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.

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.

Live Sandthropocene

This was an extremely enjoyable but mega piece of work. There are lots of different elements to the piece that I brought all together in attempt to create a spontaneous installation. I wanted to include my ‘Live’ video and some previous sculpture I’d done like the newspaper balloon and experiments I’d done with melting computer keyboards.

I was going for the less prepared, freer, spontaneous approach to the day it took making this because I’ve been aware how much planning and preparation I seem to do with every piece so to just bring all elements together and see what I get seemed like a new, interesting way of working.

Melted Electrical Equipment:

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Notions of shrivelling and drying up are strong in my thoughts and ideas, directly reflecting the state of the human social sculpture and mind as well as the physical changes the world is facing. I thought it appropriate to deliberately destroy these pieces of well recognised technology the way I argue they are changing us. Although they link quite clearly to some sort of apocalypse, the physical presence of a melted and damaged piece of plastic like these finds an eerie, uncomfortable realm within us that concludes that this is not ok. In the flesh, the sculptures make you feel uncomfortable. Everyone knows that electrical equipment, plus fire (which is the obvious cause for the damage here) is definitely bad, with relation to danger, explosions, fumes and waste. But why do we so easily recognise this matter, opposed to realising, noticing and therefore caring that we are doing the exact same thing to the planet? The sculptures are sickly and fairly repulsive as the keys bare bubbles, dirty textures and scorched fluid edges, it may be fascinating but also uncomfortable.

Above are some photos of the impromptu ‘oil sand’, wire and melted technology  sculpture I put together inspired by ideas of the anthropocene, climate change and the crumbling of social interaction. I didn’t plan what I was going to make and it was a really enjoyable process rather than trying to match something to an idea or drawing which can get frustrating when it doesn’t go to plan.

The sand staircases in the sculpture are part of an experiment I did a few weeks ago where I made a mould that works in the same way as a sandcastle bucket. I fill it with sand and turn it over and out comes a staircase. The staircases were part of an original idea: sand is a key material seen through this body of work as of the relevance to the future of our planet if it continues to be abused and dry out due to climate change. Plus it is extremely crumbly and obviously wouldn’t be a very good material for building stairs. Imagine trying to climb a sand staircase, you would just fall through it as it crumbles into a pile – you would get no where – a bit like our future in this case.

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The previous elements of sculpture then became part of an installation after I added a projector showing the previous video I made called ‘Live’. I also experimented with lights for the first time and to my surprise, thanks to the wires I received some amazing shadows cast all over the walls.

Reflection: The addition of the lights was not intended to create these shadows but I think they were a real asset to the outcome. They have connotations with remnants and impression and trace which could all be linked to the human presence on Earth. The shadows are visually very interesting and add a sense of mystery and ghostly eeriness to the installation like this is a scene from a terrible, very serious story that has yet to happen, the tangles and ambiguous trails of sand are part of a bigger picture. Some sort of system is indicated through the improvised shapes crawling and sprawling across the floor. When I stepped back to look at the piece at the end I could vaguely trace out the shape of a human body; the paper mache balloon being the head leading down to the sand as the torso and wires to staircases as the limbs. Reinforcing the possible apocalyptic future for the human race suggesting we end in piles of sand and tangled wires leading no where.

As of all this, I have been made aware from others and consider myself that it may be too much. There is too much going on. I had feedback suggesting that either the video or the melted keyboards weren’t needed. And possibly that the floor piece would have been fine on it’s own and the wall aspects distracted from the detail it bares below.

However, I really liked the process and seeing how it developed so think I will do similar things in the future but keep in mind the risk of over complicating and crowding, sometimes less is more.