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Author Archives: MSButler
I made some smaller test map pieces so I could try out various different ideas on them without being too worried about the wasted time and expense with the ones which didn’t work.
Rust print and burning only:
This works well, but I don’t feel it is enough on its own. The burn marks are also too precise and controlled. I may have to try this using gunpowder on a full size version.
Adding ink to represent the non-ash trees in the landscape:
The green ink I have is a bit too sickly. I might be better doing this in watercolour if I want to add colour in this way.
Adding black ink detail:
I like this combination of randomness and precision. My concern is whether this will translate well to the larger images. Maybe some small sections like this would work?
Here I tried using masking fluid to mask out a leaf pattern over the whole map, wetted the paper and drew around the masked area in black ink:
I don’t think this was very successful, the masked areas are too roughly done when on top of the (relatively) crisp rust marks. Also it ended up with two different images your eyes try to picture alternately, more likely to make you cross eyed than interested.
Adding an ink drawing of the cup-fungus (in white ink) on a midrib (in black ink):
This is similar to the previous test in fitting two different images on top of each other and again I don’t think this one works either.
Adding gold leaf in some of the burn holes:
Representing rays of hope in some ash trees hopefully surviving the disease. On its own it is not hugely successful, but it may work with the detailed ink drawings? It is too hard to tell on a small scale though and may have to be tried on a full size version.
I plan to make 5-6 large drawings using maps as a starting point with holes burned through where ash trees stand.
I also plan to make a similar number of large drawings of ash midribs with Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus (white cup-fungus).
I will also produce some accompanying sculptures.
Originally the disease appears to have come to Europe from Eastern Asia (Baral and Bemmann, 2014). It was first identified in England in 2012 due to the importing of infected trees from the continent as well as from windborne ascospores (Orton et al., 2017). The increase in global trade is blamed for this and many other diseases of a similar nature. When you look at the figures which suggest that ash imports could have been as high as 3.5 million trees a year (Sansford, 2013), it is no surprise that the disease eventually made it to these shores.
From Forestry Commission reports, “Ash accounts for approximately 14% of total broadleaved standing volume in GB” (Sansford, 2013), but the impact when looking at the Yorkshire Dales National Park is much greater. “Ancient semi-natural woodland covers about 1% of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. About 80% of this woodland is made up of ash, making it the iconic tree of the Dales.” (Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, 2018)
Ash disease has two forms:
- When the tree is in leaf (summer), its form is Chalara fraxinea. It fives in leaves and twigs and damages them by releasing viridiol which is toxic to the tree. It also produces sticky spores called conidia which can be spread around the tree by rain
- In autumn, it turns into Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus, a small white cup-fungus, which appear on fallen ash leave stems (midribs). These cups puff out ascospores (1/1000mm in size), one midrib can have around 20 cup-fungi, each producing around 1,500 ascospores an hour for about 2 weeks (Rackham, 2014) or around 100,000 ascospores each (BBC, 2018). These ascospores float on the air and are spread by the wind.
When I initially investigated Ash dieback, I thought it meant the end of all ash trees in the Yorkshire Dales, which would be a devastating loss. However, on further investigation it appears that this is not the case and it does not always kill the trees it infects. The disease starts in the leaves and spreads into the twigs and then can travel into the branch. However, the tree’s natural defence mechanism walls off the damaged areas and the infection appears not to continue in future year’s growth and new shoots form from buds below the damaged area (Rackham, 2014). In less vigorous trees the new shoots can become infected also and the whole tree may die. This is also certainly the case in young trees as is evident in the woods near my house.
Some trees appear to have a genetic resistance to ash dieback and in studies 5-10% of trees do better than others, even when next to dying trees. Professor James Brown is confident that ash will recover in Britain, but it will take a few hundred years for this to happen (BBC, 2018).
It was interesting doing the research into the disease, but what am I going to do with this new found knowledge? Well, apart from being less depressed by knowing some ash trees are likely to survive, I have taken a few things from this:
- Much of the detailed science in the available papers on the disease goes over my head, but many of the papers provide diagrams and images of the fungus and ascospores which have interesting forms and may provide inspiration for drawings or sculptures.
- Representing the two different states of the disease might be an interesting approach?
- The release of many thousands of ascospores might be interesting to represent – maybe with charcoal dust, or sparks from gunpowder?
- The likelihood of some trees surviving gives a glimmer of hope – this might be represented by using gold leaf?
