The Old Lookout

It sometimes it is necessary to ‘step-off’ the rollercoaster ride of working life and find a place where time is measured by changes in light and tides and passing of long, quite days. Thanks to Karen Shepherdson, I have just returned from such a place, having spent nine days as Artist in Residence at the Old Lookout Gallery in Broadstairs in Kent, UK. The gallery is in an idiosyncratic old leaning weatherboard building on the jetty with views across the English Channel. It is slightly rough-hewn but beautiful. I found it deeply luxurious to sit and watch the sea whilst ruminating about the experience of being a body in light.

lookout_02 lookout_06 lookout_08
Outside the locals partied on the esplanade on Friday evenings, cooked welks in a large steaming pot on Sunday morning and spoke of the weather often. Day-trippers rolled in like a tide at 9.45am and rolled out again, significantly pinker, at 6.00pm.

lookout_05 lookout_07
Being there was all about rhythm, the rhythm of light, tide and life. My days went slowly and I spent my time researching and developing three light collection methods which will form the basis of my ongoing Museum of Light project. After some coaxing, all the techniques worked well and saw me observing, tracking and following light around the gallery space from dawn until dusk.

The result is a collection of photographic sequences, luminance and colour temperature data and visual and text-based observations of changes in light within a specific frame. My challenge now is to collate this data, investigate what correlations result from these different approaches and to produce a series of art works based on these observations.

The intended outcomes of the residency are a pocket sized publication titled ‘A Light Collector’s Field Guide’, a short film about light and global orbit and the addition of a new data set to the Museum of Light archive.

lookout_15 lookout_16 the old lookout gallery

Days in the Shed

January and February have mostly been spent working on projects in the shed with selected days out for lecturing and socialising. After the creative development with Circa in Berlin over new year, the Carnival of the Amazing Animals circus projection animation is underway. Circa will be performing Opus at the Barbican in London next week, so there will be a few days of discussion and rehearsal while they are here. I have been working on the Lil’ Red music video with Stephen Lenman from Skopje. It’s a bleak little tale but highly appropriate content for animating through the dark, wet winter…hoping to complete and launch at the end of February. My PhD research continues with the ongoing development of Two Places I Call Home and A Collected History of Light. Discussions are also underway with Alison Gazzard about our next co-authored paper investigating light, maps, time and rhythm.

A still from the Lil’ Red music video currently in production for Skopje.

Rain dripping from the eaves of the shed is a daily feature in my view of the garden.

Image of the day is randomly selected from my library. Today’s image is from photographer Uta Barth’s book ‘In Between Places’.

A rare sunny morning and a perfect place to sit. 

Making a Collected History of Light

A Collected History of Light is currently on show in the Nostalgias Exhibition at the Pie Factory Gallery in Margate from Nov 1 -12. It is a beautiful and engaging exhibition, curated by Monica Takvam and Sam Vale to coincide with the Nostalgias Conference which will take place at the Winter Gardens in Margate Nov 9-10.

It has been a very busy few weeks in the lead up to the exhibition, but the work is now successfully installed. I have carried the idea of A Collected History of Light around with me for a long time and it is very satisfying to see the work come to life at last.

I had made a prototype of the light drawers earlier in year using optic fibre and a range of display technologies but none of them worked particularly well. I needed to resolve the light source in the drawers to make the piece work as I had imagined.

To achieve this I undertook a number of experiments, starting by hacking existing lcd screens and adding led arrays. This was interesting but did not bring enough focused light into the archive. Next, I explored the possibility of using barco led tiles (used I believe on the last U2 and Pink Floyd tours). They were great and intensely powerful and I would love to work with them in future but there was just too much kit for the scale of this installation. Finally, I decided to use a collection of pico projectors. I have been waiting my whole life for projectors to shrink to this tiny size. The luminance levels are beautiful in the drawers and they work very well when focused through the optic fibre.

I also did my first laser cutting, which makes so many future ideas a possibility. I modified the retro archive cabinet, loomed cables, cut optic fibre bundles with a hot blade, folded and shaped black wrap, built custom projector housings and visualised light data into viewable looping sequences.

The resulting art work is poetic, ephemeral and lyrical which rather belies the very matter of fact and persistent problem solving that was required throughout its creation. It was hard work and stressful at times but so very satisfying to see the completed piece being enjoyed by its audience.

A very big thank you to everyone who has supported me in my somewhat mad process. Sending a shout out to Richard Godbold, David Tree, Allie Gazzard, Sam Vale, Peter Brownhill, Justin Rhyme, Paul Wood, Victor Crew, Yaron Lifschitz and Peter Barwick.

Two Places – work in progress

Over the last month Two Places I Call Home has been developed to a working prototype. The work in progress was presented last week at the ISEA2013 conference in Sydney, Australia and at the Working Wonder conference at Newcastle University, UK.

Two Places I Call Home is an artwork which maps global rhythms through the real-time observation of changes in light. The relatively slow rate of change in the artwork offers an insight into the immensity of global scale and acts as a counterpoint to the fixation with speed we encounter in contemporary networked life.

The work uses two Arduino micro-computers to collect data via light sensors which record ambient light in RGB and Lux. Luminance values are sent to an online database where they are converted to hex colour. The system records real-world changes in luminance every minute and translates the values to a visual output on screen. One sensor is currently setup in Hatfield UK and the other was recording in Sydney last week. The project worked well but the code needs to be adjusted to capture a broader luminance range and the translation to hex colour needs further refinement.

The sensors will record a full year of changing light in order to capture the annual rhythm of global turning. My next task whilst I am in Australia is to find a more permanent place to house the southern hemisphere sensor. The work will be live again when the Southern sensor is in place.


I am currently teaching a motion graphic design course to the 2D animation students at the University of Hertfordshire. They have been given a brief to create a 1 minute documentary film which uses motion graphics as it’s main means of communication. I have decided to follow along and make my own short film. I shot my footage a couple of weeks ago in the Hoddesdon High Street when the fair was in town. It was a beautiful evening and the fairground lights looked exquisite against the darkening sky. The final film will incorporate text, moving graphics and rhythmic visual sequences.

A Good Craft Day

There is nothing like the focus and hard work of a good craft day to improve one’s outlook during a damp grey October week. Friday upholstery class is good for the soul, the ladies (and two men) make very good company and an excellent cup of tea. After two years, a broken shoulder and many many hours, my chair is almost ready for it’s finishing layer. I have placed an order for a beautiful tweed fabric from the Isle of Bute and next week my chair will begin it’s final transformation. I feel proud of my work and excited by my progress.

Ahh the joys of traditional skills…

Pegboard Display

Our pegboard displays are looking lovely in their new white coats of paint. All ready for another day of trading at Old Spitalfields Market tomorrow. Pegboard is very pleasing in it’s combining of practicality and pattern. Our boards are going to look rather fetching with the red-tipped chrome hooks we have chosen. Come by to see us at the market if you are in East London.