Category Archives: research and reflection

It’s all about time…

Ha!  This is the second time I’ve had to write this blog post… somehow two small kittens who love a keyboard, deleted the last one..



Let me start again…

I am very fortunate to have a husband who loves photography and has an extensive collection of photobooks, including The Photographer’s Eye by John Szarkowski MOMA–mentioned previously in part 4.

It’s a wonderful straight forward book which divides the content into 5 parts; The Thing Itself, The Detail, The Frame, Time and Vantage Point.

Of course I was draw to the section on time, which I wanted to reflect on the word “PICTURE.”

… because the image became, for an instance, a picture.

Pictures, what connotation does this word hold and how has it changed over the years, for different generations?

For me, I’d refer to photographs as pictures, or the phrase, “take the picture,” for older generations they may think about going to the pictures, the moving pictures.

It could pertain to the idea to draw a picture of paint a picture, but I wouldn’t refer to a drawing or painting as a picture.

Today generation with camera phones may refer to it as an image, a digital image.  The word picture and image feel different to be.  Image is more superficial as a picture feels like a tangible thing, something you can hold in your hand.

Of course the word photograph is synonymous with both, but I can’t help to think that we go see movies instead of films, and that the process of the medium holds more value that the tool.

William Henry Fox Talbot’s ” The Pencil of Nature” is an apt name of the first beginnings of photography, although I feel like it was chemistry, more than nature, trying to find the right concoction.

When I think about the idea of photography being an art, from the beginning, I tend to agree.  For me, it’s all about finding solutions to problems, so we can witness the world in different ways.

Anna Atkins, a bit late than Talbot, produced the first photo book, using the “photogenic drawing” technique (in which an object is placed on light-sensitized paper which is exposed to the sun to produce an image)– this feels a bit more like drawing by nature, using the sun, and plants.

Public Domain,

I’m not entirely sure why it’s taken me a bit of time to start this new unit.  My husband has shelves of photo books, it’s ridiculous, he keeps taking new ones down and handing them to me, I have a stack to look through next to my bed and have started to read a few of them.  Like any realm of art, it’s daunting the magnitude of information available to one self.

Since going through the course outline months ago, I have planning on doing a photo essay here in Thao Dien, a small expats community 4 miles outside the city, on barbed wire.  Every time I go past certain houses, I make a mental note on how they look at certain times of day, and contemplate what will happen if I set up a tri-pod and direct a camera straight into the surveillance cameras.

With everything I do on this course, I hope to incorporate into my everyday life, and into my own practice.  I need to take picture of my clothing so I will do so in a creative manner, taking inspiration from the Vanitas paintings we looked at a the wee beginnings of the CAT course. Thinking natural light, and a dark, dark background, with objects in the background representing the passing of time, a clock, some plastic flowers, books, and maybe something new.

I am looking forward to diving further into the ideas of time and place, which I believe photography epitomizes.

CAT 3 Assignment report 514783


Here is Carla’s report on my essay for Part 3.

Here are some questions she asked–

Regarding the original image by Hokusai, do you know how many prints were made from the original woodcut?

It’s estimated that 5000 to 8000 prints were made 

Though thousands were printed, it’s estimated only hundreds of The Great Wave off Kanagawa remain.

Where was it first shown?

likely printed between 1829 and 1832 – When this print was first produced it cost just a bit more to buy than a double helping of Soba noodles.

In 1859, a wave of Japanese prints flowed across Europe, winning adoration from the likes of Vincent Van Gogh, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and Claude Monet.

Is some of the symbolism reliant on an understanding of Japanese culture at the time, and how might those symbols (specifically Mount Fuji, the wave and the specific type of boat) be interpreted differently by today’s audience in other parts of the world?

Mount Fuji is considered sacred by many and has inspired a literal cult following.

This particular rogue wave can actually be measured thanks to the three fishing boats (oshiokuri-bune). Cartwright and Nakamura used their known size to determine The Great Wave off Kanagawa is roughly 32 to 39 feet tall.

Does this highlight any possible changes in interpretation or approach to visual communications over time and place?

The view on Art has changed – over time and place in Japan compared to today’s quick art, impermanence, and visual screen culture. The flow of information and vision is so quick, it looses much of its meaning.

Christine Guth, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London said

“Within Japan, woodblock prints weren’t seen as art, they were seen as a popular form of expression and commercial printing.”

Once used for Buddhist text, woodblock prints had become synonymous with illustrations for poems and romance novels. So, Japan’s government officials and art historians were less than thrilled that such a seemingly lowbrow art form had come to define them. 


