Fine Art at Leeds Metropolitan University
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My current practice involves the making of printed and drawn images related to travel experiences. When travelling, I have great difficulty in accepting the role of a tourist; I am constantly aware of the problematic issues of the ‘tourist gaze’ (Urry, 1990). I am conscious that when exploring anywhere as a visitor you can only obtain a superficial view of a particular place and the people living there.
As a tourist, you are subject to a planned, sanitised and often romantic view. I find it strange that people travel great distances to look at what, for the local people, is the norm. The irony in this statement is that I love travel, I love seeing new places and sitting down to draw things I see and the sense of adventure and discovery I feel. However, I also feel a certain amount of guilt, because I know the damage that the tourist industry can do to an area, even though in many places it is the sole source of income for the local people.
In order to avoid the problem of the ‘tourist gaze’, I like to spend time in the places I visit, to sit and draw, and reflect on what it is about these places that I find fascinating. However, whilst doing this I am aware that although I may look in more detail at a place or culture than many other people, I am still not going to know what it is like to be part of it. I am still after all, an outsider.
I tend to focus on details of pattern, shape, colour and texture and as such I am attracted to countries that offer a strong visual experience. I want my travel experiences to be mentally stimulating for me; I crave travel to places that challenge me, that make me aware of the amazing variety and inequality that exists. Whilst I enjoyed living in Spain for four months, I gain more satisfaction both intellectually and artistically from travelling to less wealthy countries. Visits to Morocco, Egypt, the Czech Republic and most recently Peru, have been particularly influential for my work.
In order to part fund the necessary research for my practice, I received a grant of £2600 from Arts Council England to spend five months in Peru, living in an orphanage as research for further artistic development. During this time I taught English and Art classes and designed and produced a mural, whilst recording my observations in a sketchbook and with a camera. By living and working in a community I had a very different experience from the standard tourist who sees society only from the outside. These months abroad were dissimilar from the travel I have previously undertaken, and the work I am currently undertaking reflects this.
When I travel, I keep records of images and ideas, textures, shapes and colours that I find interesting. My work intends to recapture some of the freshness and immediacy of my sketchbooks within a more formal structure, whilst making objects that are precious and special to hold. The physicality of the work, the combinations of drawing and collage, etching, screen printing, collographs and the variety of Japanese, Indian and European paper, help to create this sense of the precious, as well as inviting the viewer to make discoveries about the work.
I illustrate hidden parts of the visited place by deploying the use of layers, either with the physical layering of paper, or the building up of layers of ink and paint. Just as the viewer is unable to see all of the images because of parts obscuring it, so the tourist will never see all of the depth and complexity of the place they are visiting.