it’s my final week here at the School of Art and, oddly enough, it feels like I’m graduating all over again. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and a part of me wishes it could have lasted a bit longer; but as they say ‘all good things come to an end’ and it’s time for my next adventure. In my last blog entry I’ll be discussing what Georgina, Emily and I have been getting up to in our final week, which includes:
- Continuing the digitization of Erich Retzlaff’s negatives
- Our quick trip to the Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth’s house
- My time working for the National Student Survey
- Our celebratory tea!
When I arrived at the School of Art in January, Emily and I where given the task of digitizing Erich Retzlaff’s negatives. This consisted of three folders with about 300 pages all combined. The negatives ranged from medium format to 35mm and they were so different to the Retzlaff we have all come to know. As I’ve said before, these images where primarily ‘touristy’ photographs, which differ greatly from his well-known and appreciated ‘artistic’ images. Erich Retzlaff was a noted photographer who made an outstanding contribution to German photography with his documentation of people at work, portraits of countrymen and -women in traditional costume and his representation of the peasantry of Central and Eastern Europe. Yet, these photographs present a Retzlaff who just enjoyed taking photos. Handling these negatives showed a carefree and undisciplined style towards his photography; buildings that should have had roofs were left roof-less; his negatives were cut harshly and un-carefully, and a vast majority of the time, three or more negatives where ‘stuffed’ into one pocket – it was crazy! But then again, perhaps I only think this is reckless because of who he was and what influence he had on German photography. If I think about the way I treat some of my works…if they aren’t my favourite or best images, I simply put them in a drawer somewhere out of the way. These files show that, even though Erich Retzlaff was such a huge and iconic figure in German 1920s and 30s photography, he was also just as messy and unorganized as the rest of us artists. This experience taught me to humanize artists.
I have mixed emotions about my time digitizing Retzlaff’s negatives; unfortunately, Emily and I where only able to scan two of his folders as there were just so many to go through and it was extremely time consuming. This has left me feeling almost jealous that someone else will see it finished and disappointed that, after all the hard work we put in, we won’t. It’s a proud moment seeing at least two of the folders completed, and I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity to work with such wonderfully normal and beautiful images. To the next person who takes on this task: You’ll understand what I mean.
On Monday, Emily and I were asked to take part in the National Student Survey at the refreshers fair in the Aberystwyth Student Union. This involved engaging with students and asking them if they would like to fill in a quick survey in exchange for some chocolate. There were games that all related to the Aberystwyth National Student Survey Mascot – The Duck! This was such a fun experience and time flew by very quickly.
On Wednesday we had a very unexpected but interesting visit to the new Vice Chancellor’s house in Aberystwyth. We were there to assist curator Neil Holland with taking down some of the paintings and prints as they plan to re-decorate the house. I took a few photos of the house including this lovely view from the garden:
How magnificent is that view? It is one that I would never grow tired of. The inside of the house is decorated in bright, vivid colours that ranged from blue, to yellow, to orange whilst the outside is decorated in salmon pinks and baby blues. It was such a wonderfully colourful house that you couldn’t help falling in love with it. I was instantly drawn to a small painting that was part of the George Powell Collection. Its thick, antique frame had patterns of abstract leaves dancing around its outer edges. The painting itself depicts a leaning, withered and hollow tree with cows grazing blissfully next to it. The ground is layered with paint of all sorts of greens, browns, and yellows, and the texture of the ground makes it very realistic. The left hand side of the painting is mostly taken up by the pale blue sky; a vast array of tonal grey clouds creates a dark looming presence on an otherwise picturesque landscape.
It was lovely to visit many of the rooms; I think my two favourites (of those I saw) were the parlour and the guest bedroom Prince Charles stayed in. The parlour was so grand in size with its high ceiling; large windows let in such fantastic light that it made the room feel very airy and bright. However, it wasn’t exactly how I pictured it; instead of being a room full of antiques and ornaments, it was surprisingly modern whilst still incorporating classic features of the room. What really made me smile was seeing Laura Ashley furniture and wallpaper in the room. I’m from a little village named Carno, which is where the first Laura Ashley factory was built. Considering that Laura Ashley is such an iconic Welsh business, it was a real pleasure to see her products in the Vice Chancellor’s house. The guest bedroom was full of light and had some of the best views of the house – naturally. I really enjoyed, and I’m sure Prince Charles did, too, sitting on the window seat and looking out at the gardens. The room’s design is based on nature; the glass chandelier is designed to look like flowers, whilst the wallpaper is cream with cascading yellow and brown flowers. I could have stayed much longer and could go on discussing the fine details of the house but I must stop, all I can say is that I’m so glad Neil took us there.
This morning (Friday 3rd February), we had our celebratory tea with guest speaker Dr Glenda Jones and certificates awarded to us at the end. Once I’d stockpiled on cake and tea, I was ready for the lecture and Dr Jones didn’t disappoint; she was full of energy and so passionate about Aberystwyth University in a way only alumni can understand. I was so inspired by her story of how she came to be where she is today. Work hard, don’t settle and take every opportunity that is handed to you even if it might not be the path you expected, was basically her advice. This rings home for me as I feel that by accepting this placement I have opened so many doors for myself, whilst understanding that some others have to close for now. It is easy to forget that you never truly leave Aberystwyth University; you may not be a student anymore, but that doesn’t mean that the staff will forget you, nor does it mean that they don’t want you to keep in touch and tell them of your successes. In Aberystwyth you will always have friends and family, and I am so proud that I made that choice three years ago to come here, because I wouldn’t be the artist and person I am today without the dedicated staff of Aberystwyth University and the School of Art.
Thank you for letting me babble on for four weeks and coming back every time to read it. So once again, for the last time:
Bye for now everyone,