Category Archives: research and reflection

Reading the article on Clothing to Dye for which looks at how much water is used to dye textiles, and how the used water is the number one pollutant to the Environment, its devastating to realize the full impact its had on already marginalised people, for example in part lies in Tirupur, India,

Local dye houses have long dumped wastewater into the local river, rendering groundwater undrinkable and local farmland ruined. Despite tougher regulations, a watchful local press, and the closure of companies in non-compliance, water pollution has festered. The city’s 350,000 residents, not multinational textile companies, pay the price.

Reading on about how much more water and dye is needed to colour synthetic materials such as polyester, it makes you wonder, why anyone would want anything made out of polyester in the first place?

Synthetics textiles hold a nastier fate for the Earth, in the form of microplastics. Even after the garment has been manufactured with dye stuff and pollutants, probably made in a factory with unlivable wages, maybe by children, it is sold and worn, and continues to pollute the water every time you wash it.  Up to 1,900 plastic microfibers enters the water from one garment, every single wash.

Of course natural materials have a negative impact as well, the chemical pesticides and water needed to grow cotton for example alsongside dangerous fibers sometimes inhaled by workers, aren’t ideal, but compared to synthetics, they are a better choice.

Companies which recycle plastics into fibers and garments hoped to do good for the environment, but it looks as if they are causing more harm.

While Patagonia and other outdoor companies, like Polartec, use recycled plastic bottles as a way to conserve and reduce waste, this latest research indicates that the plastic might ultimately end up in the oceans anyway – and in a form that’s even more likely to cause problems.

There are articles writen up to 6 years ago, warning about the dangers of plastic in fish, but its far more advanced, plastic is in the water we drink, the food we each, and probably the air we breath.

Is it too late? Have we crossed the event horizon? How far does it have to go, until these mega companies actually care about the future of the earth instead of buying another super yatch?

Organic natural fibers, natural dyes, slow fashion, awareness and prevention.


Part 5 — Textiles

There are a few points in your life, when you think, I’m on the right path, I followed the correct sign post, and it has directed me to this incredible place, with a spectacular view. Reading through the projects of Part 5 — Textiles; Sustainability / Hand-made / Art based pretty much sums up what I am striving for everyday, in and outside of this course, towards my BA.

This is what I’ve been working towards this last 2.5 years, my shop, called

“The old is new again” 

Sustainability — I only use pre-loved textiles; vintage lace and trims / ethnic heirloom indigo batik and embroidered hand-woven hemp (made by Dao and H’mong women) / embroidered table clothes & napkins — the only fabric I use that is new is GOTS certified 100% Organic cotton, un-bleached and natural.

Hand-made — I try and make as much as I can myself, although I have a tailor, Hoa and her mother, to help me with some tailored shirts and to replicate original Victorian garments, such as bloomers, nighties, corset covers, and dresses. I have not got the 50 years of experience these women have on a machine, they are incredible.

I make all of the one of a kind pieces, blouses, tops and boro inspired skirts.

Art based design — Using fabric paints, I delicately re-create Kilburn and Morris inspired floral designs on tops and dresses, using traditional Brush Painting techniques, originating in Japan and China, using the same brushes, which I have practiced since 2002.

The Story behind my work — (copied from my website)

« 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 want to find the cross roads between art and design, to make more than something you hang on your wall, to integrate it with slow fashion/design movements, to improve with every piece I make, with the help of this course, I hope to look further into how I can progress, and perhaps sell enough pieces to make a living as a working artist/designer… that is the dream, right?


Reflections on Part 4 — Photography

Part 4, photography, gave me a chance to explore my love for this medium, and better understand why a photography isn’t considered Art, a topic I’m sure I won’t let go of, but will revisit. There were many challenges I found when researching, then writing about photographers work, as I felt like the bodies of work, such as a photo book, hold more truth, than one photograph, and without having that book in front of me, the pictures on the screen felt temporary.  It’s tricky discussing what you think of a photograph without knowing the larger context. There were many photographers mentioned, some blurred into each other, many whose work I didn’t resonate with, such as the land artist, self burial, and the first woman on the moon.

