Failures are Fine…(sometimes)

Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


Figure 1

I have documented the long journey to arrive at the solution to printing onto concrete.  The project is beset with risks beyond my own control; in this instance, the making of the concrete tablets.  I ordered another batch of 20 tablets following the successful decal process in order to complete the 22 concrete images for the installation, including a number of ‘spare’ tablets for breakage risk and also promotional purposes.

The very warm weather encountered on 6/7th May 2018 in the UK impacted on the studio making the tablets, fig 2, Space-Play, in Birmingham.  The rapid setting concrete reacted to the ambient temperature and upon the first pour, solidified almost instantly. The studio was thoughtful and gave me these to look at; I kept them.  The ‘rear’ side of the tablets are a fascinating relief and I chose to photograph them, fig 2, over a print image and fig 3 as a diptych.


Figure 2

IMG_3274 2

Figure 3

IMG_3276 2

Figure 4

Two of the decal printed tablets broke during some slightly clumsy handling mistakes, but I have decided to use one of them in the exhibition, see the lower piece in fig 5.  This shows fractured fine glass on the broken tablet, thus symbolising fragility both via the image and its medium.


Figure 5

In summary, I planned some ‘tolerance time’ into my programme to allow for failures, revisions and recasts, so these failures can be regarded as interesting learning points but also bring out the unexpected bereft of creating a further engaging perspective on the crafting process and its aesthetic impact.


All images by Philip Singleton, via iPhone.


Resin Idea

Installation : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

Figure 1

This is a short note about an idea I had to embed a number of the concrete shards I had obtained from the Conservatoire demolition site, cited here, into a block of transparent resin – to symbolise the preservation of a lost place and as a deliberate strategy to embed the solid within the see-through. I obtained a quote from the company that created fine work, fig 1, for two ‘block’ sizes 500x500x90mm or 500x355x90mm.  We discussed the options and I was sent a quotation for tooling up for moulds and making the blocks, including polishing for a range of £2,100 to £2,400, including VAT.

I could not justify this expense so instead chose to shoot the shards close up and, having edited and cropped the images, I chose three for insertion into the proposed zine, as shown in the mock-up, fig 2.  Thus, reverting to a more traditional strategy.

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Figure 2


Fig 1, from CMA, accessed 2.5.2018


Hanging Concrete

Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


Figure 1

One small step on the installation pathway. I decided to use one of the completed concrete tablets, a 210x210mm version,  as a test for hanging, by using an epoxy resin anchor glue (Araldite) to secure two hanging eyes, fig 2, to the rear of the tablet.  I allowed this to bond and harden for 2 days then positioned it on the wall.  Fig 1 shows that this has successfully held for a week.  I am now confident that this is the hanging solution and will be applying the technique across all tablets.


I visited Argentea Gallery on 26th April for an open evening and was armed with this photo for discussion, the one consideration, with the gallery hanging system, will be the likelihood for each tablet to lean from the top which will dictate both the hanging height for the viewer to maximise visibility but also the number of hanging cables used as a pair will be required per tablet, rather than multiples being used for a group of tablets.

Kiefer & Rauschenberg

Practice Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 08.58.06

Figure 1


My tentacles are triggered by finding artists who work with imagery on ‘solid’ media. A new one for me, Anselm Kiefer.

Figure one, in the context of the Pause Project, naturally caught my eye as juxtaposed, layered concrete, reinforcing bars, imagery and the curved form encouraged my exploration.

Kiefer, born in 1945 at the end of that dreadful, global conflict, draws on a deep and often dark history of European warfare and its extreme movements. He is an artist I had not until now been exposed to.  His use of memory, messaging, sculpture and its materiality are appropriate sources of inspiration in consideration of my own practice.

He works regularly with lead, fig 2 for its properties; heaviness, malleability and longevity – a metaphor for his primary subject – the weight of war and human debt.  He often implants imagery onto the lead and in this case a photograph.  The Artstory website references “Kiefer is drawn to various and often unusual media ….. Lead also has resonance for the artist both as a medium and a subject matter. It was the base material used in alchemy and he considers it the only material heavy enough to bear the burden of history”.

