Monthly Archives: July 2017

How do sculptors evoke a sense of place in a gallery environment?

Introduction

Mapping is a theme that has been present in my work for many years. The idea of representing a landscape on a flat surface fascinates me, as does the history the features can reveal.

Conistone 2Howgills 3

Mark Butler, Conistone, 2016 and Howgills, 2016

Through working on a series of map based sculptures, the subject of place came to the fore. I produced sculptures that started out by depicting the topography accurately, before adding found objects or more abstract marks. They were successful, but they might benefit from concentrating on the emotional response the landscape evokes rather than any accuracy to the terrain/features being depicted. Researching this subject will help me to decide on the future direction of this body of work.

What does ‘evoke a sense of place’ mean when it comes to sculpture?

Evoke means the appearance of feelings about something, to ‘bring or recall (a feeling, memory, or image) to the conscious mind’ (Oxford Dictionaries | English, 2017).

Place has many meanings, but it does seem to imply a specific location. A sense of place is ‘hard to define with any satisfaction’ (Dean and Millar, 2005, p.17), but means a location which has a feeling of being special in some way, it is an emotional response.

So evoking a sense of place involves triggering an emotional response and will therefore be different for each individual. Tacita Dean says ‘the artist can evoke a place that will always only exist as a memory of another place in the mind of the viewer’ (Dean and Millar, 2005, pp.182 – 192). In sculpture this might take the form of a large scale installation which places the viewer in a new special place, possibly also evoking memories of similar locations from the viewer’s past, or smaller works to which the viewer would travel in their minds eye which might be more in the realms of the imagination.

Why do I want to examine work in a ‘gallery environment’?

White walled galleries are used to provide a blank canvas, a void like atmosphere in which no distractions are present (Zimmerman.co.nz, 2017). Brian O’ Doherty (1999, p.15) describes the design purpose of the modern gallery spaces is that ‘The outside world must not come in’.

Bringing the outside into a space specifically designed to keep it out is an interesting and challenging idea.

On the other hand, an outside location already has its own sense of place, so using the vacuum of a gallery environment allows the viewer to focus purely on the sense of place the sculptor is trying to evoke.

I will examine two artists: one who uses installation to bring the outside environment into galleries and another who produces landscapes on a smaller scale.

Installation

A number of artists import natural materials into the gallery environment to blur the lines between outside and inside. An early example of this is Walter de Maria’s, ‘The New York Earth Room, 1977’ (Foundation, 2017) where Maria imported 197 cubic meters of earth and spread it evenly over the floor of a white walled gallery space.

More recently the work of Olafur Eliasson brings elements of the outside into the gallery environment and creates a sense of place within them. ‘The Weather Project, 2003’ consisted of a giant ‘sun’ made out of hundreds of mono-frequency lamps, a mirrored ceiling, and haze machines producing a fine mist atmosphere. Over ten years later, ‘Riverbed, 2014’ created a rock landscape and stream inside a gallery.

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Olafur Eliasson, Riverbed, 2014 (changeorder, 2015)

Eliasson’s work considers what is ‘natural’ and how our experience of nature, natural phenomena and landscape is actually cultural. To engage viewers with this question, his installations are created in a way that enables people to see the construction techniques used. ‘The Weather Project’ allowed viewers to walk behind the ‘sun’ and see how it was made (Tate, 2003); ‘Riverbed’ was obviously a built landscape because of its setting in a gallery. He wants to make it clear how his installations are made so the viewer can question what they are experiencing (Collins, 2014).

Both pieces invite more interaction than purely observation, with the visitors having an impact on the work as they pass through it, or actively interacting with it. Many of the reviewers point towards the freedom in this work from the usual rules of engagement in a museum environment. The installation removes the ‘rules’ of a gallery experience and ‘there is no expected way to act within or experience the space, allowing for freedom of reflection, thought, sensory experience, and sense of self.’ (Quddus, 2014), others find ‘something disorienting about a piece that so openly invites intervention’ (Secher, 2014). These reviews were about ‘Riverbed’, but looking at the videos of ‘The Weather Project’, the same seems to be the case for this installation.

