Personal Statement January 2019
Image-making is a necessary part of my own process of making sense of life in our sometimes beautiful, but often insane world. In my ‘parallel life’ as global consultant in participatory development in Africa, Asia and Latin America I meet many wonderful, inspiring people. I see stunningly beautiful scenery – human rural and urban landscapes as well as ‘wild natural’ remote environments. I also see many shocking examples of violence, exploitation, environmental degradation, waste and powerlessness. The more I travel, the more questions I bring back about life at home – where are our ‘developed’ lives trying to get to, why and at what cost? My image-making is a way of working through the darker side to come out the other end and ‘look on the bright side of life’.
I work in a range of media combining drawing, printmaking, photography, collage, painting and digital media. Some of my work is experimental, exploring different media and effects in response to a wide range of briefs.
Alongside my own artistic practice I support processes for collaborative art, photography, video and web communications as part of peoples’ own documentation of their lives.
Portfolios of my best work from all my OCA Visual Communications courses have been uploaded to different sections on my portfolio website: http://www.zemniimages.info
As the courses themselves have been very diverse – book design, illustration and printmaking – and encouraging me to experiment with a range of different media, my responses in terms of content, style and media have also varied widely. I very much valued the many opportunities to explore things outside my comfort zone. Pulling all these various threads together, without overly limiting myself, was a long and quite difficult process. It was also clear that many of the pieces that were maybe technically good, did not represent my ‘voice’ as much as other pieces that were much less polished – because I was being spontaneous, experimental and taking risks that did not always work.
It was difficult to identify any one single thread, but rather a number of different areas of work, some of which I intend to integrate into my work on documentary in this module and others that I am leaving for future:
My work in this module has been very much shaped by what was possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. I had started with screenprinting and photography in Assignment 2, with the intention of including much more work in natural media work, sketching from life and different printmaking media as the module progresses through Assignment 4 and 5. I also anticipated being able to do more documentary work on location. But – as I and my partner are in vulnerable categories – the COVID pandemic meant that not only were my possibilities on location seriously constrained, I also lost access to my art studio because that was needed for self-isolating by our daughter and print studios were shut or not sufficiently COVID-safe. Digital art and moving image possibilities were also constrained because of a combination of my need to manage RSI and the fact that I was not able to visit computer shops to upgrade my system – I need to see and try equipment to make sure it fits my RSI requirements.
For all these reasons, my work in this module has been far more focused on photography, particularly revisiting and working with existing image sets than I had intended when I started out. Or will be the case going forward when the COVID pandemic no longer imposes the same restrictions.
This first section includes work that represents my underlying ‘voice’ and socio-political perspective that I want to integrate more fully across all my work:
- Me Me Me : Much of my Visual Communications work to date has been part of my own search for artistic identity. Self-reflection on my own life, motivations and instinctive reactions are an essential understanding of my own subjectivity in order to move on. Although autobiography per se is not an area I am intending to pursue further before the end of this degree, it is something that I have enjoyed, and want to take up again in a few years’ time. I am also interested in pursuing further the issues of personal identity and mental health.
- From Life : shows selected sketches from different places and types of things I choose to sketch and record. I want to focus much more on life sketching in this module, to significantly upgrade quick sketching skills linked to my documentary.
- Feminist Gaze: selected work that explores feminism and part of an ongoing interest in how my gender affects what I see, what I communicate and how I communicate it. I want to do a lot more research on other photographers, illustrators and printmakers and integrate more into my documentary work.
- Life of Zemni is a live project where I am aiming to develop further my ‘alter ego’ as a ‘blind middle-ageing molerat’ trying to make sense of the world. In the longer term I am hoping to develop this into eg a series of alternative travel guides ‘Zemni Goes to…’ as an extension of my documentary work.
This second section is the biggest – and the most central to my work on this module.
- Oromia: Reflected Journey : my most recent documentary work, being taken forward in this module as Assignment 2a: Ethiopia: A fractured journey
- Greed Game: a project on politics in Middle East for an altered book in Book Design 1
- Road to Goma : collagraphs and sketchbook work in Rwanda for Printmaking 1.
- Japan: a Cultural Journey : linocut, monoprints, drypoints and sketches from Printmaking 1 about Japanese culture.
- Cambridge: in Search of Arcadia: a subjective approach to documentary looking at my memories and associations with the Grand Arcade, Cambridge, being taken forward in this module as a more in-depth exploration of the ‘capitalist dream’ as part of Assignment 4: Audience: Cambridge Diaries.
The third section contains some of my most visually interesting work, but the current images generally no longer represent my conceptual ‘voice’. In this current module I want to pursue some of the techniques and styles further, adapting them to documentary. With the intention then in a few years’ time to revisit some of the material for political allegory, writing my own story-lines.
There are a number of bodies of work and draft books:
- Hybrids from Illustration 2, exploring different digital/physical workflows.
- Landscape: imaginary landscapes in a range of media.
- Jabberwocky: an edgy reworking of Lewis Carol’s poem to high contrast black and white photographs of a walk in Holmefirth, Derbyshire.
- Deliverance : a spin-off book based on iPad images from gouache daubs that were part of my visual experiments in Oromia: A Reflected Journey.
- Journey: a second spin-off book from watercolour experiments for Oromia: A Reflected Journey.
- Tales from the Edge a series of images produced on my iPad from photographs of textures in Aldeburgh, edited with a broad allegorical narrative.
My Visual Communications practice going forward will also increasingly draw on and link with my professional consultancy work around participatory drawing for visioning and planning on a range of development issues.
In parallel to my degree work on Visual Communications modules, I have also taken personal development courses in particular areas of expertise I wanted to develop:
- Landscape Photography, relevant of which for my thinking around issues in documentary, particularly in Assignments 2.2 Wish You Were Here and Assignment 4 Journey 1: Kyrgyzstan Black, White and Colour. See blog:
- Moving Image 1: Animation, relevant for my work in Assignment 5.2 Journey 2: Oromia on the Move and development of You Tube presentations in Assignment 5.3. See blog: