Cambridge Open Studios at The Woodyard

Over the second weekend in December I took part in a Cambridge Open Studios event with a group of local artists at The Woodyard on Cheddars Lane, Cambridge. My stall had greetings cards and limited edition prints for sale, some of which can be purchased online via my Print Shop.

I also now have an Etsy store for greetings cards, which are newly available to buy online. They cost £2.50 each, and any orders of 5 items or more qualify for a 20% discount, effectively meaning one card in every 5 is free.

First MA Exhibition

Photograph by HuYue.

I will be showing the results of my first MA project in a one-day group exhibition on the University of Westminster campus in Harrow, London. An investigation into museum storage spaces led me to a collection of Paleolithic stone tools which were excavated by Dorothy Garrod and the British School of Archaeology in Jerusalem in the late 1920s and 1930s around Mount Carmel, in what was then Palestine. Some of the objects which were unearthed there are now held in storage at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge, where I produced my photographs. My installation also includes a selection of Dorothy Garrod's original fieldwork photographs, reproduced by kind permission of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. I will hopefully be able to share more of this work in due course.

Level Ground: Exhibition Installation

Last night we installed my latest exhibition at the Edge Café on Mill Road, Cambridge. Level Ground is a new series of large format, black and white pinhole photographs featuring local scenes and landmarks during the transition between winter, spring and summer. In this way, the photography relates to the recovery theme of the venue, situated on the Brookfields Hospital site.

A private view will be held between 7-9pm on Tuesday 11th July at the Edge Café, 351 Mill Road, Cambridge. Local poet Victoria Simms will be reading two new poems written in response to the themes of the exhibition and venue. Teas, coffees and cakes as well as a selection of greetings cards will be available to buy. Please note that as the Edge Café is a community recovery hub providing respite and support to people recovering from alcohol and drug dependencies, no alcohol will be served at this event. Please join the Facebook event page if you are interested in attending.

Level Ground: New Exhibition Opening Soon

I am happy to announce that a new exhibition of my photography will be opening at The Edge Café in Cambridge this July. I have been working on this during the past few months, visiting sites around Cambridge to make long exposures with a large format pinhole camera.

The process involves using a camera which can only take one sheet of film at a time, and must be unloaded and reloaded in a light-sealed bag with each photograph. As the pinhole lets in only a small amount of light, every photograph taken with this camera must be a long exposure, ranging from just a few seconds up to a minute or more. As such, any movement within the frame, including passing traffic, running water or moving foliage, will become a blur, sometimes disappearing completely.

The capturing of an extended moment in time, as well as the gradual seasonal change between winter and spring, relates to the theme and process of recovery, which is the central concern of the venue for this exhibition, the recently opened Edge Café on Mill Road. The Edge Café is a local community recovery hub, providing "a beautiful, safe, warm, drug & alcohol free space and community to anchor people in the sustained recovery they need to gain and maintain access to housing, social & health services, healthy relationships, education and employment."

A private view of the exhibition will be held on the 11th of July. Details will be shared in due course via social media and our mailing list. The exhibition will be open to the public during normal café opening hours, from 10th July - 2nd September. For any further information, please get in touch.

Land, Sea and Sky: Exhibition Installation

Last night we installed Land, Sea and Sky: Photographs from the Shetland Islands at Hot Numbers Coffee, Gwydir Street, Cambridge. The exhibition opens today and will run until the 26th of February. This will be my first solo exhibition in Cambridge, and features a new series of black and white photographs which have not been previously published online.

I'm really pleased with how it looks, and Hot Numbers is a beautiful space to exhibit in. We started planning this exhibition almost a year ago, beginning with over 3,000 raw photographs taken in the Shetland Islands in 2015. All prints in the show will be available to buy in limited editions of 25 each, and there will be a selection of greetings cards available online soon.

Exhibition: Land, Sea and Sky

In two weeks a new exhibition of my work will be opening in Cambridge.

Land, Sea and Sky: Photographs from the Shetland Islands runs from the 24th of January until the 26th of February at Hot Numbers Coffee, Gwydir Street, Cambridge UK.

Presenting a series of photographs exploring themes of isolation and the transient atmospheric states of an environment which is continually changing. This exhibition invites the audience to consider the meditative sensory experience of the great outdoors, through a series of atmospheric photographs depicting the land, sea and sky of the Shetland Islands.

There will be an exhibition preview on Tuesday 24th January from 7-9pm. Please RSVP to josh@joshmurfitt.co.uk by Friday 20th January.

