Monthly Archives: December 2015

Mapping identity

Mulling in the post-Christmas haze this week, and having found some quiet time at my drawing table I decided to do some more experiments with ink and water and my stream of consciousness poetry.

I am still looking to my MA project inspiration for the backdrop for the work (in context if not yet in process/material), so ideas around questioning identity and place, a sense of anachronism, loss and isolation. Overlaying different versions of ourselves again and again as each moment creates a new sense of self – infinitesimal changes which mean we are never the same again.

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More experimental calligraphy

I cannot deny that I am a lover of words. I have worked with stream of consciousness poetry in my personal art journalling and calligraphy for many years. I haven’t found any way to get this into my work for my MA. I realise now how critical this is to my future practice – so want to start looking into how i can explore bringing the ‘two sides’ of my work together.

Today, I went back into expressive mark making mode and did some experimental ink drawings, using my lettering as a textural backdrop.

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More making with maps

Following on from the map patchwork I did the other day, I was wondering what to do in response. I began playing with the leftover maps which had all of the hexagons – my meaningful places – cut out. There was something sad, sorrowful about the remnants. The leftover places which were devoided of all meaning through my act of cutting.

I decided then to take this idea and repeat it with another map, purposefully looking at the negative spaces as opposed to the ‘meaningful spaces’. This was the result:

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I like the depth, the sense of overlapping stories being layered upon each other – hidden and partial histories revealed. Something gained in absence which is obscured in completeness.

Cartography down Cork Street

We had a gallery day last week, where we popped into the final days of the Ai Weiwei Exhibition at the RA. I had been to see it already but it is good to have time to revisit with a fresh eye. I still have mixed feelings about my project progress – although I am trying to have some time off thinking about it – I cannot shake the worry that I have no idea what to do next.

I always considered Ai Weiwei as a political artist, which of course he is, but within here is a lot of context about his place and the understanding of identity and place within modern China. He also has some works explicitly using topographic information – a comment on the change of identity of the Chinese people.

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After coming out of the RA we took a wander up what is left of Cork Street, the once gallery filled road now almost half demolished and in scaffolding.  We came across two rather interesting shows. Firstly Daniel Chadwick showing at Damiani Fine Art. Although probably better known for his mobile and kinetic works (reminiscent of Calder’s!), the Cork Street show was a collection of Chadwick’s art as an evocation of nature, using inspiration from the undulating countryside of his native Gloucestershire. His works, as with the Ai WeiWei works above, are very similar to topographical reliefs.

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A little further down the street we stopped by the Alan Cristea Gallery who were showing With Space in Mind, a collection of prints by a range of leading sculptors. These sculptors have a unique approach to printmaking, one which is physical and tactile – about process and material, object as well as image. This is exactly what I hope for my own work to be about in whatever form I decide upon.

“These prints explore the relationship between multiple dimensions, whether through directly referencing sculptures or the physical process in making the print. The artists clearly convey their outlook on the development of their art and their individual approach to printmaking. This does not contradict the sculptures for which they are renowned, rather complements them as it stresses the importance of process and material and emphasises that their artwork is not only physical, but that image also holds great importance. The process of printmaking is representative of their expansion of form and ideas that spur their sculptural works and thus pave a fundamental style throughout their pieces”

A couple of sculptors stood out for me: firstly Richard Serra

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Then, most significantly (but unsurprisingly), Richard Long. He uses carborundum paste directly applied to the plates by hand, replicating the process he uses in his mud drawings. The energy, rawness and viscerality of this print overtakes everything else in the whole gallery.

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All of these different works show just a glimpse of the range of angles which a discussion about place can take. Ranging from the human interacting with raw nature from Richard Long, to the political identities of place within Ai Weiwei. I think I need to re-position my own ideas within this context – perhaps revisiting my research essay as well. Hopefully this will give me some ideas on what is the key to me moving forward.

Alexander Calder @ Tate Modern

I had a great visit with LL to see the new Alexander Calder display at the Tate Modern. Calder was born in 1898 and trained as a mechanical engineer. He developed a sculptural style which fused mechanics, motion and modernity. Many of Calder’s early works were wire sculptures based around his interests in circus and balance. These developed into motorised sculptures explicitly including kinetics and movement and at the same time became increasingly abstract.

I admitted to LL at the time that I didn’t really connect with the pieces in the first half of the exhibition. The motorised sculptures, due to their age were shown static. What is a kinetic sculpture which has been stripped of its energy? I felt so much loss in the loss of movement, that the sculptures began to resemble just shadows of what they once were.  Calder himself “recognised that the ability to control movement was perhaps less fertile than the potential infinite possibilities that opened up with free movement” [Tate Modern exhib guide, 2015].

Calder’s later works began to rely upon natural kinetics rather than embedded motors, and this was for me the most spectacular part of his collection. The mobile pieces which most clearly embodied abstraction seem also to be those which are most inspired by natural forms. Delicate sinuous shapes which drift and twist in the breeze. Even your presence offered a subtle change in movement – the work and its shadow on the walls creating an intricate dance which never has the same form twice. My favourite piece, Red sticks (1942) I couldn’t source a video of online and I will not do it the injustice of showing a static, lifeless photograph of it. We sat in the gallery for ages (room 9 in case you are interested!) completely captivated by the motions of the works.

This work, Snow Flurry was one of my favourites. Although this video below doesn’t show how the sculpture and its shadow interact as one object, it gives a lovely overview of the beauty of the movement:

This next video is a press overview of the whole exhibition, this does show the works in their settings and how the space itself becomes part of the motion of the mobiles.

 

Overall the exhibition brought be back to consider the section of my research essay I looked at on place generated through movement. These works were more based upon space than place, but showed a fascinating process capturing movement so explicitly within an object and its surroundings. The mobiles keep your attention in a way that a stationary object doesn’t.

I wondered why this is…is this because humans only respond to deltas – to changes – rather than absolutes? We cannot feel the exact temperature outside, we can only tell if it is warmer or colder than we last felt. We cannot remember time if there are no changes within it to distinguish one moment from the next. What of this can be said to be true of our sense of self: do we feel a connection to our inner self only when there is something to explicitly connect it to?  Is this where the idea of a sense of place comes from?  If our lives are a series of interconnected spaces must we generate our own meanings (our own places) in order to be able to comprehend them in any way?