‘Riverbed’ can be seen as contemplative in a similar way to the layout of a Japanese garden, it is monochromatic and simplistic, with a peaceful stream flowing through it. Conversely it can also be viewed as sinister and destructive, the barren and lifeless landscape imposing itself on the gallery like a scene of devastation or ‘a post-apocalyptic environment’ (Coghlan, 2015). Eliasson is interested in how people can shift between the two perceptions dependent on their mood and the impact of the people around them (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014).

It is hard to know what my response to this work would be without being able to experience it, but I think I would find it oppressive. The sterile nature of the landscape in the equally sterile gallery environment would find me relieved to escape into the outside world. However I experienced it, both ways of viewing it detailed above are strong emotional responses, so would therefore evoke a strong sense of place. Interacting with and contemplating the meaning of the installation would create a strong memory and opinion of the work which would not be quickly forgotten.

The installations accentuate elements of the natural environment we might not pay attention to normally. Voon (2014) puts this down to ‘the role of the white cube in creating more alluring environments.’ These installations certainly couldn’t work in the same way anywhere else but in these gallery environments because their isolation from the real world is a necessary part of the work. Eliasson does not see the gallery environment as a vacuum as discussed in the introduction, rather he sees it as an environment that should amplify what we know about the world. Whether it succeeds depends whether there is trust – if visitors experience an exhibition where they are trusted, they then have trust in themselves to interact with the art (Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014). From videos of viewers interacting with his installations, I would say that this trust has been achieved.

Smaller scale landscapes

In this section I will look at the work of Mariele Neudecker. The works she creates appear like fantasy landscapes, but they are actually based on romantic paintings where the artist (Friedrich) adapted the landscape to suit what he wanted to show. Neudecker recreates these landscapes and immerses them in tanks with dyes and salts which react over time to create different atmospheres, simulating the effects of fog or sunsets on the scenes. The highly detailed landscapes are crafted in great detail to give the illusion of reality, with the aim of being able to transport the viewer into the scene in their mind’s eye (Cumming, 2000).

Heaven the sky

Mariele Neudecker, Heaven, The Sky, 2008 (Jeffery, 2011)

‘Heaven the Sky, 2008’ consists of two large glass tanks housing cropped mountain ranges made from cast and painted fibreglass, filled with water and a chemical solution. This piece addresses a number of different issues:

Time

The chemical reaction which takes place in the tanks results in a change in the environment, simulating snow forming on the mountain tops and fog around the base of them, similar changes to those which take place in our own environment.

The scenes are also animated by the viewer moving around them, through refraction from the water in the tanks, reflections off the glass walls and changing views as foreground becomes background and vice versa.

Cropping

The scenes Neudecker depicts are based on romantic paintings and she is interested in how these paintings and any view of a landscape are always a crop of reality. This is depicted by cutting the sides of the mountains to leave flat planes where they meet the edge of the tank.

Perception

Containing the mountain ranges in tanks captures a piece of the outside for the viewer, bringing it to them. Placing them on plinths at or just above head height makes them still inaccessible though and distances the viewer from the landscape in the same way we view mountain ranges in reality.

The artist Friedrich, on whose work many of her tank pieces are based, ‘demonstrated a strong conviction as to the enduring identity of place’ (Dean and Millar, 2005, p.17) by using images of people in his landscape paintings. Neudecker has removed the people, but left evidence of man’s impact on the environment, be it a cairn, or a pathway, or a tower. This evidence of mankind’s impact will help viewers to project themselves into the landscape and bring about that sense of place. However, due to the bright lighting and reflection in the tanks, we are always reminded of the gallery space in which they are placed. The glass tank is used to remove the scene a step further, to displace it from the everyday world (Searle, 2000), the viewer is acutely aware that they are on the outside looking in.

Neudecker’s works are described as ‘captivating’, they have a ‘reverence and mystery’ (Jeffery, 2011) or a ‘religious majesty’ (Artforum.com, 2009). They certainly appear intriguing and provide a realistic (yet obviously cropped and contained) landscape in which to lose yourself in your mind’s eye. The cloud-forming chemicals add a sense of time passing as well as another layer of realism to feed the imagination. I imagine these evoke a strong sense of place, even if that place is definitely contained and outside of reality.