For more information visit http://hotnumberscoffee.co.uk/gallery-1/

In Conversation with Robert Good

Robert Good is an artist and the chairperson of Art Language Location; a contemporary and performance art festival based in and around Cambridge, UK. A few months ago I visited him at his home to see where and how he produces his text-based pieces. This blog post contextualises the photographs I took with a brief conversation on Robert's art and his ways of making it.

JM: To start: I notice that collecting seems to be a common theme in your work and in the process behind it. Could you elaborate on this?

RG: I think for me it is all about trying to make sense of things and collecting is perhaps a good strategy here. Not so much the accumulation of stuff for its own sake (tho I am interested in that aspect as well) but maybe more because multiples of anything provide the chance to compare and contrast and so maybe to thereby arrive at some tentative answers. Or maybe 'answers' is too strong a word; 'pointers' might be better. 

So, is there something you find those pointers frequently allude to?

Well often I’m looking for rhythms, cadences, patterns and so on in the subject matter that I’m exploring and hoping that if I present back some aspect of the material in these terms then insights or pointers towards an understanding will emerge from the configurations created. So for example with my Pelican portraits I’m hoping that the repetition of an authorial image and a descriptive word taken from their biography provides a starting point for thinking about those authors and their endeavours. The artwork thus frames the debate so to speak and becomes a catalyst for a conversation about what is being presented. But beyond that, the trail runs cold: each conversation is different, each conclusion is different, and each response is different to every other. Perhaps that’s why I’m wary of thinking in terms of ‘answers’!

That makes sense. It seems to me like you have found a clever balance between appropriation, originality, humour and aesthetics. How did you come around to working in this way, and to working specifically with text - was there a time when you experimented with other ways of making art and being an artist?

Well thanks, I think you are spot on - those four elements that you identify in my work are all central to what I am trying to do. ‘Clever’ is ok too (thank you!), and in fact that is also a very astute word to choose, because I do try to be careful that my work doesn’t sometimes tip over into ‘clever clever’, which is not so good.

As to how I came to this point in my work, well as with most artists (I suspect) it has been a long process of excavation and discovery (I am trying very hard not to use the word ‘journey’). But two moments spring to mind. The first is when I used to be a painter and painted in a flat, bright, cartoon style. One day I remember thinking ‘this painting won’t be complete without some words in it’. I have no idea where that thought came from, but it seemed important, and I decided to follow it further. The second was at the start of my MFA studies at ARU [Anglia Ruskin University] when I was asked why I chose to paint. I loved painting but it made me realise that everything is a potential material: there is so much stuff around us just waiting to be turned into an artwork that suddenly paint just didn’t seem so exciting any more. Then the problem became what to choose out of all this stuff, and I gradually came to realise that problems with words and knowledge was what I really wanted to grapple with.

It is interesting how you describe them as ‘problems’.

Well for me, words are problematic! They are the best we have but not enough, and that is both their power and my frustration. So by putting them into new contexts I try to examine their meanings and potentiality.

A lot of the pieces you showed me also seek to re-contextualise words and phrases, or as in the case of your collection of the ‘Anxiety and Neurosis’ Pelican book, entire published works. I think that is where a lot of the humour comes in.

I’m glad it made you smile: humour is like a divining rod - if we laugh, we are doing so because of some underlying discomfort, and that is frequently enlightening. That is where the bodies are buried.

My one hundred or so copies (so far) of 'Anxiety and Neurosis' enable me to examine one aspect of accumulation as a strategy: is collecting just a safety net, a comfort zone against a deeper disquiet?

Another good example of this would be your collection of definitions of art trawled from the internet. ‘Art’ seems like a great choice of word, particularly as its meaning, or more specifically what constitutes art, is so often argued about and so open to individual interpretation. Would you mind sharing a bit more about this project, what you intend to do with it, and what you have learned about the meaning of art after reading all those definitions?

Yes so far I have around 3,000 definitions gathered from the internet. I’ve been listening in on conversations as people discuss what art is, can be and should be and I’ve been using automated searches to report back to me as well. The project originated from my frustrations with art theorists trying to tell me what art can and cannot be - surely the tail wagging the dog! The more I read, the more confused I became. I’m amazed at how passionate people are, as if ‘art’ is some sacred term that must be protected at all costs. So I am collating the definitions for a new Dictionary of Art which I hope to publish next year if I can find a publisher (‘art’ is the one term you will not find in dictionaries of art).

Thanks to my designer Jane Glennie it will look and feel just like a normal dictionary, but there will be only one term, ‘art', defined and redefined on page after page. Each definition has to fight it out with every other. Some are serious, some are scurrilous, many are amusing, and I’ve learned that art is all of these things combined. So it has been a very uplifting project, because it turns out that art is not one thing or the other, this or that, but everything together, a glorious cacophony of thoughts, ideas, techniques, approaches and discussions. And, whatever the theorists may try to tell us, that has got to be good, surely?

