Hidden history of Plymouth

This blog contains my work for my fine art degree

Ruth Brown 26/08/14

When I initially looked at the brief for this assignment I felt pleased to have a project to undertake about the city that I have spent the majority of my life living in. I knew that the possibilities could be endless, and had no idea where the journey throughout this assignment would take me. I have realised that to not know what art I will produce for my final piece, is in fact exciting and a learning experience.
There were hints within the brief to look into, and possibly incorporate, psycho-geography. So I decided to find out for myself what this meant and how other artists have utilised this within their own work. I found a number of relevant websites, with information about how this process involves documenting in some way, the environments we are surrounded by. I liked the idea of this being my interpretations and insights into how I perceive Plymouth.
I came across an artist called Franz Ackermann, who uses psycho-geography when producing his art work. I also felt that Sophie Calle explored the world as she sees it, through her use of photography, in particular with her project entitled, “The Bronx.” I wondered if in fact I could photograph unloved and hidden parts of Plymouth during my own project. This was just a thought to hold onto at this research stage.
I chose to find out more about Plymouth based artists, namely Brian Pollard and Robert Lenkiewicz. The latter artist really intrigued me and I found the ideas behind his work really captivated me. This is partially because he wanted to raise awareness of the hidden and often despised people within this city, and how they are people at the end of the day. He also brought to mind about World War II, because he was the son of Jewish refugees, born in 1941. During the initial research I also wondered if I could base my project upon those who were rendered homeless during WWII.
Other research, included learning about famous men from Plymouth and the Defences for Plymouth. This raised further interest in how WWII effected the city of Plymouth, so I decided to find some photos that showed the devastation caused, which can be seen on my blog.

I wanted to start my own personal record of what I found around Plymouth, which I may or may not have developed further. Firstly I created a simple sketch of Drake’s Island- which was a part of Plymouth’s defence during the wars. To carry this sketch further, I decided to create a felt painting using needle points to punch the felt. I enjoy the processes involved with creating/ using textiles, however I did not really think that this idea could be taken further forward within this project. However, it is a new skill that I would like to pursue in future work.
I moved on to taking photographs of Devil’s Point, partly as it is a place of personal significance to me. As stated previously, my Gran’s ashes were scattered there just eighteen months ago. It was a place that we enjoyed going to before she became ill with Alzheimer’s. We would reminisce on old day trips to Cornwall, where she came from originally, as well as time spent at Devil’s Point when growing up. My relationship with my Gran was very important through my life, as she was a Mother figure to me.
I became interested in that there were all of these old buildings, that many people seem to take for granted. Namely these were Nazareth House and the old war batteries. The batteries in particular, have become neglected and unloved. They were once used to defend the City of Plymouth and the Dockyard. I saw a beauty within the brickwork, and also felt interested in the fact that many homeless reside under these “shelters.”
During this development stage, I also wanted to reflect on the many children who had to leave Plymouth and be evacuated for their own safety and welfare. This must have been so hard, to be separated from loved ones and to not know how long for. I felt in a way I could relate to the images of evacuees having their possessions packed into a suitcase, and not knowing where their new home would be. Also they would not have known when they would see their families/ care givers again. My parents divorced when I was young, and I felt that I didn’t know where my home should/would be. I also had a strained relationship with my own Mum, and was estranged from her. Not knowing when or if I would see her again.
I wanted to find out about the gas masks that these children had to wear and carry at all times, and looked into imagery to represent the hardships of these local children. Hence I produced some sketches of gas masks, and an A3 oil pastel drawing. I drew the child’s Mickey Mouse style mask next to an adult’s, to show the comparison.
I felt that I wanted to take forward both some of the photographs from Devil’s Point, as well as the first line drawing of the evacuee, due to how I could relate to both, and how they tied in together. Having produced mono- prints before, I wondered how this line drawing would look as a print. I felt pleased with how striking it was, but had to work so that it didn’t look too blurry.