Conclusion

Evoking a sense of place in sculpture is possible in many different ways. The only requirement to be able to do this is for people to be able to be in a landscape, either physically or in their imagination.

Triggering the memory of a real place can be achieved through almost any means (even smell), but that memory is dependent on the viewer in question, whether they have visited that site and the experience they had of it when they were there.

It is much easier to create a new sense of place in a sculpture. Doing that through installation or in smaller works would seem to require a degree of realism, not necessarily relating to a real location, but in how they depict a chosen location. Placing yourself in a location would require a belief in that landscape. In developing my map tile work this is an important consideration to keep in mind as I move towards more abstract work – if the sense of landscape is lost by abstracting too far, then so is the sense of place.

The notion of time is also embedded within place (Dean and Millar, 2005). This can be depicted through movement in installation work, either within the landscape or the viewer’s movement through it. In smaller pieces this could be achieved through the viewer’s ability to move around a piece, or through evidence of occupation in a landscape, providing a ‘route’ for the eye to travel through the work.

Whilst a ‘sense of place’ can be hard to pin down, the key to its success in sculpture appears to be creating a believable landscape, introducing a sense of time, and producing an emotional response in the viewer.

Bibliography

Artforum.com. (2009). “Trying to Cope with Things That Aren’t Human (Part One)” – artforum.com / critics’ picks. [online] Available at: https://www.artforum.com/index.php?pn=picks&id=22034&view=print [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].

Blayney Brown, D., Daniel-McElroy, S. and Young, D. (2004). Mariele Neudecker: Over and Over, Again and Again. St Ives: Tate.

changeorder (2015). Riverbed by olafur eliasson at the Louisiana. [image] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29623457@N02/16027764390/in/photostream/ [Accessed 20 Jul. 2017].

Coghlan, N. (2015). Olafur Eliasson, Expanding Environments in Aesthetica Magazine. [online] Aesthetica. Available at: http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/olafur-eliasson-expanding-environments-aesthetica-magazine/ [Accessed 11 Jul. 2017].

Collins, J. (2014). Sculpture today. London: Phaidon.

Contemporary Art Forum, Kitchener + Area. (2009). CAFKA.09: Mariele Neudecker. [online] Available at: https://www.cafka.org/cafka-tv/cafka09-mariele-neudecker [Accessed 7 Jul. 2017].

Cooke, R. (2003). The Unilever Series: Olafur Eliasson, The Weather Project, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2003/oct/19/features.review17 [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Cressey, D. (2013). Arts: Framing change. Nature, 497(7448), pp.187-187.

Cumming, L. (2000). Review: Mariele Neudecker. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2000/oct/08/1 [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Dean, T. and Millar, J. (2005). Place. London: Thames & Hudson.

Eliasson, O. (2017). Riverbed • Exhibition • Studio Olafur Eliasson. [online] Olafureliasson.net. Available at: http://olafureliasson.net/archive/exhibition/EXH102282/riverbed [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Facebook.com. (2009). Royal Academy of Arts. [online] Available at: https://www.facebook.com/royalacademy/videos/210048532946/ [Accessed 7 Jul. 2017].

Foundation, D. (2017). Dia | Visit | Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room. [online] Diaart.org. Available at: https://diaart.org/visit/visit/walter-de-maria-the-new-york-earth-room-new-york-united-states [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Jeffery, C. (2011). Preternatural. Ottawa, Canada: Punctum Books.

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. (2014). Olafur Eliasson. [online] Available at: https://en.louisiana.dk/exhibition/olafur-eliasson [Accessed 11 Jul. 2017].

Neudecker, M. (2017). Artist – Mariele Neudecker. [online] Marieleneudecker.co.uk. Available at: http://www.marieleneudecker.co.uk [Accessed 20 Jul. 2017].

O’Doherty, B. (1999). Inside the white cube. Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Oxford Dictionaries | English. (2017). evoke – definition of evoke in English | Oxford Dictionaries. [online] Available at: https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/evoke [Accessed 9 Jul. 2017].

