Assignment 6 – Tutor Feedback

I had an encouraging tutorial for this assignment and seem to be heading in the right direction with my essay. I have many notes on how to tweak it, my main stumbling block is adding in my tutor’s suggestions whilst keeping it below the 2,000 word count. I only hope I have cropped out the right bits!

For my next level 2 course I need to deepen my research and its application to my work as I go through the course. I also need to ensure I have primary research as part of my next essay. It will be interesting to see what comments I get from assessment to add to my list of ways to improve.

I need to do some more drawings in relation to my map work for the assessment.

Research

My tutor suggested I research and comment on the following:

Whistler’s “arrangement in White and Yellow” 1883 in relation to the movement towards displaying art in minimal spaces.

Whistler’s exhibition ‘Arrangement on White and Yellow’ was staged at a time when the usual method of displaying art works was the salon hang, with pictures crammed together, occupying the majority of the wall space, on bold painted walls and framed in large gilded frames. Whistler’s exhibition went completely against that principle, framing the works in thin white frames, spacing them out, painting the walls white to merge into the frames – an arrangement we would be very familiar with today. In addition to this, he turned the exhibition into a performance, affecting the quality of the light with yellow drapes, adorning guests with yellow satin and velvet butterflies and an attendant dressed in white and yellow to match the gallery theme. Such a significant change in display challenged the established way of displaying artwork, caused great publicity for his exhibition and led to the minimalistic gallery environments we now all expect.

Rosner, V. (2005). Modernism and the architecture of private life. New York: Columbia University Press.

The Fine Art Society. (2017). James McNeill Whistler. [online] Available at: http://thefineartsociety.com/artists/63-james-mcneill-whistler/overview/ [Accessed 11 Aug. 2017].

Olafur Eliasson in conversation with Tim Marlow

This is a fascinating talk that I think will take me some time to digest fully. Some interesting points I noted:

Regarding space in works – do they celebrate your movement through them, or try to alienate you for moving? – In Olafur’s case, definitely the former.

People come into galleries to take a closer look at the world. They heighten people’s senses.

In his works, he wants to encourage shared experiences that people see differently – he sees their disagreement as a positive thing, to be celebrated and embraced. Certainly when looking at ‘place’ as I am, no two people will experience or remember it in the same way.

He gives the responsibility of finishing his art works to the viewer. He trusts them and gives them the confidence to experience them fully and make the works their own.

Royal Academy of Arts (2016). Olafur Eliasson in Conversation with Tim Marlow. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KmUFPZxp6E [Accessed 11 Aug. 2017].

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How do sculptors evoke a sense of place in a gallery environment?

Introduction

Mapping is a theme that has been present in my work for many years. The idea of representing a landscape on a flat surface fascinates me, as does the history the features can reveal.

Conistone 2Howgills 3

Mark Butler, Conistone, 2016 and Howgills, 2016

Through working on a series of map based sculptures, the subject of place came to the fore. I produced sculptures that started out by depicting the topography accurately, before adding found objects or more abstract marks. They were successful, but they might benefit from concentrating on the emotional response the landscape evokes rather than any accuracy to the terrain/features being depicted. Researching this subject will help me to decide on the future direction of this body of work.

What does ‘evoke a sense of place’ mean when it comes to sculpture?

Evoke means the appearance of feelings about something, to ‘bring or recall (a feeling, memory, or image) to the conscious mind’ (Oxford Dictionaries | English, 2017).

Place has many meanings, but it does seem to imply a specific location. A sense of place is ‘hard to define with any satisfaction’ (Dean and Millar, 2005, p.17), but means a location which has a feeling of being special in some way, it is an emotional response.

So evoking a sense of place involves triggering an emotional response and will therefore be different for each individual. Tacita Dean says ‘the artist can evoke a place that will always only exist as a memory of another place in the mind of the viewer’ (Dean and Millar, 2005, pp.182 – 192). In sculpture this might take the form of a large scale installation which places the viewer in a new special place, possibly also evoking memories of similar locations from the viewer’s past, or smaller works to which the viewer would travel in their minds eye which might be more in the realms of the imagination.

Why do I want to examine work in a ‘gallery environment’?

White walled galleries are used to provide a blank canvas, a void like atmosphere in which no distractions are present (Zimmerman.co.nz, 2017). Brian O’ Doherty (1999, p.15) describes the design purpose of the modern gallery spaces is that ‘The outside world must not come in’.

Bringing the outside into a space specifically designed to keep it out is an interesting and challenging idea.

On the other hand, an outside location already has its own sense of place, so using the vacuum of a gallery environment allows the viewer to focus purely on the sense of place the sculptor is trying to evoke.

I will examine two artists: one who uses installation to bring the outside environment into galleries and another who produces landscapes on a smaller scale.

Installation

A number of artists import natural materials into the gallery environment to blur the lines between outside and inside. An early example of this is Walter de Maria’s, ‘The New York Earth Room, 1977’ (Foundation, 2017) where Maria imported 197 cubic meters of earth and spread it evenly over the floor of a white walled gallery space.

More recently the work of Olafur Eliasson brings elements of the outside into the gallery environment and creates a sense of place within them. ‘The Weather Project, 2003’ consisted of a giant ‘sun’ made out of hundreds of mono-frequency lamps, a mirrored ceiling, and haze machines producing a fine mist atmosphere. Over ten years later, ‘Riverbed, 2014’ created a rock landscape and stream inside a gallery.

16189237806_e223bc9a2a_c

Olafur Eliasson, Riverbed, 2014 (changeorder, 2015)

Eliasson’s work considers what is ‘natural’ and how our experience of nature, natural phenomena and landscape is actually cultural. To engage viewers with this question, his installations are created in a way that enables people to see the construction techniques used. ‘The Weather Project’ allowed viewers to walk behind the ‘sun’ and see how it was made (Tate, 2003); ‘Riverbed’ was obviously a built landscape because of its setting in a gallery. He wants to make it clear how his installations are made so the viewer can question what they are experiencing (Collins, 2014).