The portion of Part 4 which I loved, was looking at the photography of Robert Frank, Alec Soth, and Paul Graham, on documenting journeys. I realize this is only an introduction to photography, but I thought it a shame photojournalism wasn’t touched upon, and would have been a far more interesting subject, than say, landscape photography. I did find new photographers such as Mitch Epstein, whose work powerfully portrayed a sense of place, capturing remarkable details in India and Vietnam.

I felt inspired to research photo labs in HCM, and found a tiny little shop, full of young budding Vietnamese photographers who sell and develop film. We have two amazing film cameras, an automatic Yashica T4, with a Tesser lense, and a Contax. I have taken a few landscape photographs for project 3, and took inspiration from Bernd & Hilla Bercher’s water towers, although mine are not of industrial buildings, I do love the precision of framing/distance/lighting in reproducing like images in a grid. Will have to wait for the photographs to be developed.

I have tried to tie photography with other creative projects, such as my clothing I make and paint, and even got a model to help. Being inspired by the light and colour of Vanitas paintings, here a few pictures from the photo shoot.

Photography is an essential tool to any creative practice, as it documents and shares work to a larger audience, whether online, in a magazine, or a book. Without it, geographically speaking, it would be almost impossible to view the work otherwise.

It’s important not to view a camera as simply a tool, because the same elements of art apply when framing, lighting, lines, compositon/balance, texture, line, perspective, and form, are paramount.

Photography is a form of self expression, the way each of us see the world around us, what stands out, the smallest detail, the larger picture, do we see linearly, or directly. Do we have a personal relationship with a place that no one else can see, or does a photograph of someone you love, in that second, remind you of what you thought in that moment?

I really enjoyed researching an writing about Louise Lawler’s work, a modest feminist who has taught me to stand to the side of arts influence, never letting the ego of an artist work depicts it’s importance, but instead ask the questions no one is asking.

I will continue to take photographs and update my learning log until the end of this course, and always photography as a tool of self expression, to show the ways I see.

Thoughts about Louise Lawler

When I first was looking for an artist to write about for assignment 4, I wanted to find someone who was a photographer first, to question again what makes an artist, their medium (tool) or them, themself? I was put off that we were not asked to write about a photographer, but instead write about an artist who uses art as a tool for creativity.

After some research I came upon the “Picture Generation” and in particular a women artists, whose work explores the way we see art, questioning art itself, as well as the institution, and those involved, which at the time of the 80’s was male heavy.

Louise Lawler came into the lime light with her ambiguous photographs of famous art works, paying more credit to their surrounding, than to their content. The context of how we see them, frames differently with walls, or floors or homes as the borders, instead of a perfect rectangle/square postcard which we normally see them.

Her titles hold equal importance, which she seems to be talking back to the viewer, asking us to question everything.

She made it as a women photographer, but I wonder if, if she didn’t have the access to these homes, because of her artists friends, would her photographs be still considered art, if they didn’t hold important art works as their subject?

She is well known for collaborating with many artist, and has not held a solo exhibition in New York until now.  Is she extremely modest, or has she relied of the work of others to bring her photography up to the high brow status to be accepted as one a women artist, and two, a women artist who has used photography as her main tool of creativity.

I do not believe she intentional thought this, again, I believe it’s the institution of art who only allowed Louise to flourish because of her subject matter, which at the beginning, was cleverly taking the piss out of the art world, and the men (who were her friends) involved.

Of course not all her work includes feminism and art, she goes on to explore more modern-day questions such as war and politics no drones, war is terror, grieving mothers.

The reconstituting of images is really where he strengths are. She has inspired so many artists to re-think the typical gallery images and challenge ways of presenting work.

