Jane Boyer: I really enjoy the poetry of this collage; the elegance of its simplicity contrasted with the complexity of the symbolism. I think there could be a treatise written just on the juxtaposition of the Shroud of Turin with the Salvatore Mundi! I'm very intrigued by your mention of this image being a self-portrait. The image is already fascinating, but this element makes it compelling.

Cos Ahmet: Jane, I really enjoyed reading your response to my piece. Altered State I, is from a quartet under the banner Altered State.

Altered State inspired a whole series of works assembled and influenced by a diverse source from my personal archive (postcards, found imagery, newsprint/magazine cuttings, and remnants, amongst others). This use of collage marked a shift in my creativity, moving away from established repertoire of figures and body imagery, igniting a new fascination and passion, albeit with trace elements of past works.

Altered State questions the origin of identity, authorship and originality and it's relevance to making art today. A number of pieces include homage’s to artists and to their works that have been a constant inspiration and influence to my work. I have in essence, turned the table and physically started exploiting these works as my own as a nod to the original but with a twist in varying forms of erasure.

The appropriation of the Shroud of Turin and Salvatore Mundi started life in another project called 'My Shadow Sits and Waits for Me', which was based on Carl Jungs study of the unconscious body, something he referred to as the 'shadow' in the human psyche. I started appearing in my work in several guises, presenting a new face or mannerism. In other words, bearing a mask.

Altered State is made up of three elements: a dual image representing two halves, one of the Shroud of Turin, the other Salvatore Mundi. The third element, was a n image of a net that I cut out from a newspaper advert. They seemed to belong together, fit, had something to say. This piece that you find so compelling is in it's pure form that the images presented themselves. The rest of the series are a variation of a theme, but all have their own narrative. It suddenly became apparent to me, that these elements that I used for Altered State resembled my own features, particularly the eyes in the Salvatore Mundi, hence why I call it a self-portrait. It was almost like looking into a mirror, but for me it is like wearing a mask with no holes cut for the eyes, so when you do open your eyes, you are staring into your soul.

Jane Boyer: Thanks very much Cos for that explanation, it makes the reasoning of your calling it a self-portrait very clear and it loses none of the intrigue and impact in the telling, quite the opposite! You might be interested in the discussion on Diane McGregor's "Terrain" of the connection I've made between your work and Diane's work. I'd be interested to know if what we said rings true for you at all, aside from the self-portrait issue you've already discussed.

"Altered State questions the origin of identity, authorship and originality and it's relevance to making art today." I find this a very interesting subject for enquiry, and I think you've made a very elegant response. The issue of authenticity also perhaps is part of that? It's the question of authenticity raised by your use of the shroud of Turin that intrigues me so much I think. That then hops over to the Salvator Mundi, because of course no one knows what Christ looked like so all images of him are complete fabrications of imagination, assuming, in fact, that he was a real person. All this melds with myth, faith, interpretation, tradition, symbolism and on and on. It's a curious hot soup for identity, authorship and originality.

Cos Ahmet:
Thank you for your patience in awaiting my response to this next instalment in the discussion. I do feel it has warranted the wait as your connection with these two works this has intrigued me.

There always seems to be this question surrounding the Shroud of Turin, whether it is authentic, and actual object of Christ. There has also been the speculation of Leonardo involvement in fabricating the Shroud. There is of course the true face of Christ, of which you referred to in the Salvatore Mundi, and no one really knows what Christ truly looked like.

Altered State uses both these two images - a ‘separated at birth’ pairing. This split screen, shows the likeness between the Turin Shroud and a portrait by Leonardo da Vinci, pasted together into a visual of this theory. Who knows whether Leonardo was part of this deception? Who really knows whether the Shroud is a true artefact, this relic that has intrigued the world, wanting to believe, but never quite sure.. And so, the question of authenticity plays a very important part in these images but also in my manipulation, placing a new possible authenticity and identity upon it.

Your interesting comparison/connection/juxtaposition in 'Altered State I’ and that of Diane’s piece ‘Terrain’ is very interesting indeed. Both have a simplicity in their construction, but equal measures, if not more of complexity. My work does raise far more question than answers, and could be said for many of my other works in varying doses. As I have said to Diane in response to her thoughts about the grid, I see how this element in both have much to say; small narratives, journeys perhaps? They serve as small rooms or places, with the marks or traces acting like a ‘presence’ in a capacity that we don't truly know. The mystery that is present in both keeps that intrigue alive.

Diane McGregor: Cos and Jane,

What a fascinating discussion this is! I would like to make another connection with our two pieces, Cos. I see the three levels of your painting as being body (the Mundi painting), mind (the grid or net), and soul (the shroud). Since you explored a narrative with my grid painting, I now can see the same three levels within my own work: The grid being the mind, the yellow being the body, and the white background of the painting being the soul. This never would have occurred to me before! I have always steered clear of narrative, but Jane's sensitivity to our respective expressions has brought about a whole new level of recognition for me. And I suppose that is exactly what Point + Line is supposed to be generating with these discussions! I love it!

Cos Ahmet:

Diane and Jane,

This is so fascinating, I am really enjoying the continuation of the discussion and the many thought paths it is taking !

Diane, your new connection has really grabbed my attention, and is something that I have never really explored or entered into, but makes perfect sense with each component in each of our works, both acting for similar attributes. Layers in my work are important, and it shows in your work too. That is where the narrative lies.

I think that the understanding of 'narrative' can sometimes be played up too much in art, where some making an appraisal of a work wants to know what the narrative or story is. I work in a very intuitive way, so it can occasionally take me a very long time to determine what a 'piece' is all about. In the process of making, this never enters my mind, I just make it, the moment takes you through the motions! It can become apparent in moments, or later along the line, and in some rare cases can take years to identify with what it is all about. Whatever the nature of the work, whether it be abstract, surreal, etc., it all has it's own narrative in its own particular way. This comes from the artist, not as a premeditated effort, but is subconscious transference.

I think Dan would be proud to witness the ping pong of thoughts and discussion generated, fulfilling the mission of Point + Line!