Both pieces invite more interaction than purely observation, with the visitors having an impact on the work as they pass through it, or actively interacting with it. Many of the reviewers point towards the freedom in this work from the usual rules of engagement in a museum environment. The installation removes the ‘rules’ of a gallery experience and ‘there is no expected way to act within or experience the space, allowing for freedom of reflection, thought, sensory experience, and sense of self.’ (Quddus, 2014), others find ‘something disorienting about a piece that so openly invites intervention’ (Secher, 2014). These reviews were about ‘Riverbed’, but looking at the videos of ‘The Weather Project’, the same seems to be the case for this installation.

‘Riverbed’ can be seen as contemplative in a similar way to the layout of a Japanese garden, it is monochromatic and simplistic, with a peaceful stream flowing through it. Conversely it can also be viewed as sinister and destructive, the barren and lifeless landscape imposing itself on the gallery like a scene of devastation or ‘a post-apocalyptic environment’ (Coghlan, 2015). Eliasson is interested in how people can shift between the two perceptions dependent on their mood and the impact of the people around them (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014).

It is hard to know what my response to this work would be without being able to experience it, but I think I would find it oppressive. The sterile nature of the landscape in the equally sterile gallery environment would find me relieved to escape into the outside world. However I experienced it, both ways of viewing it detailed above are strong emotional responses, so would therefore evoke a strong sense of place. Interacting with and contemplating the meaning of the installation would create a strong memory and opinion of the work which would not be quickly forgotten.

The installations accentuate elements of the natural environment we might not pay attention to normally. Voon (2014) puts this down to ‘the role of the white cube in creating more alluring environments.’ These installations certainly couldn’t work in the same way anywhere else but in these gallery environments because their isolation from the real world is a necessary part of the work. Eliasson does not see the gallery environment as a vacuum as discussed in the introduction, rather he sees it as an environment that should amplify what we know about the world. Whether it succeeds depends whether there is trust – if visitors experience an exhibition where they are trusted, they then have trust in themselves to interact with the art (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014). From videos of viewers interacting with his installations, I would say that this trust has been achieved.

Smaller scale landscapes

In this section I will look at the work of Mariele Neudecker. The works she creates appear like fantasy landscapes, but they are actually based on romantic paintings where the artist (Friedrich) adapted the landscape to suit what he wanted to show. Neudecker recreates these landscapes and immerses them in tanks with dyes and salts which react over time to create different atmospheres, simulating the effects of fog or sunsets on the scenes. The highly detailed landscapes are crafted in great detail to give the illusion of reality, with the aim of being able to transport the viewer into the scene in their mind’s eye (Cumming, 2000).

Heaven the sky

Mariele Neudecker, Heaven, The Sky, 2008 (Jeffery, 2011)

‘Heaven the Sky, 2008’ consists of two large glass tanks housing cropped mountain ranges made from cast and painted fibreglass, filled with water and a chemical solution. This piece addresses a number of different issues:

Time

The chemical reaction which takes place in the tanks results in a change in the environment, simulating snow forming on the mountain tops and fog around the base of them, similar changes to those which take place in our own environment.

The scenes are also animated by the viewer moving around them, through refraction from the water in the tanks, reflections off the glass walls and changing views as foreground becomes background and vice versa.

Cropping

The scenes Neudecker depicts are based on romantic paintings and she is interested in how these paintings and any view of a landscape are always a crop of reality. This is depicted by cutting the sides of the mountains to leave flat planes where they meet the edge of the tank.

Perception

Containing the mountain ranges in tanks captures a piece of the outside for the viewer, bringing it to them. Placing them on plinths at or just above head height makes them still inaccessible though and distances the viewer from the landscape in the same way we view mountain ranges in reality.

The artist Friedrich, on whose work many of her tank pieces are based, ‘demonstrated a strong conviction as to the enduring identity of place’ (Dean and Millar, 2005, p.17) by using images of people in his landscape paintings. Neudecker has removed the people, but left evidence of man’s impact on the environment, be it a cairn, or a pathway, or a tower. This evidence of mankind’s impact will help viewers to project themselves into the landscape and bring about that sense of place. However, due to the bright lighting and reflection in the tanks, we are always reminded of the gallery space in which they are placed. The glass tank is used to remove the scene a step further, to displace it from the everyday world (Searle, 2000), the viewer is acutely aware that they are on the outside looking in.

Neudecker’s works are described as ‘captivating’, they have a ‘reverence and mystery’ (Jeffery, 2011) or a ‘religious majesty’ (Artforum.com, 2009). They certainly appear intriguing and provide a realistic (yet obviously cropped and contained) landscape in which to lose yourself in your mind’s eye. The cloud-forming chemicals add a sense of time passing as well as another layer of realism to feed the imagination. I imagine these evoke a strong sense of place, even if that place is definitely contained and outside of reality.

Conclusion

Evoking a sense of place in sculpture is possible in many different ways. The only requirement to be able to do this is for people to be able to be in a landscape, either physically or in their imagination.

Triggering the memory of a real place can be achieved through almost any means (even smell), but that memory is dependent on the viewer in question, whether they have visited that site and the experience they had of it when they were there.

It is much easier to create a new sense of place in a sculpture. Doing that through installation or in smaller works would seem to require a degree of realism, not necessarily relating to a real location, but in how they depict a chosen location. Placing yourself in a location would require a belief in that landscape. In developing my map tile work this is an important consideration to keep in mind as I move towards more abstract work – if the sense of landscape is lost by abstracting too far, then so is the sense of place.