While researching Lawler, I was inspired by her photograph of Warhol’s round Marilyn.

Louise Lawler, Does Marilyn Monroe Make You Cry?, photograph in “America Is Hard to See,” Whitney Museum

This photograph was taken by Lawler at Sotheby’s auction house, with the auction card/price tag next to the piece. I’m not sure if it’s message about buying/selling art, the cost of art, or simply the title, Does Marilyn Monroe make you cry?

At Lawler’s new exhibition at MoMA, WHY ART NOW, she replicate the same photograph (which is in turn the same size at the original round Marilyn) on the opposite side of the room, with the title “Does Andy Warhol make you cry?”


In the fashion and inspiration of Lawler, here is my take on her photograph, by taking picture of her Warhol being sold by Sotheby’s, again Lawler’s photograph (which is under copyright) being auctioned again – lots sold at twice the expected amount!

No image available, sold to the highest bidder.

Here is another photograph of my computer screen of an auction of shoes, which the title “New Shoes, blue shoes, red and pink shoes, tell me what would you choose if you were to buy” #5 of a limited edition

Expensive red shoes

Here is another photograph of my computer screen, looking at an image on the New Yorker’s website about Lawler’s photograph of Warhol’s priceless screen prints, sitting on the floor. I really loved the colours of key board and pop art.

Keyboard and Pop Art

Notes on Louise Lawler — Assignment 4

New exhibition is called “Why Pictures Now” – was an early title for a photograph she took in 1981 of a matchbox in an ashtray with the title writen on it

  • NOW -present moment
  • PICTURES Louise came from the “Pictures Generation” – Artist Space (still and moving images and appropriation to reveal function of represention)
  • Why – always questioning
  • Digital vs film – Image and pictures are now different – what happens to pictures in a digital age?
  • challenges retrospective impulse
  • reformating her own images (original photographs)
  • questioning the viewers relationship with the image
  • re-appropriating her images
  • looking at ART as the subject – pictures about pictures
  • interrogating where art is place/location/ where it is seen – as a subject
  • how one medium interpretes each other
  • ex. Jasper Jones – monogram bed sheets denotes class + taste (his art resists the notions of taste as an artist) –
  • how museums auction houses place the work in context of presentation, history of how it is received
  • considers a larger content – history of reception
  • how individuals relate to the perticular of the work – eye of the beholder
  • using identical images with different titles – asking the viewer how they feel – ex. Warhols round Marilyn. “Does Marilyn/Warhol make you cry”?
  • criticises the art world – in a humorous way / witty/ sly feminist work of ‘Bird calls’ – twitters names — male patrionic artist of the time.
  • modest – Lawler resisted a solo exhibition until now
  • feminist/political/anti war values – no drones, war is terror, greiving mothers
  • uses microscopic to monumental scaled to fit – willfully distorting – deconstruction s
  • twisted photogragh ” Pollyanna adjusted to fit – distorted for times – alternative facts discourse – post truth era, to fit the reality in which we live.
  • concise images – beautifully constructed
  • how lighting can distort the work / how casual art work on the floor, oppose to hanging on the wall makes us feel different
  • aesthetics of presentation and image – highly visually exciting
  • generosity towards other artists – always incorperating others into her work
  • has a direct dialogue with her photographs – reinventing them with tracings mechanical reproduction
  • the importance of the arrangement of pictures
  • multi voiceness – resonated, one or others speak together at the same time
  • Lawler talks back at you
  • reciprocated titles
  • feminist viewpoints – how we value what we see ex bird calls
  • corresponding reality – confirm, realised and released
  • “emotion of freedom” R.H.Q
  • slight shift of focus
  • change of vision – EGO POWER of a famous painting (regarding male artists of the time “Standing to the side of its circuit of influence” R.H Quaytman
  • “But does anyone know anything by comparison” L.L.
  • “Art world is a hallucination” R.H Quaytman
  • Commercial art / institutional context
  • “Human life – it’s all about the different – un-particular” L.L

Next we explore to what extent photography is neccesary in Lawlers work, the message Lawler is trying to convey, the relationship between the creative aspects of her work, relating in back to the themes time and place.