Quddus, S. (2014). Olafur Eliasson Creates an Indoor Riverbed at Danish Museum. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: http://www.archdaily.com/540338/olafur-eliasson-creates-an-indoor-riverbed-at-danish-museum/ [Accessed 11 Jul. 2017].

Searle, A. (2000). Arts: The magical landscapes of Mariele Neudecker. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2000/oct/03/artsfeatures [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Secher, B. (2014). Riverbed by Olafur Eliasson, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-reviews/11055034/Riverbed-by-Olafur-Eliasson-Louisiana-Museum-of-Modern-Art.html [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Tate. (2003). The Unilever Series: Olafur Eliasson: The Weather Project. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/unilever-series-olafur-eliasson-weather-project [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Voon, C. (2014). Olafur Eliasson Creates a Riverbed in a Museum. [online] Hyperallergic. Available at: https://hyperallergic.com/144439/olafur-eliasson-creates-a-riverbed-in-a-museum/ [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

Zimmerman.co.nz. (2017). Zimmerman Art Gallery – Why do galleries have white walls?. [online] Available at: http://www.zimmerman.co.nz/insider-info/44-why-do-galleries-have-white-walls [Accessed 7 Jul. 2017].

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Part 6 – Charles Simonds Research

I was going to include Charles Simonds’s work in my essay, but decided to restrict it to just two different artists instead. The research work I did on his work is below.

Imagined landscapes

Charles Simonds started his career constructing buildings for imaginary ‘Little People’ on the streets of New York. These were temporary installations that would be destroyed by vehicles, people or the weather. He was interested in making them for their own sake and for the community he was working in, not for art collectors as work to sell.

Working on location in the poor areas of the city, his early sculptures had a strong sense of place, usually constructed in decaying abandoned buildings and echoing that in his constructions. They were also a comment on displaced people looking for a safe place to live (Coffey, 2015).

He initially resisted putting his work into the gallery environment, wanting his work to be discovered by chance on the streets (Weber, 2013). This changed as he received more invites to show in them and whilst he still works in this way on the streets of various cities, he does also create work for galleries.

Early on in his career he created his ‘Three Peoples’ – three different tribes of ‘Little People’. These people lived linearly, circularly and spirally and he described their way of living, their beliefs, history and their buildings in this way. He has built upon this foundation ever since. This way of working with imaginary occupants fits well with my ‘residency’ work.

‘Two Streams, 2011’ is a landscape and buildings for ‘Little People’ reminiscent of an Indiana Jones set, or the floating islands of Jorge Mayet (My Modern Met, 2017). Like all of his pieces, they have body references, the streams in the title appear like tongues projecting from this piece. The small ruined buildings are constructed in intricate detail, the landscape they sit in is portrayed in grey or red colours like rock and earth. It’s suspension from the wall makes it even more other-worldly, but is portrayed with great realism.

‘Ruined Blossoms, 2011’ is a landscape of grown walled flowers in various states of decay. The clay they stand on is dry and cracked, the lack of water perhaps the reason these blossoms are dying.

‘Grown Walls, 2011’ is a fantastically detailed piece, with a central flower turning into brick walls as it goes outwards. The close and uneven walls mimic the flower’s petals but tend to a more regular square shape, crumbling at the edges.

In moving from the street into the gallery, his gallery works do not try to address their setting, his later works take this further in their suspension from the wall or ceiling. Taking about ‘Mental Earth, 2002’ he says that ‘it’s not part of the space, it’s in the space’ (The Institute of Fine Arts, 2016).

In his conversation with Richard Shiff (The Institute of Fine Arts, 2016), we hear how his pieces were originally built on his body, he sees the body as the original house and all his landscapes have body references. From his 1984 exhibition catalogue (Simonds, 1984):

‘These works are wilted ruins, sprouting towers, body rock plant hills, stumps, smears, buds and floral sprays.

They are living places.’

Do these sculptures have a sense of place? With their myriad of ruined dwellings and realistic rock and earth surfaces, they certainly provide locations you can project yourself into, so I would say that they do.

