Out of studio diversion – ‘Snow Line’ alternatives.

It was wet & white & ...

It was wet & white & …

When I’m not in the shop building I’m generally either working on the computer or painting/drawing at home. ‘Snow Lines’ has occupied a good amount of this time in the last few weeks, particularly given that my slightly sprained ankle has meant that I couldn’t run. Running is an excellent way to empty your head.

I’ve thought about the poem on and off for a few years and for some reason it has come to the fore now. I don’t imagine why that might be, I’ll let the work that arises reveal its motivation or not. I imagined the ‘character’ of the poem as the space inside a cave, just on the snow line, injured in some way, perhaps falling into and out of existence as the temperature changes. I know, or think I know, that for Berryman Henry is the wounded creature contemplating his abandonment and feeling sorry for himself. I’d rather think of it as a literal piece for my purposes.

Drawing April 2019 - 28

Drawing April 2019 – 28

I began a drawing before I started to build the large sculpture, and I assembled a scrapbook in which I laid out the poem to play around with found materials. The drawing is based on a curled up creature, protecting itself. In this case a pangolin, I’ve seen a lot of news about pangolins lately. Apparently their scales are made of the same material as rhinoceros horn. I also found a hedgehog in the garden a week or two ago, during the day, curled up and obviously not well. The hedgehog hospital told me to put it under a bush and leave it. I buried it the next day. I’m wondering whether the drawing attracted the hedgehog or vice versa. I’m not really.

If I had to do the whole thing ...

If I had to do the whole thing …

‘How I look at sculpture (the same way that I make it?)’

some thoughts about making and looking

The Yorkshire Sculpture International takes place in June 2019 in four venues and across two cities, Leeds and Wakefield. Each of the venues is interpreting a ‘provocation’ by Phyllida Barlow – “sculpture is the most anthropological of the artforms”. At the Aesthetica Future Now symposium – 7th and 8th March 2019 – Jane Bhoyroo, Producer of YSI, delivered a session in which she referred to the Hepworth Wakefield concentrating on ‘Material Literacy’ in their interpretation.

At the symposium I had a portfolio review with Bhoyroo in which I showed photographs of some of my sculptures – the Ptolemy’s Garden series [link to gallery, put a picture in!] – that are made from used or waste materials. In this case an old bathroom floor and a randomly torn and re-purposed set of drawings. During this review I was confronted with the need to explain the gestation of the sculpture, which inevitably led to talking about the materials they are constructed from. In this case the connection between the source of the material and the finished work is quite clear, they are built, in part, from flooring removed from the bathroom which is broken and used to represent views of the garden. The cat, Ptolemy, is present as part of the material, as are myself and my wife, having walked on and interacted with the flooring and also as a memory alluded to in the representation.

Ptolemy's Garden 1

Ptolemy’s Garden 1

It strikes me that there are a series of questions asked consciously or unconsciously when contemplating a sculpture, does it represent, how does it occupy space, what does it feel like, does it have a front view, should you be inside it or more distant from it? Does it want you to touch it, and do you want to touch it? Does it confront or invite? Should these questions be asked and perhaps answered before any sense of meaning is addressed, or is meaning inevitably a precursor to, or at least concurrent with the approach to the object? Essentially the language we use parses from Pestalozzi’s schools through Elizabeth Mayo’s Lessons on Objects to the Bauhaus courses of Moholy-Nagy. We are asked to learn the formal elements of art through experiential encounters with materials and through analysis of these encounters develop a language to describe them.

I continually question myself about these resonances in the things I make. Whilst they are obviously necessary in the making of the object are they at all significant in the understanding of the object for the audience? Is too much explanation an attempt to cover a weakness in the work and/or does it add to the viewers appreciation of it? Given that the work is addressing a memory that is specifically mine, does revealing this disavow a more personal response, a different evocation, from a viewer?