Research point — the New Topographics

Humans vs Nature

Documenting Landscapes through photography TIME/PLACE…

The American landscapes seen through the lenses of Gohlke, Robert Adams, Stephen Shore, Lewis Baltz and Nicholas Nixon shows us the beginning of change, which now looks trivial in comparison to what these places captured from the 70’s, look today.

William Jenkins, curator of a group show of American landscape, would have foreseen these images as just the beginning, knowing they would hold much value in the details they’d present in the future.  A man altered landscape which now, unfathomable, was once nature, desert, forests.

I am reminded by this where I live in HCM, a little branch of the city, which was once mangrove forests, swap land, palms and rivers. There was a similar area, just down the road, which is now sub-divided into plots for high rises. The streets are unfamiliar, only after 4 months, the dirt lanes are not pot hole ridden memories of the old route into town.

These mangrove plants were alive and well just last week, and now it’s like a grave yard of plants

I now wish I had taken more photographs to document the quick changes and expansion of concrete and infrastructure. I have a friend who has lived here for 13 years, and tells me when the area was full of villages, similar to the Mekong delta, where you could row through the waterways, sharing them with water buffalo.

I really enjoyed Mitch Epstein’s series on Vietnam, and although it was shot in the 90’s, it looks as though it was the 60’s, demonstrating, how still today, they seem to be decades behind (which is painful listening to 90’s hits such as Celine Dion, and Brian Adams).

I also really enjoyed Epstein’s series on tree in New York, which is a real comment on human’s relationship with trees, they almost take on a life of their own, the grandeur overshadowing any tiny, insignificant person.

Fay Godwin’s “Our Forbidden Land” is a beautifully shot series, acknowloging the fact that there is so much nature which is cut off from humans, fences keeping you away from views, landowners with shot guns, and gates with “KEEP OFF’ signs. Are we only allowed in parks? Why are we restircted, what harms does walking do, enjoying the world around us.  Sure there are publc bridal ways, but why there are so much we cannot see.

Any photo work which documents the past, gains value year after year. These ideas which look at humans relationship with the environment, will only become more relevent with global warming, big companies, polution, urban sprawl, and continued consumption, and discarding.

Looking at Assignment four

As a lover of photography, I’d be lying if it didn’t get my back up that the topic of the essay was to find an artist who uses photography as A PART of their art. This module is about photography, so I did find it odd how it’s been dismissed as a form entirely.  The merits of this medium have been discussed throughout Part 4, looking at the digital world and how it has diluted a once mechanical medium, which was taken more seriously, was tangible, and perhaps better respected.

Present day realities of instagram and photobooks published by Beckham’s son, no wonder no one wants to call photography “art” anymore. The subjects are becoming mundane and one side or overly uncensored on the other, either shocking or average.

However, looking back….

The romantic age of the 70’s & 80’s, when Andy Warhol ran out of film one evening at a party, and Louise Lawler had an extra, which in turn he sent her a signed poster. When words held weight equally to their art or photograph, when women artists we’re finding their voice and taking the piss on the patriarchal unbalance of the Art world around them, when artists would contribute to each others work, by conglomerating ideas, and putting each other on their shoulders.  This was the Picture Generation.

Deriving their images from photographic sources, their philosophic underpinnings from the French Deconstructionists and their attitudes towards presentation from commercial and corporate campaigns, the Pictures artists ascended the heights of art world stardom in short order. Their assimilation of the mass media and use of nontraditional means is a prime influence on todays New Media. James Kalm

I wanted to find an artist who was firstly a photographer, not an artists who simply used photography as a tool. I wanted to make a point, that a photographer with enough vision, is already an artist, and their photograph worthy of the pretentious title of art.

