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Category Archives: Part 4
I now have the opportunity to produce my own body of work for two assignments. This will then offer the opportunity of pursuing two different areas of work.
At the time of writing, I feel I have three areas which could warrant further investigation:
These were sculptures produced on the Sculpture 1 course, so whilst I will pursue this series in my own time, it might be going back too far for this stage in the course.
This was explored in Part 1 of this course as an idea for a public sculpture, but was abandoned at the time due to time constraints. I did try to cast it several times, but had the ceramic mould break both times.
Spheres / Microscopy
Explored in assignment 3 and I feel this has a large amount of scope and is definitely an area I want to explore.
I have decided to explore options 2 and 3, choosing option 2 for part 4 and option 3 for part 5. I will work on both together to make sure I get through the course in time, with the possibility that some pieces for both parts may not be complete at the time of submitting.
Part 4 plans:
- Research – into the areas covered by the map tiles, similar sculptures, similar styles
- Skills – successfully cast the tiles
- Aims and outcomes:
- A series (maybe 8?) of map tiles
- Development of the ideas
His architectural pieces are very interesting, consisting of a mixture of structures which sometimes sit in and add to the environment (e.g. ‘Sunset House, 2005’, Agadez, Niger or ‘Moon House, 2006’, Agadez, Niger) and others which seem to be an imposition of his will on nature and don’t fit in / fight with their surroundings. Or sometimes they are a mixture of the two, an example of this is a hollowed out island – outside is a hard edged imposition of structure on a natural environment whilst the inner is like a magical cave (‘NotOna Island, 2009’, Patagonia, Chile). An element in one of his buildings which I particularly enjoyed (despite it being a very brief glimpse in a slide show) and might try to make use of was a line of sunlight through a room which was presumably formed from a slit cut in the building somewhere. The clean bright line it formed appealed to me, although searching on the internet after the exhibition failed to turn up this image so I can’t provide a link to it here.
His sculptural work is all on a large scale, but for many of his pieces this large scale seems to be the only point. For one piece he commissioned other artists to produce large ceramic heads which are impressive in their scale, but don’t do anything for me in any other way. Others are interesting gimics – his stainless steel sphere with indented circles (‘Moon, 2015’) is interesting to view and the reflections provide interesting distortions and entertaining photographs, but the sculpture doesn’t promote any other responses in me.
The underground gallery had an eclectic mixture of his sculptures, for some of which the main question was “why has he done this” and “why place a small sculpture on the floor where it is lost”.
The exception to this was ‘Heads, 2015’, giant steel heads where the detail has been paired down to the bare minimum required to recognise them as heads, produced in polished steel and placed directly on the floor. These evoked a feeling of sentinels, sitting apart from you and watching.
Overall this wasn’t an exhibition which grabbed my attention much though, and initially there seems little I will take away from this to use in my own work.
Producing a series of map tiles requires the selection of several areas – because of my location these were all picked within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the next step was to pick areas which had something to say.
The Yorkshire Three Peaks
A recognised walking route for many people and often walked to raise money for charity. Because of this the map tile would focus on walking. I started out with a mind-map of ideas for this:
Not all of these ideas were chosen, I decided to go with a boot lace for the route, trig point numbers at the summits, a piece of railway track for Ribblehead Viaduct and a walking stick shield (something I remember collecting in my youth) somewhere on the tile.
The summits needed to be visited to find the trig point numbers and a walking stick sheild was bought from the National Park centre.
This is where I am based, so I decided to include words describing a few of the places I know. These would be added using printing blocks, so I thought I would also use these to represent buildings in the town as well.
This is a nearby reservoir to me and I was interested in the landscape which used to be under the reservoir water before it was flooded.
