Category: regional modernism (page 1 of 2)

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 completed the M.A. in Fine Art but felt out of sorts with Fine Art in general and indeed published a paper which called into question the basis of so-called Practice-led Art Research theory. This didn’t make me flavour of the month with NTU art research in general and especially in the fine art department. The fact that I went on to illustrate James Elkins as he proceeded to do pretty much the same demolition job (as Chicago professor of Art he carried more weight than a lowly NTU lecturer) only increased the antipathy.

I completed the M.A. with a distinction which hilarious as it was completely ignored and I never got to even show the work….. the support was overwhelming…

I however had not forgotten that Track project and always thought it would come back. NTU had failed to understand it let alone supervise it…..

I was told it too complicated I would have to supervise it myself..hilarious isn’t it.

As I wrote to NTU HR in my resignation note..Farewell and thanks for all the fish but in the end your waters were too shallow.

Now after resigning and resetting my compass I am finally ready to take it all forward.

 

 

MY SECOND WIND

Footie

North Berks Champions Long Wittenham F.C. 1960-61
Ivo C. Belcher top row second right

Second Wind

Under guttering stars
and moon lost in clouds
like the only working headlight
on the Co-op delivery van,
emerald bonnet and silver radiator
now passing them,
run five figures.
Left-back, goalie, centre-half,
inside-right, winger.
The ice fogs breath, crackles under studs,
shatters in the white blaze of puddles
as strides pound eastwards
down the tarmac road
known locally as the ‘straight mile’.
My father’s village team out training
February 1956
for a cup match at the weekend.
Hurtling down empty roads
between black fields.
Shouts like stray passes
bouncing off trees and clouds.

The same road ten years later.
A grey Morris Minor hitting sixty.
Door panels shudder and shake
as an unhealthy engine complains.
We’re testing the brakes
We’ve spent all morning repairing.
At least that’s what dad says as we
shoot down the straight mile grinning.
I lean my six-year old face
out the window until my eyes run.
I gulp and gulp in the cold air
Like a pike pulled out of water.
The dust and haze of harvest fields
spins away in the chrome side mirror.

Shouts ring in my ear.
Remember to pace yourself.
Keep a second wind.
If you’re one down
don’t argue
go back and score one against them.

I breathe deeply and thread the words together.
I pull one back.
The net bulges.

 

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

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: 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/

 

 

 

 

 

New PhD development: Art History and Technology

2720ALT

Stanhope Forbes 'The Quarry Team' Print. 1894

Interesting times as the Chinese philosopher said. I have officially returned to NTU School of Art and Design to teach on Animation and Graphic Design courses ….I applied for a reduction in hours to support a more intense period of PhD application but have been told not possible so have to maintain my 0.5 contract for now. If I get any PhD support from other institutions I may try again in a year’s time for reduced hours.

I am moving back towards trying to obtain a fully funded PhD. I cannot afford full funding and supporting myself but maybe can get part funded and keep teaching?

The PhD ‘path’ I considering will bring together the basic premise of the ‘ANAMNESIA’ project but maybe with more focus on the impact of Railway on arts. For now the ‘Popular Culture’ angle one I looking at most intently.

Here are some preliminary proposals:

 

I am particularly interested in the concept of ‘embedded literature’ and using illustrations and a narrative/travelogue approach in my research in the manner of W.G. Sebald and Patrick Keiller’s work with art and technology and region.

The PhD ‘paths’ I now considering below have developed out of the original Leverhulme Proposal and draws on material researched in my aborted M.A. Multimedia ‘ANAMNESIA’ project but with more focus on the impact of Railway on arts. For now the ‘Popular Culture’ angle one I looking at most intently.

The Leverhulme Proposal available online here:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/249245353/PhD-Levenhulme-Proposal

 

Possible lines of research investigation in this art history and technology area being considered are:

RSS

  1. Rain, Steam, Speed:

Art, Modernism and Technology 1840-1940.

The Railway, Radio and Telegraph in the development of Rural Artistic Communities (Networks) and Small Presses. Focusing on how ‘new technology’ created new artistic forms and communities from Dickens’s Pickwick Papers to The Cockerel Press.

team

2.‘Shifting Modes of Narrative’: Investigating illustration and sequential drawing as a response to the ‘new media’ of photography and cinema. 1836 – 1914.

Starting with Dickens illustrators and moving up to ‘Birth of Cinema’. Less regionally focussed.

talbotreading

  1. Drifting Focus 1830 – 1890:
    Kinema, photography, fine art and illustration. An investigation of new media networks in the first possibly’ Transmediale’ railway age.

Focusing on the narrative arts post ‘Railway’ and relating to contemporary definitions of networks and  ‘Transmediale’ new technologies.

Further details available online at my Transmedia Research Blog:

 

Shaun Belcher 10.07.2015

 

 

 

ANAMNESIA: Art, Technology and Modernism in the Thames Valley 1850-1950

Back to where I started..literally…..first thought best thought?

amanesia

This explains where my ‘art research’ has gone…
It not classic ‘design’ art research any more it lies somewhere along the Iain Sinclair/W.G.Sebald/Patrick Keiller line. i.e. A travelogue based exploration of the historic impact of technology on a specific geographical region. I am now working exclusively on this as my ‘written’ output alongside my poetry.
 

