Looking for a first line?

I would give anything to be able to write a coherent blog. So much so that I’ve even considered using my weekly Twitter stats as a ‘starter for 10.’  My current paucity of creativity and ability to foreground what I know and feel is whizzing in my head is baffling. What appears as I’m trying to think about my experiences, thoughts and connections is nothing. Nothing appears. It’s like an absence. Yet I know stuff has surfaced as I’ve apprehended them as scrawled notes on a lined A4 pink sheet of paper. It reads: Sat. Radio 2 – Nirvana at 9.35 am on BBC Radio 2 Sounds of the 60’s – a particularly good playlist that day, earworms and sticky notes, Ruby Wax, ESKA – singer on Woman’s Hour (scroll down for the link), colour theory and Assad from ‘Educating Cardiff.’  Assad appeared to be struggling with the transition to ‘big’ school. I was rather taken aback by the negative views and predictions about Assad on the twitter community – #educatingcardiff. I saw a child struggling to make sense of the transition to ‘big school.’ He voiced it himself during the programme (19 mins in) when he says “we used to be the big ones, now we’re the small ones.” Assad, like Aaron who received very positive and supportive comments in the twitter community, were 2 kids ‘at sea’ but showing it in very different ways.

Continue Reading

Wiggle and high reactives:introversion

My sensory antennae were spinning. I was losing my buoyancy and in ever- increasing circles of unfocussed, jagged, environmental sensory data. Was I just plain daft? I didn’t know how to do it? I was panicking and needed to breathe……panic…..how do I ?…I will relax…..breathe………..breathe………it’s only…………breathe…….breathe…………BREATHE! I was sinking fast. I did my best to smile, look calm, ask a question or two; whilst knowing that I needed to be in a quiet place. It’s not that I don’t like people, I do. It’s just that meeting new people in new situations requires energy, focus, concentration, planning, preparation, time, forethought, fortitude and sheer bravery. But at this moment my confidence, my speech, my memory and who I was whizzed out of the windows and doors. I was struggling. I tried desperately to listen but couldn’t hear as my need to breathe muffled all conversation. My mind a vortex of disconnection;  my own Corryvreckan. Continue Reading

Knitting and Naked garden at my local library

I’m sat in my local library space. Why, because my internet provider informs me that I’m near my data usage allowance of 40Gb. Apparently my usual use averages out at 19 and I’ve no idea why I’ve exceeded that this  month. Anyway, the clock starts ticking again from 00.01 tomorrow, yipee! I find all this confusing as I’ve followed the link to check my usage and it’s still steadily on the increase even though I’m not using it. Having been brought up in the ‘austerity britain’ of the 50’s I find myself reluctant to upgrade or pay extra for a few Gb. Also I sense pressure to upgrade as the large button on the warning e-mail is bright pink and centrally situated.

I’ve gotten used to getting out of the house and popping to the library. I can plug in my laptop, connect my phone and be entertained by the comings and goings during the mornings. Yesterday, a knitting group appeared at a desk not far away, and, families appeared to be outside making stuff in a little enclosed garden (it’s called the Naked garden) as it’s a space between the library and the integrated cafe. And, I’ve only heard one very unhappy child. Continue Reading

Lines are everywhere

Today, I’m learning my lines. I feel a little stupid as I realise that I don’t know a great deal about lines.  But when I start thinking about them I’m overwhelmed, lines intertwine with, and, connect my world. I just didn’t notice! My brain is suddenly flooded with images of lines from my nursing:

  • Straight, thin, confident, direct lines which joined carefully placed dots recording a patient’s temperature, pulse and respiratory rates  with carefully placed dots on an observation chart
  • graduated lines on thermometers and sphygmomanometers (I’ve surprised myself that I got the spelling correct first time), where measures were taken as mercury crossed them or when it bobbed or blipped (B/P) in a one-off and rhythmic gesture
  • centile lines for measuring babies’ and children’s growth and development in relation to ‘norms’
  • lines of patients, in lines of beds along either side of Nightingale wards with under-bed trolleys and bed castors all facing in a line
  • imaginary lines across the kneecaps of female nurses which the uniform dress must meet
  • lines on student nurses caps denoting their year of training (replaced by lacy caps once qualified)
  • the crossed lines our aprons made across our backs
  • the angry, painful, red lines on my neck before the new paper collar softens with the help of white soft soap

Enough, but you see what I mean, lines were and are everywhere. Continue Reading

Paying attention and noticing

Astonishing splashes of colour: a good read by Clare Morrall; a quote from J M Barrie’s “Peter Pan’ (for the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there’ and my way to describe a gallery space in South Square, Nr. Bradford, W. Yorks.  There’s an exhibition in The Calver Gallery  (scrolling down required) until 2 August, by artist Lauren Iredale and I went along for a second look.

