A original idea from 2010 reborn only this time poetry led…..
basically two books of poems drawing on local history in two places…
A original idea from 2010 reborn only this time poetry led…..
basically two books of poems drawing on local history in two places…
This post is born out of total frustration.
In the past three years since I was awarded an M.A. Fine Art (Distinction and all) I have struggled to make any headway in aligning the content of this blog ( a psycho-geographical investigation of the Middle Thames between 1840-1910 ) and the academic notion of a ‘Practice-Led’ PhD.
Even when I have offered to shower the august institutions in cash I have found myself constantly pushed into traditional historical straight-jackets.
In all probability I could have been offered a Cultural Geography PhD down this route and have been offered two places.
1.Loughborough offered me a place for a dodgy proposal thrown together for a MRL place which frankly absurd.
2. Central Saint Martins have accepted me on to a PhD on Victorian Scrapbooks and Printmaking as long as it avoids the very practice I tried to have accepted (down to 20% practice /80% textual exegesis split) …which means that though deferred until 2018 it pretty much a busted flush for me already….
So three years later..£10 K lighter and after a storm of personal problems which would sink a battleship I teetering on the edge of giving up entirely.
My pitch now is simple as I have given up on any kind of practice-led fine art PhD degree on the basis that I actually wrote a paper on the fact that it doesn’t exist..read it here…
My only hope is a Creative Writing PhD based on Backwater ( fictitious cover above) a new volume of poems drawing together ten years research into the Middle Thames art and writing in the Victorian Era and possibly beyond. If this could be linked to comic art/graphic novel all the better
That’s it folks!
If there is an academic out there who wants to supervise me writing a first proper volume of poems as practice-led PhD and I get the degree too I will shed out the £12K necessary for academic standards to be met…
(UPDATE June 2018 This option dead – I no longer have the finances)
I HAVE NO CHANCE OF FUNDING AT MY AGE.. the AHRC mantra is ‘Creating the next generation of academics’ so young and pretty go ahead ..if you old and not so pretty get back as Big Bill Broonzy sang…
If not I will write it anyway..spend £2K publishing it myself and probably be a lot happier..
(UPDATE June 2018 This option also dead – I no longer have the finances)
For now the possibilities are rapidly diminishing..
All depends of course on whether they accept a creative practice element as a substantial part of submission.
Its looking increasingly like the PhD is my Dunkirk…a glorious defeat…
I have been inspired by a fairly innocuous Victorian postcard I found online which symbolises where I come from..literally..
I hope to create a set of three related but different media outcomes from same basic idea. Below some mock-ups of how it may come out…
The painting below is also a find. Accredited to one Evelyn Fothergill Abbot and painted in 1932..
It is a hither too unknown to me image actually painted in Long Wittenham allegedly but from angle of hill I would say more likely a view down from the Clumps…I will investigate..
Painted the year my father born….Traced the artist..Evelyn Fothergill Robinson..member of New English Art Club with Alexander Mann and Nevinson etc…
also connected to Arts and Crafts..exhibited at Baillie and Grafton Galleries pre marriage in 1917!
Here a black and white Italian painting. Also traced title of a Wittenham Clumps painting..no image yet.
As part of the new painting project I also hope to be taking photographs on the spot.
Trailer Star’s English Folk album….I hope….
Finally a new book of poems…
The painter Cyrill Mann painting the Trent and the now demolished Nottingham City Power Station c. 1939
Even the best laid plans can have a fatal flaw.
After a hard year applying I am no nearer a funded or even self-funded PhD with the Thames based ideas.
Apart from the advice that very few PhD funding candidates over 50 now receive funding and if applying try having a sex-change I also came up against another fundamental problem.
I well aware of the pitfalls and problems of so-called ‘practice-led’ Phd study. In fact I wrote a paper on it available
I also illustrated the great and the good’ take on ‘Artists with Phds’ edited by James Elkins for which I had to read every chapter.
So I more than familiar with the argument that a practice-led fine art Phd is essentially impossible and I would 90% agree.
