also a little mentally drained). How exciting to have come upon a series of TED talks about gut bacteria and mental health, dementia, etc. This came about when I stopped imagining ‘food’ as a medium to be used and began thinking more of ‘food for thought’, using it more as a concept to work with alongside mind to inform what to make with textile techniques …. perhaps, some representation of the dual brain idea I have been learning about… a sort of textile piece, info-graphic about the relationship of our gut biome to the brain via the vegus nerve.

Much of what I have listened to and followed up on is quite intuitive on one level, but it is fascinating to hear the ‘science’ behind how important bacteria are in our lives. This however, comes as a bit of a shock (below) and certainly provoked some raised eye-brows followed by interesting debate about what it means to be human in group crit about our initial research and ideas for the week.

Also… the gut biome is as large an ‘organ’ as the brain!

I went on a hunt for textile supplies to experiment with and found a range of yarns and embroidery threads to play around with.

Palette and tools
  1. I found some gorgeous, silky, grey, chunky yarn that made me think ‘bowel’ and some double knitting wool in grey that said ‘brain’ to me. Not the usual thoughts I have when browsing in the wool shop! – but hey ho, that’s Fine Art for you.
  2. I selected a range of colourful double knitting yarns and matching embroidery skeins. I’m thinking that the colours will make bacteria (wool in the gut) and neurons (embroidery thread) in the brain…. matching motifs that speak of the relationship between the bacteria and brain function. The colourful aspect also references the interesting theory put forward by Neal Barnard in his TED talk about colourful food (antioxidants) promoting a good gut flora and supporting their role in preventing the formation of free radicals in the body and oxidised metal plaques in the brain.
  3. To represent the vegus nerve that connects the bowel and the brain as John Cryan put it in his TED talk ‘the bi-directional gut brain relationship’ I chose some shiny metallic threads – thinking electricity and neuron firing – because they are sparkly.
  4. I have started to French Knit the double knitting yarn to create the brain. It is serendipitous that it coils itself up as you knit and quite spontaneousy looks like brain folds in the grey matter – woolly gyrification!

I wanted to make embroidery thread ‘ropes’ in a similar way to weave through the grey matter and represent the communication pathways in the brain but found that my French knitting dolly was too large for the fine thread. Rather fun – I made a narrower gauge one with an empty bobbin and some pins made out of bent floristry wire – very successful!

Interestingly, or more ‘surprising’ really, was finding – in group crit- how few others have even heard of French Knitting!

5. The French Knitting can become quite monotonous so, for relief from that, I have a bunch of other activities to pick up and put down for a bit of a change. Making tiny pompoms for example.

6. I am making a range of motifs to represent bacteria using a variety of techniques, French knitted tube motifs, crocheted shapes etc. The plan is that there will be a ratio of 10:1 bacteria motifs that relate to knitted neurons motifs (in the embroidery thread). I will weave the bowel yarn around the former and the brain wool around the latter…. applique-ing them onto a hessian back has come up as an idea. Through the whole will run stitching of the sparkly thread……. much experimentation to do!

And Finally; What You Have To Do – revisited.

Throughout this project it has been helpful to keep referring to the brief for guidance and direction regarding the objectives and outcomes it encompassed. I have found it a good organisational strategy to separate the recording of my process into a ‘making and doing ‘ category and a ‘what you have to do’ category. The latter helping me to keep focused on research, influences, and the technical requirements of the brief, while the former lays out the development of my ideas conceptually and through experiments with media, techniques and visual ideas developed in workshops. Also, I have drawn, scribbled, and stuck things into a physical sketchbook along the way. So, what have I achieved? In terms of the brief requiring ‘One sketchbook of ideas and processes AND a resolved ‘Scrap That’ piece’, I have met the brief.

