Monthly Archives: October 2015

Artist’s Profile: Stephen Talasnik

While doing a bit of searching on the nature of contemporary drawing practices, I came across the American sculptor Stephen Talasnik. Talasnik creates mesmerising work in both 3D form and 2D drawings, which seem to encapsulate a world within themselves. His works all have a strong sense of geometry (which is probably why they caught my attention) and the resulting structures appear familiar while being undefined and opaque.

I came across an interesting article about Talasnik, framed under the question: What is the relationship of drawing to sculpture? This is a question I’ve been harbouring for a while as I a still considering my practice as a drawing aesthetic as opposed to a sculptural one. I need to understand what this means to be able to explain and defend it in the future. On this point, the article suggests that: 

It might well be argued that sculpture, given its volumetric nature, is a more direct, or even honest, presentation of reality; drawing and painting, by contrast, are inevitably given over to a trick of the eye. Flatness suggests the recognition of two-dimensional art’s limited means in relation to the world that it takes as its cue; we can represent, to some extent, the visual complexities of what we see only if we agree to suspend our disbelief before the receding depths of what we have in front of us. Sculpture, on the other hand, has no such need to beguile us into believing what we know does not in fact exist. Its very actuality is a call to the reality we experience not only in the imagination but also in life…the art of drawing, always capable of conjuring not only what is seen in the world but also what is seen in the mind, has the freedom to extravagantly suppose. As for sculpture, it gives body to the essentially illusory nature of drawing; it puts forth, in actual terms, the imaginative compilation of drawn forms. It does what drawing cannot: it sees the form into physical reality.

Talasnik is quoted discussing how drawing is way of thinking, while sculpture provides the evidence of form:  “Drawing is a fundamental tool for invention. It is the thought process, while sculpture is the material realization. Sculpture is finite, and drawing is infinite…prior to my recent involvement in sculpture, my drawings invented the real—I was interested in designing fiction. Now, with the evolution of my sculpture, my drawings are liberated from exactitude and instead explore enigmatic structure.”  Although Talsnik’s drawings are metaphysical in nature, his process is such that makes clear the physicality of its making. Talasnik apparently shares the philosophy of Frank Lloyd Wright in believing “How something is made is as important as what it looks like”. His drawing process includes abrasion of the paper with power tools, wood-carving tools, steel file cleaners, leaving a surface embodying its creation. This in stark contrast to the ‘visionary imagination’ depicted on the page.

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Inspiration for Talasnik’s practice seems to sit somewhere between architecture and engineering, both disciplines required exacting measurement and accuracy. He is clear however, that is work is generated from his imagination while at the same time being connected with reality. Talasnik is “intrigued by architecture that is able to integrate the engineering process as a visible, organic part of design.” Like his drawings, his sculptures depend on open articulation of form, made from small pieces of wood which are reinforced with glue, he create open shapes whose “gracefulness stems in part from the transparency of structure”.

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The article concludes that Talasnik, for all his references to architecture and engineering, is as equally involved with the sublime.

He mediates his structures through the recognition of historical precedents that place him within a continuum of visionary artists whose imagination exceeded the ability of certain forms to be built…Talasnik is interested in approaching, even capturing, the sublime through form. His impulse to create is moderated through his extremely regulated technique; the combination of the two makes for art that is, and is not, of this world.

A couple more pictures:

96b968a4cced9a50f0d4abe80e576285 Talasnik-Floating-World-2012-bamboo-and-mixed-media

Reference: http://www.sculpture.org/documents/scmag02/julaug02/talasnik/tal.shtml

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Group Tutorial w/ Maiko

Our first group crit of the second year! Fascinating to see the difference between now and a year ago: everyone sounds so much more certain, more involved and simply more excited about their work and their plans for the future. If you look at the members of the class who haven’t done as much development (perhaps through simply not making or testing enough ideas) you can’t help but feel for them – seeing a frustration and a confusion that we’ve felt all year but have finally started to leave behind.

I went into the session still harbouring my A v B quandary and wondering how to combine or choose between the two ideas. First off I presented my (Experiment A) corn circle and the accompanying photos to the group. Responses:

  • Corn is heavy with ritual symbolism, even in a simplified form compared to my desire line this is still evident. This is fine if that’s what I want the piece to say, but….do I? (No)
  • Can’t escape the context of folk traditions / folk craft with this either. Now this is true partly of any weaving I do, but the corn weaving makes this much more manifest through the material.
  • Do the photos do anything? I’m not convinced and the group didn’t sound convinced either – Maiko picked up on the alien geometry of the circle standing out against the urban backdrop (pure circles aren’t that common). This is exactly what I wanted but…. I’m now not sure I like the idea at all

We then went on to discuss a few other general ideas. The main points I noted were:

  • The land artists such as discussed in my research paper generally use elemental materials – wood, stone, earth, water etc. I could consider creating my own elemental language, perhaps if not literal then metaphorical
  • I explained that I think I finally understand the agency that the material itself has in generating meaning, so perhaps it is time to let go of my current ‘fixations’ and reflect on my material use across Unit 1. My material choice is always symbolic – this is important to me – and will be a core principle of my Unit 2 project. I want every material I use to be there for a reason and nothing should be replaceable with something else.
  • Text, words are important to me and always have been – am I going to consider bringing this into my work somewhere?
  • We taked about Experiment B – the map weaving – and what I planned next to do with it (if anything). I commented on how I thought the most exciting thing about the maps is that they bring with them a co-existing alternate reality of the past embedded within them

What next?

