3rd Yr Journal – Week 3

I’ve been struggling the past couple of days to find a rhythm and grasp what the relevance of my materials have to ideas of colonialism and anthropology, the celts, christian history or art or the influence of religion and so on and so on. Until I realised that I have been getting too lost in the information and academia of the concepts I’m working with. I have also given myself too much to think about and all the subject areas are extremely vast. To try to counteract this and take away some of the intense factual ideas I’ve been working with, I have decided to forget the previous research I’ve done, block it out for a few days and focus on the form and physicality of what’s in front of me. I headed to the library and did some artist research.

Dorothy Cross’s work found its way into my life and help to shine a light over the poeticness and ambiguity of form and material. By simply saying how a form can encourage the “viewer to ask more intimate questions that are often buried deep in our consciousness” has helped to remind me of the importance and beauty of form and material and how these realisation of what a material can do come from making with the material not thinking and planning what to do with it.

“residue is a key word in the artist’s vocabulary, she has always shown tenderness towards remnants , leavings, and detritus, and her imagination returns again and again to leavings, traces, artifacts, ordinary articles packed with memories and dreams” reminding me that the artist definitely benefits from having a relationship with the materials she or he is using like being ‘tender’ towards them or rough or careless which helps me to consider the relationship I have with mine. I have realised I am delicate with them but not overly precious, suggesting that they are not only ephemeral in literal terms but also ephemeral in terms of my value to towards them.

“When she turns to the dead past, her work reactivates its shadows and its corpses through the magic of relics. She establishes lines to the past, through buildings and objects and achievements that have been abandoned”. I found this quote relevant and inspiring to my own practise as it talks of working with the past, in the present and what the relationship between the two time periods could mean. Essentially I am exploring how the past has affected the present and in doing so, I am reminding the present of the past. Like giving the past and present agency or status as if they were tangible objects or consciousnesses in their own right that have memory and opinion to what they’d like to take from the past and what they’d like to leave there. I guess this is similar to the structure of colonialism in a way as one agent takes what it wants from another agent to create a new currency of existence whether its tangible or not. But what if the past could also still take from the present or future? What is a theoretical example of this?

I’ve also looked physically at the work of Tony Cragg for inspiration on form, shape and structure. You can see evidence of this in my sketchbook.  He often works with very permanent materials and I was attracted to the pieces that although are made as permanent objects, seem and look random or impermanent in their spaces in galleries etc. I was attracted to the sculptures that looked random and almost give off the feeling that they could get away if they wanted to; this is a juxtaposition between material and form. A permanent material evoked in a transient, temporal way.

Then I developed and approached my small delicate dough objects in a different way, displaying them on blocks of oolitic limestone.

 

Experimenting with arrangement and positioning. I also added some hay and two metal drum kit cymbals to the structures.

More experimenting I did today was to make marks using charcoal onto the dough:

 

Which made the browned dough seem like tiny landscapes or lands. The charcoal gave them depth and pattern that follows the natural shapes and lines found in the baked dough. They are quite beautiful and when photographed on matt black paper appear ancient and important somehow even though they are extremely easy, cheap and uncomplicated to make. But what defines important – delicate, cheap and uncomplicated can be just as important as expensive, strong and complex objects.

I also positioned the dough shapes within some of my hay sculptures – a completely different and opposing material to the oolitic limestone:

 

The oolithic limestone also added interesting context to the work but I’m not sure what to think about it yet. “Oolitic limestone is made up of small spheres called ooiliths that are stuck together by lime mud. They form when calcium carbonate is deposited on the surface of sand grains rolled (by waves) around on a shallow sea floor.” (quote from google search). It is “precipitated from warm, supersaturated marine water. A pure oolitic limestone with spar cement. The oolites are white, rounded, and concentrically layered, in the sand sized range.” which gives me lots of things to think about, from circular objects to its layering qualities and the process in which it’s formed. It’s creation heavily involves the ocean and the movement of waves and energy and through the layering up of shells and sediment on the ocean floor you get circular textures in the stone. Layering like the layering of history being deposited on the ocean floor to create solid stone created over time. Cultural history like layers of addition and change to create the current state of a material that can be manipulated, carved, chipped and sculpted either by nature or human hands – much like culture can be. We are chipping away, manipulating and sculpting society all the time without even realising it. Society like layered earth constantly being manipulated and changed.