Three Graces Hexthorpe 2012

Three Graces Hexthorpe 2012

Ann-Sophie Lehmann quotes Moholy Nagy in her 2017 essay in Bauhaus Zeitschrift – ‘Material Literacy’

Everyone is equipped by nature to receive and to assimilate sensory experiences. Everyone is sensitive to tones and colours, everyone has a sure ‘touch’ and space reactions, and so on. This means that everyone by nature is able to participate in all the pleasures of sensory experience, that any healthy man can become a musician, painter, sculptor, or architect, just as when he speaks, he is ‘a speaker.’ That is, he can give form to his reactions in any material.”

she goes on to state that ‘this quote summarizes the core of László Moholy Nagy’s seminal book Von Material zu Architektur. Published in 1929 in the Bauhaus series and translated with revisions into English as The New Vision a couple of years later .Lehmann, A. 2017. Material Literacy. Bauhaus Zeitschrift . Nr 9 (“Substance”), pp. 20-27

She suggests there is ‘…a collective urge to grasp— intellectually and physically—the substances of which this world and the things within it are made. This urge is channelled into a call for material literacy, a term that denotes a broad sensitivity to materials and their diverse meanings. Lehmann (2017)

Starting with this need to think and to feel the things the world is made of, sculpture should thus be designed to be touched intellectually and physically, rendering it at least transient if not ephemeral. [There is an aside here about curating ‘experiences’ rather than exhibitions and the development of “relational aesthetics”i in driving cultural experiences.]

Lehmann discusses the tangibility of materials bent to a purpose through the design process in line with Moholy-Nagy’s Bauhaus course which ‘created a unifying experience through the exploration of materials. The interaction with a wide variety of materials— wood, glass, metal, wool, paper, etc.—enabled students indeed to ‘form experience in any material’ and resulted in countless Materialstudien (material studies), only a couple of which survived.’ She goes on to state that ‘Moholy-Nagy’s manifesto-like style reads like a blueprint for contemporary discourses on sustainability and their inherent intentions to change the world for the better. This ideal (prone to abduction by commercial interests) often resurfaces when materials are at stake. Materials, of course, are always at stake, because everything in and around us is material.’ Lehmann (2017)

Three Sculptures 2004

My inarticulacy around making is apparent and it has taken me a couple of weeks to write this vague and erratic text, but this lack in and of itself reflects the way that I make things. Thoughts piled over thoughts, things read and interpreted, understood or misunderstood, reflection, rejection and grudging acceptance delivered through attempts to control media, to overcome perceived limitations it has and then to backtrack and accept the way the material asserts itself despite my efforts to control it. I appreciate the practice that suggests you develop understanding of the material, learn to work with it and build something in concert with it, but I find myself consistently engaged in a battle with all sorts of forces that eventually ends in an exhausted acquiescence.

Bibliography

Young , A. 2013. Material Wisdom. Cabinet. (50),pp. 16-18

Lehmann, A. (2016). Cube of Wood. Material Literacy for Art History..

i“Relational aesthetics” is a term coined by curator Nicolas Bourriaud for the exhibition “Traffic,” held at the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux in 1996. It refers to installations and interactive events designed to facilitate community among participants (both artists and viewers). Rather than producing objects for individual aesthetic contemplation, Relational artists attempt to produce new human relationships through collective experiences. Artspace editors. 2016. What Is Relational Aesthetics? Here’s How Hanging Out, Eating Dinner, and Feeling Awkward Became Art. [Online]. [10 March 2019]. Available from: http://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/what-is-relational-aesthetics

Aesthetica ‘Future Now’ Symposium 7-8 March 2019

Stepped out of the studio for two days to attend the ‘Future Now’ symposium hosted by York St. John University.

We are currently living in a time of globalisation, expansion and media saturation. There have been considerable shifts in civilisation in the Information Age – we now communicate with each other instantly, yet with an alarming level of disconnect. Through panel discussions, lectures and portfolio reviews, The Future Now Symposium is an exploration of 21st century culture through the mechanism of art.” – http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/future-now-symposium-2019 

There are many positives about the chance to attend a symposium but there is also the impossibility of attending all the presentations and for me the additional frustration of needing to step out of the day to think after attending sessions. This is a brief note of some of the sessions I attended and the things that struck me during them.