Baral, H. and Bemmann, M. (2014). Hymenoscyphus fraxineusvs.Hymenoscyphus albidus– A comparative light microscopic study on the causal agent of European ash dieback and related foliicolous, stroma-forming species. Mycology, 5(4), pp.228-290.
BBC (2018). The New Forest. [podcast] Gardeners Question Time. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0000sdq [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019].
Orton, E., Brasier, C., Bilham, L., Bansal, A., Webber, J. and Brown, J. (2017). Population structure of the ash dieback pathogen, Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, in relation to its mode of arrival in the UK. Plant Pathology, 67(2), pp.255-264.
Rackham, O. (2014). The ash tree. Toller Fratrum: Little Toller Books.
Sansford, C. (2013). Pest Risk Analysis for Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus for the UK and the Republic of Ireland. [online] Webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Available at: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140904094312/http://www.fera.defra.gov.uk/plants/plantHealth/pestsDiseases/documents/hymenoscyphusPseudoalbidusPRA.pdf [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019].
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. (2018). Ash dieback hits Park. [online] Available at: http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/living-and-working/other-services/press-office/news/recent/ash-dieback-hits-park [Accessed 15 Apr. 2019].
This piece worked quite well in the end. It would have been nice to have the pieces suspended so people could walk under it without garroting themselves, but I’m not sure how that would be possible without having them spinning rapidly around. I had worried that despite using the largest card I had, the pieces wouldn’t be large enough, but they showed up well enough. The more illustrative approach worked well, although they were better on the side photographed than the reverse.
I had scouted out the local wood and picked an ash tree to ‘dress’, but on the way to it, picked out a more suitable specimen:
I took along all 7 triangles so I had the option to hang as many as would work whilst on site and used fishing wire to hang these in place. Hanging the first of these identified problems with the work spinning rapidly in the wind, so holes were added in the corners and attached to branches on the ground. This worked to hold them still, but meant that the work couldn’t be walked under due to many invisible wires going down to the ground! I also soon found out that I should have practiced some knots before I headed out!
After three triangles had been hung up, I decided that was sufficient and proceeded to take photographs of the pieces in place.
The video below may make you feel sea-sick as the ground was very rough to walk over!
I decided to link this to my parallel project and produce work based on ash dieback.
My initial idea was to use it as a test for the ash dieback fungus drawings I intend to produce as part of my parallel project, cut them into circles, stick them back to back and then hang from an ash tree.
Thinking this through, I questioned myself “why circles?”. It has no meaning, and is just a shape that might look good hung in a tree. It would also spin in the wind which might not be wanted?
Thinking about other possibilities, a triangle came to mind. On its own, this shape is similarly meaningless. However, using the language of road signs, it is a warning sign, especially with a red outline. This is exactly the message I want to get across. It also offers the opportunity to secure the corners to the ground if I didn’t want it to turn in the wind.
I started out making a small triangle on card, before realising it would be far too small and would be lost when hung from a tree.
I dug out some larger black card and made 6 more triangles at the largest size I could manage. After drawing on 2 of these, I realised I needed to go more illustrative as these needed to be easily viewable and identifiable from a distance.
The last 4 worked better when I used cut out paper to create the designs.
I struggled to think of large-scale work which wouldn’t directly or indirectly (through use of materials) damage the environment. So I thought I might go small instead. So an early idea for this was to solder wires together to make spiders webs and leave them on dead trees in the local woods. I tried doing one of these, which worked out OK. However, whilst doing research for this section I began to question whether this would be an installation, or due to is being small, an intervention. I decided it would be the latter, although I guess a large number of them would increase the scale to the point of an installation.
I decided to re-think and came up with an idea for producing an installation in my spare room.
This is used as a general dumping ground when no-one is staying, so some clearing up will be required before doing anything, but I sketched out some ideas on photos of the room:
My thinking was to have a continuous line around the whole room, in some ways similar to Edward Krasinski’s blue tape line (Tate, 2019), although not a straight line and varying in media in different areas of the room.
Curtains – draw across window, line sewn in? Or maybe just in tape so doesn’t have a lasting effect on them.
Bookcase/shelf – line in wire coming out into the room similar to Eva Hesse’s line coming out from the picture frame (MoMA.org, 2010) – going through books on bookcase and around pots on the shelf.
Wardrobe/door – lines in masking tape to avoid damaging them.
Wall by door – have the line follow features in pictures on the wall (echoing work in project 2 when interacting with the environment).