References:

Coffey, M. (2015). “I Build Ruins”: Charles Simonds and the Dwellings of his Little People – artcritical. [online] artcritical. Available at: http://www.artcritical.com/2015/12/31/michael-coffey-on-charles-simonds/ [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

My Modern Met. (2017). Miniaturized Landscapes by Jorge Mayet Appear to Float in Mid-Air. [online] Available at: http://mymodernmet.com/jorge-mayet-miniature-island-sculptures/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Simonds, C. (1984). Charles Simonds: house plants and rocks. New York: Leo Castelli Gallery.

The Institute of Fine Arts (2016). Charles Simonds in conversation with Richard Shiff. Available at: https://vimeo.com/162981459 [Accessed 14 Jul. 2017].

Weber, S. (2013). BOMB Magazine — Charles Simonds’s Absence by Stephanie Weber. [online] Bombmagazine.org. Available at: http://bombmagazine.org/article/7170/charles-simonds-s-absence [Accessed 12 Jul. 2017].

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Stage 6 – Structure Notes

Frame title as a question then focus on answering it.

Structure around an introduction that outlines the question you’re asking and how you propose to answer it. Why this question + how going to answer it.

Then 2 or 3 chapters to break up the test into key areas + conclusion that summarises what you’ve deduced and your final thoughts.

Structure plan:

  • Title
    • How do sculptors evoke a sense of place in a gallery environment?
  • Introduction (200 words)
    • why this question? Relate to map tile work
    • why ‘place’?
    • why ‘gallery environment’? Vacuum / white cube
    • How going to answer the question?
  • Chapter 1 – 2 or 3
    • Two or three different artists + relate to own work
  • Chapter 3 or 4
    • Comparisons between them
  • Conclusion
    • summary of what deduced
    • final thoughts
  • Bibliography (assume this doesn’t count towards the word count? Not according to the course notes)
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Stage 6 – Notes

After an early draft of my essay, comments from my tutor were:

  • Re-read the unit notes from p60 to get more structure into the essay and a systematic way of working through the review

  • Keep academic tone and don’t fall back to learning log style

  • Look at fewer artists (2-3) in more depth. Unpick their work and underpin my arguments with research

  • Try to get primary research into the essay (this would have been nice to be able to do, but with the artists selected it was unfortunately not possible. I will have to ensure I manage to do this in my next stage 2 essay)

  • Stay focused on the question I am posing

  • Research ‘Place’ by Dean and Millar and consider how your reading of key sections here can help to bring a critical underpinning to the overall theme of the essay

Need to demonstrate my awareness and understanding of how my own and other sculptor’s work relates to the wider cultural picture – mention climate change / environmental destruction.

Demonstrate a critical and contextual understanding of how my work fits into a broader framework of practices and explore the ideas that underpin some of these.

Need evidence of ability to:

  • understand significant issues

  • use research skills competently

  • analyse source material, and

  • articulate your own ideas at an appropriate level

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Stage 6 – Research notes

There are too many artists in my initial research, I need to narrow this down to identify 2 or 3 sculptor’s working in this area who approach the subject of ‘place’ in different ways.

Look at their ideas, context. Look at my ideas and position. Look at the area of comparison between the two points of view.

Use research to support or refute an argument. Don’t repeat what has already been said, give own opinion and back it up with good references. Be critical.

Sculptor’s to research in more depth:

Mariele Neudecker – her work is the closest I have found to my map tile sculptures so needs to be included here

Oalfur Eliasson – his ‘Riverbed, 2014’ is the best example of making an environment in a gallery that I have come across so far

Charles Simonds – he works with imagined landscapes and his work relates well to my residency work

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Stage 6 – Initial Research

I initially though that answering this question would break down into two sections:

  • Making an environment
  • Representing an environment

Making an environment would cover bringing elements of the outside into a gallery to make a new environment, or creating imaginary landscapes. These would be less concerned with any accuracy towards an actual location and more about the experience.

Representing an environment would be more concerned with depicting specific real locations, not necessarily in accurate detail, but in their essence.

These two areas were then researched.

Making

Large-scale

A number of artists import natural materials into the gallery environment to blur the lines between outside and inside.