I no longer consider myself to be exclusively in the fine art ‘drawing research’ area.

I am now seeking full or part-funding or a receptive institution to help develop this project.

And here my first mention of ANAMNESIA in 2010:

 

Back to the futurism

In 2009 in support of my initial M.A. proposal I wrote this statement….

Nothing much changed..:-)

amanesia

Shaun Belcher November 2009

ANAMNESIA

I am a somewhat unusual case to be writing about my ‘fine art’ practice. I began life ‘post-Hornsey College of Art’ in 1981 having successfully gained a place on the Royal College M.A. in Painting but sadly was not so successful in terms of funding. I continued as a painter and printmaker until a move to Edinburgh in 1993. There I became a published poet. A return to Oxford in 1996 then saw a period of fine art mixed with song-writing.

In conventional terms this kind of genre-hopping is frowned upon as not being quite serious enough. Thankfully I have enough USA based models to not worry too much about that e.g. Musician and Architect and Fine Artist Terry Allen to name but one influence. However whatever my ‘practice’ entailed throughout this period one thing remained constant. My commitment and seriousness about what I was depicting in whatever medium.

Throughout my ‘art-working’ life some things have remained stubbornly, one might even say obsessively’ constant. Be it in digital images as recently or in drawing or poetry and song I have remained constant in delineating a clearly ‘map-able’ terrain. This terrain extends about 5 to 20 miles in radius of my hometown of Didcot in Oxfordshire, England. Always the poor relation of the illustrious centre of learning that resides but a stones throw away.

There runs a hard core of intention throughout which draws on politics, ecological thinking and that obsessive returning to notions of ‘place’ and ‘landscape’. I regard my work as being a mapping of constant themes which recur sometimes years later. The River Thames is one theme the Berkshire Downs another. Local folk tales and oral literature mined from local libraries another. A recent song ‘Hanging Puppet’ drew on one such ‘tale. In fact one could describe it as artistic ‘Anglocana’ to differentiate it from Americana. I have written well over 2000 songs over the years..Mostly these are recorded in lo-fi versions and only really coming to life when in the hands of other more talented musicians (see the Moon Over the Downs CD 2003). Poetry has appeared in various magazines and in the Scottish anthology The Ice Horses (1996). I currently have at least 4 unpublished complete books of poetry on the shelf. One could describe my work as multi-disciplinary with a strong streak of green politics colouring the waters beneath.

I have drawn on some clear influences in writing and art. Seamus Heaney’s concept of a personal ‘Hedge School’ going back to John Clare is one thread. My forebear’s personal involvement in Agricultural Unions is another (see Skeleton at the Plough poems). I also am influenced by a ‘working class’ sense of writing picked up from Carver and Gallagher and other dirty realists. In song almost any Americana act would suffice. I am not American but I have strong American influences going back to Thoreau and Walden lake. To try and build an alternative ‘English’ approach I have increasingly been drawn back to the English Civil War when the notions of science and arts were more fluid and interchangeable. I have recently purchased a reproduction of Robert Plot’s Oxford a marvellous Natural History of Oxfordshire from 1677. In it one finds specimens such as ‘Stones that look like Horses’…wonderful….

It is this kind of merging of scientific natural history and folk-lore terminology that I now most interested in. Both in poetry (see Downland Ballads) and artworks (see TRACK..2009)

So how does theory inform my practice? Well I see no distinction between the various arts. I am widely read in poetry and song and that informs my practice whatever I do. At times I have also used cartooning as an ‘art criticism’ vehicle as well as penning many art review pieces. I regard both theory and practice as being essential parts of art education and indeed my own life-long learning. One would not exist without the other.

One needs time to absorb and think not just create. I return again and again to my greatest teachers. People I did not know but who showed by example. Sorley Maclean and Norman McCaig both fine Scottish poets and the female war artist Ray Howard Jones whom I had pleasure of meeting…a friend of the artist David Jones. Wonderful inspirational people…

Victorian Transmedia – Searching for a definition?

talbotreadingThis blog contains all the media related research I have conducted since the inception of my ‘multimedia’ M.A. by registered project back in October 2010. Then the focus was on contemporary tablets and software and a geographical location. Since then I have fairly logically worked backwards towards the creation of the media culture and found myself increasingly interested in the Victorian period.

For want of a better title I have renamed the blog ‘Victorian Transmedia’.

For me the period from the invention of photography through to the birth of commercial cinema is fascinating and it where most of my attention been in terms of genuine research.

So this blog will continue to reflect my genuine interest in the impact of technology on and through the arts in the Thames Valley from about 1825 -1910 ( The Leverhulme application slightly modified that focus for funding reasons.)

I am currently consolidating this research angle into something more solid and will continue to seek support for it outside of NTU SAD.

None of this research will in future be attached to NTU and I have created a new research profile on academia edu as an independent which says it all really.

The new profile is here:

http://independent.academia.edu/ShaunDBelcher

 

 

Leverhulme bid- Proposal

Here is the sadly failed application proposal but plenty of pointers to a future PhD proposal to work with…especially in regard to the mountain of Victorian art and railway literature in my studio….

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