Most of the submitted fine art practice-led Phds thus far completed have been textual commentary on practice and nowhere do I see art objects which in themselves contain new knowledge as defined by the academy.
It is a fascinating philosophical problem but there it is and it doesnt help gain funding.
Does an art object of itself…a painting..a sculpture or a conceptual installation contain new knowledge which ‘transferrable’ NO..not unless it contains text…which funnily enough graphic novels and comix do :-)….
This brings me neatly to my problem with PhDs. I have spent a fruitless year banging my head against the walls of funded academia. As well as the age and gender problems which make it virtually impossible for a man of my age to succeed in the AHRC rat race for pennies I was pitching what essentially a ‘practice-led’ project at solid academic text-only departments.
This reached its apotheosis in two recent meetings at Nottingham University. One in Geography the other in the English Department. In both cases senior academics were very supportive of all I trying to do and if I wished to self-fund (no longer an option as they say life got in the way) then I could do a historical Cultural Geography Phd no problem.
What I could not get support for and this also happened at Lincoln too ( trad Art History only which ironic in an institution hell bent on destroying trad arts for money making ‘performance’ ends) is get support for a practice-led (poetry/drawing/graphic-novel) whatever the practice it that element that caused a shaky heady…. Traditional academia….i.e. the academy wants a rigorous 80000 words or it a no no.
So new year back to square one. the only way I can see a practice-led PhD with the above caveats succeeding is by part of the PhD being comic/graphic novel and therefore containing the transferrable knowledge. I played with this in a ‘Visual Paper’ (NO TEXT) I delivered at a drawing conference in New York again to a few shaky heads and non-publication in proceedings because ‘no text’ 🙂 That paper available HERE: http://www.shaunbelcher.com/research/?p=1135 along with animated short.
At this point James Elkins kindly stated that he thought that I had done a PhD level of work in my M.A. for approaching the topic in the way I had but that ain’t the same as a real PhD. So I have got nowhere……
Meanwhile I developing this ‘Backwaters’ research into a smaller non-PhD project or at least placing on the back-burner until things look more hopeful.
Further details of Graphic Art and Comics Research on : http://www.shaunbelcher.com/comicart
In 2010 as my mother was in the final stages of Carcinoid cancer I took a walk down a disused railway line in my hometown that used to run from Didcot to Southampton.
I used it as the beginning of a NTU M.A. in Multimedia. A year later it collapsed and I restarted it as a Fine Art Drawing M.A. instead after she passed away in 2012.
As my mother worsened I continued to visit her and that track and walk it and remember the times I walked and drew it in the early 1990s.
Here is an image from a small sketchbook drawn on the 1st August 1990….I dated everything in those days.
I however had not forgotten that Track project and always thought it would come back.
Whilst on holiday in Norfolk I as usual encountered a few bookshops. On my travels I found these items. the Murray’s is Piper and Betjeman from 1949 and interesting as uses the pre-boundary change definition of Berkshire which includes Abingdon and Didcot.
The Gray is interesting as a general print history and the London on Wheels a real find for 30p…..has a Dover Railway excursion song sheet illustration in from 1844 which about as early as it gets!
Here the books and the scans of map and songsheet.
This is I believe the earliest (I so far found) image of the Wittenham Clumps alongside ‘Shillingford’ on the map. It from Burton book and was aimed at Coach Traveller’s in 1802.
As a teenager I remember looking through the extensive book collection my friend at school’s father had assembled. Mostly on a natural history and a river Thames theme I wasn’t sure how many of those books were still with my friend Stephe here in Nottingham. Yesterday I looked through the remnants of the ‘Hitchman Archive’ and found a treasure trove of cultural geography material.
Here what I managed to carry home to render into a bibliography for a proposal but there plenty still in the boxes.
Most significant were the accounts of the Victorian Thames and it already apparent that the railway opened up the River Thames as a tourist destination. I also delighted to discover a hither-too unknown to me artist George D. Leslie who was living in Wallingford at the same time Mann in Hagbourne. Indeed there was a group of artists associated with two families there and George D. Leslie even wrote a book about art politics at the R.A!