An early example of this is Walter de Maria’s, ‘The New York Earth Room, 1977’ (Foundation, 2017). Here Maria imported 197 cubic meters of earth and spread it evenly over the floor of a white walled gallery space. Although using a natural material, it is kept free of vegetation so it is displayed as a barren landscape. Although hard to assess purely from a photograph, I imagine it has a sense of calm and scent of the outdoors.

Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey’s ‘Dilston Grove, 2003′(Ackroyd & Harvey, 2017) is another example. Here they covered the walls of an abandoned church with a clay/seed mix and grew grass on the walls to create an enveloping green space. This work is more concerned with the life of the grass and it’s contrast with the decaying space it occupies.

Finally, Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Riverbed, 2014’ (Olafureliasson.net, 2017) is a very ambitious project to import a stream into a gallery environment. Again, this is a barren environment devoid of vegetation, but given life by the movement of water through the work. This piece invites more interaction that purely observation with the visitors having an impact on the work as they pass through it, or actively interact with it.

None of these works attempt to depict a real world environment, they focus more on the interaction between inside and outside and raising questions about man-made and natural environments.

Small-scale

Working on a smaller scale allows the depiction of real or imagined landscapes in a realistic or abstract way.

Jorge Mayet creates miniaturized landscapes (My Modern Met, 2017) which float in the air as if they have been ripped or blown off the surface. I like the playfulness evident in this work, although the realistic depiction of the landscapes would wear thin if I was making them all the time.

Mariele Neudecker’s ‘Stolen Sunsets, 1996’ (Collins, 2014) are landscapes created from resin and encased in glass tanks. These appear like fantasy landscapes, despite often being based on German Romantic paintings (and therefore presumably real locations, so a mix of making and representing).

Like me, Neudecker has an interest in mapping and combining art and science. The works she creates are based on romantic paintings where the artist (Friedrich) has adapted the landscape to suit what he wanted to show. She then recreates these landscapes in detailed 3D and immerses them in tanks with dyes and salts which react over time to create different atmospheres, simulating the effects of fog or sunsets on the scenes. Another example of science meets art which appeals to my background.

The work also references the history of her country and the evil of Nazism. This is sometimes referenced in the titles – ‘Stolen Sunsets’ references a remark by Hans-Jürgen Syperburg in a 1977 film – ‘Hitler stole our sunsets’ (Blayney Brown, Daniel-McElroy and Young, 2004) or by portraying eerie, decaying forest landscapes.

Neudecker also makes work referencing environmental issues such as ‘There is Always Something More Important (Iceberg), 2014’, a cross section of an iceberg which was made in a project looking at the effects of man on the environment (Cressey, 2013). The use of sculpture to reference these issues is a developmental idea I am playing with at the moment with my map tiles series, something which is close to my heart and I hope will offer many ideas for developing my work.

Fractured map tile 2

‘Fractured map tile, 2017’, Butler, Mark

Ben Young creates similar, but imaginary scenes (Cochrane, 2015), combining laminated layers of float glass to represent the sea, with concrete and small bronze elements. His landscapes do not appear to be of specific locations, but try to capture the essence of the ocean. I find his work interesting, but in many cases they appear (from a photograph at least) to be a bit sterile. I think this is possibly due to the use of clear glass?

In creating imaginary landscapes, I am very taken by the work of Charles Simonds (Charles-simonds.com, 2017 & Collins, 2014). His detailed constructions of buildings for imaginary people look fascinating and fit neatly with my residency work, and pieces like ‘Ruined Blossoms, 2011’ also fit with the direction I am thinking of taking my map tiles.

Residency no9 Residency no10 Residency no11

‘Residency No.9, 2017’, ‘Residency No.10, 2017’, ‘Residency No.11, 2017’. Butler, Mark

Map tile with found items

Map tile development sketch

Some of Lee Bontecou’s sculptures (Salvo et al., 2008) create similar imaginary landscapes with buildings, in her case, ones that look more like alien worlds.

Looking at the work of these artists, I think the imaginary small-scale landscapes work the best for me. I think these do bring a sense of place into a gallery environment, although it is a place from the mind of the sculptors.