Jane Boyer: Body, Mind and Soul, the Trinity which is so important to our Western civilization. Can we actually ever think of an experience which does not involve these three? I can't think of any, and perhaps this is why the concept of the Trinity is so important in Christian faith. The fascinating thing for me in this notion is the recursive presence of a trinity of 'body, mind and soul' throughout our Western consciousness. It doesn't matter if we follow a particular Christian faith, this still is present in our comprehension. That kind of fundamental comprehension makes understanding culture real for me.

Cos when I first saw your 'net', I thought it was painted on the other images. When I saw that it was a cut-out, my perception shifted slightly. Instead of being 'fused' with the images by being painted on them, it lay on top of them capturing them, corralling them, binding them. Of course, the imagery of a net is also important to the story of Christ and his 'fishers of men', so this also added to the complexity of meaning in your work. It causes a similar struggle as I described with Diane's grid; Christ is caught in his own net. However, in Altered State 1 the grid is winning the struggle, time and experience is at the mercy of the net.

Cos Ahmet:

An interesting new addition of thought to our discussion...

With many things, the links are never obvious until they are pointed out to you. We hold many stories in our heads, but never use them when we are creating, which I think is a very positive attribute, otherwise, art becomes too contrived, forced to make a bold statement just for the sake of it, rather than feel the nature of the creation at hand, which is what makes the physical act of making so fascinating. There must be something that happens when you create, that, subconsciously you have a sense that these elements connect. However, when intuition takes you on a journey, these components aren't relevant, yet are part of the work on a completely 'other' level.

All the components in Altered State are collaged one upon the other. Layers and depth (with the body, mind and soul being these layers) are very much a part of my work, so I am glad that your perception changed once you realised that the net was another layer. Interesting view that the net conjures up, with Christ and his 'fishers of men' and Christ being caught in his own net!! More interesting is that the grid or net is winning the struggle.

Christianity is something that is not part of my cultural background, and my utilisation of this is my way of responding to my 'Westernisation'. The Christ figure or crucifix has appeared many times in my works, and usually connected to my struggles - sexuality, identity, culture. When I use it now, it is more an affirmation of who I am rather than a struggling to find out who I am. It also responds to religion as a whole. My use of it says, 'religion or faith to me is just paper thin. However, I respect it without having to make it a part of who I should be. Instead I have adopted it as my own Altar. An 'Altered-Altar' if you like ...

Jane Boyer: Being an American from the 'South', religion was an important part of my culture, though my interest in it now is as a cultural influence only. It's interesting to see the imagery and symbolism which comes from this influence. It is even more interesting to see those images and symbols which come from the influence of other religions, though not being as familiar with those traditions, I probably miss some of the symbolism. I find it very interesting that you are working with cultural symbols that were not part of your own identity development, but come to them as an influence or expression on your already formed self - if I've understood you correctly. I'd be interested to know if this reinforces your own cultural influences, because the process of westernisation is 'other' for you, or if there has been a melding and merging of cultures for you, perhaps causing fuzzy edges on your own cultural identity?

Cos Ahmet:
I started using cultural symbols fairly late, and came at a point when I was sorting out the struggles in my own cultural and sexual identity as a form of expressing them. The cruciform is a particularly strong image that served both as an aesthetic and symbolic sign of my westernisation, trying to find out who I was, retuning to it at different stages as my own 'ressurrection', or like the Phoenix rising from the ashes. In Greek mythology, a phoenix or 'phenix' symbolises regeneration, obtaining new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. I see these 'predecessors' as the many layers of myself, dealing with one struggle, rising and moving on, until such time the process begins and is repeated. A shedding of layers. Now when I use any Christian symbol, it defines an inner peace.

I supposed that my own cultural influences are vague in my work and are hard to spot, if at all. I consider myself British, born in London, and have lived all my life in London, the 'cultural side' of me always seemed that much more alien. Coming from a Turkish Cypriot background, I think the only real cultural influence derives from my use of the veil, especially in my early works, which filtered and trickled through to recent works.

I turned the veil into what became my own shadows. These were very apparent and strong in a series of works I made for a solo show called 'My Shadow Sits and Waits for Me'. These veiled or shrouded figures, now my own 'shadows', were something that I was always trying to run away from, trying to find my own light. Being interested in Jungian theories, his theory on the shadow played heavily in sorting out these cultural struggles. I think the shadow never leaves you, but it is there in many guises, an indicator of something else to deal with.

Diane McGregor: Cos, I am so impressed with the sensitivity and insight you give to your work. Your interpretation of the cross and veil symbols is brilliant.

Cos Ahmet:
Thanks Diane. These interpretations and insights become more and more apparent the closer I look and think, but also when the chance for discussion arises.. It helps me to understand my work. That might sounds strange to some people, but when you are immersed in that creative process, the last thing on your mind is 'what does this mean?'.. All this comes later.

This is why I feel Point + Line is an important space and place for discourse!

Diane McGregor: Agreed!! Yes, it all comes out of the unconscious -- for me, almost a dreamlike state -- and it's only afterward that I can see the context of the work. And, of course, with these kinds of discussions, the sharing of visual ideas, and the input from viewers, so many other levels are revealed and considered. Point + Line is a marvelous resource for all of us!

Jane Boyer: Absolutely, Diane and Cos, on all counts! Creation is creation and discussion is discussion, they both need their own space to fulminate. Working outside a studio complex in relative isolation, as I do, the chance for discussion can be limited. I wholeheartedly agree with you both on the value of Point + Line to meet just that need. Thank you both again for a really great discussion.


Diane McGregor: Hello Rebecca, Fiona, and Andy,

I've really enjoyed this discussion of Rebecca's work. Rebecca, your work has such delicacy and tenderness -- I too wish I could see the work in person. The light in them seems palpable, and the fact that you describe being inspired by ancient porcelain triggers an inner vision of what the work must be like when one is physically looking at the paintings. Thank you for directing me to Sontag's essay; she states: "What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more." I think that is exactly what you are doing with your paintings, Rebecca -- as you listen to the silence of the object, and feel the surfaces, and watch the light, you impart this wondrous experience to the viewer of your painting. Agnes Martin came to mind immediately when I saw your work -- she has more "content" (the grid, the horizontal line) but the same fine, trembling sensitivity is obvious in your work. Actually, what came to my mind first were Korean Buncheong ceramics. There was an exhibition in 2011-12 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You might want to investigate that work further -- there is a very nice, free interactive catalogue app of the collection available on iTunes, if you are interested: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/met-buncheong/id435185857?mt=8

Rebecca Lowe: Hello Diane and thank you for your sensitive and perceptive comments.

