Started the day by filming the installation with a tripod and adjusting the lighting in the camera. It’s not an expensive camera so the quality doesn’t improve much but it gives a better idea of the space. The videos are very big so I’ve put them on Vimeo.
Subsequently spent time downstairs checking out the lights, the sockets are are working fine but I need a couple of dozen new bulbs, and making some simple plinths to stand the five sculptures I’ve got there so far. Two are put together so far but need painting. The aim is to be able to open the big window shutter by next Friday.
This Wednesday was spent out of the studio doing a spot of teaching. I also spent a full day on an ACE application – got to keep trying – and planning for a potential commission.
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
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
Ann-Sophie Lehmann quotes Moholy Nagy in her2017 essay inBauhaus 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.
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: https://www.artspace.com/magazine/art_101/what-is-relational-aesthetics
After my last studio post I went to the Future Now conference – posted here – and then for a walking holiday in Derbyshire. So this is officially week 5, and week 6 if we’re counting days.
My first day back was a bit of a farce, I put the installation back together and then decided to put a door on the shop wall so that I could close the whole back of the space off. I then got an email telling me that the agent was bringing a prospective purchaser around so I had to take the installation apart again. When they had gone and I had finished the door I put the installation back together again.
Shop Floor 21/03/19
The door is the lighter hardboard on the left of this picture. The main consideration was that it closes off the painted section of the wall so that it looks better.
I have been working on the sound and been diverted into text, based on the TS Eliot – Burnt Norton stanzas I used on the walls, I looked to emphasise the nostalgic aspects of the verse by combining it with Tennyson’s ‘Tithonus’ . I decided to interleave lines of the verses, playing around with them a little, to break up the meaning of the poems.
The video has a section of this recording overlaid onto birdsong. The recording is not as good as I want, because of my nasal midlands accent that I can only hear on recordings and the quality of sound on my camera. The lighting is also not correct, I had to brighten the video after recording so the quality suffers.
I also worked on a distillation of the texts into something shorter and more individual. My idea is to create something of my own that I can use instead of the ‘found’ text.
The same caveats apply to the recording.
I have also begun to work on new sculptures and rescued the ripped up flooring of the first floor studio to make some new work with.