Reading through the bullet point guidance for the project, I believe that I have satisfied relevant pointers within the context of my theme. I have included work developed in each workshop and have tried to select and refine pieces appropriate for inclusion in my resolved piece, according to the suggestions in the list regarding exploring different scales, media and techniques. For example, during the printmaking phase I used enlarging techniques to scale the photographs I had collected to the same proportions as each other, before drawing them onto the plates for cutting. When they were finished I had to produce small scale copies of the portraits to include in the final book. Looking at what I have produced, if I were to do it again I would re-make the embroidered and appliqued piece and create it to fit the box cover by design. I was determined to include that workshop piece in the final outcome and simply did not have time to re-do it within the time frame of this project so it more ‘decorates the box’ than ‘encases the lid’ it which is a pity. I set myself quite a challenge in terms of combining fabric, paper, print and ephemera within the book, a lot of skills, crafting and aesthetic processes have melded together and although I am very proud of the results, the ‘finish’ could be improved by making each leaf separately (not as the continuous folded zig-zag) and then finding a neat binding method rather than, as happened, having to stitch through several layers of the Zig-zag all at once … keeping all the stitching neat has proved very difficult.

Considering the question of context; as it says in the brief, ‘Where does your work sit in the real world? Who are you creating the work for? Is it personal?’ My piece is very personal and has been created as perhaps, an heirloom or gift for loved ones that I may pre-decease so that they know my love for them, my thoughts about them and what I hope to happen to me when I die. It has proven to be quite an emotional project for me, laden with nostalgia, reminiscing about treasured moments with people who I have lost or even, never knew but feel connected to. It has made me think quite a lot about, and more deeply respect and appreciate many of the interests and talents that I have which, I owe to and or share with loved ones mentioned in my book. There is my Grandfather who inspired me as a gardener and always encouraged a love of academic learning; my father’s bequests were I think as an artist, educator and lover of landscapes and geologies, as a musician and a community activist. My maternal Grandmother was an inspiration to me as a needle-woman and seamstress among many other things – she was down to earth, with an excellent sense of humour and the widest open door to the warmest hospitality you could imagine. These people are very affectionately missed in my life but seem to have walked with me throughout the last six weeks. I never knew my paternal grandmother Martha, she died of pneumonia when she was 28, my father was almost a year old at the time. He proposed to my mother years later when (aged 28) he was recovering in hospital – from pneumonia – she said he was delirious and declined. He asked her again of course, when he got better, and she said yes. I contracted pneumonia just after my 28th birthday ….. does there seem to be a pattern/connection here?……… Stories told of Martha are all in the superlative – she was a feminist, a milliner- running a business with her sisters, and the first female Methodist lay preacher in the area where she lived. While I was head of R.E. during my teaching career, I read some of the philosophical texts that she used to study. It is edifying to consider her access to them and reflective writings based on them that she accomplished with very little formal education in her back-ground. I have always been full of admiration for her and named my daughter after her as a result. I am going the reserve comment here about my living family included in the book – except to say that I love them dearly.

As an expression of all of this, I think my book is akin to the spirit in which Watanabe created ”The Diary Of a Sparrow’ in honour of her father and as a bridge across time from old, traditional, Japanese language, life-style and culture into a modern expression of those values. It is also, a major influence structurally for my piece. Other primary research that I feel very much influenced by, was the Shearer collagraph of ‘Hawkstone Park Follies’. I spent ages looking at it to help me understand more about how to get the maximum tonal range possible out of the boards. I think the portrait series reflects how my skills developed in this sense from the first – of Martha to the last of my daughter. The whole premise for my book, I owe to Grayson Perry’s TV series which is both primary and secondary source material. It made me think about rites of passage and the way we celebrate them with culturally specific artefacts and events. It made me think back to my dissertation research for my B.Ed. and the reading I did about perception of cultural boundaries and the symbolic construction of community (Cohen. etc) and, I was reminded of how surprised I was when, years ago, I was on an exchange visit to Finland and resided with a family recently bereaved of the father/husband of the family, to find how forthright they were about death. One of the first things the family did to welcome me into their home (and I suspected that in the equivalent situation in Britain the bereaved family would have withdrawn from hosting an exchange student!) was to share the ‘funeral photograph album’ with me. I was to discover that this is a common practice there. Since then, rites and practices around death have always fascinated me. Thank you Grayson, for stimulating these thoughts and setting me off on the journey of expressing my ideas in this ‘Scrap That’ book.