In a tutorial with David Paton, I was made aware of the concept of palimpsest. The concept originated from ancient Greece and Rome and describes the process of scraping away layers of animal fat from animal skin which was used to write on. Ink would penetrate the animal skin and stain it so when a layer is scraped off to remove a mistake for example, the ink was so strong that it would leave traces of the original text all the way through the layers of skin so that despite trying to remove the mistake, you will still be able to see the original marks underneath. This concept has now been adopted and used in an archaeological context to describe objects that portray visual timelines. For example, the walls of an ancient cave may have hundreds of engravings or drawings or markings on them, but they wouldn’t have all been made in the same 10 minutes 10,000 years ago. The walls have been added to overtime by different people, resulting in walls  that can now be described as a palimpsest. They are things that present time through physical change and alteration that can still be seen. This concept made clear how important layers are in my work to represent historical and time based change.

In the video above, I transfer rubble and mud that I collected from an archaeological excavation site between the dough sculptures. Here the dough acts as a vessel and kind of bowl that can hold a material. The mud from the site that is likely to not have seen sunlight for hundreds of years leaves traces in each of the dough sculptures it’s poured out of, the dirt collects around the bumps and textures of the dough like history leaving its mark throughout the social landscapes it interacts with. Transferring but leaving traces, anything that is transferred leaves remnants and traces in the metaphorical vessel that held it before.

As of this I’ve started to see the dough shapes as islands of meaning in themselves. Each having their own individual markings and landscape. I’ll never make the same one twice, hand crafted like culture and society. Little representations floating out into the sea of culture or tossed into the wild ocean by god where they go on their own journey, either sinking, breaking, disintegrating, eaten or smashed. They all have their own journey like the history of every country, continent, cultural group, family, person. Like a simple general representation of the concept of the voyage or journey that everything is forced take having been given the gift of life or presence in the world. So I made this experimental video below that I’d like to add some sort of narrative poetry to in the future to attempt to convey these ideas. Poetry like a charm or story, I’d like to create a fictional narrative for the dough pieces that maybe evokes a sense of the beginning of culture or abstract story about how time or society began. This creation of abstract symbolic scenario making or story telling is popular within native Canadian story telling where no gods or specific beings are presented as the creators but animals and nature being the ones that brought about human life, time and culture.

 

 

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3rd Yr Journal – Week 1 & 2

After arriving a couple of days late back to uni because I was doing a spiritual residency retreat aimed at female artists, run by amazing artist collective Fourthland (website: http://fourthland.co.uk/). I was a little up in the clouds and it has taken the first couple of weeks of my final year of Fine Art study to get settled back into the mind set and rhythm of university life and tempo as well as working weekends in a kitchen, catching up with friends and keeping up to date with domestic duties of a chaotic busy student house. But this overwhelming business has become an exciting challenge.

The ideas stated in the previous post about my experience and work from the CAST Studio Residency are feeding into the work I’ve made in the past couple of weeks. In Portugal where the Spiritual Artist Residency Retreat was held, I was lucky enough to find a snake skin. The shedded skin of a snake and colonial sail/flag hangings made in the residency are linked for obvious reasons but the nature of the snake skin having once been around the snakes body and now abandoned on the floor, valueless inspired an investigation into other ways ‘the skin of Britain’ could be represented. So, in light of the well known christian ceremony ‘Holy Communion’ where one breaks and eats bread that supposedly represents the flesh of Jesus Christ and drinks red wine that represents his blood, I began baking dough.

 

 

 

The textures, beautiful variety of browns and shapes that were produced is always different and in the process I aimed to stretch the dough to almost ripping point to reveal cracks and bare holes that could lead to further layers beneath to imply a sort of exposure to something beneath. However, purposely giving the dough this nature makes it delicate and fragile. What does this imply about the skin of Britain? That it’s weak and easily broken, that you can see through to the layers beneath through the cracks? It’s brittle and ridged, not flexible, there’s no chance of change now it’s been baked for so long?

What I also need to keep in mind is the colour of the dough. Does the fact that the dough shows many different skin colours change it’s status in terms of what I am exploring, are the bubbles, blotches and tones relevant?