Some of the points you make that are missing from the essay are:

• The importance of Mount Fuji in terms of providing a sense of scale/distance, as
well as the significance in Japanese culture.

I mentioned in my essay that Mount Fuji was the center grounding point in the composition– because of its importance.  I failed to mention that the great wave has become the most famous of his series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.

The mountain has always been considered sacred and some of the original purchasers of the print, ordinary townspeople, were believers in the so-called ‘Fuji cult’. They periodically made group pilgrimages to climb the mountain; although only men were allowed to go all the way to the top.

Mt Fuji is by far the highest mountain in Japan, but in Hokusai’s print it is relegated to the far distance and dwarfed by the gigantic wave in the foreground. The spray from the wave starts to look like snow falling onto the peak of the mountain, a visual joke.
• Details about the types of boats and the cultural significance of these

Fishing boats? Not sure what cultural significance, other than I mentioned their fragility/ man-made
• Commentary from other writers about the images (it can be helpful to include
quotes within the essay to support your own arguments)

Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem,  “The Mountain,”

The Mountain

Six and thirty times and hundred times
the painter tried to capture the mountain,
tore it up, then pushed on again
(six and thirty times and hundred times)

to the incomprehensible volcanoes,
blissful, full of temptation, without counsel,—
while the outlines of his glory
went on without coming to an end:

Fading a thousand times out of all the days,
nights without comparison from which
dropped, as if they were all too small;
each image at the moment it was needed,
increasing from figure to figure,
not partaking and far and without viewpoint—,
then suddenly knowing, as in a vision,
lifting itself up behind every crevice.

*Rilke revered Hokusai perseverance to capture just the perfect image on Mt.Fuji.

• You often talk of the perfection of composition, but it would be helpful to include a
little more detail about this in your analysis

Perhaps looking at traditional values of Japanese aesthetics such as rule of thirds, asymmetry, balance, harmony, movement.etc


A History of the world, BBC, [1-8-17]

15 Things you may not know about the great wave, Mental Floss, available at [1-8-17]

How to start again?

Creative block? Energy, or lack of? Inspiration crash? Heavy? Motivation destroyed?

These are all of the things I’ve been facing these last few weeks or is it a month.

I was on track, I had a black board with check and ticks– I woke up, I worked, without fail, I felt good about myself, like I was achieving something, getting somewhere…

What happened?  I got a job teaching art at an international school, summer school program, which I loved!  It was incredibly challenging, but somewhat not fulfilling, trying to get Vietnamese students excited about creating, most who couldn’t use scissors at 10 years old because they have never had to use their hands, a nanny probably fed them, and wiped their ass, and dressed them.  I felt sorry for their under developed muscles in their hands, and understood their frustration– they do not know how to be creative, and it leads to misbehaving. Challenges are not risen to, but discarded, it’s sad.

But that wasn’t it. I loved teaching.  The second week in I got a horrible cold, the one you get may every 3 years the type that renders you close to useless. .. but I was ok with that, it’s life, it happens.

I was so excited, I had enrolled on a pattern making course at a Fashion academy in HCM.  It was in such a beautiful, old building, very clean, everything was a shade of turquoise, with an open center, curved concrete.  The studio space was nice, but a bit odd, with an opulent stand alone bath tube next to a mirror? For photo shoots? Us students a bit bewildered looked around, with no direction from the “lecturer” he was so-called, not even a greeting, we all scramble around a projector, with an image of a mannequin, and basic measurement.

The “lecturer” started asking redundant questions, when any of us tried to answer them, his response was, I don’t know? Was he being clever? Hardly.  With no introduction of himself, the course, the school, he showed us quickly how to use fabric to take a bodice measurement and transfer that to paper. He then sat on his computer. When we asked question he’d just come around a say “wrong, wrong, wrong…” without correcting, then told us to do it over and over again, until we could finish it in 5 minutes. Then he left, didn’t say goodbye, didn’t tell us what to do next, he just wasn’t there.

Is this what Vietnamese think is teaching? It was an arrogant display of someone who surely thought of himself better than everyone else. This really got to me.. why do people who are in the “Fashion Industry” think themselves better than the makers. He couldn’t sew, he just designs, and his designs were rubbish. He kept using the word Vintage, his designs were Vintage.. what? They were simple… What is wrong with people in this city I live in?  I’m dying for someone I can learn from, without a massive ego… it’s so frustrating, how shallow the scene is here.  It totally revolves around money, the art scene is the same.  Having money here puts people on a pedestal more than anywhere I have ever witnessed.

