Drawing Towards Sculpture [THREE]

[ONE] talked about the development of collage drawings from site specific drawings and notes, [TWO] took a diversion to discuss drawing as an act of translation and touched upon the drawing dictating its own ends, [THREE] examines the transition of the drawings to two new forms, stand alone 3d entities and an environment.

To start this post I have to step back to before the first post and talk about the reasons for addressing the thing that has sat at the back of my mind for years and is now asking to be experienced. I have always found gardens important. I can track my life through these outdoor spaces where I first experienced a simulacrum of freedom. Where I first daydreamed, projecting myself into a smaller world, that was at once battlefield, farmyard, football pitch. Where I buried hamsters, birds and cats. A space that has remained a place for play while the nature of playing has changed. Where the past is always drifting just out of sight bar the shadows in the corner of your eye. I have continually created gardens, or parts of gardens, since the 1980’s.

BA Final Show Installation 1982

This view of my BA final show in 1982 shows a selection of sculptures built from the observational drawings of storms and landscapes that are displayed behind them. Response to nature has always been there in my work. I was introduced to art in the late ’70’s as a way to explain rather describe, but increasingly I have come to see it as a way to suggest. To render an implication rather to only evidence an event or place.

Continuing with the translation of drawing into sculpture it is relatively easy to see the change from these collage/drawings

Collage Drawings 2018

Collage Drawings 2018

To this sculpture

Ptolemy's Garden 1

Ptolemy’s Garden 1

Or this one

Ptolemy's Garden 4

Ptolemy’s Garden 4

There is a clear line of, for want of a better word, progress between these small sculptures and the earlier ones.

The process through drawing to sculpture is led through the development of a repertoire of marks that are refined as the pieces develop. The pieces are stand alone but are always placed to accentuate their edges and to articulate empty space through their proximity.

The work also develops into environmental pieces – the installation of the exhibition illustrated above as an obvious example – or the piece I made for my MA at www.veilworld.co.uk
This particular range of work is growing into this environment. http://www.ian-latham.com/geranium/geranium.html

3D model view of proposed geranium project installation

3D model view of proposed geranium project installation

 

Drawing Towards Sculpture [TWO]

How a drawing progresses through thought and action is what I thought I wanted to discuss but as I began to write I found that what concerned me was how the thing made is understood, what expectations I had of an audience and how and whether my intentions could or should be communicated by that thing. In continuing to think about the act of drawing as a symptom, or as a consequence or corollary of sculpture in part one of this post, I brushed against the idea of making a drawing being the subject of the drawing. This is too simple an explanation of process. The two drawings below for instance were made before the collage drawings in the first post but survived the cut, as it were, as they help explain the spaces I’m interested in. There are changes of viewpoint across the picture plane, working to no particular plan, disrupting the perspective to reflect the way that memory disrupts experience. Isolating objects in instances that refer to other things.


The creative act is perhaps best described as an act of translation. The ‘change or conversion to another form, appearance, etc.; transformation:’i Translation is notoriously difficult because of changes to understanding between one state and another. Linguistically this is demonstrated by obvious loss of sense or meaning with literal change, just try google translate to explore it. In artistic terms the same things apply, the nature of a mark implying three dimensional space is different to that of a mark occupying a space and that may imply a different meaning. I have often seen maquettes that fail to translate an appropriate sense of scale for instance. In Greek Poetry Translations M. Byron Raizis discusses these difficulties in translation and steps the translator needs to take to overcome them. In particular he cites anaplasis, transposition,padding, omission, inversion, correction and adjustment, and says ‘by anaplasis we mean a remoulding, a recasting of the words, expressions imagery etc., of the original into new and different but more naturally corresponding lexical features in the target tongue’ (Byron Raizis, 1981)ii This seems to me apposite in describing the act of drawing.

The drawing below (I say drawing advisedly, I have never really thought of myself as a painter and I can’t see a difference in the activities other than their existence as an end in themselves.) illustrates this recasting for me. The scene is the garden of a house on Coronation Crescent in Preston, Lancashire in 1991. The garden is viewed from the front door in the centre of the end wall of a two up two down end terrace property. It had been emptied of plants the previous winter and planted up in the spring. It’s now the end of summer and the garden feels like the whole of the world at this point. The intention is not facsimile, photographic or even technical, it’s not an illustration. The garden is deliberately sparse and the shadow heightened. The desire is to present visual analogies to memories that are always questionable. iii

Today I read an article about an art class in Sydney in which Professor of Fine Art Paul Thomas invited 14 participants from UNSW’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) to examine Bell’s theorem (1964) via their still life drawing of a simple wooden chair.

‘Irene Fernandez, who is doing a PhD in Quantum Computing at the School of Electrical Engineering, said the workshop inspired two ideas.
“The idea that when you make a trace, you statistically determine the reality of the object that you are trying to measure,” she said.
“I could see the chair as the reality that [Albert] Einstein believed in, and my hand as the tool of quantum mechanics.”
“[Secondly] the idea that the material memory makes this interesting effect where you no longer control your drawing, but it is the drawing that starts driving your decisions.” ‘iv

The second point neatly sums up what I have been trying to get at.