Taking this idea of dough and skin forward, is Britain’s deep rooted christian culture like a thick, bready, rotten, stagnant kind of armour that is tied to each new generation that enters the world in Britain due to the structure and eurocentric approach of it’s Western society? So I have begun making myself a bready body armour that will be tied together using palm tree leaf fibres, referencing the leaves that the Bibles states were laid on the ground when Mary rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey. This is as far as I’ve got with these ideas at the moment but the dough I have been baking for the body armour has leaves mixed into it for experimental disruption of the dough texture and strength.

 

 

 

I’ve also been weaving straw into a flat structure I found at the side of the road and have added layers of clay to some of the straw sculptures I made at the CAST residency.

 

 

It’s still unclear what the reasons are for these pieces but one observation is how all of the objects I am making contain and relate to layers of some sort. Like building up a weave through slowly adding new layers. Straw sculptures coated in clay; a material once soft and paste like, now dry and crumbly. Both pieces have layers made of weak materials. I have not made any thing that is permanent or solid, all the materials are susceptible to damage from fire, water or a powerful blow. They are very organic but ephemeral objects and materials, something temporal or unsecure. All the materials I am using are fairly domestic, like the straw and clay being very similar to Kob for building houses, straw used for roofing or farming and dough for the obvious reasons relating to food. The universal creation of a home? Due to the universal nature of the materials, am I questioning a lack of specific location or grounding in one place. Or is it about the universality of the home being non specific but that home is always found in the earth, anywhere on earth? The universality and similarity of all cultures as all religions, cultures and countries are likely to recognise dough as a food product? Universal language. The singularity and unitedness of all humans regardless of race, ethnicity or religion etc and finding comfort in the same materials.

CAST Residency August 2018

The month long studio residency I did at CAST (http://c-a-s-t.org.uk/) throughout August was an extremely interesting, eye opening and experimental time. The work I produced was some of my favourite work to date and I believe the freedom, lack on subconscious need to fit a mark scheme, the size of the studio space and time alone was essential to these outcomes and very effective.

Having been super interested in colonialism for the past 12 Months since a fantastically moving and inspiring exchange to Vancouver, Canada last August, I felt I began evoking the challenging thoughts and concepts I’ve wanted to communicate.

A short film also accompanied the installation, click link below to watch:

‘Locally Sourced’ video link on Vimeo

It was a very methodic and rhythmic process of plodding through thought without pressure of expectation to an end point that seemed to make sense.

The video piece was presented on a laptop at the side of the installation however, if the opportunity arose where I could put the instillation together again, I would like to run the video through a TV with better headphones. It is an experimental digital film exploring a scaled down scenario relating to the colonialism found in England. A scene on the left showing ‘up country people’ from more privileged, educated backgrounds undertaking an archaeological dig in southern Cornwall. Scene on the right of mainly local Cornish folk enjoying the annual ancient pagan festival held in Helston in early May known as Helston Flora festival. There is a juxtaposition of the two. The story is always the same, the highly educated privileged academics on the left, digging up the ancient local history of those on the right, with those on the right likely to never obtain or gain access to the findings of their history on the left. A scaled down metaphor of the structure of Anthropological and Archaeological scientific findings ingrained into social structure and lack of accessibility given to the less privileged. In parts of the video, I insert my own presence into the scenario through the sound of my voice. I did this to explore this kind of chain of research happening. By not eliminating myself from the storyboard, you are presented with: the artist studying the archaeologists and there being a direct connection between me and the archaeologists due to the communicative exchange, and then the archaeologists arguably studying the histories of the people on the right yet there is a disconnect between the reality of what they are digging for and the current reality of these people generations later. The archaeologists arguably digging in the land of the local’s ancestors yet lacking connected with the the locals of now – I something that is continuously repeated throughout this field. Also, by inserting the presence of the artist into the left scene with the archaeologists, I highlight the reality of the artist sharing the same privilege as the scientists; also disconnected from the reality of the native, local persons.

I was basically experimenting with representing social power and privilege structures found constantly interwoven into society all over the world but here specifically in Britain. And doing so in an experimental documentary kind of way.

No for the physical instillation, I’d like to start by highlighting the the materials I worked with. With a combination of hay and ship sails as the main material used in the work I can begin by mentioning the material implications of the home and away. Home being the hay and away being the ship sails. Already the essence of journey is implied. My intentions of using the hay was to communicate a sort of rural, traditional folk imagery with relevance to the working class and ‘common people’ of Britain which follows suit with the rest of the world; it’s not likely that hay or straw would spark associations with the upper classes of the world. I then explored tying the hay into bundles which naturally bared relevance to imagery within tribalism, paganism, witchcraft and unidentifiable mythical creatures. This helped stitch together loose thoughts on indigenous peoples, cultures and religions of England before it began being colonised by Europe starting with the Romans in 43 AD, and since then these cultures and religions have continued to decrease.