The notion of time is also embedded within place (Dean and Millar, 2005). This can be depicted through movement in installation work, either within the landscape or the viewer’s movement through it. In smaller pieces this could be achieved through the viewer’s ability to move around a piece, or through evidence of occupation in a landscape, providing a ‘route’ for the eye to travel through the work.

Whilst a ‘sense of place’ can be hard to pin down, the key to its success in sculpture appears to be creating a believable landscape, introducing a sense of time, and producing an emotional response in the viewer.

Bibliography

Artforum.com. (2009). “Trying to Cope with Things That Aren’t Human (Part One)” – artforum.com / critics’ picks. [online] Available at: https://www.artforum.com/index.php?pn=picks&id=22034&view=print [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

Blayney Brown, D., Daniel-McElroy, S. and Young, D. (2004). Mariele Neudecker: Over and Over, Again and Again. St Ives: Tate.

changeorder (2015). Riverbed by olafur eliasson at the Louisiana. [image] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29623457@N02/16027764390/in/photostream/ [Accessed 20 Jul. 2017].

Coghlan, N. (2015). Olafur Eliasson, Expanding Environments in Aesthetica Magazine. [online] Aesthetica. Available at: http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/olafur-eliasson-expanding-environments-aesthetica-magazine/ [Accessed 11 Jul. 2017].

Collins, J. (2014). Sculpture today. London: Phaidon.

Contemporary Art Forum, Kitchener + Area. (2009). CAFKA.09: Mariele Neudecker. [online] Available at: https://www.cafka.org/cafka-tv/cafka09-mariele-neudecker [Accessed 7 Jul. 2017].

Cooke, R. (2003). The Unilever Series: Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2003/oct/19/features.review17 [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Cressey, D. (2013). Arts: Framing change. Nature, 497(7448), pp.187-187.

Cumming, L. (2000). Review: Mariele Neudecker. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2000/oct/08/1 [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Dean, T. and Millar, J. (2005). Place. London: Thames & Hudson.

Eliasson, O. (2017). Riverbed • Exhibition • Studio Olafur Eliasson. [online] Olafureliasson.net. Available at: http://olafureliasson.net/archive/exhibition/EXH102282/riverbed [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Facebook.com. (2009). Royal Academy of Arts. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/royalacademy/videos/210048532946/ [Accessed 7 Jul. 2017].

Foundation, D. (2017). Dia | Visit | Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room. [online] Diaart.org. Available at: https://diaart.org/visit/visit/walter-de-maria-the-new-york-earth-room-new-york-united-states [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Jeffery, C. (2011). Preternatural. Ottawa, Canada: Punctum Books.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. (2014). Olafur Eliasson. [online] Available at: https://en.louisiana.dk/exhibition/olafur-eliasson [Accessed 11 Jul. 2017].

Neudecker, M. (2017). Artist – Mariele Neudecker. [online] Marieleneudecker.co.uk. Available at: http://www.marieleneudecker.co.uk [Accessed 20 Jul. 2017].

O’Doherty, B. (1999). Inside the white cube. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). evoke – definition of evoke in English | Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/evoke [Accessed 9 Jul. 2017].

Quddus, S. (2014). Olafur Eliasson Creates an Indoor Riverbed at Danish Museum. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: http://www.archdaily.com/540338/olafur-eliasson-creates-an-indoor-riverbed-at-danish-museum/ [Accessed 11 Jul. 2017].

Searle, A. (2000). Arts: The magical landscapes of Mariele Neudecker. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2000/oct/03/artsfeatures [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Secher, B. (2014). Riverbed by Olafur Eliasson, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/11055034/Riverbed-by-Olafur-Eliasson-Louisiana-Museum-of-Modern-Art.html [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Tate. (2003). The Unilever Series: Olafur Eliasson: The Weather Project. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/unilever-series-olafur-eliasson-weather-project [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Voon, C. (2014). Olafur Eliasson Creates a Riverbed in a Museum. [online] Hyperallergic. Available at: https://hyperallergic.com/144439/olafur-eliasson-creates-a-riverbed-in-a-museum/ [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Zimmerman.co.nz. (2017). Zimmerman Art Gallery – Why do galleries have white walls?. [online] Available at: http://www.zimmerman.co.nz/insider-info/44-why-do-galleries-have-white-walls [Accessed 7 Jul. 2017].

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Part 6 – Charles Simonds Research

I was going to include Charles Simonds’s work in my essay, but decided to restrict it to just two different artists instead. The research work I did on his work is below.

Imagined landscapes

Charles Simonds started his career constructing buildings for imaginary ‘Little People’ on the streets of New York. These were temporary installations that would be destroyed by vehicles, people or the weather. He was interested in making them for their own sake and for the community he was working in, not for art collectors as work to sell.

Working on location in the poor areas of the city, his early sculptures had a strong sense of place, usually constructed in decaying abandoned buildings and echoing that in his constructions. They were also a comment on displaced people looking for a safe place to live (Coffey, 2015).

He initially resisted putting his work into the gallery environment, wanting his work to be discovered by chance on the streets (Weber, 2013). This changed as he received more invites to show in them and whilst he still works in this way on the streets of various cities, he does also create work for galleries.

Early on in his career he created his ‘Three Peoples’ – three different tribes of ‘Little People’. These people lived linearly, circularly and spirally and he described their way of living, their beliefs, history and their buildings in this way. He has built upon this foundation ever since. This way of working with imaginary occupants fits well with my ‘residency’ work.

