Introducing Whaam to Whaam

When the Touch Tours Department of Tate Modern gave me a commission to make  a tactile version of Wham I was not  given  a deadline. In fact they insisted I take my time.

It normally takes me,  about a month or so to create one of my own tactile paintings, so  I thought  six months to complete the work would be more than enough time.   I was wrong, very wrong, in my eagerness to finish the commission  I put way too much pressure on myself.

There was no freedom in creating this painting, everything had to be accurate, every dot had to be in place. It took 25 coats of fine plaster to build up each dot, the rest of the painting was made up of  thick plaster and sand.   I knew how it had to look and there would be no cutting back on the depth of the painting.

I worked in the studio  six days a week and the work became all consuming. I did not look after myself properly,  forgot  to take proper breaks,  did not remember to stretch and walk around the studio. I became the painting and the painting became me.

Six months later a very exhausted artist handed over the painting.  This was done  in front of the original painting of Whaam. Just at that moment, a group of visually impaired visitors came into the gallery. They were able to see the original and see and feel my work.  My work was like a map for them, what they were unable to  see on the wall they could feel in my painting and that completed the picture for them.  Marcus Horley spoke to them about Whaam and I explained how the painting was created.  I have  never forgotten  how exciting and moving it felt to be able to talk to people about my work whilst stood in the Tate Modern.

See all images of handover on www.heatherbowring.com  under Tactile Art.

The Tate Modern press release dated September 2006  stated ” Artist Heather Bowring has used her acclaimed painting technique to produce a touchable copy of Whaam by American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.”   That is as good as it gets, or so I thought.

My whole life is made up of chance meetings.  The next blog will tell you how once again fate stepped in  and it was not long before I  began work on my next commission.