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Category Archives: Part 5
An exhibition curated by a fashion designer (J. Anderson) covering art, fashion, ceramics and design was an intriguing prospect. Fashion is an alien world to me, something I have never understood or followed!
The first thing that strikes you as you enter the space is the use of curtains to divide up the exhibition space, instantly giving a cosier space than the stark sterile white of many gallery spaces. The works are then laid out in a series of themes, although these are quite loose (and I didn’t always agree with the placement of objects into them). What I found fascinating was how he placed groups of works together.
A ‘bustle coat’ by Yohji Yamamoto echoing the shape of ‘Metamorphosis, 1984’ by William Turnball:
‘Teddy Boy and Girl, 1979’ by Lynn Chadwick was complemented by similarly angular garments by Junya Watanbe (‘Architectural dress’) and Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood (‘Witches Dress’ and ‘Witches Trench Coat’):
A collection of Sarah Flynn ceramics sharing many characteristics with garments by JW Anderson:
These pairings show the artistic processes of picking ideas and inspiration from diverse sources. It is curated with a very broad-minded approach, resulting in an exhibition that should be of interest to everyone.
Two last items I wanted to comment on, firstly the immersive ’28 Jumpers’ by JW Anderson. This was a display of oversized jumpers which the public are invited to interact with. It had similarities to Phyllida Barlow’s ‘untitled: screestage, 2013’ which you were able to walk under, but added the tactile experience of being able to touch and interact (or play) with the exhibit. This is something which seems to be becoming more popular (e.g. touching exhibits in York Art Gallery) and something I think works well with sculpture which often has a tactile element to be experienced.
Lastly, a piece I didn’t like was ‘Bunny Gets Snookered #9, 1997’ by Sarah Lucas. I find the stuffed tights she uses in her works disturbing, like distorted flesh. Her work might have an important message to get across, but I do wonder if it works? I think I need to have beauty in works of art, I feel that there are enough ugly things in the world without adding to them! Perhaps sometimes the message is everything though and I just haven’t found an issue which is important to me enough to protest against?!
I mulled over what to do for this stage of the course for quite a long time exploring a number of ideas to start with.
This subject has plenty of scope, although my ideas all use representational pollen grains, scaling them up to different extents. Some of these had great potential, particularly going very large and forming a large pollen sphere using an open plaster shape (In a similar structure as that used by Richard Hamilton in ‘Growth and Form’, 1951 – based on drawings of morphologies from a book by the biologist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson (Macba.cat, 2017)), or using concrete covered scrim (in a similar way to the method used by Phyllida Barlow in her ‘untitled: screestage, 2013’).
The development idea from the end of Stage 4:
Virus attacking skin images – lumpy marks – weld pools of bronze?
We decided in my tutorial at the end of part 3 to drop the course content for part 4. I had however been reading ahead and thinking about possibilities for that stage. The ‘Monument to a hero’ section was one I had pondered on and decided that I might be able to manipulate it to suit something I wanted to explore (rather than an actual hero of mine). There had recently been a Google Doodle for the 384th Birthday of Anthony van Leeuwenhoek (Google.com, 2017). His work on microscopes fitted neatly into my recent work on pollen grains and I looked into his work further.
I decided that the pollen and microscopy ideas had the most potential (and fit together), so this was the direction I took.
Google.com. (2017). Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s 384th Birthday. [online] Available at: https://www.google.com/doodles/antoni-van-leeuwenhoeks-384th-birthday [Accessed 13 Apr. 2017].
The Huffington Post. (2017). LOOK: Under The Microscope, Deadly Viruses Look Absolutely Stunning. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/13/deadly-viruses-beautiful-photos_n_4545309.html [Accessed 13 Apr. 2017].
Macba.cat. (2017). Growth and Form. [online] Available at: http://www.macba.cat/en/growth-and-form-5245 [Accessed 13 Apr. 2017].
Anthony van Leeuwenhoek
Leeuwenhoek was born on 24 October 1632 in Delft, Holland. His parents were fairly well off tradespeople and he did receive schooling at a local school and then whilst living with his uncle (an attorney), but he was never destined for university.