I’d had a first look a week before and needed to take time to look a little more closely. I wanted to look at sections of the paintings and notice. Something I’m learning about since taking up photography. So, instead of just looking directly, I looked through the lens of my camera. I focussed my noticing on the lines, their thickness, direction, shapes, colours; as lines are just not lines in these paintings. The lines convey directions of travel, single, multiple, signal interconnections; they become grooves, changing colour and strength. They stretch, becoming thinner then suddenly disappear, transform or retract becoming thicker once again. Sometimes there’s a flow to these lines, other times there’s interruption and change. The one you see a part of above this blog appeared to give my eyes direction; upward from left to right and then right to left along the lower part of the painting.

Does it matter? It was about appreciating the paintings and how they were. Robert Henri describes art appreciation as:

“The appreciation of art should not be considered as merely a pleasurable pastime. To apprehend beauty is to work for it. It is a mighty and an entrancing effort, and the enjoyment of a picture is not only in the pleasure it inspires, but in the comprehension of the new order of construction used in its making.’

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Looking  through the camera lens focused my seeing on sections of the paintings. I scanned them in a logical way noticing tiny splashes or fragments of colour, gaining some insight into the order of paint application. Sometimes, like the little section here, it was almost like a warp and weft weave, then abruptly a change in order, a colour overlayed or the line going under when it was expected in turn to go over. Then a sudden broad overlay of more translucent colour. And there’s layers, with colours, shapes, forms underneath.

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Ah! An abrupt change. There’s 5 oil paintings and then a drawn collage. There’s a small part of this collage which is different, very different. I didn’t see it on my first visit. In fact, it’s almost as if I had my eyes closed. There is just one circle and you can see it in the middle toward the very bottom of this section. It is in fact a black round ball, asymetrically inside a circle. Wow.

Looking, seeing and noticing is a series of discoveries. Perhaps this is part of what Alain de Botton means when he discusses art as a tool. In ‘ Art as Therapy’ Botton explains how ‘art is a therapeutic medium that can help guide, exhort and console its viewers, enabling them to become better versions of themselves.’

Botton and joint author John Armstrong (described as a philosopher and art theorist), suggest there are 7 functions of art:

  1. Remembering
  2. Hope
  3. Sorrow
  4. Rebalancing
  5. Self-understanding
  6. Growth
  7. Appreciation

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I’ve learnt how important it is to stop and take notice. T0 pay attention to the familiar (lines) and notice how and when  they become unfamiliar. To pay far more attention to shape, colour, density, flow and direction. Seeing these paintings through my camera lens has made a difference. Taking photographs has made a difference. I’m finding it extremely difficult to voice an explanation. This picture contains little splashes of colour, yellow on blue. Can you see them moving from the first complete grid square to the more central one below? These tiny, flashes take me back to playing ‘Battleships’ as a kid when we mapped out the grids on paper and drew in the ships. The memories flood back of sisters, mum and dad, my younger brother having a battleship set made of plastic and, of playing it using pencils and paper with my son in a hotel room during a wet, cold Majorcan holiday. The emotional and sensory meaning of those little shapes was remembering. How extraordinary! I’m so, so glad I noticed them! They’re brilliant in their own right too.

In struggling to know how to finish this blog I stumbled upon a No. 68 – ‘Lines of the same weight and density, colors of a similar tone, or comparable textures will tend to occupy the same visual plane in space and create the sensation of flatness.’ There’s no flatness in Lauren’s paintings. Kit says that it’s all to do with atmospheric perspective. The art historian Ernst Hans Gombrich’s  theory states that ‘artwork invites the individual not only to look outside but also within, to the subjective memories, ideas and emotions that form his interpretation. The capacity of art to help us look within our own minds….’ Well, he seems to have that spot on for me. I know there’s far more to Lauren’s paintings than lines. Who’d have thought tho’ that some of those lines stimulated memories and an internal sense of noticing something important, creative and colourful.

Oh, I’ve just had a thought about a future blog topic. I’m wondering if we wouldn’t need the current promotion of ‘character building’ in school curricula if we had more teaching and focus on the arts? Oliver Beach seems to have the same idea too.

If you want to see more of Lauren’s work take a look at those on permanent display in an NHS setting in Scotland.

Oh, and No. 68 is in ‘101 Things to learn in art school’ by Kit White. No 2 and link is in a previous blog.

The language of photography

I’m learning a new language. I’ve previously tried Italian and the language of nursing, pedagogy, teaching, health economics, statistics, and research to name a few.

However,  my new language is about light, colour, contrasts and shadows. It’s technical too with shutter speeds, f stops, depth of field, ISO’s focal points and even hyperfocal. distances. There’s a whole lot of mathematics in this language including Fibonacci numbers, which even  Melvin Bragg has identified as being significant.  Rules abound; thirds, odds, symmetry, orientation and shape. And then there’s the equipment, DSLR’s, SLR’s, bridge, compact , small, medium and large format ones, mirrorless, and I’m sure there’s many more awaiting my discovery. Oh, and there’s accessories (bare necessities) such as lenses. It’s understood by the language experts, that the general lenses you get with a camera package are pretty nondescript, but they do give you a starter for 10. Then, when you develop your language skills further and know what type of photos you want to take you need to buy different lenses: prime, zoom, telephoto, wide-angle, fisheye, etc., all of which have different numbers on them to signify aperture and help with focal length calculations. Oh, by now you need a bag to carry them around. Perhaps a tripod to hold them steady when taking a long duration shot, say anything longer than 1/100th of a second.

