Category: research (page 1 of 5)

From Track to Backwater

trackcover

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 retstarted 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.

sketch15

 

I however had not forgotten that Track project and always thought it would come back.

 

 

Holiday Research – The Traveller’s Map

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.

 

clumps1

gray wheels

burtonmurrays

 

Rail and River: The Hitchman Archive explored.

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.

hitchmens

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!

leslie2

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:-)

TVVBothS TVVillages2vol Wittenham Clumps, by Charles G. Harper from Thames Valley Villages, 1910 (a)

They also published this book which has direct connection to Edwin Smith’s later photography from the look of the cover!

rural nooks

Reading Berkshire and Photography: Francis Dann

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.

FDann

Dann Card

Dann-shop

Cassey-directory

 

 

Sources: Berkshire of One Hundred Years Ago: David Buxton , Alan Sutton 1992

$_35

and the Reading Connections Blog

https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/reading-connections/2014/02/17/mrs-dann-readings-first-female-professional-photographer/

 

Full online digititised collection here:

https://www.reading.ac.uk/merl/collections/Archives_A_to_Z/merl-P_DX322.aspx

One of her images

dann pic

Henry Taunt and Long Wittenham

tauntshop

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.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/gustave-le-grey-exhibition/

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

Henry Taunt Catalogue

hill2taunt hilltaunt

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:

http://henrytaunt.com

This is what I call a floating tripod..

henry-taunt-afloat02

 

Zephaniah Grace – Shepherd and Photographer 1880s

zephaniah

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.

poetblewbury

This the painting Sheard also painted other rural subjects..

 

 

Sheard, Thomas Frederick Mason; 'Gossipping Gaffers'; Oxford City Council; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/gossipping-gaffers-43505

Sheard, Thomas Frederick Mason; ‘Gossipping Gaffers’; Oxford City Council; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/gossipping-gaffers-43505

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

Sheard, Thomas Frederick Mason; Harvesters Resting;

Shipley Art Gallery; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/harvesters-resting-36138

horseman

 

 

blewbury

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

 

Sweet Thames Run Softly…

thamesbook

bookt

Going back to the source. I grew up near The Thames.

I have written about it for thirty years and now I researching it 🙂
temsbooks

oxnew

Just discovered this so am now looking for a copy..

This also..

taunt

Tracking Time

New directions opening up I could almost call myself an art historian maybe…(trainee level:-)

readinglist

TRACKING TIME: Book or PhD? Or both?

amanesia

Things have moved on considerably in the last few weeks.

I was interviewed for a Horizon CHI (Computer Human Interaction) PhD at Nottingham University two weeks ago. I did well to be shortlisted against stiff and much younger competition (average age 25). From the get go though it obvious that my interests were not aligned with CHI and secondly that I would not be able to work with their new corporate partners. I pitched my application to their older local community arts led model. No point crying over spilt milk….marked the end of my involvement in any kind of contemporary web/internet/computer relatedresearch.

De Capo.

NEW ROUTES:

What it did do was focus me on to what I do have an interest in and this Book proposal and possible PhD more firmly located within the Arts and Humanities area.

Here is a very rough outline of what the book may cover.

 

All dates and ideas provisional in the extreme :

cropped-tracking1.jpg

An original provisional title from 2010

TRACKING TIME; ART, TECHNOLOGY AND UTOPIA IN ENGLAND 1850-1950?

Proposed chapters .
Intro: Chalk Detonators to Concorde – The coming of the railway to the end of the line?
1. Dickens and Seymour. Railways and Illustration

2. Mr Fox Talbot and Mrs Dann: Reading’s First Female Professional Photographer and the Inventor of the calotype process.

3. Alexander Mann and the sequential image.

4. Fairground Kinemas and William Frith – Mapping Oxford a psychogeographical derive

5. Industrial film the art of industry in the Thames Valley – Rural Unions and the Co-Operative movement to Cowley Motors .

6. Rural Idyll: The Oxfordshire Railway Villages and Art Movements Blewbury, Long Wittenham and the Cotswolds.

7. Rural Presses and reactions to Modernism and Technology: Kelmscott, Cockerel Press and Communism.

8. Shooting Europe: The Spitfire Reconnaissance mapping of Germany from Beconsfield Aerodrome.

9. Atoms and Stars: The disintegrating world seen from Harwell and the DNA shuffle.11. Building the 60s Oxford and Abingdon – The Mini and The MG. The patriarchical machine.

Coda . Satellite of Love: Space -race to Boom-bust and the end of empire. Trickle down and the rise of the web..Bletchley Park to Cheltenham. News from Nowhere to News from Everywhere.

 

I also have a facebook page which may come in useful for future crowdfunding if I need to go down that road..or track:-)

https://www.facebook.com/SDBTrackingTime/

 

 

 

 

 

PhD applications: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

artresurch

Cartoon of my Beautiful Career April 2015 –  ‘Plus Ca Change’

Since I went on a career break in September 2014 and following my successful M.A. in Fine Art which I completed with a distinction in January 2014 I have worked towards a funded PhD.

This has not been a pleasant experience and after two years and 5 attempts to secure funding I have finally given up. It has cost me my job too.