Wall above bed – cover wall with life drawing images (maybe part cover them over in charcoal?) and draw a line across all of them in white or silver echoing a heartbeat from a hospital monitor.
I started with the curtains, using ribbon pinned onto them, with marking tape continuing the line to the next wall. Then I started on to the wire through the bookcase and shelf. I couldn’t bring myself to drill through any normal books, but I had a couple of work ones which were being thrown away. These required propping up as they were not very stable – I guess they could be glued down if this was a more permanent installation. It was more difficult than I thought it would be to make the wire do what I wanted it to, probably because my end points weren’t very stable.
Using masking tape around the cupboard and door worked OK, but the tape didn’t stick very well to the picture glass and it’s size meant that it obscured the features it was following rather than highlighted them.
I then covered the main wall in life drawing images. I decided to draw over them using red 3D paint. This worked quite well, but didn’t stand out quite as well on very dark areas as I had hoped.
It was good to go big on this project and produce work which used the whole of a room. Scale often constrains my work as my house is full enough already without keeping adding to it. It was nice to shift scale and think what could be achieved on a large scale on a temporary basis.
I think the wire element of this installation could be developed more. Books of relevance (maybe one on Edward Krasinski?) could be used if I could bear to drill through them. More could be made of the wire puncturing these, or the wire could perhaps be shaped into words as it exits the books?
The masking tape over the pictures was too thick and ended up obscuring the features it was following rather than highlighting them. A thinner line in paint or wax might have been better (if it could be removed afterwards). What would have been really good to do would be to draw onto the landscape in a way similar to Christo and Jeanne Claude’s ‘Running Fence, 1972-76’ (Javacheff and Denat, 2019), and use images of these to continue the lines.
The wall of life drawings provided a big impact piece on the wall of the room and looking close up, the line over these drawings worked the best. However, it was not very visible from further back, so a thicker line or a different colour would have made it stand out more from the background.
Javacheff, C. and Denat, J. (2019). Projects | Running Fence. [online] Christojeanneclaude.net. Available at: https://christojeanneclaude.net/projects/running-fence [Accessed 8 Apr. 2019].
MoMA.org. (2010). On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2010/online/#works/02/49 [Accessed 5 Mar. 2019].
Tate. (2019). Edward Krasinski 1925-2004 | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/edward-krasinski-10009 [Accessed 9 Apr. 2019].
This was an interesting talk by Levene and Clinch. Levene’s work is very different to the work I do, with her ‘outcomes’ being mostly ephemeral, or records of the process in photographs of walks or recorded interviews. Despite the differences, it is always interesting to hear artists speak about their practice and some nuggets of information or advice or ideas are always picked up.
Levene is interested in the dialogue with people. Her work is often an investigation into something new, delving into it from many angles, to finally decide what the work will be about and the form it will take.
One of the most interesting discussions came from another artist at the session asking her how she approaches experts she want to work with, without seeming like an idiot. Her response was to be an unapologetic idiot! She has no idea at the outset about what work she wants to make and when people ask her about that she responds that why should she know what she wants to make when she hasn’t spoken to the experts yet? If she did, she would be going in with pre-existing ideas and biases that might not be valid. Also, you are there to speak to people because they are the experts. Why should you know about what they are experts in. You go in with the enthusiasm and the interest to learn what they have to tell you.
A very interesting approach which could be applied well to collaboration work.
Emily Kame Kngwarreye grew up in a remote desert area of Australia. Only starting painting at the age of 80, she produced an average of a painting a day for the next six years until she died. During this short career, she became acknowledged as one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists.
Aboriginal people have a very close connection to their landscape and believe that they have a responsibility to recognise and replicate the designs and patterns left within the landscape (Mca.com.au, n.d.). This close connection with the landscape and it’s patterns shows through in her work. Her painting are of her place and life, uninfluenced by the outside art world.
They are paintings, but with her use of strong lines and dots, they could equally be viewed as drawings.
Richard Long (1945-)
Thinking about other artists who use place with such an immersive passion, Richard Long is an obvious artist who springs to mind. His main body of work comes from walking, using materials found on the walk to make marks, or simply the action of walking too and from a point to create an impression on the ground. As Emma Dexter comments about his work in her introduction to ‘Vitamin D’, “the artist’s interventions reveal the earth as a surface or ground to be marked, etched, and scarred by the body as the instrument of drawing, taking the role of pencil or pen” (Dexter, 2005).
