Following on from my earlier blog post about rediscovered slides of some of my art college work (and, through shear laziness, lifting its opening paragraph word for word), here are a few images of And When I’m a Man I’ll Think as a Man, a life-sized sculpture of myself as a pre-assembly model kit.
Back in the 90s, before digital photography was really a thing, if you were an art student wanting to document your work, you were told slide film photography was the way to go. Or at least that’s what we at the University of Northampton were told; the idea being that when you then went on to be interviewed for a place on an MA course at another university, the images of your work would be viewed as projections via a slide projector. This all seems archaic now, and to be honest, it probably was even back then. By the time I left university in 99 the only University I knew of that still required applicants to submit slides was the Royal Academy. Most other institutions preferred photographs (printed-out rather than emailed, as email was still a relatively new concept to most people back then) or to see an artist’s physical portfolio.
And the reason I’m rabbiting on about slides? Well, that’s because a friend of mine kindly offered to digitally scan a folder full of slides that Id’ taken (around 25 years ago) of my student artwork. After he’d scanned them I was quite excited to see the results, especially as most of the artwork from that period either no-longer exists or is no-longer in my possession. However, apart from a few reasonable examples, there wasn’t that much call for excitement. Many of the slides were over or under exposed. Although, I had expected this as, as students, we were taught to bracket our photos (take the same shot at several different exposures) to increase the chance of getting a decent photo. Another section of slides all had identical dark marks on them; presumably there had been dirt on the lens of the camera that I was using to document my work. Oh well – I’ll put all that down to experience (and inexperience).
It's not always easy to remember what one was thinking when originally making a piece of artwork, especially when it was so long ago. However, in the case of And When I’m a Man I’ll Think as a Man, I do remember its origin story. At the time (on the 2nd year of my BA Hons course in Fine Art at the University of Northampton) I was using old toys as reference materials and exploring the notion of childhood perceptions of adulthood, and how children role play adult situations using toys of adult figures. This might all sound a bit highfaluting but the inspiration for this sculpture actually came about through a drunken pub conversation with fellow students. We were talking about things we remembered from childhood and I mentioned that when I was a kid I loved making plastic model kits; not of planes, trains and automobiles like most other kids were making at the time, but of things like spaceships, classic horror movie characters (or anything macabre), and superheroes. This was all way back before comic book and sci-fi is as mainstream as it is today, so these toys weren’t as easy to come by as they are today.
Anyway, that night, under the influence of probably far too much alcohol, I half joked that I was going to make a life-size version of myself as a model kit. And the next morning, once I’d sobered up, that’s what I set about doing. I made moulds for all the body parts of the sculpture by casting parts of my own body, and from these moulds I created the fibreglass castings. Once these castings were cleaned up and trimmed the shape (a long a laborious process that I won’t bore you with) I attached them to a frame that I built out of PVC tubing. Then, after lots of filling, sanding and spray painting I had the finished sculpture that you see here in these early slides, which were taken in the photography studio at the University of Northampton (then known as Nene College, although, it did change its name to that of the university just before I graduated).