I agree that there is a difficulty of looking at paintings online where we are deprived of the painted surface, but I'm glad it gives us access to at least a part of the work that we may not otherwise experience.

It was interesting to read Susan Sontag's words on the need "to recover our senses" which are very pertinent. I began thinking about the sense of sight, which falls so delicately between sensory perception and thought: seeing as understanding or cognition; touch as an extension of sight, taking it back to the sensory. I like the oscillation between the two. Her words also seem relevant to what Fiona said in a previous discussion about the values of artists' statements and the danger of not engaging with the visual, that the person standing before the work "will remain a reader and not become a viewer..."

There is another book which questions these themes in depth: "Downcast eyes: the denigration of vision in twentieth-century French thought" by Martin Jay http://www.abebooks.co.uk/book-search/title/downcast-eyes/author/martin-jay/sortby/3/

Many thanks for sharing the link to the Korean Buncheong ceramics collection. I had not seen it before and I certainly feel drawn to these unobtrusively beautiful objects, their fragility, the quality of light around and within the surfaces, the careful adjustments of balance and weight. I'm pleased that my paintings made you think of them.

Fiona Robinson: Hi Rebecca
Your reply throws up other questions, avenues of discussion. I thought it was very interesting that you cite rubbings of surfaces as a source and assume that these rubbings are in the nature of sketches done on different surfaces, papers? and then used in much the same way that you use your objects as a visual reference, as a muse almost, rather than working from them through direct observational drawing. Your reference to Elsworth Kelly made me realise that essentially my suggestions for artists that you might relate to, whose work you might have absorbed, were based on palette and light reflecting on surfaces. And both these would lead directly to Agnes Martin and Simon Callery. Simon's surfaces are amazing, layer upon layer of paint trapping the light between the layers.

The idea that reduction comes through addition makes sense in terms of adding layers to the surface but it is an interesting point as to whether that constitutes addition perhaps it is both, addition of one thing layers of paint in order to achieve subtraction of form.

Finally in terms of knowing what your intentions thought process were in the making of the works, I agree that it is not necessary but it does add another layer of understanding. Many artists find it difficult to articulate about their work and resist the necessity of providing written statements. I am in the process of reviewing a book in which the author quotes Susan Sontag as saying that one should not try and explain what an artist is communicating but to let the work speak for itself and not critique it. A difficult thing to adhere to!

Rebecca Lowe: Hi Fiona and many thanks for your constructive questions and observations.

Yes, the rubbings were originally on very thin paper. They carried through to the paintings firstly as a heightened awareness of surface and secondly as a process or activity. I am curious about the relationship of sight to touch and a rubbing as a visual record of touch - movement across surface. They are also perhaps visualisations of time.

I tried photocopying onto acetate with an intention of stacking translucent layers of rubbings of the same surface (the stone walls of a ruined church at Heptonstall), thinking about the wall absorbing its own history while also being constantly stripped back and newly revealed. That idea was never fully resolved but did lead directly back into the paintings.

I love your description of Simon Callery's work... "layer upon layer of paint trapping the light between the layers." That's very close to my experience of seeing his paintings.

Is the Susan Sontag piece called "Against Interpretation"? I remember being reassured by that essay, being one of those artists who resisted "the necessity of providing written statements". I agree the reluctance comes sometimes from a difficulty in articulating about the work, and also perhaps out of a fear of taking away a moment of recognition... "Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash..." (Sontag). If art works on a combination of emotional and intellectual, conscious and unconscious levels the balance is so fragile it is easily destroyed.

As you say it is a difficult but necessary part of the work, helping someone who may not have access to find their own way in; offering them a key, without simultaneously taking away their chance of the "glimpse" and "encounter".

Returning to Agnes Martin I remember one of her poem-notes which so delicately conveys the fragile nature of interpretation.

"The underside of a leaf
cool in shadow
Sublimely unemphatic
Smiling of innocence

The frailest stems
Quivering in light
Bend and break
In silence

This poem,
like the paintings,
is not really about nature
It is not what is seen -
It is what is known
forever in the mind."

Fiona Robinson: Hi Rebecca I like your description of rubbings as a visual record of touch, it accentuates the tactile nature of the experience and suggests a process whereby the fingers are in direct contact with the paper, steeped in graphite powder, although I suspect it is more likely that you make the rubbings with graphite stick or pencil or charcoal!

The Susan Sontag piece is from Against Interpretation and I feel I need to re-read it. I understand what you mean about denying the viewer either their own interpretation or ‘glimpse’ but I do think statements can elucidate without spoiling the story! However many of them are either full of meaningless art-speak or incoherent. It is a very difficult balance. But perhaps there is always more room for discovery despite a text. Explanations need to facilitate enquiry not provide answers. Isn’t this what we are doing here extending our understanding and leading to a deeper appreciation both of the work and the artist’s intention? I think that there is a greater danger that the reader will not in engage with the visual but will remain a reader and not become a viewer?
Thank you for the Agnes Martin quote, I have her writings but I don’t recall reading that before. She has some very pertinent things to say to other artists, some of which, I like, as in, the marks or damage on a painting was part of its history, but not her suggestion, that artists should pursue a hermit like existence without company, animal or human.

Rebecca Lowe: Hello Fiona and thanks for this.

The rubbings were usually made directly with a finely sharpened B pencil but sometimes by coating the surface of an object with poppy oil and rolling it across paper, then "rubbing" with pencil or graphite powder across the oily residue. Jasper Johns used a similar method in his studies for "Skin". There is both an intimacy with and physical distancing from the surface.

Yes I agree with your point about the need to encourage engagement with the visual. At some stage I questioned whether the inclusion of visible form in my painting served as a "hook" and that wondering became a part of the decision to remove it. But without that hook there is certainly a danger that the work is inaccessible and there becomes a need to allow or encourage engagement with something that is so purely visual.

Perhaps the word "statement" in itself is rather closed. As you say "Explanations need to facilitate enquiry not provide answers". I think the beauty of the Point + Line project is that it is immersive. It encourages conversation and helps to draw out questions rather than give definitive answers. If the work itself is asking questions then how to involve the reader in the questioning so that they move through the reading to the looking, and so that the artist's intent is shared in a collaborative process; experienced rather being told?