‘Two Streams, 2011’ is a landscape and buildings for ‘Little People’ reminiscent of an Indiana Jones set, or the floating islands of Jorge Mayet (My Modern Met, 2017). Like all of his pieces, they have body references, the streams in the title appear like tongues projecting from this piece. The small ruined buildings are constructed in intricate detail, the landscape they sit in is portrayed in grey or red colours like rock and earth. It’s suspension from the wall makes it even more other-worldly, but is portrayed with great realism.

‘Ruined Blossoms, 2011’ is a landscape of grown walled flowers in various states of decay. The clay they stand on is dry and cracked, the lack of water perhaps the reason these blossoms are dying.

‘Grown Walls, 2011’ is a fantastically detailed piece, with a central flower turning into brick walls as it goes outwards. The close and uneven walls mimic the flower’s petals but tend to a more regular square shape, crumbling at the edges.

In moving from the street into the gallery, his gallery works do not try to address their setting, his later works take this further in their suspension from the wall or ceiling. Taking about ‘Mental Earth, 2002’ he says that ‘it’s not part of the space, it’s in the space’ (The Institute of Fine Arts, 2016).

In his conversation with Richard Shiff (The Institute of Fine Arts, 2016), we hear how his pieces were originally built on his body, he sees the body as the original house and all his landscapes have body references. From his 1984 exhibition catalogue (Simonds, 1984):

‘These works are wilted ruins, sprouting towers, body rock plant hills, stumps, smears, buds and floral sprays.

They are living places.’

Do these sculptures have a sense of place? With their myriad of ruined dwellings and realistic rock and earth surfaces, they certainly provide locations you can project yourself into, so I would say that they do.

References:

Coffey, M. (2015). “I Build Ruins”: Charles Simonds and the Dwellings of his Little People – artcritical. [online] artcritical. Available at: http://www.artcritical.com/2015/12/31/michael-coffey-on-charles-simonds/ [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

My Modern Met. (2017). Miniaturized Landscapes by Jorge Mayet Appear to Float in Mid-Air. [online] Available at: http://mymodernmet.com/jorge-mayet-miniature-island-sculptures/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Simonds, C. (1984). Charles Simonds: house plants and rocks. New York: Leo Castelli Gallery.

The Institute of Fine Arts (2016). Charles Simonds in conversation with Richard Shiff. Available at: https://vimeo.com/162981459 [Accessed 14 Jul. 2017].

Weber, S. (2013). BOMB Magazine — Charles Simonds’s Absence by Stephanie Weber. [online] Bombmagazine.org. Available at: http://bombmagazine.org/article/7170/charles-simonds-s-absence [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

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Stage 6 – Structure Notes

Frame title as a question then focus on answering it.

Structure around an introduction that outlines the question you’re asking and how you propose to answer it. Why this question + how going to answer it.

Then 2 or 3 chapters to break up the test into key areas + conclusion that summarises what you’ve deduced and your final thoughts.

Structure plan:

  • Title
    • How do sculptors evoke a sense of place in a gallery environment?
  • Introduction (200 words)
    • why this question? Relate to map tile work
    • why ‘place’?
    • why ‘gallery environment’? Vacuum / white cube
    • How going to answer the question?
  • Chapter 1 – 2 or 3
    • Two or three different artists + relate to own work
  • Chapter 3 or 4
    • Comparisons between them
  • Conclusion
    • summary of what deduced
    • final thoughts
  • Bibliography (assume this doesn’t count towards the word count? Not according to the course notes)
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Stage 6 – Notes

After an early draft of my essay, comments from my tutor were:

  • Re-read the unit notes from p60 to get more structure into the essay and a systematic way of working through the review

  • Keep academic tone and don’t fall back to learning log style

  • Look at fewer artists (2-3) in more depth. Unpick their work and underpin my arguments with research

  • Try to get primary research into the essay (this would have been nice to be able to do, but with the artists selected it was unfortunately not possible. I will have to ensure I manage to do this in my next stage 2 essay)

  • Stay focused on the question I am posing

  • Research ‘Place’ by Dean and Millar and consider how your reading of key sections here can help to bring a critical underpinning to the overall theme of the essay

Need to demonstrate my awareness and understanding of how my own and other sculptor’s work relates to the wider cultural picture – mention climate change / environmental destruction.

Demonstrate a critical and contextual understanding of how my work fits into a broader framework of practices and explore the ideas that underpin some of these.

Need evidence of ability to:

  • understand significant issues

  • use research skills competently

  • analyse source material, and

  • articulate your own ideas at an appropriate level

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Stage 6 – Research notes

There are too many artists in my initial research, I need to narrow this down to identify 2 or 3 sculptor’s working in this area who approach the subject of ‘place’ in different ways.

Look at their ideas, context. Look at my ideas and position. Look at the area of comparison between the two points of view.

Use research to support or refute an argument. Don’t repeat what has already been said, give own opinion and back it up with good references. Be critical.

Sculptor’s to research in more depth:

Mariele Neudecker – her work is the closest I have found to my map tile sculptures so needs to be included here

Oalfur Eliasson – his ‘Riverbed, 2014’ is the best example of making an environment in a gallery that I have come across so far

Charles Simonds – he works with imagined landscapes and his work relates well to my residency work

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Stage 6 – Initial Research

I initially though that answering this question would break down into two sections:

  • Making an environment
  • Representing an environment

Making an environment would cover bringing elements of the outside into a gallery to make a new environment, or creating imaginary landscapes. These would be less concerned with any accuracy towards an actual location and more about the experience.

Representing an environment would be more concerned with depicting specific real locations, not necessarily in accurate detail, but in their essence.

These two areas were then researched.

Making

Large-scale

A number of artists import natural materials into the gallery environment to blur the lines between outside and inside.