Well first off, I followed the suggestions of the group (incl. Maiko) of trying my corn dolly weave with my maps. This was incredibly fun and satisfying to do – and much to my surprise gives an incredibly robust structure. I didn’t risk standing on it, but you could probably rest a brick on it at least.
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I have been thinking over my options for a week or so now, but after making & thinking today a giant lightbulb clicked on somewhere in my head. This lightbulb combines my current direction with some of the very BIG early concepts I had back last year but couldn’t deal with at the time; however, it is also focussed enough to be achievable – at least I think so!!

More to come in a future post, I need to rewrite my project proposal first, but…..I think I may have found the project for the final show…..!!!

Locality in material & process: take kogei

In looking more into my core essay idea of ‘locality as material & process’ I have been investigating weaving techniques and materials which are completely rooted within their local cultures and history. This has brought me to the beautiful art of Japanese Bamboo Basketry. Fundamentally, I think it is the simplicity of material and elegance of form which attracts me to this most of all – and I would like to take some of my inspiration into my wheat weaving work.

This history of bamboo basketry as a craft (as as a modern fine art discipline) isn’t as well known worldwide as some of the other specifically Japanese craft traditions. Bamboo is native to Japan (as well as China, South Asia and parts of Africa and South America) and there are apparently 600 different varieties in Japan – 40% of which are to be found on Kyushu. It is incredibly fast-growing and and although very resilient, can be split into very fine strips along the vertical length of the bamboo. As with willow basketry in England, the origins of the craft were in utilitarian containers made and used locally. Baskets dating back to the 700’s have been used to hold flowers scattered during Buddhist ceremonies. From the late 1600s to the early 1900s, bamboo baskets expressing a “uniquely Japanese aesthetic” were made by high-level bamboo artists as flower baskets for the sencha tea ceremony.

In the 1950’s and 60’s bamboo artists began exploring more sculptural and non-functional means of artistic expression using bamboo as their material. This opened the doors to a wave of contemporary bamboo basketry and a new fine art tradition within Japan. There is a strong heritage of artistic lineages (passing from father to son and so on) in bamboo art, and a range of amazing work which coves everything from Meiji, modern and contemporary functional baskets and art pieces. I can do this range no justice in summary – so see the book refs below if you want to know more. However, I have picked out a few artists whose work I find really inspirational for my own practice.

Honma Kazuaki 

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Breath, 1968

Kazuaki-honma-japanese-basketry-nitten-exhibition-basket-3Overflowing, 1973

Torii Ippo

7. Flight Torii Ippô (Japanese, born in 1930) 2003 Japanese timber bamboo (madake) and rattan * Mary Ann and Stanley Snider Collection Reproduced with permission. * Photograph © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Flight, 2003 (Photo from Museum for Fine Arts, Boston)

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Ueno Maseo

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Synchronizing ripple, 2015
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Honda Shoryu 
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Galaxy (Seiun), 2001

In summary, what I like most in all of these works is:

  • the strong sense of continuous lines
  • simplicity of material – often only bamboo, or bamboo with rattan for knotting and tying.
  • it is clear to see the inherent nature of the weaving material explicitly within the structure itself
  • there is a balance of energy and freedom with the tight control of the weaving process – many layers of entropy co-existing
  • these baskets couldn’t be made of anything else – they exist because of the material they are made from

A matter of A or B

In the list for the Unit 1 assessment is an updated project proposal, which I have neatly put on one side while writing my research paper. Well, time is nearing, as too is a decision on what to take forward into Unit 2. I have reached a point where it is becoming critical to have a clear vision on what I want – as I can’t efficiently work towards an ambiguous cloud of ideas. So what experiments do I do next??

A. Wheat/willow weaving.

This would allow me to do some contemporary sculpture using basketry weaving techniques. As well as the British willow artists I posted the other day, I have found the elegance of Japanese Bamboo weaving quite inspirational, it itself being a technique which embeds cultural and material locality very well. (Some info on this to come soon). With this I could use to do some site-specific / site-reponsive work as per the test of my wheat ring in this experiment. The intention of this was to show a juxtaposition of old ‘rural’ heritage traditions and the grit of urban reality. Not entirely convinced of this, but haven’t shown anyone the pics yet to discuss – taking this further could end up contrived or a bit staged, but could be great if done well.

B. Map weaving

The second option, is to go back to develop my ideas with the map yarn from the interim show – a contemporary cartographic language of sorts. This could nicely combine my ideas of time and place (the past as an alternate reality) and psychogeographic processes. Using different maps, city maps, or an interpretation of maps are all possible here. But, it is just too literal to use recycled maps??

How am I supposed to decide?

Who are you where you are?

Following on from my discussion with Shane a couple of weeks back, I have done my first test of an ‘ephemeral’ temporary sculpture out on site (I wouldn’t really call it site-responsive as such). Since I made the weaving it hasn’t stopped raining / drizzling, so have been a bit delayed in getting out to take some shots. Interesting results in the end though.

  • I like: the camera, my latest obsession is providing a lot of fun, although I’m still not great, I’m getting better at scene setting.
  • I like: the atmosphere of the resulting photos, I have tested a few different approaches to the light, so they don’t stand as a set – but this is an experiment after all!

But where do I take the photos? Somewhere “meaningful” or somewhere random? Does this make a difference to the viewer? If I don’t tell you (dear blog readers) where these photos were taken, does it matter? What do they say to you?

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Weaving the world

Markku Kosonen:

The important aspect of my work is the ability to express things; craftsmanship alone is not enough. The purpose of a work such as this is to appeal to one’s emotions. For me, arts and crafts entail a spiritual processing of material, linking humanism to objects… The heritage of willow objects is a continuum in which I represent the contemporary aspect. It is no longer of any significance to make traditional utility objects of willow to that same extent as in the past…. A new function is to be found in the symbols of the object, the tales and messages which the maker leaves of his personality. This is known as expression.


from
 Weaving the World: Contemporary Art of Linear Construction, Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan 1999.