The experience has taught me a lot about the nature of modern academia which is in some cases profit-driven, incestuous, corrupt and full of cronyism and back-biting.

I have not been successful despite having a reference from the Chicago Professor of Art, being featured in the Times Higher in an article about blurring the lines between art and research, illustrating James Elkins book Artists with PhDs, having several notable conference appearances and my first and so far only paper published as sole author in The Journal of Arts and Humanities in Higher Education as a ‘New Voice’. Finally in November 2014 I was commissioned by R.I.B.A. to write a poem for Edwin Smith Photographer at their London Gallery. This I did and included traditional Harvard Referencing in the final poem..a first for me and again blurring the lines between art and research:-)

Here the time-line of my glorious failure and the reasons I believe behind it.

Summer 2014 : Leverhulme joint application through BIAD unsuccessful but application was regarded as strong.

Winter 2014: Joint 3 Cities and V C Bursary application through my own institution. Not only not progressed but actively discouraged by the Head of Art Research in my own institution who did not like the fact I had illustrated the Elkins book and generally out-performed him along with a little matter to do with academic validity involving a previous Dean’s output. For legal reasons I cannot disclose why I was treated like this but when I resigned I did discuss it with HR and also stated as I my wife employed in the same institution I would rather resign than get embroiled in a long-winded union battle over it. I would also not be fighting the case as the individual’s father had been a high court judge….my chances of winning zero.

HR recognised  I had a strong case with witnesses but as they also told me my area (drawing) was not supported as not seen as ‘strategic’ ( Textiles and Fashion is by the way) then I was basically flogging a dead horse..

During my career break I officially notified my Head of Art Research, who had by then taken on the post of the overall Head of Research in School and could thus ensure I received no further support, that I was no longer research active. He was delighted. Career wise this would eventually lead to a teaching only post ( NTU considering having salaries on this ticket to FE rates ..it pure business sense). I was effectively dead in the water re Research if I stayed and was also being asked to teach a subject I know nothing of..Animation..after being denied Graphic Design and Fine Art teaching unless dissertation supervision. I too Graphics for Fine Art and too Fine Art for Graphics or in other words..closed shops.

Hence my resignation and leaving at Xmas 2015 I had no choice.

The applications were very good by the way. I may re-purpose one day. I was on brink of submitting a chapter to a I B Taurus book on Phenomenology of Drawing that now gone.

Summer 2015: BIAD 3 Cities. To see if the treatment was just a local problem within NTU I applied directly through an institution that had previously supported me in the failed Leverhulme bid. I received no reply or feedback from them after applying and still have not received any at all it just disappeared. This despite contacting their art research admin. Cheers.

January 2016: Nottingham University- Horizon Award MRL. My application well written and gained an interview last week. Not offered funding. It may not have been best match and I have no regrets about applying. Set up had changed since a friend went on it and local community arts angle I bidding for seemed to have disappeared and been replaced by a corporate business led PFI type model. Only institution to treat me fairly to date though so bonus points for that! Also there was no age problem with the process as a 61 year old had been successful in past. However if you sending interns into corporate industry a crusty old left-wing artist not the best looking nor the most flexible option if you get my drift…

February 2016: Loughborough – same application was acknowledged as of good quality but unfortunately I did not make it through to the final three out of twenty-five for the one bursary. Why only one? Well Loughborough had chucked rest of money at their shiny London campus international funded Phds….so there you go. To just rub salt in wound they tried to trick me into accepting a ‘unfunded’ Phd by praising my proposal as of good quality unfortunately I know someone else in 25 and basically they chucked it at all candidates. Sprats and mackerels. Of course unfunded means giving them £30K minimum…amazingly generous offer when you think about it. I was impressed too. Cheers. Oh and deadline day of budget in case the new PhD Student Loans made me rethink..sharp practice worthy of a barrow boy there then…

So two years of hard work and effort down the drain and a hugely more cynical view of academia. Not to mention approx £20 K in lost wages.

I can honestly say that a lot of this treatment has to do with some of these institutions especially, in regard to AHRC funds, operating an ageist policy and they are too scared to even reply about it for being found out. Hence the evasive and nasty comments. The latest rumour I heard is that a cut off date of 40 is possible..I know 50 is too old as have heard rumours of a female candidate of that age being denied too. I found an online Scottish Government article where it stated no funding from AHRC would be given after 55 that seems about right and I do believe it come down since. The ‘mission statement’ of the research councils is ‘next generation’ no point funding the poor people who having to work until they are 70 now is it…..

The only challenge in obtaining a PhD has had nothing to do with my ability to do one and a hell of a lot to do with my age of 57 and my gender as an OWM ( Old White Male you know those oppressors from the white middle class). If I had been a woman in the AHRC East Midlands catchment I would probably have been funded by now. Let us leave it at that. The Dean I mentioned above was Head of an AHRC panel for a while …just saying…

As for my subject for Phd and its future the picture above is the book I will write despite all this and if I have to will self-publish.

If after that I turn out to be the British Ranciere after all all I can say to the above institutions is

‘Bye and Thanks for all the fish’

The same comment that led my resignation letter from NTU last September.

Farewell Academia hello reality.

 

 

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