Visiting Southerndown earlier this year, my work since has all completely shifted and stemmed from my exploration of the landscape. Both my sculptural work and my screen prints are heavily inspired by the natural formations within the rock pools, impacted upon by the weather. I had no plan for this when visiting Southerndown, but I became fascinated by the detailed and intricate shapes and how nature alone could cause this.
In turn, my work revolves around these organic formations, both through sculpture and print. The sculptural side to my work focuses on form and documenting the physicality and nature of the rock pools, through bulbous, concaving clay forms. In contrast my prints focus on the documentation of the natural shapes I recorded on my visit, and through the use of puff medium, bring dimension to a traditionally flat medium. For my final installation I decided to have a combination of both sculptural work and prints as I think they both highlight the primary focus of my practice this year, materiality and the natural shapes of the landscape, and I think they complement each other well.
The format in which I have chosen to display the sculptural element of my final piece, reflects that of a museum’s format. This was especially inspired by a visit to the Museum of Natural History in Oxford and my fascination with their geological collection on display. As of such, I have chosen to present my sculptures as if they were a discovery from my visit to Southerndown, with an engraved plaque to support this. Due to the business of the plinth I made the decision to keep the wall of screen prints simple, in which they are spread out amongst a white wall. Through the combination of prints and sculpture, I hope for there to be an entire sense of texture and form.
The choice for the overall colour theme of orange and blue and the experimentation with the combination of the two stems from a year long exploration. As well as to satisfy my obsession, they work to create a play between natural and unnatural. The forms I have created are quite natural and organic, whilst the complementary colours are quite unnatural, especially in relation to Southerndown. Doing such in attempts to suspend my work between the natural and synthetic world.
The context to my practice has involved exploring and communicating my experience of the landscape of Southerndown, and the naturally occurring shapes and textures of the rock pools. My decision to utilise both clay and screen printing was used in hopes to convey such, as each material has opposing qualities that pair and complement each other well. When I have the opportunity, I think it would be interesting to bring my sculptures back to Southerndown and photograph them integrated with the environment in which they were inspired by.
Although my work has explored several different mediums and covered different concepts within the year, the material thinking that has embodied my final pieces, was evoked especially by a plaster casting demonstration with Laura. The technical skills and outcomes I was able to achieve in the demonstration have greatly inspired both aspects of my final pieces.
My first trial involved my attempt to convey the sense of Southerndown through texture exploration without the use of reactive glazes. I pressed several of the impressions I had taken from the Southerndown rock pools into a sheet of clay that I later cast with plaster. The results were incredibly effective. Once dried I painted this textural exploration with the reoccurring colours in my practice, orange and blue, using one of the natural shapes I had gathered from Southerndown as focus. The success of the textures in combination with linear outline led my screen prints into the incorporation of puff medium, to create unusual texture.
Additionally, the plaster casting workshop allowed me to initiate my first steps into the making of actual sculptures that I had long desired within my practice. I was able to create these bulbous forms that protruded and sunk, in attempt to mirror the effects of the weather on the rock pools of Southerndown. The plaster casts and my colour use within them led me to start my exploration into clay, and furthermore into my final pieces, which I believe successfully capture my interpretation of the landscape.
The plaster casting workshop has helped me to contextualise my thoughts through material exploration. The conceptual side to my work lies in the exploration of the Southerndown landscape. The way in which I can use form, colour and texture to convey both a physical and personal interpretation of my findings, as well as suspend my work between natural and synthetic.
Over the past couple of weeks I have slowly been developing my sculptural work, since the success of my first ceramic sculpture. Each individual piece utilises a different combination of colour contrast, shape and surface pattern, in attempt to explore complementary contrasts.
To create the sculptures I have used a combination of air drying clay and white St Thomas clay. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get the work made of actual clay fired as the timing was off and their textured, protruding surfaces also meant it was impossible without them exploding in the kiln. However I don’t really think this effects the finished results, as I have chosen to cover each sculpture in acrylic paint and gloss varnish, which replicates the effect of a glaze.
I have kept all the sculptures hand-sized, similar to the work of Ken Price, firstly as it was more manageable, but secondly for interactivity. Initially I wanted people to interact with my work, however as they are not fired, making the change into ceramic, they remain fairly delicate which may result in them braking with too much handling. Whether the sculptures will be interactive for the show remains undecided. I will decide closer to the time.
I plan on carrying on with this sculptural work next year, and in this development I plan on firing my work and using glaze to create different surface textures and colour contrasts.
Overall I am really pleased with the finished results as for me they capture this contrast between the natural world and the synthetic paint and colour, leaving them in a constant state of flux.
The third year’s exhibition was really interesting and though provoking to see. There was such a huge variety of work in material and conceptual meaning, that made me think about my own practice.
