More Shakespeare

Had a very rewarding photo shoot a couple of weeks ago with the talented deaf actress Zoe McWhinney assisted by BSL interpreter Zoe Hackett. We convened at the Siobhan Davies Dance studios in Southwark, on a beautiful sunlit morning.McWhinney performed three Shakespearean extracts from the roles of Juliet, Cordelia and Miranda. I’m taking time to sift through all the photos before deciding which ones to work on with photo montage to take through into photo etching.

Shakespeare series

portia oneThe Idea

2016 commemorates 400 years since the death of Shakespeare giving rise to a whole host of special exhibitions and events throughout the country. The Bankside Gallery will be showing an exhibition of Shakespeare inspired prints in June made by members of the RE, (the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers).

This subject appeals to me and I  decided at the beginning of the year to make a series of prints using deaf actors or models performing extracts of Shakespeare roles.

My first model was Phyllisha Johnson, a partially hearing lady who takes part in church worship, sometimes using BSL and SignDance. I asked Phyllisha to sign one of Portia’s speeches from the Merchant of Venice. Portia assumes the role of a lawyer’s apprentice to deliver this speech and dresses accordingly.

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath; it is twice blest, It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes………’

I hired a tudor woman’s costume to photograph, to add to the image, to represent Portia’s hidden identity. I’ve had fun arranging the costume in various ways……..

and trying various ideas for incorporating all the different elements…………portia backdrop with Felicia with drawing

portia backdrop

Shifting Subjects Conference


A Shifting Subjects conference took place in Leeds on the 20th October. I joined the audience to listen to speakers Wendy Elia on Self Portraiture by women from the Renaissance to the present; Dr. Alison Rowley, of the University of Huddersfield, on Four Portraits of Sarah Lucas as an Artist and Poppy Bowers, curator at the Whitechapel Gallery, on Sarah Lucas: Situation Absolute Beach Man Rubble. I feel privileged to be showing work alongside Wendy Elia, Sarah Lucas, Linda Ingham and Miranda Whall in the Shifting Subjects Exhibition, which is drawing to a close on Saturday.  There are plans to bring the show to London early next year which is exciting news!

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.

one month to go to the launch of Shifting Subjects!


Shifting Subjects
Contemporary Women Telling the self through the Visual Arts
3rd September – 31st October
Sarah Lucas | Miranda Whall | Wendy Elia
Margaret Ashman | Linda Ingham

The exhibition opens on the 2nd September at the Abbey Walk Gallery

A completed set of prints has gone to be professionally dry mounted for display in the exhibition. The film has been sent off too.  Art writer Anna McNay has written a brilliant essay for the catalogue and interviewed the artists for a catalogue Q&A piece.

more plates at the proofing stage

IMG_2644 (1)IMG_2650IMG_2651 I have been enjoying working on the last two plates for the exhibition. I’ve been a bit more experimental. I had fun overlaying one image with lace. It seems to add privacy, mystery, femininity and does wonders for less than youthful skin all in one go. I think I will try this plate with lighter coloured inks too. It works in black but it may work better in a pastel shade.

Film Completed

Professional musician Hannah Ashman (who happens to be my daughter) has composed and recorded a piano composition for the soundtrack of the film. The piano is one of Hannah’s main instruments and so it was a natural choice for her. It also ties in well visually with the film as there is a rather beautiful grandpiano a corner of the dance studio where the filming took place.Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.54.48Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 10.53.14

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.