When the work is brought into a gallery, it often only exists as a photograph and/or words describing the walk, with Long describing the text works as “narratives of events and sculptures – walks – that I have made” (Long and Wallis, 2009). These interventions will be lost quickly as weather/nature erases them. When he produces sculptures, these are usually from sculptures created on location from nearby materials and then brought into the gallery, or mud and earth is used to create works on canvas or the walls.
Place is important in my own work, frequently recurring in my use of maps in drawing or sculpture, or as the starting the theme of my work. I guess it is an inherent theme in all artists work as it has such a strong influence on our lives.
Dexter, E. (2005). Vitamin D. London: Phaidon.
Long, R. and Wallis, C. (2009). Heaven and earth. London: Tate.
Mca.com.au. (n.d.). Emily Kame Kngwarreye. [online] Available at: https://www.mca.com.au/artists-works/artists/emily-kame-kngwarreye/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2019].
Phyllida Barlow produces monumental installation work, which is all about texture, surface, the sensation of scale, and precariousness. Her work is very different to my own, but on a visit to her exhibition at the Hepworth, I enjoyed her pieces and found some similarities in her interest in surface texture. So I jumped at the chance to go to a talk between her and Louisa Buck at Leeds Beckett University as part of the Yorkshire Sculpture International.
Some definitions cropped up early on in the discussion. Barlow thinks it is pointless to define ‘sculpture’, she thinks of sculpture more as a language, which then takes it into a realm beyond physical works and explains why you now get video or smells/sounds as sculptures. She also feels she has no idea what ‘conceptual’ is, which is encouraging!
She sees her work as an active protagonist once installed. However, she doesn’t think about the audience when she makes the work. Work is made specifically for places, but it is the dimensions of the space which are critical, it is not site specific, but it is fitted to the dimensions.
She likes making work which is about the experience, looking quickly and leaving behind a memory for the viewer is enough for her. But she feels that sculpture is not passive. Audiences have to be very involved to get anything out of it.
Her works make associations to do with actions, rolling or pulling, etc. and the surfaces are developed after that. She likes to portray qualities of weight, gravity, precariousness or absurdity. Her works aren’t specific forms that are planned in advance. She doesn’t know what the subject of her work is whilst she is making it, the subject is embedded in the making, even the accidents which happen. She likes ambiguity, the feeling of change and not knowing if a work is finished. Nothing for her is conclusively finished.
She draws throughout the making process. She finds it is a way of gathering information and an escape from the making process. Drawing for her is about the memory of form and colour, about the process of losing information. She feels this also passes into sculpture and that is also about losing information and the transitory experience whilst viewing.
Issues emerge in her work because of the psychological influences on her, not through setting out to make ideological work.
Her use of colour began from viewing how colour was used on the streets to draw attention and she borrowed this for her work. Colour is often used to mark where other pieces are to go, or where further work was required and was intended to be covered up later. The remains of this started to alter the work and this was then affected in other works. This is the embracing of happy accidents which I can associate with.
It was great to have the opportunity to hear a sculptor discussing their work like this and I will try to get to some of the other talks taking place in the next few months.
This was an exhibition of some of Leonardo’s sketchbook pages, focusing on his sculptural work. It was incredible to me to read about and see the lengths he went to to research and plan his works, with so many failing to come to fruition because he was pulled off onto a new project before he got there.
One of the sketchbook pages was for casting the Sforza monument, a huge bronze horse commissioned by the ruler of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, in memory of his father. It was to be made of 75 tons of bronze and required a foundry to be built on site just to cast it. Leonardo got as far as making the full sized clay model before the threat of invasion meant that the bronze was requisitioned to make cannon and the project was suspended. When the French invaded five years later, the clay horse was used as target practice by the troops and destroyed, which must have been distressing to him.
The sketchbook pages show Leonardo’s plans for casting the sculpture with the sprues needed to feed in the bronze, how the work would be joined together with tie-bars, designs for the foundry and also a lifting mechanism to get the statues out of the ground after casting it, as well as some notes and some poetry. The drawings show great skill and are very modern in their use of perspective. They are small and crammed onto the page, with little of the paper’s surface wasted and were obviously designed for his eyes only.
His studies of a sectioned skull are exceptional in their detail and skill in rendering. They were studies to help him to understand the proportions and structure of the skull and very beautiful drawings. If I saw them in a text book I would have imagined the originals to be much larger and shrunk down, he must have had very good eyesight and steady hands to have achieved this level of detail at this scale.