The sails on the other hand were sourced from a local sail maker in Falmouth who gave me a bunch of cut-offs and scraps from his workshop. After being glued together in collage fashion, they became striking, flag like and conveyed an essense of pride and power. My intentions with the sails revolve around an air of Britain’s subconscious Colonial pride; the sails representing that over sea voyage, journey and conquering that took place during colonial conquest. However, I wanted to communicate this in a kind of subtly tribal fashion. I’m not entirely sure of the reasoning and link between presenting the sails in a way that looks like stretched or hung animal skin but it’s along the lines of challenging what England would present in terms of a skin that represents them. The sail/ flag imagery representing Britain as rooted in colonialism, patriarchy and taking what is not theirs to take. Rather than presenting say an indigenous animal skin that is worshipped and honoured for giving every part of itself up for the likes of human consumption and use. Britain as a nation has no care for nature the way other cultures around the world do and these are the cultures that Britain aimed to destroy.

Finally, an element of the installation was a metal dustbin filled with carved apples bobbing in water. This may remind you of that old traditional village feit game, apple bobbing yet these 53 apples have the 53 commonwealth country outlines carved into them. With this I aim to challenge the notion and approach that the predominantly christian community that fueled Britain’s desire to conquer had when they spread their mark around the world… absentmindedly biting into whatever country they picked up next.

It was a passionate and interesting endeavor that flowed through many circles of thought. It was also a massive help and step forward into 3rd year where I will continue to manifest the same themes.

Drawing and Collage

These are just a few drawings/collages I’ve done throughout my research to visualise and explore how texture has implications and see if the visual language I have created through sculpture can also be portrayed through the marks and textures I created on my drawings. I wanted them to stimulate the same ideas as my instillations. I think they are still missing something. I would like them to have something more, similar to the installations – I think at the moment my drawings are along the same lines as my installation if my installations didn’t have video with them. But the video element stimulated more ideas and senses and I need to develop my drawings so that they do the same.

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The work seems incomplete with some areas of clean shape and some completely erratic. I wanted to experiment with manipulating images of the possible barren, dry, desert future but add a rough industrial feel to the outcome, hence the pastel mark making and makeshift, dirty or abandoned outcome.

Reality Underpass – Sculpture

Bringing together the balloon forms in all their variety and a collaboration of found items, I created this sculpture/installation. The vague idea behind this piece is the ‘slipping through’ ‘unnoticed slipping under’ ‘underpassing’ of reality in our modern world. The idea was to use sand to represent true reality that passes underneath the arches and bridges of fast pace, quickest route technology and media that are drawing us over the away from reality in it’s purest form.

The rest of the sculpture has been completely up to my hands and mind at the time of creation. I moved the material and objects around the room in search of a positioning that I felt was right, and continued this process throughout the course of the sculpture.

I do really enjoy this intuitive way of working but as long as I have all the right tools and possible materials to use at hand and all my options around me. And as a result I got the large sculpture below that uses: oil sand, plaster mold and casts, found wires, found cushioning, found wood, melted keyboards, a plinth filled with sand,  polystyrene packaging in a bag and a projector and cameras.

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The projected scene onto the sculpture is a ‘live’ video of the sculpture in the space, the video can only go on as long as the sculpture lasts and thanks to technology, because I am videoing directly what I can see onto the thing I’m seeing, the projected image multiplies and plays back into itself. It creates senses of non stop, forever and continuation, expanding on ideas of constant digital attachment that will go on forever, it’s a bit like a black hole. Also, time in the video gets slower as the video goes further into repeat, there’s something fascinating  and disorientating about something in real time being repeated and changing in sync.

Again in this sculpture I intended for there to be a feeling of system or network going on. The veins of reality pumped into the solid balloon forms and seeping from synthetic substances like polystyrene or wire. The half bitty half clear foam softening and cushioning the weight of the hollow balloon molds that have been mutated to resemble rock formations. The key boards like a control panel for all of it, melted and distorted but still controlling the system of reality and roots of modern life. The video projection ensuring its long living stability and presence, repetition and technological overcast on the flow of the sculpture and modern life.

