Category Archives: Part 4

Exhibition Visit: ‘Giuseppe Penone: A Tree in the Wood’ at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park

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.

In the wood

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.

Matrix 1 Matrix 2

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.

With eyes closed 1 With eyes closed 2 Body of stone - grid 1 Body of stone - grid 2

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.

Body of stone - branches

‘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.

Light and shadow

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.

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Project 1: Found images

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 :

Paint Rust 1 Paint Rust 2 Paint Rust 6Decaying House 1 Decaying House 2 Decaying House 3 Decaying House 4 Rust 1

Vertically panned trees:

Panned trees 1 Panned trees 2

Patterns in sand:

Sand 1 Sand 2

Rock patterns:

Rock 1 Rock 2 Rock 3 Rock 4Rock 5 Rock 6 Rock 7 Rock 8Rock 9

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:

Rock pattern sketches

Rock drawing 1Rock drawing 2

Reflection

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.

References

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].

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Project 2: Interacting with the environment

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.

Env Int 1a Env Int 1b

 

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.

Env Int 2a Env Int 2b

 

Third piece – Crack in the rock highlighted with pebbles.

 

Env Int 3a Env Int 3b

Fourth piece – Rock pool with yellow leaves.

 

Env Int 4a Env Int 4b

Fifth piece – Ash keys on a mossy rock. This is more about bending nature to my will than working with existing features.

Env Int 5a Env Int 5b

 

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.

 

Env Int 6a Env Int 6b

Reflection

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?”.

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Project 3: Installation Research

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.

PRP1 PRP2

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.

References

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].

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Exhibition Visit – ‘Leonardo Da Vinci: A Life in Drawing’ at Leeds Art Gallery

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.

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Phyllida Barlow in conversation with Louisa Buck

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.

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Contextual focus point: Emily Kame Kngwarreye

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.

My work

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.

References:

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].

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Greening Arts Practice 5 – Talks by Artist Ruth Levene and Anthropologist Megan Clinch.

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.

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Project 3: Installation

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.

Reflection

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.

References

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].

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