A fascinating exhibition and I hope to see more of the concurrent exhibitions whilst they are on.
Installative drawings seem to either be very large in scale and demand the viewer imerse themselves in the work, or bridge the gap between drawing and sculpture by extending line from the flat plane of a 2D drawing into 3D space.
Installation art as defined by the Tate is “large-scale, mixed-media constructions, often designed for a specific place or for a temporary period of time” (Tate, n.d.). The focus is on the viewer’s experience of the work.
Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Automobile Tire Print, 1953’ is a long tyre track made by a car driving through a pool of black paint and then along a strip of paper (MoMA.org, 2010). This work is all about scale and the randomness from semi-controlled mark making. I guess as an installation drawing it qualifies by its large size.
Some similar scale drawings recently viewed in Leeds Art Gallery by Peter Randall-Page ‘Fruiting Bodies, 1990’ show that scale does make a difference. These are large impressive drawings which show energy in the curved lines and look great as a set covering the entire wall. On closer inspection, there is very little variation in mark making on the coiled forms, but they still work. This was the first time I had come across Randall-Page’s drawings and for me they work better than his sculptures which I find too precise and lacking in life.
Alexander Calder produced work using wire which he considered to be three-dimensional line drawing (Calder, 1929). Where the distinction is between sculpture and drawing seems to have been blurred. His ‘A Universe, 1934’ was included in the On Line drawing exhibition (MoMA.org, 2010) when I would consider this more of a sculpture. Despite it being made up of ‘drawn’ lines using wire, it is more of a 3D object. Similarly, the course notes question whether sculptures such as Louise Bourgeois ‘Spider, 1995’ could be argued to be a drawing? I would say that it is only because the spider’s legs are thin like Calder’s use of wire that this is being suggested, make them fatter and I suspect that no such suggestion would be made. I stand in the sculpture camp.
Some 3D works are more in the drawing camp though. Pierrette Bloch’s ‘Fil de crin (Horsehair Line), 1988–1997’ is a drawing in horsehair and nylon, brought forward from the picture plane and responsive to the air movement around it (Enrico, 2011). Eva Hesse extended line from a frame in ‘Hang Up, 1966’ and Edward Krasinski in his installation at the 1970 Tokyo Biennial extended lines out onto the gallery floor.
Installation drawing should therefore either be large in scale so immersing the viewer in the work, or there should be a focus on the environment in which the work is placed and a dialog between the drawing and this.
Calder, A. (1929). Statement on wire sculpture. [Manuscript] http://www.calder.org/system/downloads/1929_Jan-Feb.pdf, Calder Foundation archives.
Enrico (2011). Pierrette Bloch Retrospective at Galerie Karsten Greve, Paris. Available at: http://vernissage.tv/2011/01/10/pierrette-bloch-retrospective-at-galerie-karsten-greve-paris/ [Accessed 5 Mar. 2019].
MoMA.org. (2010). On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/2010/online/#works/02/49 [Accessed 5 Mar. 2019].
Tate. (n.d.). Installation art – Art Term | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/i/installation-art [Accessed 3 Mar. 2019].
My tutor has identified that I have not fully engaged with the course in this part and have put up barriers rather than working out how to fit the exercises to me. I need to find a way in to take risks with my drawings and complete a fuller body of work in the next stage.
My research needs to be expanded, placed in the context of its time and linked more to contemporary practice. I need to research wider to find a way into the exercises and assignments
My tutor suggested I look at a number of different artists and I researched two of these.
Looking at his work initially, I thought that this was an artist I wasn’t going to be able to understand! His early work which formed on of his best known series (Guggenheim.org, n.d.) was ‘untitled 1990 (pad thai), 1990’, where he cooked for the audience. Said to be blurring the boundaries between art and life, making art come alive and making the audience part of the work, I struggle to see how this work is art.
However, on watching this video (Bloomberg, 2018), his work ‘untitled 2010 (who’s afraid of red, yellow and green), 2010’ where he collected newspaper images of protests in Thailand and got local art students to cover the wall in drawings of these, which was added to each day. In the gallery, he served red, yellow and green thai curry, referencing the colours emblematic of the opposing sides in the political unrest at the time of the exhibition, asking why people are afraid of each other. He took no side, but asked people to think about the issues
For ‘untitled 2015 (14,086 unfired), 2015’, bricklayers were employed to work in the gallery to produce bricks stamped with the message ‘Stop to work’, highlighting the irony of modern day life in our quest to get higher and higher paid jobs without questioning why we are doing it.