An early example of this is Walter de Maria’s, ‘The New York Earth Room, 1977’ (Foundation, 2017). Here Maria imported 197 cubic meters of earth and spread it evenly over the floor of a white walled gallery space. Although using a natural material, it is kept free of vegetation so it is displayed as a barren landscape. Although hard to assess purely from a photograph, I imagine it has a sense of calm and scent of the outdoors.

Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey’s ‘Dilston Grove, 2003′(Ackroyd & Harvey, 2017) is another example. Here they covered the walls of an abandoned church with a clay/seed mix and grew grass on the walls to create an enveloping green space. This work is more concerned with the life of the grass and it’s contrast with the decaying space it occupies.

Finally, Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Riverbed, 2014’ (Olafureliasson.net, 2017) is a very ambitious project to import a stream into a gallery environment. Again, this is a barren environment devoid of vegetation, but given life by the movement of water through the work. This piece invites more interaction that purely observation with the visitors having an impact on the work as they pass through it, or actively interact with it.

None of these works attempt to depict a real world environment, they focus more on the interaction between inside and outside and raising questions about man-made and natural environments.

Small-scale

Working on a smaller scale allows the depiction of real or imagined landscapes in a realistic or abstract way.

Jorge Mayet creates miniaturized landscapes (My Modern Met, 2017) which float in the air as if they have been ripped or blown off the surface. I like the playfulness evident in this work, although the realistic depiction of the landscapes would wear thin if I was making them all the time.

Mariele Neudecker’s ‘Stolen Sunsets, 1996’ (Collins, 2014) are landscapes created from resin and encased in glass tanks. These appear like fantasy landscapes, despite often being based on German Romantic paintings (and therefore presumably real locations, so a mix of making and representing).

Like me, Neudecker has an interest in mapping and combining art and science. The works she creates are based on romantic paintings where the artist (Friedrich) has adapted the landscape to suit what he wanted to show. She then recreates these landscapes in detailed 3D and immerses them in tanks with dyes and salts which react over time to create different atmospheres, simulating the effects of fog or sunsets on the scenes. Another example of science meets art which appeals to my background.

The work also references the history of her country and the evil of Nazism. This is sometimes referenced in the titles – ‘Stolen Sunsets’ references a remark by Hans-Jürgen Syperburg in a 1977 film – ‘Hitler stole our sunsets’ (Blayney Brown, Daniel-McElroy and Young, 2004) or by portraying eerie, decaying forest landscapes.

Neudecker also makes work referencing environmental issues such as ‘There is Always Something More Important (Iceberg), 2014’, a cross section of an iceberg which was made in a project looking at the effects of man on the environment (Cressey, 2013). The use of sculpture to reference these issues is a developmental idea I am playing with at the moment with my map tiles series, something which is close to my heart and I hope will offer many ideas for developing my work.

Fractured map tile 2

‘Fractured map tile, 2017’, Butler, Mark

Ben Young creates similar, but imaginary scenes (Cochrane, 2015), combining laminated layers of float glass to represent the sea, with concrete and small bronze elements. His landscapes do not appear to be of specific locations, but try to capture the essence of the ocean. I find his work interesting, but in many cases they appear (from a photograph at least) to be a bit sterile. I think this is possibly due to the use of clear glass?

In creating imaginary landscapes, I am very taken by the work of Charles Simonds (Charles-simonds.com, 2017 & Collins, 2014). His detailed constructions of buildings for imaginary people look fascinating and fit neatly with my residency work, and pieces like ‘Ruined Blossoms, 2011’ also fit with the direction I am thinking of taking my map tiles.

Residency no9 Residency no10 Residency no11

‘Residency No.9, 2017’, ‘Residency No.10, 2017’, ‘Residency No.11, 2017’. Butler, Mark

Map tile with found items

Map tile development sketch

Some of Lee Bontecou’s sculptures (Salvo et al., 2008) create similar imaginary landscapes with buildings, in her case, ones that look more like alien worlds.

Looking at the work of these artists, I think the imaginary small-scale landscapes work the best for me. I think these do bring a sense of place into a gallery environment, although it is a place from the mind of the sculptors.

Representing

Richard Long makes land art and then brings it into the gallery through the medium of photography in recording his interventions, he also brings sticks, stones and mud into the gallery to duplicate his work both in the environment and in the gallery (Long, 2009). He is representing his intervention on a natural environment in a gallery environment, but it can hardly be said to evoke a sense of the place they were taken from.

David Smith’s ‘Hudson River Landscape, 1951’ is not based on a specific location, but a landscape seen from a train (Pachner and Smith, 2013). This piece is as close as sculpture gets to a drawing, as if a thick ink line has been picked up off a page and stood upright. With its abstract nature, it is evocative of the landscape he saw, but could be about any similar location.

Robert Smithson’s non-sites are an abstract representation of an actual site (Robert Smithson : The Collected Writings, 1996). Whilst they may represent an actual site, I doubt they evoke a sense of the place itself.

The work of Yutaka Sone is interesting. He uses aerial photographs of motorway junctions to create accurate models of them which he then has carved in marble. These pieces (apparently) reference the way we view the landscape in a car-centric world (Los Angeles: Yutaka Sone: MOCA at The Geffen Contemporary, 2004), but they don’t do that for me, they might as well be an engineer’s model of the road system. I think this is the trap I fell into when making my map tiles, of relying too much on accuracy (or as my tutor put it, the ‘baggage of ordnance survey’). As a detailed and accurate model, they show no imagination in their construction which, combined with the fact that the carving was shipped out to China and they are therefore not an expression of craftsmanship of the artist, add up to provide little of merit in my eyes.

