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Monthly Archives: March 2019
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].
My tutor has identified that I have not fully engaged with the course in this part and have put up barriers rather than working out how to fit the exercises to me. I need to find a way in to take risks with my drawings and complete a fuller body of work in the next stage.
My research needs to be expanded, placed in the context of its time and linked more to contemporary practice. I need to research wider to find a way into the exercises and assignments
My tutor suggested I look at a number of different artists and I researched two of these.
Looking at his work initially, I thought that this was an artist I wasn’t going to be able to understand! His early work which formed on of his best known series (Guggenheim.org, n.d.) was ‘untitled 1990 (pad thai), 1990’, where he cooked for the audience. Said to be blurring the boundaries between art and life, making art come alive and making the audience part of the work, I struggle to see how this work is art.
However, on watching this video (Bloomberg, 2018), his work ‘untitled 2010 (who’s afraid of red, yellow and green), 2010’ where he collected newspaper images of protests in Thailand and got local art students to cover the wall in drawings of these, which was added to each day. In the gallery, he served red, yellow and green thai curry, referencing the colours emblematic of the opposing sides in the political unrest at the time of the exhibition, asking why people are afraid of each other. He took no side, but asked people to think about the issues
For ‘untitled 2015 (14,086 unfired), 2015’, bricklayers were employed to work in the gallery to produce bricks stamped with the message ‘Stop to work’, highlighting the irony of modern day life in our quest to get higher and higher paid jobs without questioning why we are doing it.
I see more of a point with these later works (and appreciate that the earlier works fed into these), but I do struggle with accepting these kind of works as ‘art’ and read them more as philosophy. I accept that the modern art world doesn’t agree with me here, but my belief is that there should be some form of visual beauty in a work for it to be ‘art’. Interesting to research into, but not the direction I wish to take my work in.
Hatoum started out with performance art and now works in a wide variety of media. Three of her pieces I particularly like are looked at below.
‘Map (clear), 2015’ has an obvious appeal to me with my love of maps. As an installation it work very well and it seems to be saying that all places are equal, but borders and divisions are unstable and liable to move.
‘Impenetrable, 2009’ reminds me of Cornelia Parker’s work, although it is actually referencing Jesús Rafael Soto’s series of Penetrables (Lūse, 2016) and turning his inviting interactive work on its head by replacing plastic tubes with barbed wire rods.
‘Light Sentence, 1992’ also reminds me of Cornelia Parker’s ‘Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View’, with the moving light bulb throwing interesting shadows on the gallery walls.
I like Hatoum’s work. They have a message, but it isn’t too deep to be impenetrable like many modern artists I come across in my research, and appearance and form are important to her and this comes across in her work (Cooke, 2016).
Bloomberg (2018). Rirkrit Tiravanjia on ‘Brilliant Ideas’. Available at: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/videos/2018-04-16/rirkrit-tiravanija-on-brilliant-ideas-video [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
Cooke, R. (2016). Mona Hatoum: ‘It’s all luck. I feel things happen accidentally’. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/apr/17/mona-hatoum-interview-installation-artist-tate-modern-exhibition [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
Guggenheim.org. (n.d.). Rirkrit Tiravanija. [online] Available at: https://www.guggenheim.org/artwork/artist/rirkrit-tiravanija [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
Lūse, P. (2016). “Oh, Mona!”. [online] Arterritory.com. Available at: http://www.arterritory.com/en/texts/interviews/6124-oh,_mona/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].
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.
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.
Third piece – Crack in the rock highlighted with pebbles.
Fourth piece – Rock pool with yellow leaves.
Fifth piece – Ash keys on a mossy rock. This is more about bending nature to my will than working with existing features.
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.
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?”.
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 :
Vertically panned trees:
Patterns in sand:
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:
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.
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.