There is another artist on this site who says he likes to tell stories "far away from art". He draws from science, music, news stories... and keeps a lightness by using diagonal analogies without ever saying that they are direct equivalents. It both provides helpful ways into the work and stimulates curiosity

The Agnes Martin poem was quoted in Dore Ashton's essay "Agnes Martin and . . . " in Agnes Martin: Paintings and Drawings 1957-1975 (London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1977), pp. 7-14.

I cannot replicate the format here but it is shown with the final verse alongside and slightly interweaving the first two verses so that they are almost but not quite parallel. The form so carefully echoes what is being said. Dore Ashton observed that the painter's relationship with nature was very close to that of the ancient Chinese sages, remembering that "the Chinese were so sophisticated that they carried their meditations on the negative (what these things are not, as Martin instinctively says) to the point of establishing such a noun as the not-not."

Fiona Robinson: Hi Rebecca
Very interested in what you say about Jasper John's method - I wasn't aware of that. And also by implication in what you do. I spend a lot of time rubbing, of pencil into the 'fabric' of the paper, rubbing out with an electric rubber and rubbing both the surface of the paper and the wax that I put on it. I sometimes wonder if there is an unconscious subtext of something to do with polishing…. But not something I actively feel I want to pursue. I agree with you about the value of Point and Line. It certainly opens up avenues of discussion and a sharing of information about other artists which leeds to new discoveries.

Fiona Robinson: This work looks very beautiful, quiet and contemplative. It is as always frustratingly difficult to view work like this online because it is very difficult to see the surface and the true colour though I suspect that the colour changes flickeringly with each alteration in light. However there is enough visual information to be aware of the relationship to porcelain to celadon and the paintings of Morandi in particular and maybe Chardin. They contain that same fineness and deceptive fragility as porcelain. The paintings themselves seem to have a stillness offering a moment of pause even of silence. I recently came across the work of Vilhelm Hammershøi a nineteenth century Danish artist who uses a very cool elegant palette and whose figures in interiors have a very Vermeer feel about them. I feel there is a connection between Rebecca Lowe's work and that quality of light which is seen in Vermeer and which is present in Hammershøi's paintings although both paint figuratively. For me the relationship to music is interesting since I too respond to music though in a different way. I like the description of the process too in that you change the direction of the brushstrokes for each layer of paint creating almost a resistance of one layer of directional strokes against another. Would love to see these in the flesh.

Rebecca Lowe: Fiona, many thanks for your kind and perceptive observations. The changing (natural) light in the gallery was an important element of the paintings and I did intend a slow "flickering" as different layers of glaze were reflected back through the surfaces.

The paintings of Chardin, Vermeer and Morandi have had a huge influence on my work, especially in their responses to light and in a repeated and intense attention to the familiar, quiet, loved objects, which seems to go beyond physical appearance. It's an honour that qualities of my work remind you of these artists.

Vilhelm Hammershøi is less familiar. I remember seeing some of his work several years ago and am glad to be reminded to look again. There is an almost fragile austerity in the compositions and I like the coolness of his palette; light and tone. I was also looking at the still-life paintings of Francisco de Zurbarán. There are very few of these where objects are painted in isolation but the same groups of objects also appear in his figure paintings, as attributes of saints. Even in isolation there is a human presence.

I was very interested to read what you say about "resistance". I hadn't thought about the directional brushstrokes in that way and yes, there is a pushing and pulling, also a kind of containment and expansion which I hope goes beyond the physical limits of the paintings.

Fiona Robinson: Hello Rebecca, I hadn't thought of Zurbarán and I am really only aware of his religious paintings though I can see the connection with his beautiful 'Cup of Water and a Rose' in the National Gallery Collection. It occurs to me that there is no sense of conventional form in your paintings and it it would be interesting to know at what point you abandoned form both in general and specifically as you paint. Is everything absorbed subliminally, though touch, observation and experience or has there ever been point at which you have described form physically on paper or canvas and then obliterated it?

Andy Parkinson: Hi you two, hope you don't mind me joining this discussion: lovely paintings, and yes I agree with Fiona about seeing them in the flesh. Much as I love the availability of online viewing, I want to look at them for real. I had a similar question in mind about the emptying out of content other than the glazing of colour. I am all for it, I was interested to know how you got there. I think I read you say that they "look" reductive, as if they are really something else. Isn't there a sense in which although this content is there in the process, what you present is in fact 'reductive', (which for me is a good thing by the way)? It's Elsworth Kelly that springs to mind for me, I think his process of 'abstracting' was something like what maybe you are doing here. (?)

Rebecca Lowe: Hello Fiona, Hello Andy,

Uncanny - I have a postcard of 'Cup of Water and a Rose' on the studio wall.

The crossing brushstrokes came partly from the ritual of applying layers of gesso, and also from making rubbings of surfaces.

Yes there was a specific point when I removed almost all reference to form although getting to that stage, making the decision, took a long time. While in my final year at Leeds Metropolitan University I started working on a much larger panel than I was comfortable with and trying to paint (objectively) some very small flower heads. I was so aware of the size and solidity of the panel and the change in scale had thrown out all the relationships between form and space that I had previously been dealing with in a very intimate way. The only way I could find to reconcile them was by absorbing the form into the space so that they were on the same plane. It was an uneasy process but eventually liberating.

There were also the influences of respected tutors and from contemporary exhibitions: a show at Leeds Art Gallery of British reflexive painters which included Clem Crosby, Jason Martin and Torie Begg; Maria Lalic's history paintings; Simon Callery's beautiful paintings in 'Sensation' at the Royal Academy and 'About Vision' in Oxford; Robert Ryman. I had also looked a lot at Agnes Martin since I saw an important show of her work in Paris in 1991 so had been thinking about a more geometric or 'pure' abstraction in direct relation to objectivity and perception.

Yes, I do admire Elsworth Kelly very much. I hadn't thought of him as having a direct influence, but yes I can see a connection with that extent and nature of abstraction where the reference to an external subject is still present.