This is a very interesting area in the North of the Park, not for landscape features in particular (although the hills look very different from other areas of the Park – like sleeping elephants), but this is where the original National Park boundary used to go across the summits of the hills (following the administrative boundary between Westmoreland and the West Riding) until it was changed in August 2017 (Butler and Butler, 2013; Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, 2017). This tile will celebrate the recent boundary change, where the administrative boundary used to divide an area which was supposed to be designated on landscape grounds, a mistake that has taken 62 years to be resolved.
I took part in the ‘The Yorkshire Dales Photographic Grid Project’ run by Yorkshire Photo Walks covering the grid square on the moor above Conistone. The idea was to visit the grid square intersection points and take a photograph at each point. This project linked in well with the map tile series and I decided to merge the two and use the photograph locations to draw inspiration for my sculpture and record the making of it.
My initial idea was to represent the landscape of the area by picking out key features, but an early site visit near Mossdale Scar (the main distinct feature in the area) changed my mind.
Rather than images of beautiful landscape features, on this visit I was struck by scenes of death and destruction – grouse butts, shotgun shells, dead rabbits, stoat traps, feathers, burnt heather – and the nearby landscape feature I had planned to represent, Mossdale scars, turned out to be the entrance to Mossdale caverns, where the worst caving disaster in Britain took place when six cavers died there in 1967 (The Independent, 2017).
The scene was then set, I would use found materials from the sites to create a map tile which explored these themes.
This is an area I know fairly well and is famous for Malham Cove and the surrounding limestone pavements.
Butler, M. and Butler, S. (2013). Working the view. 1st ed. Watching Sparrows Publications’
The Independent. (2017). What lies beneath: Mossdale caving disaster. [online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/this-britain/what-lies-beneath-mossdale-caving-disaster-794268.html [Accessed 9 Feb. 2017].
Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. (2017). Q&A with David Butterworth (Chief Executive). [online] Available at: http://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/about-the-dales/boundary-extension/q-and-a-with-david-butterworth [Accessed 9 Feb. 2017].
Talking to Michael Storey, I discovered that the reason my initial moulds of the Skipton tile were failing was possibly because of the hydrostatic pressure caused by having the tiles being cast vertically.
Changing this to cast them horizontally resulted in more successful castings.
The Skipton map tile was finally completed:
The making process was fairly similar for all of the map tiles, this section gives a brief overview of this.
His bubble machine consisted of large plastic tubes slowly producing bubbles which burst when they came out of the top. It wasn’t visually attractive, looking a bit of a mess as the scum from the bubbles coated the area. From the text on the wall, bubbles obviously had significance for him, but I was not convinced that this message came across in this work. Overall I thought this was a piece that might be more appropriate in a science museum than an art gallery.
‘A stitch in time, 2013-1968’ was firstly a strange title as it was being added to in 2017. Leaving that aside, this was an interesting idea, with the public being asked to participate and stitch on “anything that you like in life, your name, an image, a message, a memory, the name of a lover, the name of a friend, the name of a beloved teacher, a place, a wish, a dream”
However, what the visitors to The Hepworth have stitched on is the detritus from their pockets – receipts, train tickets, flyers – essentially rubbish. What does this say? Not a lot as far as I could tell, it was essentially a monument to rubbish. To get more interesting work, it might have been better to provide thicker thread (so the lines were not lost) and started some off with written words? His ideas were about the messages having spontaneity, but with other rubbish on display, that seemed to be the first thing people thought to add to the mess.
‘Sand Machine, Bahagari, 1963-2016’ – again an odd title as it was still going in 2017 – this was a machine turning wire on a sand base to draw a series of circles. There didn’t seem to be anything which could vary the path of the coiled wire much, so it’s path was pretty fixed. As such it didn’t have as much interest to me as if it had the possibility of varying in it’s path. I believe drawing machines come into the Drawing 2 course, so if I do that course next this could be quite relevant.
‘untitled: screestage, 2013’ – my initial impression of this work was it’s scale, it filled the room with grey dark forms, interesting texture, with bright colours at the edge – it has presence. Texture is an important part of her work, provided here by scrim and cement, some accented with paint, leaving the process evident in the work – an unfinished look. It explores what is above/below the surface (in a similar way to my residency work). There is an impressive sense of scale.
