Shifting Subjects at the Abbey Walk Gallery

Shifting Subjects is now open at the Abbey Walk Gallery. The show opened on Wednesday. It features commissioned work by Wendy Elia, Linda Ingham and myself, and pieces by Sarah Lucas and Miranda Whall.

Annay McNay writes:

“Out of the three commissioned artists, Margaret Ashman deals with the notion of artist-audience communication the most directly. The sign dance she performs in her film comprises an artistic combination of dance steps and sign language for the deaf, rendering a rough translation of a poem she wrote in the journal she kept as part of this project. Throughout the dance Ashman seems partly to be communicating with, partly to be unaware of the audience. As a devout Christian, whose religiosity infuses her work, she might perhaps be deemed to be in communication with God. The sequence could be a slow meditation, a yoga-like salutation. Holding her hands together in prayer, uttering ‘Amen’, and then towards the end of the film, a sudden burst of spoken speech: ‘In the beginning was the word’. Ashman makes explicit the significance of language and communication as a means to define the self. Her choice to show the film alongside photo etchings gives rise to a multiplicity of languages and different levels of metarepresentation, emphasising the many possible translations and modes of expression of the self; there is no one sign, or subject+identity, that defines an autobiography. Across time and space everything shifts.”IMG_2954 IMG_2942 IMG_7113 IMG_7112 IMG_7111 IMG_7110 IMG_7109 IMG_7108 IMG_2952 IMG_2950 IMG_2947

Anna McNay writes catalogue

Freelance Arts writer Anna McNay has written a great essay for the exhibition catalogue. She has a background in academic linguistics with particular interests in art and gender, art and the body and art and sexuality.
The catalogue will be available from the Abbey Walk Gallery.

Just one week to go and my dry mounted prints have gone off in a van for delivery to the gallery later today. I’ll be at the Opening on Tuesday evening 2nd September and talking to a group from a local school on Wednesday 3rd September.

I have updated my website with images of the etchings on a new page in my gallery.

making prints

margaretashman_rachelmanns_july14_30Self portrait wordmargaretashman_rachelmanns_july14_27smallSelf Portrait Turn

Starting with Rachel Manns’s photographs, I spend hours on my computer, working on the image in photoshop changing background detail,altering the tones and contrast, and cropping the image to create a new composition. Once I’m happy with the result I have my new file printed onto a transparency which I then take to the workshop to spend a day or two transferring the image onto copper. The photo etching process involves a light sensitive medium which is rolled onto the plate, hardened by heat, cooled, exposed to UV light (with the transparency in place), developed in sodium carbonate solution, etched in ferric chloride, aquatinted, and etched again. Then the printing begins – first experimenting with various inks, papers and wiping techniques to produce the desired result. I do the printing at my own studio in N4, listening to radio 4. Here are two of my prints at the proofing stage, with the original photographs for comparison.

working with a BSL interpreter




Chisato arranged for two BSL interpreters to come and interpret during the practice and filming sessions. This is Sophie who was interpreting when Rachel Manns took the photographs. Natasha interpreted at the beginning and end of the week. It was great to be able to communicate properly with Chisato and she with me – on previous occasions when she had modelled for me we had communicated slowly by writing on a pad.

working on the sign dance


I’m not someone who attends exercise classes, neither do I know how to sign in BSL and so it was quite tough learning the sequence of signs and movements that comprised the sign dance. At the beginning of the week I doubted whether I would ever get the hang of it! Fortunately Chisato was very patient and broke it all down into very small parts. She simplified sections that I struggled with to make it easier for me. Everyday we had a warm up session, essential for loosening up so that the dance was more fluid and graceful.

supported by the arts council


Margaret has been commissioned by the Arts Council to make a series of self portrait photo etchings, as part of a wider project, Shifting Subjects, led by Linda Ingham of the Abbey Walk Gallery. The photo etchings, based on photographs taken by Rachel Manns and the film made in collaboration with Chisato Minamimura and Emil Kunda will be shown in an exhibition at the Abbey Walk Gallery in autumn 2015. The exhibition will include self portraits by Wenda Elia and Linda Ingham.

Shifting Subjects Self Portrait Project off the ground!


Invited to create a cross disciplinary self portrait, I decided to team up with choreographer Chisato Minamimura, photographer Rachel Manns, film maker Emil Kunda and composer Hannah Ashman. The idea was that I would come up with a written diary ‘self portrait’, which Chisato would use as a basis for choreographing a ‘Sign Dance’. Chisato would teach me the dance and Emil would film it. Rachel would come along to take still photographs during rehearsals. I would have permission to use her photographs as the basis for a series of photo etchings later on.
I hired the Antenna dance Studio for a week back in July………..