I found this in the artist mentioned about Louise Lawler.

I really, really admire this woman, the more I research her work, the more layers peel away to reveal a modest, funny, feminist who speaks of worthy causes, politics, war, institutional art, by using photography as her voice.

She recreates her photographs from microscopic to monumental while capturing concise images which are clear and real.

She didn’t call herself an artist for years, and constantly challenged the ideas of how we see art, where is is located as well as it’s place considered a larger context.

I am constantly reminded of Jon Berger’s novel “Way’s of seeing” with I will revisit during the writing of this essay.

MoMA says this about Lawler’s work:

Lawler evokes critical theories of reception, acknowledging that the meaning of an artwork shifts and morphs depending on who looks at it and the context of its display.


Room 4: Myth/History pg 98-99 looks at photographer Rodney Graham’s work called Aberdeen where he pays tribute to Kurt Cobain by going to his home town.

I’ve been looking at the idea of the pilgrimage of people going to a sacred place, be it religious or non-religious centers which could be considered tourist spots.

This idea intrigues me, and is touched upon in Neil Gaimon’s book “American Gods.”

There is an odd obsession with small towns in North America to erect monuments, or road side attractions, which people stop at on their journey, or perhaps, congregate to. Whereas in the past these would have been sacred places, they are now odd examples of a way to make a buck. Someplace so dull has transformed itself into a destination, or a tourist spot.

Here are some examples:


Here’s Wednesday (Oden from American God’s) take on House on the Rock:

“This is a roadside attraction,” said Wednesday. “One of the finest. Which means it is a place of power.”

“Come again?”

“It’s perfectly simple,” said Wednesday. “In other countries, over the years, people recognized the places of power. Sometimes it would be a natural formation, sometimes it would just be a place that was, somehow, special. They knew that something important was happening there, that there was some focusing point, some channel, some window to the Immanent. And so they would build temples or cathedrals, or erect stone circles, or…well, you get the idea.”


“[I]n the USA, people still get the call, or some of them, and they feel themselves being called to from the transcendent void, and they respond to it by building a model out of beer bottles of somewhere they’ve never visited, or by erecting a gigantic bat house in some part of the country that bats have traditionally declined to visit. Roadside attractions: people feel themselves being pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and buy a hot dog and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.”


House on the Rock

Tourism and photography go hand in hand, and is an interesting coversation about place and journeys, spirituality and modern values. To be honest I enjoy all of these attractions, and think they are a great way for a small town to be remembered, which would have othewise be just a dot on the map, passed by and forgotton.

I think that’s what photography does best, it remembers.

Research Point — Documenting photographs through time and space.

Photographic journey which documents time and/or space are specific to photo journalism, journalists too many to name, but one stands out being in Vietnam,  Tim Page. Although some may not consider this art, I beg to dispute this, for art makes you feel, evaluate and question, this is what Tim Page’s work does.

Photographer Tim Page (CORBIS, 1968). 

I went to the War remenants museum in Ho Chi Minh a few months ago, and spent the whole time watching a video on Tim Page, his photographs, but also his commitment in life, devoted to help those caught in the wake of the war, 40 years on, you are still suffering from Agent Orange. His whole life is one based on spreading awareness, in hopes for change.

I believe photo journalism does a job in Art, that no other medium can do, and that is to tell the world, in graphic images, the undeniable truths of what’s happening around the world.

If art is not about viewing the world through different lenses of the creator in hope to change peoples perception, than I don’t know what else to call it. I don’t think art’s purpose is to pretty, it’s to bring up otherwise the unmentionable, to question everything. Until we see something that shifts our beliefs, we continue to believe what’s comforting, that’s human nature.  All those lives lost in the Vietnamese war, perhaps many forgotten, but some will be seen forever in the form of photographs, powerful portrayed, to remind us, and future generations, the horrors of war.