I see more of a point with these later works (and appreciate that the earlier works fed into these), but I do struggle with accepting these kind of works as ‘art’ and read them more as philosophy. I accept that the modern art world doesn’t agree with me here, but my belief is that there should be some form of visual beauty in a work for it to be ‘art’. Interesting to research into, but not the direction I wish to take my work in.
Hatoum started out with performance art and now works in a wide variety of media. Three of her pieces I particularly like are looked at below.
‘Map (clear), 2015’ has an obvious appeal to me with my love of maps. As an installation it work very well and it seems to be saying that all places are equal, but borders and divisions are unstable and liable to move.
‘Impenetrable, 2009’ reminds me of Cornelia Parker’s work, although it is actually referencing Jesús Rafael Soto’s series of Penetrables (Lūse, 2016) and turning his inviting interactive work on its head by replacing plastic tubes with barbed wire rods.
‘Light Sentence, 1992’ also reminds me of Cornelia Parker’s ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’, with the moving light bulb throwing interesting shadows on the gallery walls.
I like Hatoum’s work. They have a message, but it isn’t too deep to be impenetrable like many modern artists I come across in my research, and appearance and form are important to her and this comes across in her work (Cooke, 2016).
Bloomberg (2018). Rirkrit Tiravanjia on ‘Brilliant Ideas’. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2018-04-16/rirkrit-tiravanija-on-brilliant-ideas-video [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
Cooke, R. (2016). Mona Hatoum: ‘It’s all luck. I feel things happen accidentally’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/apr/17/mona-hatoum-interview-installation-artist-tate-modern-exhibition [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
Guggenheim.org. (n.d.). Rirkrit Tiravanija. [online] Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/rirkrit-tiravanija [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
Lūse, P. (2016). “Oh, Mona!”. [online] Arterritory.com. Available at: http://www.arterritory.com/en/texts/interviews/6124-oh,_mona/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
The idea of this project was to make five different small drawn interactions in the environment using only what you find around you.
This was great fun and a return to the simple ‘play’ of childhood.
First piece – Berries around a rock on the footpath. Highlighting a feature which would normally just be noticed as a hazard to step over whilst people walked along the track.
Second piece – Circle of berries in a rock pool. Highlighting a feature which already exists, using natural bright bold colour to ‘colour-in’ the feature to bring it to the viewer’s attention.
Third piece – Crack in the rock highlighted with pebbles.
Fourth piece – Rock pool with yellow leaves.
Fifth piece – Ash keys on a mossy rock. This is more about bending nature to my will than working with existing features.
Sixth piece – Cleared path through fallen leaves. This is a simple intervention to create a path around a tree, inviting passers by to deviate from their route to view the tree from all angles. This piece stayed visible for many weeks which was quite surprising.
I enjoyed making works in the environment, as well as directing the eye of passing people, it also prompted me to look closer at the area, in finding ways I could interact with it and materials with which to do so. It wasn’t always easy to make the materials do what I wanted them to do, but it was very satisfying to finish an interaction and leave it behind for people to find (or not). I also returned to the sites to see how time had started to remove the works.
One of the questions was how do I think the viewer experiences this kind of art and will they know what I have done is art. After making the first piece surrounding the stone with berries and collecting leaves for fourth piece, I got talking to a walker about leaves and he asked if I’d seen the berries around the stone. On saying that yes, I’d created it, he said that it had made his day coming across it! It was great to get such an immediate response like this to my work.
Producing work in the environment is all about making people look twice, something which I believe is the main purpose of art, opening people’s eyes to what is around them and making them question “why?”.
This project was all about collecting photographs and sketches of nature’s drawings (or urban processes).
I found that it was the patterns in rocks or rusty metal/paint peeling wood which attracted me the most.
A selection of my found images based on decay – peeling paint, wallpaper and rust :
Vertically panned trees:
Patterns in sand:
Some of the rock and sand images, remind me of Ernesto Neto’s drawings such as ‘Mito n’Água, 2009’, ‘Untitled, 1999’ (Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel, 2013) or ‘Untitled, 1999’ (kunzt.gallert, n.d.).