 

i. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/translation

ii. Byron Raizis, M (1981). Greek Poetry Translations. Greece: Efstathiadis Group. In the introduction – The Nature of Literary Translation. I am indebted to Mary Jacobus’ book Reading Cy Twombly about the artists use of poetry in his paintings and in particular the Introduction that discusses translation as part of the creative process. Jacobus, M (2016). Reading Cy Twombly. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

iii. There is a good article about this idea on The Conversation blog, “Research shows that we don’t actually access and use all available memories when creating personal narratives. It is becoming increasingly clear that, at any given moment, we unawarely tend to choose and pick what to remember.” Mazzoni, G. 2018. The ‘real you’ is a myth – we constantly create false memories to achieve the identity we want. 19th September. The Conversation. [Online]. [27 September 2018]. Available from: https://theconversation.com/the-real-you-is-a-myth-we-constantly-create-false-memories-to-achieve-the-identity-we-want-103253

iv. Nazaroff, D. 2018. UNSW Newsroom. [Online]. [24 September 2018]. Available from: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/quantum-physicists-take-art-class-rethink-their-view-reality

 

Drawing Towards Sculpture [ONE]

Establishing a repertoire of marks to explore an imagined space. That’s what I imagined myself articulating when I set out to write a blog post about a set of collage-drawings I made in June. These drawings are a transitional stage between sketches made in the garden and an imagined/virtual space. I make sketches and take photographs in the location, make bigger drawings from these in the studio, tear these up and use them as the base for the collage-drawings which are then transferred to virtual spaces as a preliminary to being recreated, and thus further altered in a manufactured physical space.

Drawing is about looking. Looking at the object or scene and looking at the paper or ground (or should that be support?) and looking at both simultaneously. Drawing is translating your feelings in the presence of the object/scene into a surface that communicates. Henri Matisse stated that his ‘…line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of my emotion’ and Picasso that ‘To draw, you must close your eyes and sing’ (Worsdale et al, 2007)1. Something beyond draughtsmanship creates a drawing that makes connections with an audience.

These drawings are a means to an end, or rather a step on a meandering journey, the end is vague like the horizon, affect not effect. The translation of feeling is semi-conscious in that occasionally a further use for the mark you make occurs and in doing so conditions the next mark you make, sometimes to its detriment. Sometimes the things you imagine as you copy become the things you copy and sometimes you don’t want this. This is why I make drawings to destroy or recreate in three dimensions. Even where a drawing is an accurate enough depiction to be recognised, either generally or specifically, this is not the whole of its intention. I note to myself at this point that if this were drawing as a cure for cancer it would be homeopathy.

Cézanne writes to Emile Bernard on the 23rd October 1905 “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you”.(Derrida, 1978) 2. Derrida uses this as a departure for a series of musings on the nature of truth in painting. Here are four interpretations of the meaning of ‘the truth in painting’ I found in a breakdown online at Kent State University. 3. They address the questions I’m trying to ask, albeit considering painting.

(1) the thing itself (truth as unhiddenness, disclosure, presentation; unveiled with no disguise whatever).
(2) an adequate, accurate representation of the thing itself—Heidegger’s secondary sense of truth.  These two concepts of truth enable one to generate four possibilities: a presentation of a representation (see, look at this photograph, here); a presentation of a presentation (“Behold, the man!”); a representation of the presentation (a painting of the situation in which the presentation just mentioned occurred); and representation of the representation (a slide of the painting).
(3) the truth in the sense proper to a picture (whatever that may be—a play of possibilities opens up here), as opposed to truth in the sense proper to an essay, for example.
(4) the truth about painting.

These potential revelations are always present in an encounter with an artwork, what it presents itself as being, what it copies, the context in which you encounter it, the truth it tells as you interpret it, what is open to you from your contribution and what is closed to you through your ignorance. They apply equally on all occasions to the artist as much as the audience especially if you follow Picasso’s instruction.

So these drawings are made to be a staging post, a base camp, before the assault on a greater challenge. They explore the nature of the spaces between the branches and twigs of the trees, the sky and the ground, the garden and the gardener, the now and the remembered. The space between the intention to make a mark and the making of that mark.

This is one of the drawings the others were made from, in this set there are 41 A1 collage/drawings. They can all be seen in this gallery

NOTES:
1. Worsdale, G et al (2007). DRAW Conversations around the legacy of drawing. England: MIMA. These are quoted by Gordon Burn and Jennifer Higgie in short essays in the catalogue to mima’s (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) inaugural exhibition. They are unattributed there and I have been unable to find a source so may be apocryphal.
2. Derrida, J (1987). The Truth in Painting. (Translation Bennington G, McLeod I). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
3. The Truth in Painting. 2007. Aesthetics Notes for Students. [Online]. [19 September 2018]. Available from: http://www.personal.kent.edu/~jdrake3/JeffreyWattles/Aesthetics/Aesthetics10.html

‘But what does it all mean?’