The Keynote delivered by Cherie Federico, Publisher and co-founder of Aesthetica magazine and Director of the Aesthetica Art Prize, addressed the themes of the symposium through the work of the artists selected for the prize exhibition and Cherie’s own thoughts on the emotional evolutionary cusp we appear to be on in the world at the moment. Clearly artists are led to question and challenge the politics, with a small or a large ‘P’, of the times they occupy but I find myself in a state of profound inarticulacy. It appears to be impossible to be clear about any stance you take or belief you hold without expecting most of the responses you receive to be confrontational. To be identified as ‘one of us’ is less the issue than avoiding being identified as ‘one of them’. Thus the assumption of you holding a set of ‘moral’ values is made by association with your presence in a particular space. Cherie presented a slide with a set of words that define our times, Leave, Remain, Algorithm, Consumption, and maybe 20 more, and noted that ‘apathy is not an option’ in our febrile times.

A panel discussion led by Kit Monkman with Charlotte Ginsborg, Ludivine Large-Bessette & Rhea Storr, titled ‘Artists’ Film: Storytelling and Concept’ was an engaging conversation about working practice, motivation, audience and medium. Rhea Storr noted that her work was defined through process, that the piece she ended up with was determined through its making rather than established in advance. Ludivine Large-Bessette talked about making work in which you directed your own movie counter to the manner of traditional film in which you are confined into immersion. Discussion continued around the authenticity of approaches to ‘art’ film and the possibility of defining such a thing, with Charlotte Ginsborg noting that any term applied commodifies the object in question. There was agreement that viewers bringing their experiences to bear as opposed to the mediated experience of traditional cinema was a feature of ‘art’ cinema, and whilst sharing their working method they all agreed that making work for its own sake and not for the mediums sake was key. A very interesting session that introduced me to work I was unaware of but that did not really address storytelling and concept. The thrust of the conversation was practice based and I was left pondering whether it is even possible to make an unmediated artwork.

In ‘Rethinking Sculpture: Connecting With Objects’ Jane Bhoyroo, Producer for Yorkshire Sculpture International outlined the development of the project by facilitating collaboration between the four venues in two cities. The event, or series of events, is designed as a set of reactions to Phyllida Barlow’s ‘provocation’ that “sculpture is the most anthropological of the art forms”. The Yorkshire Sculpture International begins on 22nd June in Leeds and 23rd June in Wakefield and runs for 100 days. All the exhibitions are free and there are a lot of things to look forward to, see https://yorkshire-sculpture.org/whats-on/all-listings/ I’m particularly anticipating David Smith at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

YSI has selected fifteen international sculptors some of whom have not shown in the UK before. They have also selected fifteen local sculptors, five as associates who will work with the international artists and a further ten as engagement artists working with the extensive education and community programmes. Jimmie Durham and Tau Lewis look very interesting at the Hepworth and Nobuko Tsuchiya will be in residence at Leeds City Gallery.

Emmy and BAFTA nominated artist Nick Ryan is a multi-award-winning composer, sound designer, and audio specialist, who discussed ‘The Future of Sound Art’ in a fabulous presentation on the Friday. He began by describing his work as examining the relationship between audio, perception and matter, and talked about the lack of a critical framework for discussing sound or listening. It may be that sound, or at least vocalisation, is the earliest art. Sound suffered historically from two limitations, transience, in that it could not last beyond the event, and transportation, sound could not go anywhere except in the memory of the listener. Ryan discussed the history of recorded sound and the way our perception of sound has been coloured visually.

The lion pictured in this image from Lascaux may well be the first visual depiction of sound.