The Boyle Family have a similar emphasis on accuracy and from comment in an exhibition review (Boyle Family – Delaye/Saltoun, 2008), it appears that these re-constructions have a love/hate relationship from viewers. Boyle said in 1966 ‘I have tried to cut out of my work, any hint of originality…’ (Whitfield, 2003) . Surely, originality is the cornerstone of art? In some of their other works, originality is in evidence (their assemblages for instance), but in their random earth series, the detailed replication of the surface of randomly selected sections of land, it is all about duplication and it can be said that originality is absent. Their aim is to capture reality and it would seem that these works succeed in this regard. As art works though, I am not sure of their merit. I am sure many of them are beautiful, because the surface of the earth is beautiful, however, I look for creativity in my art work. As well as replicate the surface of the land, they also record data about the sites – acting much more like scientists in this regard.

In some ways their work is similar to my map tiles when I produced some with close attention to accurate depiction of the landscapes.

Grimwith 3

Detail from ‘Grimwith, 2017’, Butler, Mark

References

Collins, J. (2014). Sculpture today. London: Phaidon.

My Modern Met. (2017). Miniaturized Landscapes by Jorge Mayet Appear to Float in Mid-Air. [online] Available at: http://mymodernmet.com/jorge-mayet-miniature-island-sculptures/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Foundation, D. (2017). Dia | Visit | Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room. [online] Diaart.org. Available at: https://diaart.org/visit/visit/walter-de-maria-the-new-york-earth-room-new-york-united-states [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Ackroyd & Harvey. (2017). Dilston Grove. [online] Available at: http://www.ackroydandharvey.com/dilston-grove/ [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Olafureliasson.net. (2017). Riverbed • Exhibition • Studio Olafur Eliasson. [online] Available at: http://olafureliasson.net/archive/exhibition/EXH102282/riverbed [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Secher, B. (2017). Riverbed by Olafur Eliasson, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/11055034/Riverbed-by-Olafur-Eliasson-Louisiana-Museum-of-Modern-Art.html [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Blayney Brown, D., Daniel-McElroy, S. and Young, D. (2004). Mariele Neudecker: Over and Over, Again and Again. St Ives: Tate.

Cressey, D. (2013). Arts: Framing change. Nature, 497(7448), pp.187-187.

Cochrane, G. (2015). Ben Young: Floating. Craft Arts International, (95), pp.16-19.

Charles-simonds.com. (2017). Charles Simonds. [online] Available at: http://www.charles-simonds.com [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Salvo, D., Hadler, M., Judd, D., Smith, E. and Storr, R. (2008). Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Long, R. (2009). Richard Long – Heaven and Earth. London: Tate Publishing.

Pachner, J. and Smith, D. (2013). David Smith. London: Phaidon.

Robert Smithson : The Collected Writings. (1996). University of California Press.

Los Angeles: Yutaka Sone: MOCA at The Geffen Contemporary. (2004). Sculpture, 23(1), pp.72-73.

Boyle Family – Delaye/Saltoun. (2008). Modern Painters, (September), p.115.

Boyle Family: Journey to the Surface of the Earth. (2004). Modern Painters, (December).

Whitfield, S. (2003). Boyle Family. Edinburgh. The Burlington Magazine, 145(1207), pp.736-738.

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Stage 6 – Choice of topic

The essay should explore the same research questions tackled through my sculpture work, but answer them in written work. My two topic choices based on the work I have been doing were therefore:

  • Landscape and place

  • Science and nature / microscopy

Both subjects were appealing, but I decided to focus on the former of these for this essay.

The landscape and place theme comes from my map tile work for stage 4 of this course. Whilst these sculptures are successful in some ways, they did get bogged down in depicting the topography in accurate detail and could have done with being more representational. Elements of them also resulted in a loss of translation of the message I was trying to get across in some instances. Researching this issue should help me to decide on the future direction of this body of work.

After much deliberation, I decided on the following for my essay question:

How do sculptors evoke a sense of place in a gallery environment?

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Assignment 5 – Development

It would be nice to do some sketches from microscope viewing of samples taken from the local area and basing a project on that. I could also tie that in with the landscape tile work I have been doing.

If did at a pond, could produce a cross section bronze with slices of glass for the pond water, containing discs of glass with drawings (print on glass) of microscopic slides. I keep having ideas of incorporating glass into my works – one day I’ll manage it!

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Assignment 5 – Reflection

The pollen grid work doesn’t fit with the other 3 sculptures as it is very different in form and style. The grid works well, however the pollen grain is a bit too sterile? I think the decaying pollen sculptures have shown me that I need to try to introduce more randomness into my work. Also on this piece, it was put together to hang from the wall like a picture on D rings and string. However, this tips the piece forwards which doesn’t work as well. It would be better having recessed fittings in the back board so it fits flush against the wall.

The ‘Animalcule’ series of sculptures worked quite well. Working with open steel forms allows me to work on a much bigger scale without the issues of weight in using metal.

‘Animacule 1’ would probably have worked better using my original idea of Egyptian paste for the centre pieces if this could be achieved. Cast glass would also be an interesting alternative. The paper forms are a bit too messy for my liking – too messy in being not very well manufactured that is, messy in an unpredictable cracking like that which would be on the Egyptian paste would be fine.

The use of fabric and eyelets in ‘Animacule 2’ works well, although the fabric could do with being thicker to allow the eyelets to grip better and have less risk of pulling out. I wonder whether the fabric could have been drawn on or whether that would distract from the form. The unfinished steel works well with the slightly fraying fabric. Longer term it might need some kind of finish to protect it.

Leaving ‘Animacule 3’ as unfinished steel and bronze seemed to work well, echoing the feel of the organisms when looked at under the microscope – like unfinished basic forms of life. Whether it works better like this or finished as originally intended remains to be seen.

The ideas used in the animalcule series could have been developed further, but weren’t due to my restricted timescale in getting through this course before the 2 year time limit runs out. Overall I think they have been successful though, with the open steel forms and the material wired onto it being ideas I may carry forwards with my work. I just have to work out how on earth I’m going to store works of this size now!