So yah, I guess that’s where it started, it really made me question, and made me want to start an anti-fashion label, celebrating tradition and the hand-made, the makers. (kind of already doing that).

There is so much beauty in everyday people, in the street life, in the children, in the simplistic. I’m happy living here, until I try to socialize, meet people, go to exhibition openings.. sometimes they are amazing, but a lot of the time I am left feeling a bit confused and empty.  Maybe if I hadn’t lived in Brighton for a decade, and witnessed Hackney Wick in its day, or visited the Photographers gallery religiously, or sought out installations in South London, or walked casually into a Ai Wei Wei  bit in the turbine hall, or could see anyone of my many talented friends sing in the local pub, then maybe I’d feel differently.  But I don’t.  The longer I live here, the more I feel like I am missing out on the rest of what’s going on in the world (London).

Sure, there are art galleries, but they are of the quality of perhaps a degree show, at best.  There have been a few really lovely exceptions, but on a whole, I feel uninspired.

I must get back on the horse, I need to find my spirit again, I need to fight past the demons that are holding me back, I need to carry on being rubbish at things, until one day, I find, all that trying, and practicing, has paid off, and I actually feel good about what I am creating.

Stupid brain… wake up please.

Visual communication

So, I’ve re-branded, again…  I must really enjoy creating an identity for my creativity through words and images, or I wouldn’t spend so much time doing it.

I wanted to call my new textile range, Pussy Willow co. because it sounds sassy, but innocent at the same time. And although I will still use it for a collection of women’s clothing, I’ve come back to my original name, I started almost 3 years ago, The old is new again.  Here is the back story:

« Perhaps you’ve come to tell us, don’t forget, the old is new again, each birth enriching aged ol’ earth. »

– by Richard Work,
from his poem “To Five Day Old Alyssa Jeanne,
from her grandfather whom she hasn’t seen”

These words have stuck with me through the years, in everything I have done, the decisions I have made, the friends I have loved, and my appreciation for the old.

To me it means everything that has come before, should be cherished and remembered; ancestry, heirlooms, books, suitcases, songs,typewriters, letters, paintings,textiles, crockery, photographs. They hold the key to the past, when people past down skills from generation to generation, when objects were artfully crafted with such detail and care, never thrown out, like sadly, many things are today.

We are so quick to look forward, we forget to look back.

Like the sharing of folk songs, or following a family recipe, this world is so full of past beauty we need to share and bring into the present.

We need to create to keep our spirits alive, a bit of ourselves to be remembered by future generations, leaving something behind by sharing it.

I was going through some old books I have, and there was this illustration of a dandelion seed…

called Winged seed – I LOVED THAT… and although I’d probably be inclined to again change my name, I saw the dandelion in another light. It’s an incredible plant, although most people see it as a weed. The medicinal properties of the whole plant are remarkable see here.

There is also a beautiful circle of life, you can visually see, from the yellow flower, the budding fluff, and blooming sphere of winged seeds..

Sun and the moon || male and female

Also brings up childhood feeling of making a wish.

So here’s what I’ve come up with:

the old is new again(4)The Old is new Again(3)

Any comments happily received …  x

Gallery visit – Salon Saigon

Salon Saigon opened November last year. It feels like I’ve walked into a secret society. I’ve been wanting to come here for months now, but because it’s only open to the public on Tuesdays, I’ve always forgot to come round.

Salon Saigon is located in one of the 3 houses belonging to the US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr (1902-1985). It has been lovingly restored to house contemporary Vietnamese Art. Because it is a private house, and not a public gallery, they can afford to show worked banned by the Vietnamese government.

Salon Saigon main floor

To the right of the above photograph is a bookcase housing which would be considered illegal books, as they are written by Vietnamese or international authors, they have not been censored.

“Gay” artwork seen as obscene, artist has been banned to paint in Vietnam
Nguyen Manh Hung

The above painting is a good example how contemporary Vietnamese artist use symbolism to communicate ideas and opinions, without being seen.  Nguyen Manh Hung demonstrates how the speed of technology has surpassed the underlying political climate. The bright lights of cars and a jumbo jet, set the background to a traditional guard from the Nguyen dynasty in Hue, holding the lead of a snail, which represents the government.