I tried some drawings based on these images, using the patterns in the rocks and sand, mostly using ink:
Using found drawings can be a good way of discovering a pattern, texture or shape which would otherwise go unnoticed and provide a library of inspiration for future drawings.
I used to be a photographer – something I have left behind me, at least for the moment. The art of photography is in noticing what is there in front of you and how elements fit together to form an image that ‘works’. Noticing found drawings is the same as this, it is all about paying attention to what is around you and realising that something makes an interesting shape or line. The only control you have over drawings like this is in the framing of the photograph.
Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel. (2013). Linha da vida – Exhibitions – Fortes D’Aloia & Gabriel. [online] Available at: http://fdag.com.br/en/exhibitions/linha-da-vida/ [Accessed 29 Nov. 2018].
kunzt.gallert. (n.d.). Untitled. [online] Available at: https://www.kunzt.gallery/art/ernesto-neto-untitled/ [Accessed 29 Nov. 2018].
Giuseppe Penone is an Italian sculptor who has had a long history of working with wood and other natural materials, creating works which address the relationship between man and nature.
One of the first pieces you see as you enter the underground gallery is ‘Nel legno (In the wood), 2008’. Here he has taken a large larch wood beam, selected a single growth ring and carved it back to this ring, revealing the sapling hidden inside.
In a similar vein, the centrepiece of the exhibition is ‘Matrice (Matrix), 2015’. Here he has done the reverse and cut a fir tree along its length and hollowed it out to a selected growth ring. At one point along its length, there is a bronze cast of the complete interior of the growth ring.
These and similar pieces are extremely impressive. They have scale, skilful craftsmanship, beauty of form and a message in discovering exploring the beauty of form within a tree and exploring different moments in its lifetime.
I also enjoyed his wall pieces, his carving of marble to raise the natural veins and highlight their natural beauty, using thousands of acacia thorns to draw his closed eyelids in ‘A occhi chiusi (With eyes closed), 2009’, or making it look like a steel grid had been pressed into marble in ‘Corpo di pietra – rete (Body of stone – grid), 2016’.
However, as a craftsman working with bronze, some of his pieces grated with me.
‘Corpo di pietra – rami (Body of stone – branches), 2016’ is a beautiful piece in its overall impression. But when you examine it closely (which unfortunately I didn’t photograph), the protruding bronze twigs were as they would have been picked up from the foundry floor. They were jaggedly cut off and had flashing left on them, which for me detracted from the piece. On the other hand, due to its scale it was a piece which was designed to be viewed from afar, so maybe I am being picky here.
His life-size sculptures of trees supporting boulders were a different matter though, such as ‘Luce e ombra (Light and shadow), 2014’. Again on close inspection the poor finish on the welded joints annoyed me. More importantly though, for an artist whose oeuvre is all about trees, celebrating their beauty and exploring nature and the natural, the patina on these sculptures makes them look dull and dead. If that was the intention / message he was trying to convey then that is fine, but I don’t believe that to be the case, so for me these pieces fail.
I struggled through this stage of the course as a lot of the projects held little appeal as they are very different to how I approach drawing. I worked through them, as often interesting work can result from unexpected directions, but the only project which directly clicked for me was the one on drawing machines. I am more scientific / technical and less inclined to draw from my emotions, which is what a lot of this stage of the course required. I probably didn’t push it as far as I could, but when my heart isn’t in it, it is hard to do that.
With the final drawings, the ones from the drawing machines project and the assignment piece hold the most appeal to me. Only the drawing from the first drawing machine feels like a complete and cohesive image though.
With rust printing, burning, ink and charcoal, and the combination of random and non-random mark making, I feel like I have found the materials and methods I enjoy working with. I think I need to experiment more with these though to achieve results I am happier with. I think it is the non-random mark making and the way of tying the two together which is where I need to focus my efforts. One issue which I think is holding me back is that I enjoy the results of rust printing, use expensive paper and only get a few copies. This means that I am far too precious about the drawings when they are only half complete and that is stifling what I then do with them. I plan to produce a large number of small works as part of my parallel project and spend time experimenting more with these without worrying about the final outcome.
The course calls for an emotional response to a piece of music and suggests drawing whilst listening to the music in an immediate response to it. I am going to do this differently and do a more lengthy, thought out response to a piece of music. This is more in keeping with the way I work and also it allows me to continue with my previous experiments with rust printing, which require time to complete.
Music chosen:- Peter Gunn (feat. Duanne Eddy) by Art of Noise.