I agree Andy that it is the 'reduction' that is important. I think I meant there are apparent paradoxes - that the reduction comes through addition, and the abstraction comes through objectivity... but perhaps it always does. I really don't know how important an awareness of the content and the process is when looking at my paintings.

I still begin paintings with objects in front of me but, apart from an emotional or aesthetic response, I choose them much more consciously for their surfaces, and the ways they reflect or absorb light. In a sense they already share qualities with the materials and processes I am using. The form has almost become displaced by the physicality of the paint and the support, but I still look for ways to keep it there - there is always a sense of gravity and edge - and to find a balance between a literal and an illusory form and space.

I hope this goes some way to answering your interesting and very pertinent questions.



Jane Boyer: I'm making another conversational juxtaposition between Diane's 'Terrain' and Cos' 'Altered State 1' below (or above, as the case may be). The elements I mentioned in Cos' work apply here to 'Terrain', but in the abstract. The poetry involving the contrast between simplicity and complexity is palpable in this work. Each cell tells a tale, but of what, who can tell? I find the ambiguity of this irresistible, which is why I love abstraction so much. But the same irresistible pull is in Cos' figurative work below/above. His juxtaposition raises more questions than it answers. Two very compelling and beautiful pieces.

Diane I love your use of yellow in this work. Yellow is a colour I use as an agitator. I read your yellow in this painting this way too, which adds to the palpability of the work for me. It pulses with experience and the passage of time.

Diane McGregor: Jane, many thanks for your perceptive discussion. How interesting the comparison between my non-objective grid abstraction and the mysterious portrait by Cos. The grid in Cos' piece is like a net or a barrier, and gives his work a compelling pathos.

Simplicity and complexity are perfect descriptions of my work -- the grid is so simple as a compositional device, but because each unit of the grid is painted individually and methodically, there is a tremendous amount of complexity when you look very carefully at the painting. There's a synthesis of the complex and the repetitive which I enjoy. The yellow in this painting was intended as a neutral color -- of the same order as the greys, the black, and the white. Yet this particular yellow does give the painting a sense of urgency and defiance which I didn't fully appreciate until I read your comment.

Jane Boyer: First, sorry, that was supposed to read 'palpability' not 'palatability' and I've edited that in my original comment.
Second, I agree with your comment on the 'net' in Cos' piece, it does add "a compelling pathos". The obvious connection I've made of the grid between your two works is possibly the least interesting connection, though I like it as an entry into discussing the two works, and it would work as a very intriguing visual relationship if these two works were exhibited together. But for me, the shrouded, captured, spliced and over-laid face of Christ in Cos' work relates so much to the yellow (and the built up layers in your painting). The yellow you've chosen is a 'sickly' yellow, meaning it is not robust or happy. It also struggles to break through all the other layers of paint. I once had an artist friend who agreed with the statement that "yellow was the colour of death". That's the connection I see between these two works. Your feeling that the yellow has "a sense of urgency and defiance" is spot on and this same sense is there in Cos' Altered State 1. Thanks Diane for a really interesting discussion, now over to Cos...

Cos Ahmet:
Diane, great to hear some of you thoughts on the discussion of both our works. These connections are perhaps something that would not have occurred to me instantly. Sometimes we immerse ourselves in our work and ideas, that until it reaches the 'outside', things become more clear. I see how the ‘grid’ element in both have much to say; small narratives, journeys perhaps? They serve as small rooms or places, with the yellow marks, almost acting like your ‘presence’ or your journey in these rooms, but equally someone else’s journey, path, sensation – that very pathos that was talked about. There is also a sense of 'searching' as each room is explored, with a mark or trace (in this case, the yellow) of that ‘presence’ left behind, marking territory in some ways.

Diane McGregor: Cos, what a poetic and lively description of my work -- I am enchanted by the vision of each cell of the grid as a "room," or the idea of the yellow being a journey of the soul through the rooms, an exploration through the grid that marks "territory." It's very interesting to develop a narrative when confronted by a non-objective abstract painting! Brilliant!

Cos Ahmet: There is quiet agitation in the work, and my feelings of the piece were exactly that. I could see your physical action as a painter, where you place your colour, a mark, your decision making. However, there is a sense of a transmission of this process through you feelings, like your were journeying on your way to exploring or finding something, hitting upon barriers, your grid, or as I see them as rooms - making new decisions, bypassing some and visiting others along the way. You are in essence making sense of your own terrain!

Jane Boyer: Cos and Diane, this is wonderful for me to see you both explore new interpretations and meanings for your work and to make connections that you hadn't made before. Speaking as a curator, that is rewarding and very exciting.

One of the other things I see in your "Terrain" Diane, is the struggle of 'structure' against 'experience', which also carries a narrative within it. The lines of your grid are in a struggle to keep their regularity, and they're losing the fight (back to the pathos theme!) The lines of the grid are not even, they are no longer ruled even though they clearly were at the inception of the work. But with the passage of time and your process of painting each block, the grid has been erased, obliterated, compromised and re-drawn. What a story of struggle!

I agree with Cos that the need to find a narrative in a work is often detrimental, but drawing parallels with living experience and memory is important and my own experience of layers has taught me to make this parallel. Layers in creative works often mean there are layers of thought, and I think it is safe to say that any composite layering of thought reflects experience and memory. So while there may be no actual conscious narrative, there is always the subconscious narrative of experience, as Cos suggested.

Also, your comparison of the body, mind and soul is very insightful and I'll talk a little more about that on Cos' work.

Cos Ahmet:
Diane & Jane,

It has been great to make leaps into other works in order to make these new connections, and come back to your own work to see it in a new light, fresh eyes. I often return to my work and look at it in different ways, but I feel that these new ways of connecting are just as, if not more important in understanding certain aspects or elements. It focuses you in a completely different perspective and forces and your gaze more closely on the smaller details.

A conscious narrative to me feels too forced, almost as if it is a 'must have' rather than a natural organic effort - the subconscious narrative that you experience. All the narratives during our discussions are those subconscious 'smaller details', subtle in their execution, becoming more apparent the more we look.