Salon Saigon is a breath of fresh air, with this, and more galleries being established in HCM, it feels like the art scene is beginning to surface, and exceed my pre-conceive notions I had about the city, when I first moved here 2014.  What I considered juvenile, has now become mature, holding a context that’s not all together financial as I originally thought, it’s becoming a voice for creative Vietnamese to be heard, in a country where freedom of such rights, do not exist.

Does language shape the way we perceive the world?

Since reflecting on my tutors comments on Part 2, I wanted to review some of the initials ideas I explored in various assignments, adding to my research and reflections (which was a bit thin).

One aspect Carla brought up, was on the printing press and the distribution of the Guttenberg Bible, one of the first books to be printed and mass-produced.  The question I had asked, but couldn’t find any proof of, what “how much has the Bible changed, since it was first written and during the time of Jesus (new and old testaments)?”

I did some research, and most sites I found were pro the existence of God and other church websites.  I didn’t find any academic papers to verify anything.  Lucky for me, my friend Matt, who is staying with us at the moment, is a scholar who studied in Jerusalem, and writes and read in ancient Aramaic. He is also gay, which wouldn’t matter, other than, one of the reasons he decided to study the ancient scrolls, was to find answers about how the church views same sex relationships.  His father is a pastor and was raised in an ultra religious fashion, it was a long time until he came out, but always felt so wrong being gay.

I asked him how much has the words changed in today’s or the Guttenberg Bible since the dead sea scrolls.  He said to my surprise, very little. The sect of Jews who were in charge of re-writing the scriptures did so in a very careful and sacred manner, being careful with every word.

It turns out I’ve been asking the wrong question.  I should ask, how has the TRANSLATION changed the original meaning?  Yes, that is a much better question.  The answer is, a lot.  For example, did you know there were Unicorns the Bible? The original translators didn’t know the word for an animal, so they called it a Unicorn.  So, if there are Unicorns in the Bible, what else has been translated differently.

As far as homosexuality is concerned, back in the day, when battles and war were common place,  some soldiers after battle, to show their dominance, would rape the men they fought against.  The Bible condemns this act, but perhaps it was misinterpreted as condemning sex between two men in any context?

There is also a question to whether temple prostitution has been misconstrued to support anti-gay and anti- lesbian opinions.

I found this on the Gay Christian 101 site after Matt told me about this

“In the extensive reading and research I’ve done on Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, no scholar I have read presents any biblical cultural doctrinal historical linguistic or religious proof that 1450 BC Israel had a problem with gay men and lesbians. As you will see in the quotes from conservative anti-gay scholars on this page, all of the evidence points to the truth that ancient Israel had a problem with shrine prostitution and shrine prostitutes and their pagan sexual worship of false gods.”

Translating languages has a far greater chance of misinterpreting truth and intentions, than mass producing words through the technological advancement of printing.

There is a myth that went the first explorers came to Australia, they pointed at a Kangaroo, and the aborigines said “kangaroo” which was later discover meant “I don’t know”.

This isn’t of course true, but it does highlight how easily language can be misinterpreted, not only meanings, but also intentions, and cultural difference. Body language also differs from nationalities, for example, what I thought meant maybe, a open palm giration of the hand side to side, means definitely NO in Vietnam.  As well as how you call someone over, I have waved at someone before, but made the downward hand-jester, which means, come hither, we were both quite confused.

Another question to ask is how does language shape the world we see?  An essay written by Lera Boroditsky explores this idea by looking at directions different cultures see time.  Latin based languages which are read left to right, see time moving in that direction, the same is with middle eastern language which read right to left, see time passing in the direction.  Lera looked at aboriginal communities whose language in based on environment location, north-east-south-west.  They saw time moving depending on what direction they were facing. Another interesting experiment was looking at different languages which uses genres.  Germain and Spanish languages attribute different male or female grammar to objects, for example a bridge is female in Spanish and male in German.  When each were asked to describe a bridge, the Germans said it was “hard,” “heavy,” “jagged,” “metal,” “serrated,” and “useful,” whereas Spanish speakers were more likely to say “golden,” “intricate,” “little,” “lovely,” “shiny,” and “tiny.”

Lera also says this when looking at art, which I thought was really interesting.

“In fact, you don’t even need to go into the lab to see these effects of language; you can see them with your own eyes in an art gallery. Look at some famous examples of personification in art — the ways in which abstract entities such as death, sin, victory, or time are given human form. How does an artist decide whether death, say, or time should be painted as a man or a woman? It turns out that in 85 percent of such personifications, whether a male or female figure is chosen is predicted by the grammatical gender of the word in the artist’s native language. So, for example, German painters are more likely to paint death as a man, whereas Russian painters are more likely to paint death as a woman”.