This has put back my writing of the proposal for PhD as I sort through the new material and maybe revise my intended research question and title. The Rail/River juxtaposition seems to sum up the Victorian Golden age ( in Williams sense) problem. The artists used the railway to access the ‘unspoilt’ countryside/riverscapes but hardly (unlike the French Impressionists) painted the Railway…..this at root of my enquiry. Why did the British painters and artists comprehensively ignore the very means by which they were gaining access? This seems to be the essential contradiction at the heart of rural art and art movements here in the U.K.
Having found Leslie I did a quick trawl of other possible artists at work in a radius of just ten miles of Didcot Junction and came up with John Singer Sargent and John Lavery both connected to Lord Asquith estate at Sutton Courtenay. I also uncovered a small art commune known as the Broadway Group in the Cotswolds connected to Henry James and presumably linked to the arts and crafts further upstream. It looking increasingly likely that although the focus has been on Jewson and Morris above Oxford that the railway enabled a whole range of artistic activity all along the newly ‘discovered’ unspoilt Thames. Far from being the ‘Upper Thames’ poor cousin there may be more yet to uncover in ‘The Lower or Middle’ Thames Valley.
I also found this fascinating combination of travelogue, illustration and ‘staged’ photography by Charles George Harper and W.S.Campbell. I have never seen this illustration of the Clumps before and it several decades before Gibbings books were published.
I am very grateful to Mr Hitchman senior for this legacy:-)
They also published this book which has direct connection to Edwin Smith’s later photography from the look of the cover!
More interesting highways and byways of Berkshire Photography..pre 1900
Francis Dann was a well known female commercial photographer. This her and her shop in Reading. Plus a photo from her studio and her card.
Sources: Berkshire of One Hundred Years Ago: David Buxton , Alan Sutton 1992
and the Reading Connections Blog
Full online digititised collection here:
One of her images
I have long been familiar with a Henry Taunt image of the road from Long to Little Wittenham but in a recent web search found an interesting twist on the theme.
The two images below clearly show that Taunt like other commercial photographers used ‘combination printing‘ in dropping in a separate cloud background.
I was familiar with Gustave Le Gray’s use of this technique in seascapes.
Here the two images. The second image is I presume the original.
Without inspecting the originals in the Oxford Museum collection
which may take some time as there 14000 images I cannot say if my hunch correct yet.
Here a pdf of the catalogue
Here more images from the visit of Taunt and his camera to the village in 1890?
There is a fine website dedicated to a Taunt revisited photography project here:
This is what I call a floating tripod..
I have always been fascinated by the crosscurrents in art and technology and one of the figures that prompted that was this fellow.
At the time he taking photographs in Blewbury (a springline village on north side of Berkshire Downs near Oxford) the art form itself was still in its infancy.
How a Shepherd (one of 12 at this time it the mainstay of the village) came to possess and use a plate camera (I presume) is beyond me.
I have a local history book of photographs (see below) that clearly states that not only was there a collection of his photos but it available in late 1970s.
Tracking that collection down is something I must now do and I also want to investigate other artistic connections that Blewbury had with London from the late 19th century because of the train.
As this other photo (probably taken by Z.G.) shows artists were at work in the village.
This the painting Sheard also painted other rural subjects..
This PDF details two of his works: sheard1
More info. on Sheard: http://artuk.org/discover/artists/sheard-thomas-frederick-mason-18661921
I find this image very accurate of area I grew up in. Downland behind Blewbury I am certain. I believe a camera was used.
The detail of clothes matches family images see below.
This image is either my step-grandfather or another groom in 1900-10. Note clothing very similar although this in Long Wittenham on The Thames.
The labourers below are too clean my only complaint..tidied up for the image. They would have been sweating like pigs and covered in shit..:-)
Sheard, Thomas Frederick Mason; Harvesters Resting;
Shipley Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/harvesters-resting-36138
This the publication the photographs come from.
I briefly worked with Ron Freeborn who designed this collection for Roger Cambray at Didcot Girls School before he retired in 1990s.
The entire book has been digitised which wonderful and available online here: http://www.blewbury.co.uk/bip/bipstart.htm