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Figure 2




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Figure 3

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008), I was more familiar with, but not his ‘Copperhead’ body of work, detail, fig 3.  This use of a solid, yet also malleable material, has relevance.

This quote chimed, from Gagosian Gallery for its approach to materiality “I like seeing people using materials that one’s not accustomed to seeing in art. That has a particular value. New materials have fresh associations, physical properties and qualities that have built into them the possibility of forcing you or helping you do something else.”

His silkscreen printing of imagery is cited on the Rauschenberg Foundation website “Having visited a copper mine and foundry during research for Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange/ROCI CHILE, Rauschenberg created a series of paintings using copper supports for silkscreened photographs and tarnishing agents. The Copperheads made in 1985 are part of ROCI CHILE”


On Kiefer,

(Narrow ar the Vessels) (accessed 23.4.2018) notes “The title, from a line of poetry by the pseudonymous Saint-John Perse, which the artist inscribed in French on the wall, is a reference to the Trojan War (“In vain the surrounding land traces for us its narrow confines. One same wave throughout the world, one same wave since Troy rolls its haunch towards us”)”

Fig 1 accessed 23.4.2018  from

Fig 2 accessed 23.4.2018

Quote, accessed 23.4.2018

On Rauschenberg,

Fig 3 (detail) and latter quote, accessed 23.4.2018


Former Quote, accessed 23.4.2018–november-01-2014


Concrete Tablets

Installation : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


Figure 1

Precursor to Editing

There is a mental pondering pervading my mind about the next phase of developing the concrete installation; the editing of images.  I am seeing this as a big task. To aid the visualising, I have laid out, for the first time, the tablets as have been hand-made to date, from two batches.

The editing strategy will be to select images that convey a whole message, that are tangible as opposed to the ephemeral and that will work at square and landscape formats.  Notwithstanding this, the portrait format can be utilised on the A4 and A3 sizes.


Figure 2


Laying out the tablets begins to provoke ideas about display methods, from table to vertical framework, to hanging.  There is also the possibility of the tablets, if slotted into a vertical frame, not only showing the textural quality of the ‘backs’, see fig 2, but also alternating the face of the tablets to show both sides, thus mixing the texture with the imagery on each side of the overall framework.

Fig 1 shows the number made to date and their spatial interrelationships, or at least one method of showing their pattern.  It means I can model the sizes on the laptop and the numerous layout permutations, then insert images. The sizes are thus;



210x297mm (A4)

297x420mm (A3)

All are 15mm thick with the exception of the A3, which is 18mm.

Figures 1, 2 and 4 show the slight variance in colour, texture, smoothness and markings to the tablets’ surfaces which contribute to the strategy of creating unique, tangible peices, as referenced in my looking back at Jan Svoboda.

The layout also increases my expectation in terms of precision and consistency of spacing between the edges of all tablets in the group.


Figure 3


Figure 4

Figure 5 shows the precision of the edges and corners and the slight blemishes that come from the casting process.


Figure 5

Figures 6 and 7 show how careful I need to be in handling the tablets as corners can be lost and kneeling on another cracked it into two pieces.  Although from an error perhaps some new thinking on display can be considered.


Figure 6


Figure 7

All images my own using an iPhone.

Gallery Preliminary

Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5


Figures 1, 2

Following the success of my image transfer technique I packed my bags to have a meeting at Argentea Gallery with Jennie Anderson the owner.  I was armed with A2 prints, my concrete tablet, laptop with Madmapper loaded and a digital projector.

Medium One : Concrete

The first discussion was about the concrete tablet as a form.  The sample pair of images have an excess of film which we agreed under certain light is too obvious; however, my planned trials would trim potentially all excess film, leaving only the print and a margin of concrete.