Diane McGregor: Jane, you have hit upon something that is profoundly true and it stuns me that I didn't see it before you wrote about it: The story of struggle that is evident in my painting. Your description of the narrative between the struggle of "structure" and "experience" characterizes my process very well -- the construction and deconstruction of the grid are always forward in my mind as I work. There is a subconscious shift of viewpoint with each cell of the grid. Each rectangle is a new beginning, a chance to win the struggle, or surrender in order to maintain the harmony of the whole. Thank you so very much for your insights!

Cos, this subconscious narrative interests me greatly; I am a great admirer of Jung as I know you are, and this discussion has inspired new "readings" of the archetypal content of my work.

Jane Boyer: I find what you have left unsaid in your comment very intriguing. When you say, "Each rectangle is a new beginning, a chance to win the struggle, or surrender in order to maintain the harmony of the whole" you seem not to be making a moral judgement there. It seems that you treat the "chance to win the struggle" on equal measure as "surrender in order to maintain harmony". That's interesting because in any other circumstance those two statements would be emotionally charged stances. Are there any circumstances within the context of your painting that you choose one over the other or are they left to be determined by the results of your process in painting?

'Structure' and 'Experience' must be two of the biggest archetypes, not knowing if there has ever been an attempt at rating archetypes(?!) It also is a pairing that could be harmonious or absolutely at odds. Anyway you look at it, those two words in relation to each other hold epic possibilities! I'm delighted to have been the one to say what you hadn't realised, but already knew fundamentally.

Diane McGregor: Jane, yes, my process is the reconciliation of the two themes -- and fortunately, each cell is small, so if it's a struggle it's not long before I have moved on to the next cell. I rarely go back into the cells -- I work from top left to lower right and the harmony comes from chance, really. I surrender, and my subconscious takes over the composition. I love the process because each cell is like a new composition, and I am free of doubt or needing to "correct" a previous cell. Currently, however, I am working on a series of grids which have larger cells (the ones in Terrain are 2 inches high by 1 inch across) -- the new paintings have cells which are 4x8 inches (with a horizontal configuration) and larger in some cases. I must say the struggle is hard won with these new pieces. In fact, I am continuing the struggle to resolve them! Stay tuned!


Fiona Robinson: Hi Jane and Anthony too
Jane I find these works very interesting and I particularly like Versions 4 and 5. It would be nice to be able to see some details of these so that the lines and marks and layering were more evident, it does't seem to be possible to zoom in. Repetition is an intriguing concept since it is impossible to repeat something exactly because of the time-lapse and the impossibility of recreating something which is precisely the same. I like the idea that you are repeating the existence of the drawing rather than the actual drawing. The preservation and enhancing of the early layers of drawing is similar to what sometimes happens when work is photographed and earlier layers are move evident in the photograph than they are in the original and I don't really understand why this is so.

The repositioning of the visual ideas, the storytelling and the present of the personal suggest to me that it is almost as if you are collaborating with yourself in different guises. You seem to return refreshed, approaching the work from a different perspective, viewing it using a different set of criteria. It is perhaps the process that you use to achieve this which distinguishes this work from other forms of repetition?

Jane Boyer: Hi Fiona,

Thank you very much for your insightful comments, you raise some very interesting points. First, I think the best you can do to see more closely is to click the arrows at the top and go to full screen. Images in series don't seem to have the same zoom function as single images on the site.

I have a friend who doesn't believe repetition exists for the very reasons you state - there is no exact repetition because temporality prevents it. This is also true about self-identification. We can never fully self-identify because any 'I' that I speak of is already out of the time-space in which I'm speaking. It's a curious thing to me, not being a physicist, that time cannot be repeated, but the only way to measure time is by measuring a repetitive pulse. I'm working on a curatorial project at the moment called RECURSIVE and earlier in the project blog, we had some very interesting discussions about repetition. If you'd like to read some of those discussions in the comments section, you can visit: www.projectrecursive.wordpress.com

I think it may be the issue of time, and existence, which is at the heart of these works. I must admit, I find it a curious idea to repeat the existence of the drawing. I'm not quite sure where in my head that is coming from but it makes sense to me, especially with the notion of autobiographic storytelling being a kind of 're-imaging' of lived experience. Sometimes in the process of re-telling a personal story, the story can take on a new life for a few moments in response to circumstances or new insights can be discovered about past events in the story because of a distance of time from those events or a listener sees things you never could. All of those things seem to me to be a repetition of existence.

I think you're right, I am sort of collaborating with myself, perhaps more with other selves that exist from different times, rather than a me in different guises, going back to that self-identity thing. I'm not sure I can speculate on what distinguishes these works from other repetitive works, I think that is best left to someone else to say, though I appreciate your suggestion that they are different.

Fiona Robinson: Hi Jane
Thank you for your suggestion on how to see larger versions of the works - it was better but would still be good to see details. I did look at Recursive and in fact made a piece for it but couldn't get it uploaded from my inadequate internet connection in France!! Your 're-imaging' or repetition of the existence of a drawing does make sense as you say in a strange sort of way, perhaps because you are starting from the same base each time. I am guessing that there is always an element which is the same which is carried forward into the next piece so presumably the photographic element supports this idea too?

The re-telling of a personal anecdote does change depending on the time lapse, the audience and the circumstances but also if two people have shared the same experience they prompt each other whereas if the other person is unavailable you only have part of the story and there is no one to provide the prompts if you see what I mean. Re. collaboration, I think you are right rather than collaborating with yourself in different guises it is a sense of collaboration with earlier selves, even possibly earlier versions of your self though 'version ' used in the sense of change caused by the time-lapse and not in terms of re-invention!

Anthony Boswell: Hi Jane,

How interesting it is that parts of the image, the original piece if I understand correctly, remains in the fore. This makes me think about the fact that despite all of the repetitions, the changes, constructed time, we have in our stories and original self a part that can change, but remains in some form forever. I guess it is this original form, or event if that is what the artists is concerned with, that interests me also. It probably means as well that there is a starting point, or in some cases a catalyst, a place of origin that in your case is the drawing and the event. You can add and subtract what context that point exists within and at some point there should be that most pleasing moment when you and the work reflect back at each other and yet exist independently from one another. I think at what point that arrives depends upon the depth of what we're looking for. Your works blurring of parts and highlighting others reflects the selfs view of self and life I think. You are the 'I' and the work is you as 'I' too maybe?

