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.
Comparing my final pieces to contextual gallery visits along the course of the year, I have noticed that my sculptures show a link back to Damien Hirst’s exhibition I visited, ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ in Venice. It is the concept of discovery and fake truth that links my work to Hirst’s.
The two exhibitions were filled with statues, objects and figures of gods and heroes from the “ancient world” that had been submerged in the Indian Ocean for 2000 years before being discovered and retrieved. The majority of the retrieved work was “decayed” and “encrusted” in coral and other marine life. The exhibition was arranged and narrated in the style of a museum as well, further adding to this idea of a discovery. The exhibition focuses on how you inhabit the past, and the solidity of what we call history based upon fragments of information. There are no absolute truths. The exhibition is about belief. Belief in God. Belief in Gods. Or not believing.
Alongside the exhibition a Netflix documentary was released to the support the idea of the discovery, showing the process of retrieving the lost items. Following the documentary, the “expedition” began in 2010, “specialists” and “archaeologists” documented the artefacts, tracing their origin, and retrieved them from the bottom of the ocean. Within the documentary, Hirst acted as the sponsor for the expedition, justified through his love of fantasy, shipwrecks and underwater discoveries as a child. This shows similarities to my own infatuation with geology as a child and how it has translated into my final sculptural pieces. The documentary as a whole is very convincing if you didn’t know the exhibition. Cut to the last frame of the video where this breaks, in which a Mickey Mouse sculpture is depicted as if it has been salvaged from a Roman shipwreck.
To the untrained eye it would be easy to assume Hirst’s exhibition as a museum exhibition however there were little clues that gave away that everything was a lie. There are innumerable clues, the pharaoh shows resemblance to Pharrell Williams, the Medusa head is a reprise of Caravaggio, and a ‘Made in China’ imprint can be found on the back of an artefact. However was most obviously throws off the deception is the inclusion of Mickey Mouse and Jungle Book characters within a 2000 year old collection. I really like this fine line of the truth and a lie that Hirst’s exhibition balanced on, and how engaging the lie becomes. ‘Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable’ appears to have had an underlying and subconscious effect upon my work through the idea of discovery and the museum display setting.
Nearing the end of his career, Matisse utilised paper, gouache paint and scissors to transform his practice into his revolutionary paper cut outs. The use of unorthodox materials liberated Matisse and fulfilled his lifelong ambition of uniting colour and line. It is this use of bold colour, line and simplified form that draws me to the cut outs, especially when considering that the outline of the form was the ultimate goal of Matisse, not the layered structure. This is an important concept to my own practice, in which I too use simplified linear outlines and bold colour, but to convey a sense of place.
The choice to use watered down gouache paint to pigment white paper instead of using pre-coloured paper is interesting. By mixing his own colours, Matisse creates a more personal exploration of material in mirroring a world of plants, animals, people and abstracted shapes. He described the process of creating his paper cut outs as both “cutting directly into color” and “drawing with scissors”. Although creating his cut outs was a time consuming process, in which it took Matisse two years to create artworks, I think this use of cut outs could be really beneficial to the development of my own practice, in which I am exploring landscape. Especially to the side of my practice that is exploring screen printing in block sections of colour. Winning a bursary to visit Scotland and its landscapes this summer, I think incorporating paper cut outs will be beneficial to my practice in producing initial ideas that may go on to inform my practice next year. Matisse’s utilisation of free hand cutting creates a sense of spontaneity that will complement this well as well.
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.