The Final Piece
I wanted to take this further, so I experimented with this line drawing a few times on photo paper, and actual photographs. I felt that this could be effective in black, however this colour did not work very well. It was not very vibrant and almost merged into the majority of my photos. Red to me represents the lives lost during the war and I felt this would possibly be an appropriate colour. I feel pleased with the results, and have decided to use an old evacuee’s suitcase to present my work in. I felt that this would be relevant because the project, in my mind, ended up being about the forgotten people, as well as the hidden history of Devil’s Point. The suitcase represents to me how this history of Plymouth has been packed away and forgotten about, but it is still a very relevant part of our city and culture.
I feel that I put a lot of thought into this project, but regret that I did not do more practical work during the development of this assignment. If I had the chance to do this project again, I would also try to find a way to present my blog so that it would be in a better order. However, having never produced a blog before, I am quite pleased with the content. At times I felt perplexed with the Word Press program, and how to incorporate images of my work. In future I think that I would keep a sketchbook and journal of my thoughts on paper, and scan these into my blog. I feel that I work well within a sketchbook, having spent the last academic year and time previously working in this way.
Maybe I could have also produced more final pieces, but at the time of completing this I felt that it was essential to produce work off high standard, rather than a large volume of work that had no real standard.
I also feel that in future I need to remember the significance of reflecting in written form and evaluating my art work more as I progress along.


Below is a mono print of a gas mask, using red block ink onto my photographs from around Devil’s Point. I think the red could work well, however I feel the gas mask image does not really work. Maybe it is the scale of it in comparison to the building?

a href=”https://ruthartist.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/img_0598.jpg”>IMG_0598.JPG




This latest photograph is my personal favourite, I feel the colour works well, and I like the image of the evacuee in front of a locked door. The mono-print brings to my mind the work of famous artist, Banksy.




The above photos shows the editing process, where I merged to photographs together using the program: Photowizard for the iPad. I feel that this would be appropriate to go inside the evacuee’s suitcase.

Photographs that I took of WWII gas masks







I thought that these artefacts were relevant to my project around the hidden history of Plymouth and WWII. The photographs were taken at a friend’s house and aren’t the best that I could have taken. However I wanted to include them in my project.

Upon reflection, it would have been good to have been able to edit the order of some of my work, so that it flowed better. However, the laptop I am using will not allow any scope with this, nor will my iPad. In future I feel that I will need to out more thought into the order that my work is presented in.

I now need to work on my final piece. My idea is to use an old evacuee suitcase as my canvas. Inside I hope to collage some of the photographs I have taken of Devil’s Point, with some of my mono-prints on. I still need to consider which images to take forward in terms of mono-prints. I feel, at the moment, that the evacuee shaking hands with Lord Astor is my strongest image. I may experiment more with imagery based on the gas masks.

I will show my progress on this final piece, and a full critical evaluation of my work for this project.


Born in 1945, in New Jersey.

I feel drawn to the work of Kruger, particularly in relation to this project. This is because I like the striking style of her photographic collages. The red and white type face brings to my mind headlines from a tabloid newspaper. I like how she layers her photographs, and feels that she touches on controversial topics. For instance, her support of legal abortions in Washington, 1989. With her piece, “Your Body Is A Battleground.”


Kruger has a background in design, which comes through, I feel, in her work. She touches on feminism, classism, consumerism, individual autonomy and desire. My favourite piece is: “Get Out” ( see below).



Her work is being exhibited in Modern Art Oxford at present and one viewer said, “I feel her work is an appropriation of specific slogans and imagery.”

Another felt her work is, “provoking.” I agree with this statement because her work does make me consider some of my opinions about the issues touched upon.

Louise Cumming describes Kruger’s work as:
” Her wall to wall words fail to hit home.”
“Language loses the battle; the world shrinks even further.”

This review seems to be highly critical of this artist. In my opinion she is brave in expressing her views on societies issues. I would have liked to view this exhibition in Oxford, had I the means to go. Then I could have experienced her work for my self.

(www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/jul/06/barbara-kruger-modern-art-oxford). By Cumming,L.

Devonport, where Devil’s Point is situated, began as a small settlement in 1700. This was to house the workers of Plymouth Dockyard. The population rose quite fast, according to the book Devonport Through Time. In 1733 the population was about 3,000. By 1811 this had risen to 30,000.

Devonport was first known as Hamoaze, according to the book A History of Devonport.

In the book, A Century of Plymouth, it explains that the three towns merged in 1914. This was significant because they could work better together during World War I.

In 1912 the residents of Stonehouse held a garden fete in the grounds of The Winter Villa, known as Nazareth House now a days.


I have continued with printing the evacuee in previous prints, but onto photographs. Photographs are often forgotten about, or over time lost. Just like the plight of the evacuees, and what they had to go through. I feel quite pleased with the overall effect. I have continued to work in black to represent that this was an important place for many years, but much of the significance has been lost. I like the transparency of this particular piece, like history is fading away.