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Category Archives: Assignment 3
From the initial research for this stage, Peter Randall-Page’s ‘Seed’ sculpture sparked an idea I had been mulling over before which was to look more closely at seeds/pollen microscopic images.
An idea came to me for a flat design which could be used for a door, or large wall piece. This also continues the theme of bronze spheres from part 2 of the course which turned out successfully.
The course asks for a relatively large sculpture around 60x60cm, but I am thinking more like 200x50cm for this piece. It would be a very heavy piece if constructed out of sheet steel, but it could look great. If I was to do it, there were a few questions to be answered first:
Could I successfully weld thin steel? I melted holes in one of my planes pieces welding it and this would need to be as thin as possible if hanging it from a wall
How could I attach the bronze pollen/seed balls to the steel without ruining the patinated surface? My box sculpture did this successfully with very small tacks, but my other planes sculpture lost some of its finish. A mechanical joint might be better, then it could be added after the steel has been rusted and treated
Can I seal rusted steel more successfully? My box sculpture is now shedding some rust, so can’t have been fully sealed.
If I can sort out these issues, then I’m game to try something this large. Not sure what I do with it when it’s made, but never mind!
So, some experiments were started to resolve these issues and, at the same time, I experimented with options for the bronze spheres.
I had the idea quite clearly in my mind so I only made one sketch of how I expected it to look.
This worked for me, so the next drawing was done full sized to work out how it would fit together as a whole.
The full size drawing was used as a template, the steel marked up and the holes plasma cut. Holes were drilled through the back plate and then marked through onto the front plate to position the threaded rods. These rods were then welded to the front plate. The surface of the steel was roughed up, encouraged to rust and left outside for a number of weeks to enable the rust to take hold. The rust was then sealed on using an acrylic medium.
The spheres were created in hollow wax with a hole cut in it to allow the shell to be built up on both sides and a sprue for the bronze to come in. Spikes were added to the surface and it was setup ready to shell.
I liked the look of these spheres when setup like this, so I did contemplate changing the sculpture to use the shapes created and did some comparison sketches
I decided to stick with the original plan though.
Once cast, they were tidied up and holes drilled through to fit a metal bar. This was then cut to size and bolts welded on the ends to fit the threaded rods and the bar welded to the sphere. The spheres were then patinated and sealed/polished.
The pieces were fitted together using copper pipe spacer and bolts.
To hang it on the wall, I needed something which could take the weight so I used a full length piece of wood cut at 45 degress along it’s length and fitted one section to the sculpture and the other to the wall.
The bronze and steel pieces fitted together well and it slotted onto the wall well. As suspected, the issue then was that it looked much better with a black background to the holes (but I hadn’t planned for that in the design).
I was running out of time and first tried a bodge job to get it finished enough to submit with the intention to go back to it later and sort it out:
This worked from a full frontal view, but not if you looked at it from an angle, and the change in direction of the felt over the hanging bar could be seen, so it was by no means ideal. I couldn’t bring myself to leave it like this and decided I needed to go back and do it properly.
My solution was to use foamboard covered in black felt for the holes on their own. Then for the ones with spheres in, I covered them in material and cling film and built up a cover in mod-roc. This was then painted in acrylic and covered in black felt. These were then glued to the back of the steel sheet.
The sculpture then worked from all angles and didn’t require alterations to the wall to make it work.
I have chosen not to have an artist statement with this piece as I enjoy finding out what other people see in it.
The spheres were based on microscope images of pollen grains and follow on from my use of spheres in Part 2.
Several other elements of the sculpture were then influenced by the work of Lee Bontecou whose books I am reading at the moment (Bontecou et al., 2008 and Bontecou et al., 2014). The first influence is in the production of a wall piece, which a large number of her pieces are, the second is the use of a dark holes in the piece.
I was hoping to display my work alongside hers here, but I can’t find any images on the web which I can be sure I am allowed to use, so will have to make do with a link:
My holes are similarly organic in shape and have a black fabric background. I also use steel, although in flat sheets rather than as a framework for fabric. Bontecou’s sculptures are also more 3D than mine, although they still make use of flat planes.
Interestingly, Danto (Danto, 2016) likens Bontecou’s work to Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (an early microscopist), and her mobile work makes use of sphere shapes, so my pollen grain spheres fit with her work in this respect as well.
The final source of inspiration then probably originates from my day job as a GIS officer where I use map layers on top of each other for display and analysis. This sculpture makes similar use of two layers of steel.