I started a sculpture this summer, the first one I’ve done for a while, and posted an unfinished state in T’Art Club.
This prompted a question around the story, what’s it all about?

20120827-102236.jpg

When I build something I don’t necessarily start with a specific end in mind, finding that if I know what it’s going to be it becomes too difficult to achieve. Is that because my imagination outstrips my talent, or because I need the process to be a discovery? Picasso apparently said that if he knew what he was going to paint he needn’t bother with it. I suspect it’s a bit of both for me.

Meaning, narrative, even purpose are perhaps ingrained in process but remain undefined beyond completion, or the point at which you stop, and there is a sense in which they are unnecessary. But people need something to grab on to when they see a thing, a way in, to judge the success of a work there is a sense that you need to know what you’re supposed to think so that you can measure it against what you actually think. That measure is your judgement, does it work? Rather than do I like it?

I’ve never really got that, being too interested in the physicality of an object, how it uses space, how it ‘moves’, and how it’s formal elements, balance, proportion, rhythm, colour, work to activate it.

This work ‘Hexthorpe Park -the three graces’ is born of that motivation and no other. I started with the central tree, worked on for some hours but not transformed much, and worked towards an assemblage of forms that cut through the space I had predefined (in my mind). While working on it I walked the dogs in the park and, as I do, indulged my fascination with the way things grow, the random negative spaces generated by the intertwined branches of trees and shrubs, the way dead wood breaks off in storms and is held by chance for a time, before the next storm loosens it. Alongside this thinking of the three graces, Thalia, for abundance, blooming, the muse of comedy, Euphrosyne for Joy, Aglaea, for beauty and brilliance.

If there is a reason for the way the forms are combined here it’s because the muses are essentially the same, or aspects of the same feeling. There is a negative space made solid, a frame as a surface to be cut, a floor that is one of the muses and the space itself, holding them together. Then there is the colour, hopefully drawing the pieces together, providing some definition but essentially indicating a similarity of material.

20120827-103338.jpg

The sculpture is best described as a sketch, something impromptu and ephemeral, light and airy. It’s about happiness.

Being in the moment

Dogwalk 2008 Twigs, pins, paper

 

I’ve always felt the worst thing you can do is think. When I’m making I need to dissociate myself from everything and act automatically if the work is to be any good. Clearly this is not axiomatic, there is too much evidence to the contrary in my drawers.

 

 

 

Dogwalk 1 2008, Twigs, paper pins

 

When I moved to Doncaster I had limited space to work and certainly no space for sculpture. I continued a habit of collecting ‘stuff’ as I walked my dogs, twigs, bits of detritus, feathers, etc., and kept a bag full of it in the garage. Periodically I would spend time joining these bits together. The model for this activity for me was David Smith’s residency in Italy at Voltri in 1962.

 

 

Dogwalk 2 2008 pins, paper, twigs

 

Smith was invited to make two sculptures for the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, and given the choice of five abandoned welding factories around Genoa. He chose one in the small town of Voltri. Inspired by the wealth of material available he made 27 sculptures in 30 days. The Wall Street Journal has a good article here.

 

 

Voltri VII

David Smith Voltri VII, 1962 Photo: © The Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 

Finding an array of parts, wheels, girders, tools and so on, Smith just built. I can imagine the energy generated by the sheer joy of combining these objects.

I adopted this approach when I discovered it because that kind of energy can only work when decisions become intuitive. I find that I work best when I have progressed beyond careful consideration into try and fail, try and fail, try and accept. I won’t say succeed.

 

 

Since then I have had a working practice, that I’m still tied to, that means I can work for an hour or so each day before I have to stop. The next day I need to be able to pick up the traces quickly, contemplation is not an option when time is limited. So I built small sculptures at a rapid rate, developing the ideas quickly, each responding to whatever I pulled out of the bag, and began to notice connections rather than engineering them. The ‘dogwalks’ maquettes, never to be realised as sculpture, are my effort at generating this kind of energy

 

Voltri VI

Voltri VI, 1962 Steel, 98 7/8 x 102 1/4 x 24 in. (251.1 x 259.7 x 61 cm.) Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Dallas, Texas 1978.A.0 .

 

reference for Voltri VI

reference for Voltri VII




Woman Walking with Hand to Mouth

Four views of a work in progress.  This is four views of a single figure, about one metre tall, made from hardboard and fixed with a glue gun.  The figure is from Muybridge– ‘Woman walking with hand to her mouth’

Woman Walking Downstairs

The desire here is to get the kind of movement you find in Duchamp into the single figure, or to simply have the movement apparent in the static representation, so it’s very much a first version, and very much unfinished.

That may be a characteristic of my work on reflection, the ‘unfinished’ quality. I won’t claim it as deliberate, but then I do stop.

Duchamp - Nude Descending a Staircase

The process I try to follow when I work is to work without reference, to try to let the object dictate it’s own result.  There are some other examples here

Acknowledgements:

wikimedia commons Eadweard Muybridge

Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 – wikipedia 21/04/12