The lion pictured in this image from Lascaux may well be the first visual depiction of sound. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Lascaux-diverticule-f%C3%A9lins.jpg

He went on to show some of his work focusing on the acoustic imagination being multi-modal and the notion of co-authorship in sound art as everything we hear acquires meaning from our memories. He showed us ‘DX17’ his project with the Imperial War Museum, ‘Machine 9’ that tracks space junk and gives it a voice and ‘Tate Sensorium’ for which he built a musical instrument based on David Bomberg’s painting ‘In The Hold’. Well worth checking out at http://www.nickryanmusic.com/

A great feature of the symposium is that you can get portfolio reviews with a good range of arts professionals including some of the speakers and you can book advice sessions with ACE representatives. I did both of these and the sessions were extremely positive and forward looking.

The other aspect of the event is the networking opportunities provided between the sessions. In this regard the layout of the event – limited seats and big tables – is very well judged to encourage conversation, which, in the manner of most networking events, was mainly around the financial difficulties of practice as an artist.

A list of links to some of the projects/artists/artworks seen or discussed over the two days.

http://www.charlotteginsborg.com/ film maker, check out Melior Street

http://kitmonkman.com/about/ and http://www.kma.co.uk/ interactive and participatory art works.

https://www.ludivinelargebessette.com/ and on vimeo https://vimeo.com/106288978

http://www.rheastorr.com

http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/

https://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photography

https://frieze.com/

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/

Alex Majoli https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL53W_0

https://yorkshire-sculpture.org/

https://ysp.org.uk/

https://www.henry-moore.org/visit/henry-moore-institute

https://www.henry-moore.org/whats-on/2019/03/08/phyllida-barlow-sculpture-and-drawings-from-the-leeds-collection

https://www.leeds.gov.uk/museumsandgalleries/leedsartgallery/currently-on-at-leeds-art-gallery

https://hepworthwakefield.org/

http://www.nickryanmusic.com/

http://www.dianabell.co.uk/ The only artist who asked/talked about making.

Studio Build FIVE

Week Four in the Studio:

The start of this week was very cold. This has caused me to think very clearly about the things I want to do and work quickly when I’ve decided. Ten minutes of inactivity can mean my hands are too cold to hold a hammer and a paintbrush has no chance. So there is a cup of tea on the go almost continually. Today my biggest expense will have been boiling the kettle.

back wall with text, charcoal

back wall with text, charcoal

I first wrote out the text I wanted on the piece using charcoal and white conté. The words are from TS Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’, where he contemplates time and the loss engendered by presence, this is the closest I have got so far to the ghosts I’m exorcising in the work as a whole. The insistence of the birds drawing you into the garden resonates.

corner outlined lettering

corner outlined lettering

I managed to paint in the letters in black, white and grey, before working over them with the paint thinned down and tearing some of the collaged paper. Then I had to stop to allow the work to dry and the cold drove me home!

Wednesday visit from Axis Web and DMBC rates assessment, they check to see the space is being used for the purpose stated and confirm the rebate/exemption. Apparently councils vary in their interpretations.

I opened the fire door for the first time to look at the back of the unit and so I could collect some leaves.

looking right out the back

looking right out the back

looking left out the back

looking left out the back

The river is a few metres away.

I have an idea for a curtain of leaves towards one of the corners of the space, not enough to create a barrier but enough to provide a visual disturbance. I can’t decide between this and a scattering, in the air, of leaves throughout the space. To facilitate this I set out to stretch some fishing line, I have no idea if this will work, but the straighter it is the more it disappears.

stretching fishing line

stretching fishing line

I also collected some leaves and set them out to dry.

120 birch leaves

120 birch leaves

I’ll paint them with PVA when they’re dry to preserve the colour as much as possible.

After this I mixed some white emulsion down with PVA and water to paint out some areas of the drawing, I feel the text needs to disappear to a large extent, and the space needs to become whiter. I then worked back into some areas with Indian ink thus negating the work I’d done to lighten the space. It’s in that flux state now where it will either coalesce into a convincing whole or collapse into a horrible mess.

corner painted in

corner painted in

end of Wednesday

end of Wednesday

This week has been shortened as I am also preparing for the Doncaster Art Fair on Sunday, so this video shows the work at the end of Wednesday.