Using sand in my sculptures and using a process of placement and arrangement demonstrates the temporary and ephemerality of the moment of creation. You cannot move the sculpture without taking it apart and breaking it’s state, the sculpture has been built using lots of different elements especially considering the sand that has been molded into a shape there and then. The ephemerality of the sculpture combined with the reliance of the projection, on the sculpture (because the projection is OF the sculpture) both bare temporal elements that reflect the state of humans on the earth. The momentary existence and blink of an eyelid that we live for in the eyes of the universe is like the building and then breaking down of this sculpture.

Since doing my recent installation sculptural work, I have realised that I need to refine my working ideas. The subject of the anthropocene, climate change, the apocalypse, technology/information world and the desert and reality and living more and using technology less is what all my ideas revolve around and that is a lot to consider, it is such a huge mass of subjects. However, from the materials I am drawn to collecting and the general outcomes of my installations and sculptures, it seems palpable to say that I am constantly creating divergence and friction between organic substance and the synthetic, mass manufactured. I see that sometimes the contrasting materials work fluidly together and other times they seem to move abruptly against each other, constantly showing their differences and reflecting the way they work together in the wider world. From this point onwards, my sculptural and aesthetic awareness will be with this notion of division and juxtaposition of organic forms and natural life and that of the bold, damaging, now so familiar world of man made products, mass production and remnants of human existence.

Creating forms

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In the casting workshop over the past week I have desperately been attempting to cast misshapen and deflated balloons that I have been keeping in the cupboard for weeks, just waiting for them to go down. It has been very difficult to do because obviously there is no solid shape to a balloon, its shape is always altering as the air inside is shifted and moulded accordingly.

I initially started making plaster molds by filling in the space around the balloon, to collect the detailed information of the wrinkles and bulges from the outside. A mold of a whole balloon had to be done in two pieces but as of the unpredictable shape, each cast had to be broken and split into many parts to get the balloon shaped cast out of it. It also didn’t help that I was casting a plaster balloon in a plaster mold, increasing the chance of sticking. After many many attempts and lots of broken plaster, I finally tried the alternative mode of creating a cast directly from filling a balloon with plaster, casting from the inside. A mode I initially dismissed because I didn’t think it would work but to my amazement it worked a treat.

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Although I don’t get the detail of the balloon’s knotted end, the exact replication of the creases and stretch marks of the deflated balloon was almost perfect.

Reflection: Despite going through so many attempts using the first way I tried and getting almost no balloon results at all. I did get some really interesting spontaneously devised results with inconsistent shapes and textures that I never could have created if I’d thought about it aesthetically before. Since moving away from these accidental pieces of art, I discovered their evident relationship to the kind of desert, rock and sand forms I have been looking at since the beginning (see below). And once I’d realised this, I started enhancing their relevance and joining pieces together and thinking about the way they looked or could look. I also like how these forms tell a story, how they were intended to be discarded as simple molds for the result I wanted but due to lack of success, they have become pieces of art and sculpture in themselves. Plus, considering the implication of the balloon, these broken molds bare the skin and surrounding negative space of the balloon, leaving its inner shape hollow and empty – a notion I’ve been trying to depict in other works prior to this.

desert rock forms

‘Live’ Performance 2

Simplified, refined version of the performance I previously did called ‘Live’ Performance. Advancing on ideas about the cyber, social media and digital world taking over our lives so much so that in reality it’s hard to say we are ‘living’ anymore. We are so involved with our online presence and increasingly so, for some, they are more involved with their online life than they are with their real one.

This time the character sits still, bolt up right and straight towards the camera and projector. You can sometimes see the whites of the characters eyes, watering, vulnerable and anxious, holding connotations with all emotional elements related to social media and technology. In ways, it’s as if the dark shape of the figure is the soul of the character and is having the ‘live’ video be projected into their heart, directly to manipulating their being and dissolving their reality in the dense network that runs through the wires in our houses and through the signals in the sky, beating the pulses of the modern ‘live’ world into their mind.

I think this is a good adaptation to my first performance but there is an uncomfortable, unease about the first performance that I really like and think adds to the notions it represents about our present and future social landscape and the way people feel and act within it. However, this second version displays the same ideas in a different way; here the character sits motionless and almost dead, behind the powerful rays of the ‘live’ video, really straining the contrast of the video with the actions of the character.

Live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, live, but NO Life.