So far, I have had comments on it that fall into three different categories:
- The night sky with stars / star forms / Glimpsing through galaxy black holes to new stars
- the Universe, especially lakes on mars
- Space creatures
- another Death star from star wars
- Viruses (apoptosis)
- Blood and cells
- Nuclii staring out like eyes
- Sea mines
- Sea urchins
- Puffer fish
- the sea and the underwater wilderness
- rocks with pockets of natural treasure
That no-one guessed the source of my inspiration is of no concern to me as it was only very loosely based on pollen grains (and only the sphere part of it). The fact that it raised so many comments and people saw such different things in it is very pleasing to me I have commented previously that in my art I hope to stir a number of emotions with my art:
- Spark of imagination
I think this sculpture fulfils this brief so I am very pleased with the way it has turned out.
Overall this sculpture worked out as I planned it, the main thing I should have done differently was to plan the sculpture to include the black background at the outside, although my final solution did work.
There are two areas which could be improved:
The felt background works well around the spheres where it nestles them. However, in the smaller flat spaces it lacks depth. These areas would be improved by recessing the black background.
The steel rods holding the spheres in position distract from the idea of the spheres in the holes.
These issues could be addressed by adding another sheet at the back of the sculpture painted black to act as the background to the holes (this might need to be curved up at the ends to ensure the edge couldn’t be viewed through the holes if looked at from an angle). The spheres could then be made complete by welding the cut out piece back onto them after casting, drilling and tapping a hole through the back piece. Then a threaded rod could be welded to the back sheet (before painting it black) and the sphere screwed onto this rod.
It is a very heavy sculpture, so requires a strong wall fixing. It could be made lighter by using aluminium, painting it with iron paint and rusting it, or possibly by using thinner steel (although I would worry about the sheets buckling or denting). Whether these would work as well is questionable though.
This would also work well as smaller framed pictures which could hang on a normal picture hook if the thinnest steel possible was used and the bronze was as thin as possible. I may try this out.
I also did some sketches on how to produce this sculpture in a similar style to Lee Bontecou:
This is also something I would like to pursue in the future (too many ideas, not enough time!).
The use of sphere in sculpture has a lot of possibilities, having used these in this assignment and the previous stage when working with planes. They also offer a less expensive way of using bronze as the bulk of the sculpture can be in cheaper steel, with small details in bronze (for instance in archways).
Pollen grains are a good source of inspiration for these, as are many other subjects:
Googling for other artists to compare my work again came up with Colin Letts (Letts, 2016) who looks like he also uses pollen grains for inspiration. Also, my Google image search for ‘sculpture bronze sphere steel’ came up with some images from this blog site, highlighting that this combination is not that common. Pursuing this combination is what I plan to do, both because I enjoy it and also because it will give me a unique selling point.
Bontecou, L., Smith, E., Philbin, A. and De Salvo, D. (2008). Lee Bontecou. 1st ed. Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art.
Bontecou, L., White, M., Ashton, D. and Banach, J. (2014). Lee Bontecou. 1st ed. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
Danto, A. (2016). A Tribe Called Quest. [online] The Nation. Available at: https://www.thenation.com/article/tribe-called-quest/ [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016].
Letts, C. (2016). Bronze. [online] Collin Letts – Sculpture | Furniture | Accessories. Available at: http://www.collinletts.com/new-page-2/ [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016].
The Museum of Modern Art. (2016). Lee Bontecou. Untitled. 1959 | MoMA. [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/80745?locale=en [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016].
I had a very encouraging tutorial with the following main points:
Agreed to deviate from the course content for the next stage to embark on making a body of work now for assignments four and five – this is much more exciting for me than following the course content for stage 4.
My sketchbook was said to be good – this is a major step forwards for me! – this is the first time this has been said about my sketchbook so I need to learn from this both in my next sketchbooks, but also in trying to translate my sketchbook work into larger formats.
He was happy with the way my research and blog was going (although I think I can still up my game in the research area).
He recognised that I am developing a personal voice which I also have recognised, but it is welcome to see that it has come through in my work.
Time management – I am running out of time to complete the course so I need to get cracking to finish within the 2 years and have a strategy to complete it (which may mean not submitting ‘finished’ objects, especially if continuing with my use of bronze).
In my reflection I mentioned that two areas could be improved – the black background and the steel rods holding the sphere in place. Also in the development ideas I mentioned producing smaller works on the same theme.
I produced a number of smaller works as planned and ironed out the areas which needed improvement in producing these. However, when casting the spheres, a failure in the internal shell caused the mould to split and bronze to pour out into the centre. After my initial disappointment at this, I started to clean them up and realised that this had resulted in much more interesting shapes than the original wax.
‘Decaying pollen 1’
Steel and bronze in a wooden frame
The failed casts provide much greater interest than the originals, both in their form by making them look like they have started to disintegrate, and also in their texture through the bronze’s contact with the sand which was placed around the shell.
I intend to continue working with this series and will try to replicate the shell failure to produce more bronzes like this.