Jane Boyer: Thanks for your comment Anthony. Yes, you did understand correctly. This work begins a new enquiry into the relationship between simulacrum and autobiography and what effects that relationship may have on identity, when the 'I' tells the 'I' to borrow a phrase from Mikhail Bahktine.

When I made these, I was also struck by the reality of the drawings remaining in the foreground. In some ways, those drawings take on even more of a presence within these works than they did in their original form. It poses a curious question for me: why does a drawing take on more character when it's recycled? Much like the autobiographical stories we tell of our lives, the details of the story may remain the same, but over time and in different circumstances they may take on a different character - we may give them a different character or attach a different significance in the re-telling. Is this because we ourselves have changed with time? The details of our lives may remain, but our relationship to them may have changed with time.

I have personally experienced this. The most significant event of my life and something that defined my history has become distant to me now because so much time has passed. I no longer have the same relationship to the event or its significance in my life. In many ways, it is now irrelevant to where and who I am, or perhaps more to the point its bearing on my life is not the same as it once was. So am I the drawing or is the distant event the drawing? Has my re-telling of this event, adjusting the tone of the re-telling to fit the circumstances of its telling caused a shift in its bearing on me? Compelling questions that I don't yet have answers for.

Anthony Boswell: Hi Jane. Thanks. I would guess that you are the drawing, based upon the simple fact that you made it, be it in response to something or not. The work in which it appears reflects the life within which it, you, exists. This is how I see the truth in the statement that the work bridges the gap between art and life. The drawing must always keep the initial source, the initial you, but the effect of the surrounding image changes the meaning of the drawing, life changes the meaning of the event. Some are not able to move from the initial effect of the event, so maybe this is why making an image that can show that desired change acts as a therapy, not saying that is how you view your work. They then need to connect with the image and activate that change within themselves. My beliefs obviously allow me to find the source for change and possibilities in my own way.
Anyway, I guess that continual change removes past images and slowly creates new ones, sometimes almost a complete change occurs, like repeatingly photocopying an image by using each previous copy as a new original. The source is important though in this somewhere. It may be useful to keep a copy of each stage in the event the images go in a direction not intended, so one can go back to a profitable point, or leave it to chance. Also, how much of you is evident within the image the drawing exists in, because surely even there, you may be implementing an influence?

Jane Boyer: It's taken me a long time to consider how to respond to your insightful comment, but I re-read something in "Difference and Repetition" by Deleuze today that has allowed me to respond to you. Deleuze says this, "The question is whether repetition may be understood as operating from one present to another in the real series, from a present to a former present. In this case, the former present would play the role of a complex point, like an ultimate or original term which would remain in place and exercise a power of attraction: it would provide the 'thing' that is to be repeated, the one which conditions the whole process of repetition, and in this sense would remain independent of it...Imagination gathers the traces of the former present and models the new present upon the old."(p127-8)

Interestingly for me, in this quote, imagination is the simulator and the simulacrum of a lived former present. It is an instance of my self creating a simulacrum of myself.

In this piece that we're discussing, the drawing is the former present which is the "original term which would remain in place and exercise a power of attraction". However, the drawing is not the thing that is repeated, but it's existence as a drawing is reinstated by recycling the drawing. In this way, it's existence is repeated and it is immaterial if the drawing itself has been repeated or not.

Anthony Boswell: Hi Jane, and Fiona. Wether we succeed or not in the changes made, to ourselves and the work, depends does it not upon how we view and move away from the original point? For our own human constraints, the inertia is there to carry us forward. Personally, for me, the repetition is of the moment and in terms of my faith, one that carries me towards the source, not away from it, but away from my self. Maybe the original point, being different for each of us; an episode, an artwork, something said to us or heard, a relationship, all sorts of things, dictates the way we allow it to move through future variations of it, within variations of the surroundings. Something new will come out of it.
People repeat old patterns, don't they, repeating the existence of that past moment or way of being. It remains as something once existing, but it is possible to move away from it to a completely new form, but we, the work, must be informed by the past, the original? To what end do we reinstate, recycle? And each point is a new start point, a new original? Do we want to return, ultimately, to a positive original point we should not have left, or move away from a negative one? It all brings up so many questions! Surely it is based on a few basic questions; what is the source? What meaning does the source have? Where are we intending to go?
It reminds of the beautiful end passage in Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited', if I may quote;

'The builders did not know the uses to which their work would descend; they made a new house with the stones of the old castle; year by year, generation after generation, they enriched and extended it; year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; until, in sudden frost, came the age of Hooper; the place was desolate and the work brought to nothing; Quomodo sedet sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. And yet, that is not the last word, not even an apt word; it is a dead word from ten years back. Something quite remote from anything the builders intended, has come out of their work, and out of the fierce little human tragedy in which I played; something none of us thought about at the time; a small red flame; a beaten copper lamp of deplorable design relit before the beaten copper doors of a tabernacle; the flame which the old knights saw from their tombs, which they saw put out; the flame burns again for other soldiers. It could not have been lit but for the builders and the tragedians, and there I found it that morning, burning anew among the old stones.'

Jane Boyer: Hi Anthony,

I felt I needed to reply to you and Fiona separately because you each bring up different but certainly related points. And speaking of points, I think you are exactly right, everything depends on how we are positioned in relation to an original point, or perhaps 'event' is a better word, in the Deleuzian sense that an event represents a certain set of circumstances which allow for something rather than nothing to happen, as opposed to 'event' meaning just moments or occurrences in time. But which original and which point/event? Is it only in origins as originals or is it any significant change which presents a new position that can be called an original point? As you say there are potentially many originals contained within multiple permutations of possibilities, so how and where do we navigate and distinguish between possibilities? These are questions, I don't think I can answer. Perhaps if we knew, humans would have less struggle, aggression and anxiety. I think we can probably only work with the big ones in our experiences. It's these big ones that define our future responses, so you're right again that the past informs the future and provides the basis of our reactions and responses. It is perhaps through art that we can try out relationships to some of these originals, which may be one of the reasons art is not a verbal thing - how can you verbalise what your trying to see when you don't know your position in relation to it? It's possibly through the repetition that we start to find our position.

If these works even approach presenting some suggestions about any of these things, I'll feel well rewarded.