Lera Boroditsky, Edge, available at [10-5-17]

Part 2 – Reflections Tutor’s notes

CAT 2 Assignment report

Key points for improvement from Carla.

-it might be interesting to include some side research on your blog about the influence Wuthering Heights has had on other artists:

I Haven’t found any good sources on this

 -Have you been able to find any other writers’ responses to this text ( The Glass Essay) ?
Helen Rickerby writes:
“Some of the reasons why I love The Glass Essay so much are: the way the narrator’s story interviews so gorgeously with the life and work of Emily Bronte; the beautiful, spare language; the control the occasional wry trip of humour; the fact that it’s sometimes poetry-as-literary-criticism.”
Helen Riberby, Winged Ink, available at: [20-4-17].
Nicole writes
“All this is mixed in with anecdotes and musings on Emily Brontë, a woman with powerful emotions and plenty of sexual energy in her work, though she apparently knew nothing of men and hardly anything even of people outside her own family.”
Nicole, Bibliographing, available at [20-4-17].

-Be careful of minor typos in your blog



-This is a topic (the bible) which has been widely researched, and would be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your point with an example.

I can find evidence that the invention of the printing press spread the word of Christ, further, and quicker, but I cannot find any interesting research about how the bible could have changed over-time to suit men or the church’s politics/views/discrimination/rights of women,gays etc… of the time.  This is perhaps more of a question, instead of a fact to be supported with research.  I will ask my friend who is fluent in ancient Aramaic.


-greater exploration of work by other practitioners and some more detailed research on the topics that interest you.
Yes, indeed
-As you have identified, research is a little lacking in your work for this part of the course, and I would recommend revisiting this at some point when you have time.
I’d like to do more research into how languages shape the way different nationalities view the world and what effect vocabulary has in human action and emotions.
I have done a lot of research when choosing the close reading work, but I didn’t write a blog post about this… in fact this is true in so many ways, I do a lot of work that I don’t blog about.  I need to improve on this.

Hannah Höch, my new hero

Germany, 1919, the rise of the Hitler and also the Dada movement.  At a time when men not only ruled the lands, the people, the law, but also ruled the arts movement, Hoch’s art was born.  How she even made it into the Dada movement is incredible, but the fact that she pioneered collage, and was perhaps the first photomontagist, is remarkable.  A less known feminist who tore apart the social norms of the time through the deconstruction of photographs. Hoch created art that not only challenged the authority of men, but also of race, body image, and politics.  Hoch’s work speaks in volumes, in time when being an artist, let alone a woman artist, was dangerous.

Perhaps one of the first feminist artists, here is a quote from her is taken from a short story she wrote called the Painter in 1920, after Höch’s affair with Raoul Hausmann (Dada artist)

“an artist who is thrown into an intense spiritual crisis when his wife asks him to do the dishes.”

It is true today, as it was yesterday.  Feminism isn’t just on the streets, it is in the home, and in all the rolls we play in life.

A lot of her collage work uses women’s bodies taken from popular women’s magazines which depict what a “modern women” should look like.  She questioned  this by fusing men and women’s bodies together, creating androgynous images. Perhaps she was also a first LGBT activist.

She question race in the same way with her work called From an Ethnographic Museum (1929), where she fuses black African male bodies with those of white women.

Other political art included Heads of State, 1920, a collage consisting on a photograph of German president Friedrich Ebert and his defence minister Gustav Noske, pictured in their bathing trunks at a Baltic resort.  Hoch transposed these images onto a background of embroidered flowers and parasols, stripping them of their authoritative uniforms, taking away all sence of respect.

The thing that stricks me most about Hoch’s work, it’s not so much the content, or ideas, but the time and place at which they were developed, in 1920’s Germany.  She was fearless, strong, intelligent, and far ahead of her time. She paved the way for other artists such as Cindy Sherman and Martha Rosler.  Brian Gillon, from the Guardian, called Hoch, art’s original PUNK, but her art was also beautiful… Like this collage called Little Sun…  I’m not sure what the driving forces behind it, but I love this image.

The Guardian, Brian Gillon : Available at [April 18’17]

Makela, Maria (1997). von Ankum, Katharina, ed. Women in the Metropolis: Gender and Modernity in Weimar Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 119–121.

Jolles, Adam (2006). “The Tactile Turn: Envisioning a Postcolonial Aesthetic in France”. Yale French Studies (109): 21–22.

Little sun by Hannah Hock Artsy available at: [April 18’17]