I think it could be quite liberating to realise that if art is so many things to so many people, it can be almost whatever you want it to be. I also sometimes wonder about the link between art and psychology, or perhaps even psychoanalysis. Often performance or participatory art pieces/events can feel a bit like strange psychological experiments where nobody really knows who or what is being put to test. Maybe that’s why a lot of people shy away from performance art?

Yes I think people can be disconcerted by experimental art because they feel that they ‘don’t get it’ whilst everyone else does. But the key is to not think of it as a test with a right and wrong answer, but as a spectacle to be experienced. Then you take away from it whatever you want (which may still sometimes be nothing!!).

Changing the subject slightly, I wanted to ask about how you work as an artist outside of London. Obviously there is a lot going on elsewhere in the UK, and you have also played your own part in making contemporary and performance art happen in Cambridge with Art Language Location (ALL). Do you think art is spreading out and becoming a less centralised thing, or has it always been like that?

This is a big topic! Yes ALL was definitely for me a means of connecting with the wider art world and making something happen in Cambridge rather than feeling that I was somehow ‘in the wrong place’. It has proved to be a wonderful way for me to meet fellow artists and to feel connected. So the bright lights of London can be very alluring but in fact in many ways it is probably quite healthy to not be making art there.

That’s a relief, and maybe I'd say it’s increasingly necessary. A lot of people believe it’s not possible to make a living as an artist (perhaps rightly, in most cases), and I’m interested in how some people make it work. Could you offer any advice to arts graduates who want to keep the ball rolling after they leave university, and on how to make it sustainable?

The best bit of advice I had was from a tutor who said that the only connection between art and money is that if you haven’t got any money then it becomes difficult to make art. Beyond that, everyone has to find their own relationship between the two. So for some people, selling their art and ‘making it pay’ is important; others have a day job to make ends meet. There are so many different ways in which people have approached this problem but the most important thing is to create an environment in which you can make your art on your own terms.

‘Being an artist’ and ‘making a living’ are not the same thing. ‘Being an artist’ is a state of mind and an approach to the world around us; once this is foremost, then everything else becomes secondary: still important (of course) but perhaps somehow less intimidating? 

The analogy with football always works: the chances of becoming a professional footballer are very small but technically you don’t have to be paid in order to play football. Whether that makes you want to pursue it or not (and how you pursue it) is entirely up to you.

Thanks Robert. I think that’s a great point to end on.

Thanks so much for including me in your project!

For more on Robert's work, see his website, and if you are in Cambridge this October, be sure to look out for Art Language Location artworks, performances and events around the city.

30 Days, 30 Landscapes by Nina Fraser

Nina Fraser, an artist based in Lisbon, is currently inviting submissions of landscape photographs for her 30 Days, 30 Landscapes project, from which she is producing an original artwork for every day in September. I submitted a photograph I took in Whitby, a small coastal town in North Yorkshire, and was delighted to see Nina's response in the form of a hand-cut collage.

Nina is arranging an exhibition of her final pieces along with prints of the original photographs in Southampton in February 2017. For more information, to see other images from the project, or even submit your own photograph, visit Nina's website and follow her on Facebook.

Shutter Hub OPEN exhibition

I'm excited to announce that I will have a print on display in this year's Shutter Hub OPEN exhibition in Cambridge. The exhibition is taking place between the 24th of June and the 24th of July in a number of venues around the city. There will also be talks, meet-ups and workshops for photographers. My work will be exhibited in Hot Numbers on Gwydir Street, easily one of my favourite coffee shops in town. There will be a private view at Hot Numbers on the 22nd of June to which you're welcome to come if you happen to be in Cambridge.

I'm really excited that an exhibition like this is happening in Cambridge and that I'm going to be a part of it. I will be showing a photograph I took in Cornwall recently of an old disused tin mine. For more on the exhibition and events, visit the Shutter Hub website, and see the flyer below:

Photograph © Kit Martin.

Shindig @ St. Paul's Church

A few weeks ago I was invited to St. Paul's church in Cambridge for a one-off mini-Shindig event which was a kind of live rehearsal for an actual Shindig event happening in June. Shindig organiser Wesley Freeman-Smith, photographer (and this time piano player) Matt Widgery and poets Nikki Marrone, Tim Knight and Uppahar Subba met for a run through of poems, improvised music and a live video stream on Facebook. While that was going on, I was quietly taking photos of them doing their collective thing. Here are some of my favourites.

For more information on Shindig events in Cambridge, visit shindiggig.com.

