Cambridge: In Search of Arcadia

This printmaking project took a more subjective approach to documentary: to combine printmaking methods to make artwork inspired by a memory – a person, place or events which has strong meaning for me.

I decided to focus on the Grand Arcade shopping centre in the tourist centre of Cambridge. This is a place that arouses rather strong and contradictory feelings for me, not only about the Grand Arcade itself, but the direction of society in general.  On the one hand I feel quite alien to the very stylish ‘clean’ consumerism with its glossy-lipped up-market ‘You’re Worth It’ presentation. On the other hand many of the businesses have a strong stated commitment to ethical values and environmental sustainability and promote local charities.
Looking through photos from a photo visit and collaging these to explore themes, the initial set of images that came to mind were from Vorticist linocuts that would combine a geometric sense of urban alienation – loneliness in the crowd – with geometric architecture of light and shade that is characteristic of the arcade. The blue tonal collaged linocut I developed early on I think worked quite well artistically, as a sort of portrait of the Arcade, but did not really link with memory. My memories were much more jumbled, with colour clashes, ambiguities and unconnected flashes of images, trains of thought and digressions.

As it evolved the project became more complex as it tried to disentangle the jumble of memories, personal reactions and underlying motivations. My approach came to see the image-making process as a way of exploring, not controlling, memory and the meanings the flashes of images take on when revisited now and confronted with current feelings and ‘reality’.

The final print that resulted has meaning for me, not only my memories but the ways in which these morphed into multiple unconnected digressions and comic musings. As I looked at different ways of representing this artistically and stylistically I was led to combine different media and styles in a rather disorganised manner, going with my thought flow suggested not only by memories but also the media – the emotional contrasts between the ‘clean and precise’ linocut, the indistinct suggestiveness of the Photoshop images and the cartoon-like shapes.

I like the multiple perspectives that do not really make sense, the colour clashes, way the images crowd on one another and some of the ambiguities and unknowns (see detailed description at the end). But in order for the image to mean much to a viewer it possibly needs another stage of much more purposive redesign to re-link some of the meanings into a clearer narrative effect e.g myself and my family as recognisable characters and with clearer distinction between different areas of stylistic difference linked to that narrative.

See discussion of original project: Printmaking 2: Grand Arcade: memories revisited

‘In Search of Arcadia’ : a live project

This is a live project that I continue in Visual Communications Advanced Practice: Assignment 4: Audience where I use the Grand Arcade and other images of Cambridge to raise questions about ‘the capitalist dream’.

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