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Assignment 5 – Animalcule 3

Animalcule 3a Animalcule 3b Animalcule 3c Animalcule 3d

‘Animalcule 3’
Steel and bronze
97x48x48cm

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Assignment 5 – Animalcule 2

Animalcule 2a Animalcule 2c Animalcule 2d Animalcule 2e Animalcule 2f

‘Animalcule 2’
Steel, fabric and wire
70x67x66cm

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Assignment 5 – Animalcule 1

Animalcule 1a Animalcule 1b Animalcule 1c Animalcule 1d Animalcule 1f

‘Animalcule 1’
Steel, paper and paint
110x40x40cm

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Assignment 5 – Captured Passion

Pollen grid 1Pollen grid 2 Pollen grid 3 Pollen grid 4 Pollen grid 5

‘Captured Passion’
Bronze on a wooden back board
40x30x9cm

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Part 5 – Accompanying work

I also contemplated what accompanying work could be produced with these sculptures. An exhibition of purely sculpture might leave a lot of wall space uncovered and many artists mix sculpture with 2D work. Some of this accompanying work may not be relevant for this course, but looking forwards to my next one (Mixed Media or Drawing), it becomes more relevant to think about this.

Leeuwenhoek

Shelves of vessels for storing water samples (tea-cups, glasses, white delft porcelain vessel, blue tub, stoppered glass bottle, glass phial, wine glass – all mentioned in his studies of water (Dobell and Leeuwenhoek, 1960)) – label with contents and number of days exposed to air

Note books of observations

Illustrator drawings

Microscopy

Microscope slide disks cut in lino and stuck in the centre of rectangle bases. Make lino-cuts based on the images seen. Series of prints (one colour with coloured tissue behind elements – Chine Collé), then mould and cast the lino plate and use the bronze discs in a sculpture or archway.

Dobell, C. and Leeuwenhoek, A. (1960). Anthony van Leeuwenhoek and his “little animals”. 1st ed. New York: Dover.

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Part 5 – Animalcule 3

For this one, I decided to stick with the idea of bronze elements in a steel frame – time consuming, but hopefully doable for one sculpture.

Steel Frame

Again, a similar construction method was used for the outer steel frame, with additional small rods attached to the outside of the form.

Metal frame

Bronze

To get interest in these forms, I had two options – texture or colour. I decided to go with colour with this sculpture and so kept the form very simple. The shape was created using oil based clay, cut in half and a mould taken. This mould was then used to create 16 wax shapes (or 32 halves), which were then sprued up for casting:

MouldWax

Once cast, these were tidied up and welded together. They were then drilled and a screw thread formed in the drilled hole so they could be screwed onto threaded rods which were welded on the inside of the steel form. This mechanical connection would allow me to patinate the bronze without affecting the steel, and paint the steel without worrying about getting paint on the bronze.

I liked the unfinished look this sculpture had after I attached it all together to make sure it worked before the planned painting and patination. It worked well together and echoed the feel of looking at unfinished or very basic forms of life. I decided to film and photograph it at this stage in case the painting and patinating ruined the sculpture!

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Part 5 – Animalcule 2

Steel Frame

Like ‘Animacule 1’, this was constructed out of round steel bar, bent around formers and welded together. Thicker straight rods were then welded through the form to create the spikes.

Organism 2

Canvas outer

Inspired by the work of

Lee Bontecou (Salvo et al., 2008), I decided to cover the centre form in canvas, wired to the frame through eyelet’s in the canvas. It turns out that all eyelets are not equal! However, after some experimentation, I achieved what I was aiming for.

Reference

Salvo, D., Hadler, M., Judd, D., Smith, E. and Storr, R. (2008). Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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Part 5 – Animalcule 1

The original idea with these sculptures was to produce bronze elements that would be attached to a steel frame. That was fine as it continued my work trying to mix these two mediums, but on reading a ceramic book (Goring, 2016) my wife got for her Birthday, I came across Deborah Sigel (Deborahsigel.com, 2017) who uses Egyptian paste in a steel frame to produce sculptural work. Applying this to these designs opens up another means of combining materials which is exciting and something I decided I definitely wanted to explore.

Sketchbook056 Sketchbook058

Steel frame

The outer frame was constructed out of round steel bar, bent around formers and welded together.

P1050685 P1050692

Egyptian paste

I started out by creating an oval form in bent steel rod, affixed to a base. I packed this with a yellow Egyptian paste mix, dried it out and then fired it.

First EP experiment Organism egyptian paste

The Egyptian paste shrunk a lot more that I had expected and the steel peeled a lot after having been fired.

I tried another attempt, this time incorporating a steel nut in a tube to enable the form to be bolted onto the frame. I also formed an inner core of paper mache in the hope that it would shrink less.

Second EP experiment

This was another failure – the paste has pulled away from the frame in the same way as before and the rod I rested the piece on attached itself to the nut in the heat of the kiln.

I think this could work as a method, but it would require a lot of experimentation to get it right. Unfortunately, time isn’t something I have a lot of left with this course, so a rethink was required.

Ceramic Forms

My next idea was to form ceramic shapes instead. I could go for a blobby organic shape, colour the clay to get similar colours as those planned with the Egyptian paste, then use oxides to bring out the texture on the forms. Holes would be left in the forms and these attached to the steel frame onto threaded rods welded onto the frame, glued into the holes – not quite as elegant as my previous plans, but it should do the trick.