Representing

Richard Long makes land art and then brings it into the gallery through the medium of photography in recording his interventions, he also brings sticks, stones and mud into the gallery to duplicate his work both in the environment and in the gallery (Long, 2009). He is representing his intervention on a natural environment in a gallery environment, but it can hardly be said to evoke a sense of the place they were taken from.

David Smith’s ‘Hudson River Landscape, 1951’ is not based on a specific location, but a landscape seen from a train (Pachner and Smith, 2013). This piece is as close as sculpture gets to a drawing, as if a thick ink line has been picked up off a page and stood upright. With its abstract nature, it is evocative of the landscape he saw, but could be about any similar location.

Robert Smithson’s non-sites are an abstract representation of an actual site (Robert Smithson : The Collected Writings, 1996). Whilst they may represent an actual site, I doubt they evoke a sense of the place itself.

The work of Yutaka Sone is interesting. He uses aerial photographs of motorway junctions to create accurate models of them which he then has carved in marble. These pieces (apparently) reference the way we view the landscape in a car-centric world (Los Angeles: Yutaka Sone: MOCA at The Geffen Contemporary, 2004), but they don’t do that for me, they might as well be an engineer’s model of the road system. I think this is the trap I fell into when making my map tiles, of relying too much on accuracy (or as my tutor put it, the ‘baggage of ordnance survey’). As a detailed and accurate model, they show no imagination in their construction which, combined with the fact that the carving was shipped out to China and they are therefore not an expression of craftsmanship of the artist, add up to provide little of merit in my eyes.

The Boyle Family have a similar emphasis on accuracy and from comment in an exhibition review (Boyle Family – Delaye/Saltoun, 2008), it appears that these re-constructions have a love/hate relationship from viewers. Boyle said in 1966 ‘I have tried to cut out of my work, any hint of originality…’ (Whitfield, 2003) . Surely, originality is the cornerstone of art? In some of their other works, originality is in evidence (their assemblages for instance), but in their random earth series, the detailed replication of the surface of randomly selected sections of land, it is all about duplication and it can be said that originality is absent. Their aim is to capture reality and it would seem that these works succeed in this regard. As art works though, I am not sure of their merit. I am sure many of them are beautiful, because the surface of the earth is beautiful, however, I look for creativity in my art work. As well as replicate the surface of the land, they also record data about the sites – acting much more like scientists in this regard.

In some ways their work is similar to my map tiles when I produced some with close attention to accurate depiction of the landscapes.

Grimwith 3

Detail from ‘Grimwith, 2017’, Butler, Mark

References

Collins, J. (2014). Sculpture today. London: Phaidon.

My Modern Met. (2017). Miniaturized Landscapes by Jorge Mayet Appear to Float in Mid-Air. [online] Available at: http://mymodernmet.com/jorge-mayet-miniature-island-sculptures/ [Accessed 23 Jun. 2017].

Foundation, D. (2017). Dia | Visit | Walter De Maria, The New York Earth Room. [online] Diaart.org. Available at: https://diaart.org/visit/visit/walter-de-maria-the-new-york-earth-room-new-york-united-states [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Ackroyd & Harvey. (2017). Dilston Grove. [online] Available at: http://www.ackroydandharvey.com/dilston-grove/ [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

Olafureliasson.net. (2017). Riverbed • Exhibition • Studio Olafur Eliasson. [online] Available at: http://olafureliasson.net/archive/exhibition/EXH102282/riverbed [Accessed 28 Jun. 2017].

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Stage 6 – Choice of topic

The essay should explore the same research questions tackled through my sculpture work, but answer them in written work. My two topic choices based on the work I have been doing were therefore:

  • Landscape and place

  • Science and nature / microscopy

Both subjects were appealing, but I decided to focus on the former of these for this essay.

The landscape and place theme comes from my map tile work for stage 4 of this course. Whilst these sculptures are successful in some ways, they did get bogged down in depicting the topography in accurate detail and could have done with being more representational. Elements of them also resulted in a loss of translation of the message I was trying to get across in some instances. Researching this issue should help me to decide on the future direction of this body of work.

After much deliberation, I decided on the following for my essay question:

How do sculptors evoke a sense of place in a gallery environment?

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