I am a visual artist based in Cambridge, UK.
Image-making is my way of living, experiencing life and discovering new ways of looking at the world around me. Some of my work is political. Some emotionally dark. Other more ‘human’ work aims to help myself and others laugh and ‘look on the bright side of life’.
I work in a range of media. The basis is generally photography or sketching and painting from life in natural media or on my iPad. These images may then be collaged as the narrative basis for further development in different drawing, painting or printmaking media, digital software or animation. Some of my work is more experimental and abstract, exploring the range of intentional and accidental effects that can be achieved in different media, then adapting these and pushing the range of styles I can produce in other very different media. I am also interested in different forms of narrative. Some of my images are brought together as books, on-line experiences or moving image.
Much of my work has been around journeys and social and political issues in Africa and Asia connected to my professional work as consultant with international development agencies. My current work increasingly focuses on issues nearer to home – the social and environmental challenges we face in Europe and my own responsibilities within that. Alongside my own artistic practice I hope – beyond COVID – to support processes for international collaborative art, photography, video and web communications as part of peoples’ own documentation of their lives, building on participatory methodologies I used overseas.
Zemni Illustration blog brings together my work, research and thoughts for Open College of the Arts Visual Communications level 3 module: Advanced Practice.
My work for this module develops an evolving idea of ‘Zemni Voice’ and what this might mean for a coherent and consistent approach to my work in UK and internationally. Resolving the hitherto schizophrenia between visual communication linked to my professional consultancy and more fun ‘meaning of life’ work I enjoy as the basis for UK-based practice going forward. Aiming to develop some sort of coherence of creative experimental approach without becoming bound by rigid ‘recognisable style’ or limiting the range of potential types of work I find interesting and worthwhile.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges – particularly for documentary and audience-based work in Assignments 4 and 5, and because of self-isolation I did not have access to my art and printmaking studios between March 2019 and April 2020. This led to a greater emphasis on digital photography, Photobooks and Moving Image that I intended. But it also provided motivation and opportunities to develop new ways of on-line working and networking, and experimentation with dry and kitchen-friendly water-based media that will be more personally and environmentally sustainable going forward.
Assignment 1: Reviewing My Practice
Assignment 1 started by taking stock of my visual communication work to date, looking at different approaches to creative process and the directions I might want to push my practice. In particular ways of linking a socio-political approach to social/political documentary and landscape with the more ‘fun’ aspects of the work I want to do. And identifying existing skills and skills I would want to develop in order to do the sorts of work I want to do going forward.
Assignment 2: Edit and Amend Zemni 2019: Landscapes of Place
Assignment 2 ‘Landscapes of Place’ revisits earlier work on UK and develops new work around the idea of ‘landscape’ and ‘landscaping’. I focus on issues of image selection for on-line galleries, slideshows and photo books and ways of communicating different narratives through different image selection and/or digital processing in different software and styles.
‘Bridge’ revisits landscape print-making, presenting a series of four A3 screenprints in the context of discussions around psycho-geography and ‘Edgelands’. The ‘grunge’ style so evident in the photoscreen prints is then applied in SilverFX to a series of documentary photographs of the Bridge and its Edgelands as a Photobook ‘Bridge: Edgelands of the Cam’.
In ‘Shutterscapes’ I explore different approaches to black and white and colour processing in Lightroom and DxOFX software and the ways in which different styles convey different meanings for the viewer. Initial editing and submission and acceptance of hundreds of images by Shutterstock helped develop my technical skills to a professional level and indicated potential market for different documentary and artistic styles. From these I selected five sets of images from East Anglia and North of England representing contrasting challenges for colour and black and white for in-depth development as photographic prints and images in other media.
Both these bodies of work are developed in more detail in: 4: Presentation: Zemni 2021.
‘Woman Living Lost’ looks at processes of perception, creativity and becoming open to risk-taking and the unexpected. It develops interlinkages between subjective and objective narratives and explores different ways of combining illustration and photographic images and text.
Using photoseries from a short stay in Baizakh Village in Naryn Province in 2016, I continue my interest in subjective and objective approaches to documentary:
- I look in more depth at the ways different photographic styles communicate narrative.
- I use different drawing and paint media to explore different interpretations of the photographs to increase the power and range of my photographic practice.
- I experiment with different book design and narrative approaches to publishing the photographs and drawings.
I look at different ways to work with audiences in Kyrgyzstan, UK and elsewhere in development of the books – as people whose voices I wish to communicate and source of ideas and contextual information and on-line and face-to-face feedback on the final works.
‘Zemni 2021’ reviews, extends and presents possible future directions for the four main bodies of work that I have developed in this module.
The COVID pandemic and my need to self-isolate placed serious restrictions on potential for sketchbook work and documentary. Our daughter needed to separate her living arrangements at home, so I also lost access to my art and printmaking facilities. Print workshops were shut. As a consequence most of my work in this module has been more photography-based ‘outsider narrative’ and I was not able to further develop work across a range of media as I had done in previous modules or was originally intended in 2019 – or is the case in Assignment 2.1 and Assignment 3.
Photography is nevertheless a central part of my practice that I had intended to develop in this module, with a lot of documentary and artistic possibilities and where I needed to upgrade my skills. My work in Assignment 5 therefore focuses on existing and new photographic work on the five main locations I have worked on in this module:
Landscaping 1: Bridge Edgelands (Cambridge)
Landscaping 2: Aldeburgh Great Escape
Landscaping 3: Norfolk Nostalgia
Landscaping 4: Islands Real and Imagined (Cornwall)
Landscaping 5: Life in the Mountains of Heaven (Kyrgyzstan)
I develop selected images to a professional standard through on-line networking with professional networks – specifically around submissions to Cambridge Camera Club Annual Exhibition. But the main interest is a review and deepening of my subjective process of ‘landscaping place’ and different ways that I can develop and combine the same images to create very different subjective narratives.
I also present some more ‘objective documentary’ work in the same locations that I had intended to develop with local people. When I again have access to my art studio facilities the photographs and earlier sketches will be collaged in sketchbooks that map out some potential further bodies of work after COVID when I can again work on location and do more painting and printmaking work. Some of this may form the basis of my work in Sustaining Your Practice.
Assignment 5.3 Zemni 2021 Portfolios
Assignment 5.4 Assessment
Other blogs and websites
This Advanced Practice module complements other more political work based on my professional work in international development that is developed in other modules for this degree. This blog complements and links to my other blogs and websites
- Zemni Images blog a portfolio site that showcases the best work from my previous and current Visual Communications courses.
- Visual Communication for Development looking at issues in my professional work in international development for the OCA Visual Research course.
- Zemni Printmaking being developed and updated from my OCA printmaking courses.
- Zemni Photography from OCA photography courses I tool as a leisure student
- Zemni Images professional website that houses high resolution images of my Visual Communications portfolios and my photography portfolios and archives.
- Gamechange Network consultancy blog that houses and links outputs from the different projects and partners I have worked with.