Tissue paper

Before I got started on the ceramic forms, I visited the ‘Disobedient Bodies’ exhibition at The Hepworth and saw the work of two artists:

Isamu Noguchi worked with paper lanterns (rear two pieces in this image):

Isamu Noguchi (at rear)

Lynda Benglis used paper tissue over a wire mesh:

Lynda Benglis

I then had the idea that these could both be combined to give a solution to my problem. Tissue paper over a wire mesh frame would provide an easy form to attach to my steel frame and the transparency of the shapes would echo the organism’s transparency in real life. I had also thought that it would be good to incorporate light into these sculptures, something that was very important in being able to view them through a microscope. To this effect I could add lights inside the wire mesh frames.

I struggled to get the paper covering to work with thin tissue paper, so ended up using a thin printing paper I had. This meant that I lost the potential transparency effect so I decided to colour the pieces with charcoal and then acrylic paint.

The steel frame was painted black and the paper elements added using wire.

This sculpture has changed a lot since its original conception!

References

Goring, H. (2016). Low-fire glazes and special projects. 1st ed. Westerville, Ohio: The American Ceramic Society, pp.41-45.

Deborahsigel.com. (2017). Deborah Sigel. [online] Available at: http://deborahsigel.com/ [Accessed 9 Feb. 2017].

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Exhibition Visit – Tony Cragg: A Rare Category of Objects

I visited this exhibition and went to a talk by Tony Cragg on the same day, so my comments on his views are made from the talk he gave.

I went to the exhibition with no views in mind. I had seen Cragg’s work in books and on the internet, but hadn’t connected with his forms. Based on previous experience though, seeing an image of a sculpture is nothing like seeing it in the flesh, so I was open to experiencing it as new.

Mean Average 2013

The first sculpture I sat down and viewed for a while was actually ‘Points of View, 2013’, but I didn’t take a picture of it. What struck me most about this sculpture and also ‘Mean Average, 2013’ (pictured above), was how he had left the weld line obvious in these sculptures. As I have mentioned previously, I am keen on texture and variation rather than uniformity in a sculpture, however whilst these weld lines might break up the uniformity of the sculpture, they don’t work for me in this instance.

Mean Average closeup 2013

From his talk he said that he tried sending work away to be cast, but when it came back, it didn’t speak to him because he didn’t know how it was made. Later in the talk in answering a question about how he chose the colour of his pieces, he said that different colours were done as variations of a sculpture – i.e. not planned from the outset. Throughout his talk his focus has always (or at least since his move away from installation) been purely on form. Perhaps therefore the finish is less important to him than the form and the weld marks show how the piece was made which would seem to appeal to him.

As a viewer of the sculpture though, it didn’t appeal to me and I found it distracted from the emotional response to the sculpture, which is something he clearly aimed to get across in his work.

Group 2012

Looking at more of his work is was interesting to view his ‘Group 2012’ in the underground gallery and see the similarity to Ursula Von Rydingsvard’s work which was displayed in the same place at a previous exhibition. The finish is obviously different with Rydingsvard leaving the rough chainsaw marks and Cragg finishing it to a high polished surface, but I found the forms very similar.

In Cragg’s career, he has had seismic shifts of direction at certain stages, with his work using coloured rubbish or stacked machinery parts having little in common with his current work. In his talk he mentioned about the time he realised that he had reached the limit of what he could do with his installation work and started to concentrate on the development of new forms.

The work of his I liked the best was his later work, from the last 4 years or so, but it was interesting to see how this work came about as the development of a theme over and over again over a period of many years.

My favourite works of his were ‘Spring, 2016’ and ‘Skull, 2016’

Spring 2016

‘Spring, 2016’ is a beautifully polished and varnished laminated wooden sculpture which begs to be stroked. Its form echoes the gushing of a fountain and, although it is rather 2D in nature, it does have a strong presence in the room.

Skull 2016

‘Skull, 2016’ is a cast bronze piece, painted with white enamel paint. The forms used in this piece are much more interesting to me than Cragg’s usual wavy forms and the holes through them create more interest and help the piece to work from all angles.

Overall an interesting exhibition, but it hasn’t changed my views much on Cragg’s work. To take away from it would be:

  • the importance of viewing sculptures from all angles (I found quite a few of his works only really worked from one angle)

  • Working with laminated wood – provides a very interesting layered surface which could work with my map/contour work

  • The passion and dedication to his work which was evident in his talk

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Part 5 – Pollen grid

This sculpture would be wall hanging and consist of two parts, the grid and the pollen spheres.

Grid

My initial idea with this was to create a ceramic grid with an organic feel about it.

My first attempt used wooden dowels glues together and then coated in paper clay slip, sanded at the edges and then fired. This worked to a point, but suffered from cracking and, more importantly, didn’t create as organic a form as I had envisaged.

Wooden gridCeramic grid 1

I then tried a second one using dead plant stems covered in paper mache and then covered in ceramic slip. The form of this was much more successful.

Cermic grid 2

As I was experiencing problems with the ceramic grids, I decided that I would produce a bronze version in case they didn’t work. It would also be much more durable, but it wouldn’t fulfil my brief of using mixed media more.

I made this in wax, textured the surface and sprued it up to cast (in two halves):

Wax gridGrid coated

Once cast it was tidied up, welded back together and patinated a white colour.

Pollen

The pollen spheres were always going to be made out of bronze. To do this, I formed a thick wax sphere using a mould I had created previously and then carved it to represent a Passiflora caerulea (passion flower) pollen.

To make sure I could get multiple version (and in case the cast failed), I created a silicon mould of this.

P1050615

Waxes were created and, due to recent casting failures, cores were used in these to hopefully give a successful cast.

Pollen wax

Fortunately the cores worked well and the casts were successful:

Pollen cast

Rods were drilled and tapped to be able to accept a bolt and then welded to the back of the pollen spheres, these were then patinated and finished. Only one pollen sphere was used in the end.

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