A significant part of John’s reflections over the last few years have been about the relationship between his Artist and Teacher identities and how he makes links and find modes of intersection between them and this work explores that discourse.
John has worked with the cyanotype process in numerous ways but he is particularly drawn to the fact that it was primarily a (photogram) contact process (although it is now often used with digital negatives too).
“I remember going to the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford and seeing an original copy of Anna Atkins cyanotype book on British Algae and realising I was in the presence of an object that had been handled by her but also the papers must have travelled around with her, been to the places she had been and had been in contact with the samples she had collected before being assembled into book form. The pages had a history all of their own.”
This fact, that the image on the paper directly references and is indexical of the object placed there, in direct contact with the paper, that physicality, the print as a point of contact between the referred and the referent is a tangible one, the object clearly and undeniable present but also representing all the other elements of contact and place as well.
In this series of works the sheets are made by John’s students, coating materials with cyanotype chemistry in preparation for making their own images. The edges of the paper marked out as they are coated in chemistry, layered in time, sometimes over a few days, sometimes weeks. Their presence, their marks made in the process of creativity, their sharing of space and materials are present in these works, poetic epitaphs, archeological documents. They tell a narrative story of the teacher student relationship; John lays out the sheets, tapes them in place, mixes the chemistry, sets out the brushes, demonstrates the process. The students work, tentatively at first, then more boldly, exploring different materials and combinations of objects and ideas they can express.
“They move on having explored, developed and learned and this is what they leave behind, an indelible mark of learning.”