We looked at how the sample tablet appeared under the pool of lighting, figures 1 and 2.  We had a long discussion about whether a ‘free-standing’ piece to support the planned series of tablets would work in the centre of the space.  We agreed to look at Ikea ‘postcard’ shelving on supports, plinths and wall mounts.  The latter is problematic as the walls cannot be significantly drilled into as they are tanked as it is a basement.  We agreed that the track lighting can be adjusted to create a pool of light in the middle of the space as a viable option.

We chose perhaps slightly prematurely, to discuss the value of the tablets, highlighting the uncertainty as to whether each piece is unique, as it is handmade concrete with a hand-mounted decal print, but, conversely, as the print is perfected each piece, assuming the same print file, would look very similar.  I have four sizes to contend with too.  Add to this the lack of being an ‘established artist’ and the work being effectively a student project, it may devalue the work or at least not elevate it. The other factor in the midst of this discussion is the wish on the gallerist’s and my own part to have a commercial angle.  We concluded that the age-old maxim applies, price too high and risk selling none or very few; price too low and one’s work may never be regarded as valuable in the future.  It is a topic I shall return to, also when I have done the maths on the gallery’s commission basis.


Figures 3, 4

Medium Two : Prints

The valuation of prints is a more established methodology and my editions of three each (regardless of size) have achieved sales in the last year between £300-600, framed.  We agreed that I would list out my limited edition frames print values.

I have a set of 6 prints (c-type on Kodak Endura paper) dry mounted, masked and framed with museum glass at A2 size, plus the mask/frame combination.  I took two of these to my meeting as a sample of this set.  Despite thinking and visualising dimensionally, I have yet to model the various medium onto the Sketchup drawing.  Hence, I was slightly surprised at how little wall space one A2 print consumed, fig 3.  We did usefully rehearse how the left-hand wall (on entry) could take 5 hung prints then the primary one from the set would be on an adjacent wall, fig 4 as the focal point upon entry into the space from the spiral stair in one corner.  It is likely to be the Roundhouse image shown here as it acts intriguingly at macro and micro viewing distances.  I was pleased with this decision.

The black frames and masks work very well on the mid-tone grey gallery walls.

We briefly talked about one or possibly two images I intend printing, unframed, that would provide the viewer with the opportunity to ‘extend’ the feeling of depth in the space.  These will be 2m high paper prints.



Figure 5



Figure 6

Medium Three : Projection

The final test was centred on demonstrating the principles of Mapmapper software.  I had preloaded two of my images – from the recent Great Hampton Street shoot, that Jennie had not seen; both showing light through and onto surfaces, thus I felt most appropriate for projection.  We mounted both the laptop and projector in one corner of the space, fig 6, and projected onto the walls in the opposite corner, fig 7.  I was able to demonstrate that the images could be manipulated on the screen to appear in the correct ratio as shot and meeting at the corner line of the walls.  This went down well.

We discussed which corner should be projected from, as I was concerned that the source beam, and thus glare of the projector, should not be the first thing you see as you enter the space.  The walls are a mid-tone grey, but the brightness of the projector overcame what I was thinking may cause a dulling colour cast to the images.  I was achieving the transformative strategy I envisaged.

The lights can be turned off in this space and it is suitably dark, thus maximising the impact of projected images.  Fig 8 shows the views into the projection space from the principal space.

Jennie was concerned about security and locating the laptop/projector driver in a safe place.


Figure 7


Figure 8


Overall I was pleased with this preliminary test of the three main media techniques. We discussed the potential for a short edition, hand-crafted zine and Jennie suggested that each cover be unique, thus emphasising the specialness of such an object.  She confirmed that she can execute card transactions on site.