I have no knowledge of the TV series this was a theme tune for, so my response comes from the music without this background. It obviously has a car driving influence, from the constant rhythm which brings to mind the noise of driving over sections of road. A screeching wheel spin sound is also used at one point which reinforces this. For me, I also have the background of listening to this tune whilst playing a car racing game called ‘Spy Hunter’ (En.wikipedia.org, n.d.) on the BBC in my childhood.
My plan was to combine rust printing, ink drawing and possibly watercolour to create my piece. I have been mulling over the design of this for many months and listening to the track on and off during this time. The main element of the drawing was going to be a car wheel, with musical elements running throughout it.
I devised a compass from a bit of metal tube and a magnet to allow me to work on a big scale and scribed on the design.
The resulting rust print:
I was aiming to add musical elements such as extracts from the music score, words, spectrograms or waveforms. However I decided that the first two looked contrived and I couldn’t get a clear spectrogram from any of the music. The waveform looked the most promising option. This was added to the first print, but more in a random way than replicating sections of the music. Another line which felt to me like a representation of the music (but I don’t think has any basis) was also added. Charcoal was used around the edge, smudged into the picture in a way which I felt to work with the music.
The music has some sharp forceful sections which felt to me like splats of bold colour. I experimented and ending up dropping ink from a height onto the paper. These were a bit smaller that the bold splats I had in mind, so maybe I should have experimented more before committing myself.
The resulting image:
En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Spy Hunter. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spy_Hunter [Accessed 19 Aug. 2018].
This work is an image of some faint lines and shading, in a simple frame with the following text added:
ERASED de KOONING DRAWING
On initial inspection the main feeling is of curiousness about the image which was erased, there is nothing else there to interest you. Without the title it is just a blank piece of paper.
Rauchenburg was seeking an answer to the question of whether a work of art could be made through erasure. Could a blank sheet of paper be considered a work of art? He had tried erasing one of his own drawings, but felt it was unsatisfactory. For it to be complete, he needed to erase a significant drawing. So Rauschenburg asked De Kooning’s for one of his drawings with the purpose of erasing it. At the time, De Kooning was greatly admired and his drawings had great value. De Kooning agreed and when choosing a drawing, picked one he thought he would care about losing, as well as one which would be difficult to erase as it was heavily drawn in grease pencil, ink, charcoal and graphite. The process took 2 months to complete and even then, some ghostly marks were still visible.
He insisted that the work wasn’t a negation, it was a celebration (Cain, A., 2017). I tend to agree as I can only imagine that you would spend that much time erasing an artist’s work who you admire if it was in a spirit of celebration.
At the time it did not cause much of a sensation, but this and his black and white canvases were “an end to art and a beginning” (Kaprow, A. and Kelley, J., 2003). Showing blank works challenged what was art and opened up the way for anything and everything being art.
Whilst I find it hard to process that a blank image can be art, opening the door to experimentation and the infinite possibilities we now have for creating art has been a great step forward. In this light I can see how such works are pivotal in the history of art.
Cain, A. (2017). No. 60: Why Robert Rauschenberg Erased a de Kooning. [podcast] The Artsy Podcast. Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-artsy-podcast-60-robert-rauschenberg-erased-de-kooning [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
Kaprow, A. and Kelley, J. (2003). Essays on the blurring of art and life. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press.
SFMOMA. (n.d.). Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953. [online] Available at: https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/98.298 [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
Environmental issues are important to me, they have influenced my choice of job, my lifestyle, my way of thinking. These issues are starting to make an appearance in my art work and I suspect will feature more and more as time goes by.
So, the question I propose to answer with my critical essay is “Can artists have an influence in tackling environmental issues?”, or “Can art and environmental issues be combined in an effective way?”
The artists I propose to look at in this regard are:
Common Ground – Dorset-based arts and environmental charity – currently have an exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, enabling some primary research – https://www.commonground.org.uk/
Laney Birkhead – A printmaker who has combined her love of beekeeping and concerns about bee decline with her artwork in producing ‘Swarm’ – http://www.laneybirkhead.com/Swarm-Printmaking-Project – I was involved in the latest exhibition of this work, so can include primary research from this
John Sabraw – creates paint from iron oxide extracted from polluted streams – http://www.johnsabraw.com/
Giuseppe Penone – currently exhibiting at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, enabling some primary research
This list will grow to start with and then be narrowed down to three for the essay.