The tops of the grey forms look like giant needles piercing the work, or stand like rock formations, and the contrast between the heavily textured vertical grey pieces and the brightly coloured flat straight horizontal boards works well.
It must have been interesting to construct as it fills a large room and presumably had to be built from one side to another (or the centre outwards), and it would have had no stability until several pieces had been joined together. It was made up of a huge number of pieces, but formed a cohesive whole which represented the slippage you would see on a scree slope which is presumably where her influence came from.
I liked this work, it is like a strange landscape at the top, with plenty to look at and provide interest, nice textures and an ambitious piece. I could possibly use the idea of concrete on scrim in my own work going forwards, but it would have been interesting to know what lies beneath the surface to make it structurally sound. The underside of the work is very different to the top side and more reminiscent of a cave with stalactites. You are encouraged to explore this work and interact with it by walking around and through it.
Her other two pieces had much less impact for me, one was titled ‘untitled: toletsigns, 2016′, making a statement that to let boards have become part of our landscape now. They used a similar construction method to the boards on the ‘screestage’ but had much less impact. The second piece ‘untitled: blackcoils, 2016‘ used coiled plastic (?) to give a writhing heap of black forms like a Medusa’s head on the wall. I am not sure what this piece was trying to say though.
Helen’s work seems to be much more 2D than 3D and I don’t get it at all! Her works obviously have great meaning for her, but it fails to come across to the viewer, seeming like a random assortment of items joined together.
They are large, ambitious pieces, but they fail to excite or interest me and I just can’t connect with them. She won the Hepworth and the Turner prize, so is the rising star in the art world at the moment, so others can obviously see something I cannot. I strongly suspect she will not be the public’s choice though (unannounced at the time of writing).
Her work is very inward looking and autobiographical and so needs unpicking to understand it – however this wasn’t something I felt inclined to do. I feel that a sculpture should be accessible to people on some level to start with – there should be more to uncover as you look deeper, but there needs to be some initial connection to make you want to look closer.
Stephen’s work was instantly engaging, it was very well made and uses all kinds of media from steel, bronze(?), wood, to gold painted camera lenses and tablet packages.
His exhibition was all about value and was very well thought out as an exhibtion for the space it was in. The six blue lights on one wall ‘Like Shooting Sparrows in the Dark 3 (deterrent lure), 2016′ created a night sky effect on the opposite wall covered in pennies like stars – an instant visually attractive impression that inspired closer inspection and then further thought when you learnt that they were magnetically attached as the copper content of the pennies was so small their metal content was practically worthless.
One of his pieces was unfortunately not working when I visited, his ‘Re-de-extinction Table and Transmission Assembly, 2016’. This is a very surreal piece which I don’t fully get, but it is well made and constructed – something I find important in any piece of work. It should have been lit up like a light box and humming, with the idea of turning value on it’s head – have these historical busts got anything to say in this era? The light box was filled with shredded £10 notes, valuable when they were whole, but now of no value. All interesting concepts and a good subject to build a cohesive exhibition around.
As for what I might get out of his work, as well as following a theme like his on value and looking at how different works compliment each other, the area that stood out for me was his use of thick steel brackets/bases. These were consistent across his work, with mechanical fixings rather than welded together and were very well made (probably water jet or laser cut).
There were a few things of interest to note after this exhibition visit. The first was that I have previously reviewed Phillida Barlow’s work on an occasion where I saw little in her work to appeal to me. The work I was looking at were different pieces, but I think it highlights the difference between seeing a sculpture in person and trying to assess it from a small 2D image on a page/screen. In this exhibition I think her work was very strong and was my favourite alongside Stephen Claydon’s work.
Similarly, the second was that on this visit I managed to spend 3 hours looking at just the work of these 4 artists and that extra time made a lot of difference in being able to immerse myself in the work and really try to understand it.