Action Plan

I need to achieve the following;

1 To refine the concrete decal process to minimise film and work with the other, larger sized tablets.

2 To design a display solution from the options available for tablet display

3 A final edit of the prints from the set of six, and agree with the gallery.

4 Attach the hanging system to the rear of each frame.

5 To undertake further Madmapper tutorials and edit a stream of images

6 Develop the zine design for discussion at next gallery meeting

7 Consider laptop security during the show.

8 Find a source for printing 2m high paper prints.

Making Moulds

Installation Development : Final Major Project

MA in Photography, Falmouth University, Module 5

My positioning of work using concrete, as previously set out, requires a refinement beyond my experiments in making paper imagery onto the liquid concrete.

Over three months of liaising and creating mutually with a small Birmingham based business, a brief to provide the right format and dimensions for concrete tablets of high quality was devised and has finally come to fruition.  The brief is set out in summary as a reference below.

I am now able to commence print transfer technique to craft fused concrete imagery.

This 12 step the pictorial journey summarises the step by step stages in this bespoke brief.

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fig 1 – laser cut plywood is used to make an oversize series of initial moulds.

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Fig 2 – a completed outer mould.

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Fig 3 – at this stage I have ordered 210x210mm, 297x210mm and 420×297

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Fig 4 – the smooth perspex ‘positives’ are placed within the ply boxes with a space around all four edges to allow for silicon to be poured into the sides.

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Fig 5 – the silicon polymers are mixed ready for pouring

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Fig 6 – the liquid silicon pour commences

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Fig 7 – the fourth mould is filled with liquid silicon pour, note the plywood mould is deeper than the perspex block to create the mould ‘back’.

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Fig 8 – the silicon had ‘dried’ and is peeled away from the positive

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Fig 9 – the silicon mould ready for use, note the smoothness of the surface

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Fig 10 – the quick-drying concrete is poured into a mould and left for the curing process

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Fig 11 two moulds poured and smoothed.

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Fig 12 – the first two concrete tablets to be drawn out of the silcion moulds.  This can be repeated many times.


The Breif ; Silicon Moulds for Concrete Tablets – 01/02/2018

Initial costings breakdown based on the work discussed in email trail;

General Info

297 or 210mm square ‘plate’ we can call them tablets as you suggested (flat) in perspex or similar at 15mm thickness (smooth finish). We have assumed this as the overall size, including any margins and the print size itself. 

These do NOT have any fixings or additional works. We can provide the plates with holes on each corner for fixing of your choice – the holes would need to be inset at least 20mm from the edge of the plate (check margins & print size before commencing work). 

This is really important…..I am now using the ‘good’ smooth face to ‘print’ onto – so that is an important decision.  Thus the ‘back’ of the tablets will the the ‘rougher’ side and the question is could you position a ‘dimple’ in each corner of the back (I realise this cannot be part of the silicon work) to give the anchor a chance to grip.  Inset 20mm or more is fine. I may hang some work so will resin anchor ‘d-rings’ onto the back – a bit like these …..

Fixings and finishings should be agreed before we start work. – see above – do ask me any queries about these

Silicone (material & casting): 

297 square – £55

210 square – £25

I am adding an A4 now too so 210x297mm

Plus, if you think it can be done, … an A3 297×420

Positive ‘plate’ and finishing (each)

15mm (overall) Perspex – £10

Noted and understood.

Bespoke mould tray (each)




We would anticipate 1.5hrs overall to produce a single mould (simple ‘plate’ as above) and the labour costs for this would be £25.

The silicone will take 24hrs to fully cure.



Initial casting is included, additional (concrete) charged at £7 each.

Note; concrete takes 2.5hrs to cure before de-moulding, and a further 2-3days (temperature dependent) to a dry-cure.

As a first run can I order;

2 x 297 sq

5 x 210 sq

5 x A4

1 x A3

I have not worked out the production timing, so let me know – see note below on timing

The fibrous aggregate/mesh sounds like a great idea.

Based on the above, overall costs would be;

297 sq.

Silicone – 55

Positive – 10

Mould Tray – 15

Labour –  25

1 casting (standard concrete) – 0

Total – £105

210 sq.

Silicone – 25

Positive – 10

Mould Tray – 15

Labour –  25

1 casting (standard concrete) – 0

Total – £75