Abi Palmer

Next up in my artists-in-studios series is Abi Palmer, a currently Cambridge based (soon to be London based) poet, writer and performer. She is part of the Cambridge arts event collective Shindig, whose recent show Tall Tales Lab(yrinth) featured her interactive poetry performance Alchemy, which in turn is now shortlisted for the 2016 Saboteur Awards in the best wildcard category. For Alchemy, Abi designed a set of poems to be read whilst engaging with, observing or otherwise experiencing one of the four primary classical elements: earth, air, fire and water.

Alchemy was my first experience of Abi's work, and I took away from it a small hand-decorated matchbox containing her contact details (pictured above). A couple of weeks and a few emails later, I visited Abi at her home in Cambridge to see where she works. In between chatting about the local arts scene and exhibition ideas, Abi showed me some of the things she's collected or made herself for her various projects. We also talked about how disability has influenced her work (Abi has written about living with a disability as a student for The Guardian) and how to avoid being pigeon-holed as an artist. A lot of Abi's poems come to fruition through use of cut-ups, and her many sketchbooks are filled with collages of found images and words, sharing the shelves in her workspace with books, ornaments and charity shop finds.

For more on Abi's work visit www.abipalmer.com. These images are copyright © 2016 Josh Murfitt. Please do not copy or reproduce them without prior consent.

Print Shop

I recently resurrected my Etsy shop and have been slowly adding new prints for sale. Giclée prints up to A3+ in size are made using a Canon Pixma Pro 10S printer which uses pigment-based inks, designed to produce more long-lasting and fade-resistant prints. I sign, number and date each print by the year of production.

A handful of limited edition prints are ready to buy now. They cost just £25 for an A3 print, or £20 for an 8x10" darkroom print, while stocks last. Coming soon are a selection of landscape prints from the Shetland islands, and other images from my archive of environmental photography.

If you would like to request a print of a specific image, please use the contact form on this website. Not all images I produce can be sold as prints, for various reasons, but where possible I will endeavour to meet any demands.

Loukas Morley

Loukas Morley is a Cambridge-based artist and designer who I met at a group exhibition in Cambridge in 2014. Since then I arranged to photograph Loukas as part of an ongoing project to document artists and the environments in which they work. Loukas kindly let me into his studio and workshop, where he produces some of his furniture designs and paintings, and there I saw some of the experimental and craft processes behind his work. He has recently worked with the Espresso Library in Cambridge and has a selection of works on show there at the moment. For more information on Loukas's work, see the links below.

Williams Art
Espresso Library
UpDown Gallery
World Interiors News Blog: Loukas Morley
Celeste: Loukas Morley
 

The artwork reproductions pictured above are provided courtesy of Loukas Morley and are protected by copyright. All other photographs are copyright © Josh Murfitt 2015. Please do not copy or reproduce without permission.

Memories and Dreams: A Cabinet of Curiosities

I was recently asked to photograph an event at King's College Chapel, which is now 500 years old, if you go by the time the stonework was completed. The foundations were first laid in the 1440s, and it's still standing strong today. The event featured speakers, art installations and live organ music, with works by Robert Good, Susie Olczak, Patrice MoorCharles Ogilvie and Ben Newton, and words by David Starkey, Dr Nicolette Zeeman, Jennifer Thorp and Viktor Wynd. It was arranged and hosted by Toby Young and King's Review.

Artwork Photography

Since graduating in 2013 I have produced studio photography of artworks - paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures and installations - for numerous individual artists and fine art students. For one example, here are Being Me II and Being Me III, which I photographed recently for Cambridgeshire-based sculptor Tom Hiscocks:

Cambridge School of Art Degree Show 2015

I was recently commissioned to photograph the degree show at Cambridge School of Art, part of Anglia Ruskin University. Two years ago, I graduated from this college, and took part in the degree show myself, so I was very happy to be documenting this year's exhibition.

For more examples of work from the show, see the Cambridge School of Art website.

Grey

Some photographs taken in February 2015.

These three are completely random but I like them together.

Art Language Location 2014

Art Language Location is a city-wide art exhibition taking place in Cambridge from the 15th October - 2nd November 2014. I've been working with the team as the official documentary photographer, posting images of the events and installations taking place over at the ALL website.

I will also have 4 framed prints in the 'Shelf Life' exhibition at Waterstones Cambridge (3rd floor), and some wrapped limited edition prints for sale in the ALL shop, also at Waterstones.

Exhibition at Churchill College for UX Cambridge

My work was recently included in a group exhibition showcasing artists based in the Cambridge area. The exhibition was held from September 10th-12th as part of the annual UX (user experience) conference, UX Cambridge.

On show were four prints from my recent personal series 'Presence'. They were shown in the Jock Colville Hall at the grounds of Churchill College, the University of Cambridge.

uxcam-exhibition