It’s a challenge, and, that’s before you’re wanting to know which button, menu system or number on your camera you need to get a photo.

If you were writing a theory now around f stops indicating the size of the lens aperture I’m sure you wouldn’t start from here. When f2 means the aperture is larger than f8 and way larger (more open) than f22 which is a pinhole size, this is when  you realise that latin verbs are actually quite logical.

cropped-cropped-sam_0505.jpgI just didn’t get it until I saw some maths. At f1.0 there’s diameter of 50mm and a radius of 25mm with an area of 1,963 sq. mm  potentially in view. There is no way all of this can be in focus at any one time so only part of it will be focussed and the rest will be blurry. exhib 1This can create a great effect. whereas at f22 the diameter is 23mm, radius 1.1 giving an area of 4 sq. mm and therefore all of this can be in focus all of the time. I’m sure this differs with specific lenses but this is what helps me remember a little bit about focal length.

Oh, there’s so much more to this language. I’m reading a little book by Ansel Adams ‘The Camera’ where he asserts that there is a ‘magical potential’ to the creativity of photography and its outlet as a form of expression. He questions  the prevailing impression that the acquisition of equipment and the following of rules assure achievement. He quotes Edward Weston; ‘ composition is the strongest way of seeing,’ and sees rules as no more than artifice.

Well, I’m finding rules very useful as a beginner, a novice. However, I do relate to Adam’s when he says that his photographs ‘represent me, not photography.’ I’m certainly not fluent in the language of photography. Having just completed a couple of superb photography courses at  ‘The Artworks‘ in Halifax, W. Yorks., I’m just getting to recognise light and shade (I honestly haven’t really noticed it before), understand my camera a lot more, and have the confidence to get out and about and take photos.

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My teacher reckons I have a way with taking pics of people. I’ve included a couple here for you to see and judge for yourself. If you want to see more of the photography work that goes on at ‘The Artworks’ they have an exhibition currently on until 2 August.

Go see.

Coding interviews and identity: people with Alzheimer’s -2

Yesterday we left Celia thinking there was something else going on after her interviews with caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Something else was going on with me too, as my head was awash with images and sounds from ‘Brief Encounter.’ Celia Johnson was great, as was Trevor Howard, however I find the accents so awful, but love the way it told the story. A great archive review can be found here. If you want to know more have a look at these links.

So, back to our researcher, Celia. She states how uneasy and perplexed she was after the first interview and two more interviews followed fairly swiftly. After these she began coding, writing notes and impressions in the side margins of her transcripts, her unit of coding being each line.  Celia goes on to state that categories emerged but doesn’t really tell us how but it was at this point that she realised that her expected category about the ‘profoundness of placement of the Alzheimer’s person was not there with the richness she anticipated. The issue of decision making was not so very paramount in these interviews.’

Celia found herself drawn to other categories and says that after reading and re-reading the interviews she could ‘literally see the disquiet she had earlier experienced.’ It was how the interviewees commented that by the time of making a decision around care homes the person they once knew as husband, wife, mother or father ‘was gone.’ They were ‘strangers,’ and as one interviewee said ” M died a long time ago.” She reflected on the comments each had said; “different,” “gone,” “I don’t know but I know he’s not the same person!”

Identity loss was the central theme from the data

It was during these interviews that Celia’s focus changed from decision making to identity loss. Her key questions now included: ‘Tell em about your …before the onset of the disease; what was he/she like?’ ‘What were the first changes you noticed?’

She describes how she sat for ‘days on end’ with the transcribed interviews spread out before me, ‘absorbing them into my consciousness and letting them float about. I wrote memos on whatever struck my fancy, or as one professor called them, my “flights of fancy.” Sometimes writing several pages, at other times just a paragraph, recording whatever came into her head. Notes of all shapes and sizes began to pile up of non-linear thoughts and questions around identity:

  • how is identity perceived?
  • what constitutes identity to the average person?
  • why, if the person was ‘gone’ did the relatives hang on to the caregiving experience for so long?

Instead of making notes one day Celia decided to wade through the pile and placed them into developing categories:

  • silent partner, helper, and neighbours was abstracted to social relations
  • memory, clock and rituals were placed in temporality

Slowly, four major themes emerged around the identity loss process;

  1. Social relations
  2. Reciprocity
  3. Moral obligation
  4. Temporality

Celia describes how she set aside her other notes, talked to people working with Alzheimer’s disease and did more interviews; coding and writing memos as she went along.

“But most of all, I walked; I sat; I daydreamed.”