Anthony Boswell: Hi Jane.
I had thought later that the quote from 'Brideshead Revisited' was irrelevant, but reminding myself of the book, and the scenes from the brilliant original series with Jeremy Irons (the remake film was dreadful), I was filled by the changes taking place within and around the characters, the whole thing turning around a repetition of what is really a central theme that never went away. I thought of Fiona's comment about curating and collaborating with ourselves and we do, but with the artwork itself also. I think we all have a central theme that never goes away, sometimes, often, we loose sight of it, or only come to find it later on. My faith was mine and I can't really work without it there anymore and in regards to your comment about how to visualise what we cannot position ourselves to, this is in line with my now apophatic approach to faith and consequently, my work. At present, I am trying to understand how both visually and verbally I can give form to something that is behind and beyond all that is visible and position-less.
I think your series of 'Versions' gives a good impression of a repetition of a theme and the conversation within the circle of artwork to artwork and artist, the back and forth argument that is taking place within a dynamic of points. We can see there is a familiarity and yet individuality, new additions and reductions and removals, the continual trying to work ones way through the problem. I would imagine it possible to continue this work for a good while, with small changes taking place as the problem requires a slowing down of the inquiry, delicate questions being asked so a steady yet constructive solution is arrived at, but only at each point, because in our current situation we can only go so far in perfecting ourselves and therefore the work. We navigate our way through by this process and keeping our eye on the whole series so we can position ourselves positively so mistakes, or rather wrong turns, are not made again. No, somewhere there is the original, in whatever form it is, we are, and the task is to chip away through this difficult task to perfect it, remove the faults. I saw recently a large collection of Rodin and Henry Moore sculptures, and was very deeply aware of the depth that sculpture to this calibre can go right at the heart of working to uncover such truth.


Catherine Haley Epstein: Without knowing the background or context of the piece, the work is extremely provocative, and to me successfully shouts a sense of being stuck, of claustrophobia and of an accident. Reading more in your comments and now realizing it commemorates a central laundry service mainly staffed by women, I wondered if you had any knowledge of the feminist movement of the last 1/3 of the 20th century where slogans such as "the personal is political" was the rallying cry. It's an important turn of perspective - realizing that the personal, that which happens in private, inevitably becomes public and therefore political. This stands counter to the adage you shared that dirty laundry should not be washed in public. Inevitably dirty laundry becomes public AND political - there are really no borders, the borders are constructs we create to comfort ourselves. Thank you for the thought provoking piece!

Rodney Harris: Thank you for your comments and revealing perspective. I agree that we create borders for our own ends and which support political ideals. Apparently the richest areas of biodiversity are found in and around borders between sea and land, river and land etc. This has parallels within the edges of our societies and exploring these borders are a rich source of inspiration. Of course a brick wall is an almost permanent border, yet manipulating its surface plasticity introduces questions about its nature.
I was not aware of the feminist movements slogan - "the personal is political", of course it is true, and interestingly the laundry on show will become dirty over time supporting your statement that inevitably dirty laundry becomes public and political! It also reminds me of the Victorian idea that you should always wear clean underwear just in case you are killed and people have to remove your clothes. How shameful to be found dead, and in dirty underwear!

aldobranti fosco fornio: this work resonated with me having just scanned above Richard Hughes "The first one" -- a fist and finger emerging from a wall, so a visual similarity but saying different things -- the candle referencing a timelessness in religion, this work pointing to the eternal of the quotidian.
but the plasticity of clay, none of it truly lost by firing also presses my buttons from the first ceramics classes thro the squidginess of wet processing photographic film

Etty Yaniv: Love this work! It's precise yet open ended like a good poem. It is quite a challenge to avoid a one liner trap and be able to convey complexity in a concise way, which is both iconic and open to interpretations. In my mind, Public art is most evocative when it functions like an immediately recognizable sign mixed with an element of the unexpected, the extraordinary. Passing by your work, would make me stop, look and think about the juxtaposition between cloth and brick, mobile and stationary, soft and stiff, body and architecture, private and public and the associations go on and on. I hope I get a chance to see it in person one day.

Rodney Harris: Thank you for your comments Etty. You have referred to many of the juxtapositions that exist in the work, brick is a medium which continues to fascinate me. I like the fact that it is a common vernacular material at the lower end of the scale of materials. It is an abundant natural resource in this area and so to use it for sculpture is like using wood in a forest. Also I think it is the illusion apparent in brick relief which adds to its appeal.

Janet Curley Cannon: This is a wonderful public art piece, it will make passers-by stop and observe their surroundings, contextually working for those that remember a laundry use to be at the site and those that don't, those that like 'Art' and those that say they don't understand art. I like your comment about the 'dirtiness' that will accumulate on the work, perhaps a future performance art piece of 'washing'?. Curious to know was this a work commissioned/funded by the local council or a private commission?

Rodney Harris: Thank you Janet.
The piece was commissioned by a private company, a commercial property developer under the section 106 planning law. If you are not aware this law forces developers to include some aspect of public art or community development in their development. The local council were involved as they had to approve the work and they provided a little funding for a workshop in a local school. Its a great law and has funded a lot of public art in the UK.
I agree that the work is accessible for local people to read, hopefully its simplicity is engaging and engenders curiosity in the viewer.
Light is fundamental to how the work is seen, and how it changes over the day and seasons is one of the most interesting factors in placing artwork in the environment.
Yes is it interesting how it will weather and the laundry will get dirty over time, I will revisit the work periodically and photograph it, and a performance would be fantastic, thanks for the ideas.

Rodney Harris: Thank you for your comments.
I think it is important when making work which has a specific reason for its existence that it is able to stand alone without its history being known. Therefore there is no interpretation information at the site, it encourages passers by to enquire or think about why it is there. Any form of public art does not necessarily have to justify its existence, but if it becomes successful will determine if it survives in the long term.
Using the fabric of the building as the medium for the artwork certainly embeds it until the building is destroyed. It also gives it a permanence which is interesting to explore through an artwork. In fact the washing hanging on the line will ironically get dirty over time, it will be interesting to see how it weathers.

Robert McCubbin: I like the idea of celebrating the past use of this site with a brick relief sculpture.
The former utilitarian use and need of the building now encoded and permanently recorded for all to see. It's importance to the commumity of the time now fixed in the 'present' as a reminder of the past.

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