At 16 he was sent to Amsterdam to become a draper where he rose through the business to become the book-keeper and cashier there. 6 years later he returned to his home town to set up his own draper and haberdasher business. Over time he added to his job roles in the town also taking on those of ‘sheriff’s chamberlain’, ‘qualified surveyor’ and ‘wine-gauger’ (assaying all wines and spirits entering the town and calibrating the vessels they came in).
At some point (possibly 1668) he began to create his own microscopes by grinding his own glass lenses and then studying everything and anything through them. These studies were first brought to light in 1673 when he wrote his first letter to The Royal Society of London offering his scientific observations for publication in the ‘Philosophical Transactions’. This was as a result of recently setup Royal Society looking to communicate with all men (no matter of what learning) who were working for “the promotion of natural knowledge” (Dobell and Leeuwenhoek, 1960).
This was the start of a frequent correspondence, mostly on his observations and discoveries made using his microscopes, which was to continue until his death fifty years later in 1723.
These letters were not scientific papers, they were descriptions of the studies he had made and discovered using his microscopes, written in his native Dutch and translated by The Royal Society for publication.
Because of the quality of his lenses, he was the only serious microscopist in the world at the time and he had no rivals in this field. As a result of his letters he was elected as a Fellow of The Royal Society in 1680.
Once his discoveries were published and became known about, he became famous and was sought out by celebrities and royalty to demonstrate his microscopes and the things he viewed through them. It was not fame he sought though and in correspondence he confessed he was bored by these interruptions and would prefer to be left in peace to continue his studies.
He is credited with many discoveries:
protozoa (single-celled organisms)
muscle fibre construction
blood flow in capillaries.
I decided that one pollen grain type was sufficient for this piece and picked that of Passiflora caerulea (Kesseler and Harley, 2004).
Bbc.co.uk. (2017). BBC – History – Historic Figures: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632 – 1723). [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/van_leeuwenhoek_antonie.shtml [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].
Dobell, C. and Leeuwenhoek, A. (1960). Anthony van Leeuwenhoek and his “little animals”. 1st ed. New York: Dover.
En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Antonie van Leeuwenhoek. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonie_van_Leeuwenhoek [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].
Explorable.com. (2017). Discovery Of Bacteria – by Antony van Leeuwenhoek. [online] Available at: https://explorable.com/discovery-of-bacteria [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].
Kesseler, R. and Harley, M. (2004). Pollen. 1st ed. London: Andreas Papadakis.
What do I want to achieve? What do I hope to produce?
I want to:
- explore less representational sculpture
- explore new media / mix media more
- work bigger
- create sculptures which intrigue / evoke a similar sense of discovery I remember experiencing when visiting Buxton Micrarium when I was a child.
Micrariumenterprises.co.uk. (2017). The Micrarium Story. [online] Available at: http://www.micrariumenterprises.co.uk/page41.html [Accessed 14 Apr. 2017].
Forms inspired by the work of Anthony van Leeuwenhoek were sketched with the idea of creating them in steel and bronze:
These appealed to me as a series of works and I decided to produce three of them using steel and other media.
The pollen grains (2 or 3) would be displayed in front of a grid made out to ceramic.
This sculpture would be wall hanging and consist of two parts, the grid and the pollen spheres.
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.
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.
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):
Once cast it was tidied up, welded back together and patinated a white colour.
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.
Waxes were created and, due to recent casting failures, cores were used in these to hopefully give a successful cast.
Fortunately the cores worked well and the casts were successful:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’ 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’ 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
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.
The outer frame was constructed out of round steel bar, bent around formers and welded together.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
Lynda Benglis used paper tissue over a wire mesh:
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!
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].
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.
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.
Salvo, D., Hadler, M., Judd, D., Smith, E. and Storr, R. (2008). Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective. New Haven: Yale University Press.
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.
Again, a similar construction method was used for the outer steel frame, with additional small rods attached to the outside of the form.
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:
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!
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.
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
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.