In particular I found Janet Blackman’s ceiling to floor sculpture inspiring through its deconstruction of the traditional clothes peg. Like my own work, Blackman’s sculpture has moved so far away from the traditional shape, and instead manipulates form and material. I wrote a review for the show on this piece:
“It’s okay, to let go (unpegged)”
Blackman’s practice has personal resonance, centring on her conscious and unconscious understanding of the world as a mother, wife and dancer. The installation “It’s okay, to let go (unpegged)” in whole seems to represent the idea of letting go, demonstrated through the deconstruction of the traditional clothes peg.
The exploration of the peg stems from a desire to explore mass produced, mundane objects of everyday life. Blackman works through both deconstructing and reconstructing; and it is this deconstruction of the clothes peg, alongside its underlying relation to the nurturing, maternal role that Blackman manages to let go of the responsibilities of motherhood. The decision to leave major elements of the sculpture undecorated, exposing the raw materiality of the wood, entices the mind back to the basics of a clothes peg. Within the installation, the peg is approached in a variety of formats, from the free-falling sections of wood, to the sturdy bronze cast pegs. The inclusion of a realistic representation of the peg, combined with the choice in material and its lengthy construction process, mirrors the physically demanding role of the mother. Additionally the number Blackman chose to make has significance to members within her family, highlighting the personal resonance within her practice.
Balance is an underlying theme throughout Blackman’s installation, demonstrated through balance of material; solid bronze castings against fluid, bended wood, as well as Blackman’s physical use of balancing materials on top of one another. This fascination with balance possibly stems from her past as a dancer, in combination with her role as a mother and wife. Thus suggesting a possible relation between the balancing of materiality alongside the ‘balancing act’ of life.
Through height, materiality and composition, Blackman achieves a great deal of movement within her sculpture, which may stem from her past as a dancer. A great deal of play between abstraction and reality can be found within the sculpture, that releases and halts the movement. The free flowing forms of the twisted and curved wood are loose and expressive, but are juxtaposed by the solid sand cast elements and bronze cast pegs, that ground the installation and act as a reminder of its focus. The height of the work and the way in which the wood drapes increases this sense of movement. The fluidity of the wood gives the sense of falling and tumbling, resembling a fabric, and therefore it could be inferred that they act to represent laundry falling, further adding to this idea of letting go.
My casts are finally dry enough to join together. Before joining I sanded each half down as the pigment ended up making the cast’s surfaces really uneven, once sanded the colour was certainly less pigmented but I managed to achieve a consistent colour instead. I have glued the halves together with superglue which has held them together really well, and have tried to match up the joins as much as possible.
The majority I have left unpainted but on my orange and blue sculpture, I have experimented with pattern and colour for trial for my clay sculptures. I don’t like how it has turned out on the plaster cast as it almost looks cartoony, which is not what I want for my final pieces. However, using plaster has been vital in experimentation and thus as development for my final clay sculptures.
I have moved away from traditional screen printing, something I have previously had a lot of practice with and have begun to use puff medium, a completely new material to me.
It was a much more lengthy and tedious process to get the finished results in comparison to standard screen printing, as there was so much preparation to do. This was in terms of prepping my screen, as well as the printing inks, stretching paper beforehand, and the printing process itself. However the end results were much more satisfying and worth the time put in, as I have managed to achieve my desired result of textured screen prints.
I decided to stick to the colours orange and blue as they have had such a heavy focus in my practice this year and it would seem disjointed to exclude them in this final process. As I was applying the steam to the prints, I noticed that as well as expanding, the puff medium also caused the colour of the prints to change, becoming lighter in tone. There is sill an obvious complementary contrast to the colours, however if I continue with this printing I will consider this effect in further prints.
The process of printing in the textiles lab was quite different to normal screen printing. The prepping of the screen utilised different materials and exposure times, and the pigments with obvious combination of puff medium were completely new to me. There were no suction beds when printing which meant that it was much harder to create and overlap accurate prints, as it was all done by hand. To achieve the textures surface I had to wait for the prints to fully dry, and then go in with steam from an iron that causes the puff medium to expand within the inks. This was an exciting and challenging process to complete, as there was such fine line in the puff medium of it expanding and exploding. I think I managed to push the medium to its limits however, without ruining the prints.
Overall I am very happy with the prints I created, especially when considering this medium and process was completely new to me, as the prints managed to achieve a texture in a typically flat medium. I plan on using some of the prints created today within my final exhibition to pair with my sculpture work as I think they add well to this idea of texture and materiality in attempt to convey my experience of Southerndown.
The textiles lab is a discipline I hope to return to, with Nigel already showing me different ways in which I can capture texture.