Category Archives: 03.7 Unit 2 experiments

Map weaving tests I

I’ve had two ideas for the final show based on my initial map weaving sample. After talking to Susan, I decided I had just enough time to do a quick test of both ideas before the work-in-progress show in March.

First idea test is now complete, and I showed this at a group crit this morning. With this test, I wanted to pick out one aspect of place identity, and let the form of the weaving be interpretive, based on my response to the place shown on the map, and my feelings of how that place infuses my own identity. This seemed to be completely lost on everyone, and the focus was more on the shape (“is this some sort of sea creature?”) than on anything more conceptual. They didn’t seem to get the idea that the piece was made with all one aspect of the map which I had deconstructed, nor the significance of the data on the label. Disappointing, but I have to remember a) this group is not the audience I am targeting with my work, and b) it was meant as a test and I did ask for the feedback after all.

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This brings me to the question as to whether my second idea may be ‘easier’ for people who aren’t inherently conceptual to engage with. Do I want to broaden the appeal of my work a little and make it more accessible? I don’t want to dumb down, but I don’t want it to be completely uninterpretable either. If only I get anything from it, that slightly defeats the point of the artwork. This beings me back to the low relief sculpture I mentioned in the last post. Removing the challenge of form (I would be weaving on the map grid) would mean I can focus solely on texture and colour….

I’m going to see if I can get a final test of this second idea done before the WIP show…but with only a few days left spare, I’m not sure if that’ll work in time!! Then it will really be time for a final decision and to start making the summer show pieces.

Narrative weaving

Catching up on new making and a couple of days of tutorial ups and downs…

After doing the colour experiments a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try doing a bigger piece which would show me what a larger piece of the paper weave would look like. So, last week I made a piece which incorporated the narrative materially into the weave; I based it on the idea of ‘origins’, and used of-place materials which spoke of one aspect of my place identity. Although this sounded like I knew what would come from it, looking back now it was clearly an early-stage, slightly unplanned experiment. Looking at the finished piece, there is something in it…but it’s a long way from being anything resolved. And perhaps not a final show worthy idea after all.

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After making this piece I tried to figure out what I didn’t like about it. More than anything else my choice of materials is perhaps the biggest question: paper, map, wheat and white willow. I know I wanted “English” materials, but this set doesn’t really fit together very well. Let’s not even discuss the fact that the paper is actually Japanese. My favourite pieces have all been ones which have had a single material propagated throughout, and this is a long way from that. Still, I thought there was something interesting in it….but I’m no longer sure quite what that was.

I had a catch-up with Maiko yesterday and unsurprisingly, she didn’t like it, and seemed unnervingly happy that I wasn’t pleased with it also. In fact, Maiko didn’t really think there was anything in any of the paper weaving samples I’ve done. Perhaps I see alone see something lovely in the coloured weft weave in particular, but that isn’t related to my current project. Something to file in the new ideas book I think?

So what next? Well, before I went in for my tutorial I imagined a mini-Maiko on my shoulder asking “Why? Why?” and went back to my project objectives:

I am investigating the concept of self by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generates belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. My project is based upon the process of weaving, as it echoes my ideas of universality and locality: a single cloth constructed from countless individual strands. Within the fibres, I am seeking an expression of the complexity of our existence. Fragments of past, present and future co-existing for a fleeting moment, never to reform.

And this brought me back to the idea of using map weave and the ideas around the heterotopia – in Richard Long’s words where the sculpture and the place are one and the same. I was quite enjoying the deconstruction and reconstruction of the map back over the holidays (and the echo in constructing and deconstructing the sense of self). Time to revisit the map mini-project!

This was my new test piece done using plain 2-ply paper in place of the more time-consuming handmade map yarn:

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I really liked the vibrancy of structure in this piece and could envisage a really large, topological (topographical?) low relief sculpture made completely of maps. Something echoing the ups and downs of the evolution of one’s own sense of self across a lifetime?

When I showed Maiko these she went straight for the thread made of north sea blue, and seemed fascinated by this as an object in its own right. Unlike the restricted loom weaving, there is a lot of potential in this idea and we had a lively chat about some things to consider. Maiko suggested I had come full circle, arriving back where I started the course process-wise but with a different idea of making and the development of my ideas. [I certainly hope I have moved on after all this time and effort!??] I definitely had no clue about materiality and the agency of object (and process itself) when I started. I think this idea, although not yet fully resolved, can contain all the lessons I have learnt about making over my time at Camberwell.

Today, I followed up this chat with a tutorial with Susan J from the Book Arts course. We last met last June before the interim show – so much has come on since then! Really great chat and lots more ideas to think about. Nicely different yet complementary to the comments from Maiko. Importantly she reiterated that there is still time to experiment. I can a have a “plan for the show” right now without needing to know exactly to the mm what the final object will look like.  She said not to pin everything down too early, there is still time!

So a summary of my reflection from both discussions:

  • Colour will be a key factor to manipulate in the final object…
  • …as will tension – does the tension in the weaving echo tension in the landscape / geological or identity crisis?
  • Investigate the relationship of the grid as the basis of weaving and the grid as the basis of mapping
  • The form of the final object need not adhere to the grid, subversive weaving? Be wary of not making it look like a ‘basket’ though
  • It also doesn’t need to be a really big piece which contains every concept in one – I can focus it down, specific ideas to specific pieces, and show a series of works
  • Since I’m obsessed with words and this is conceptual art, use the labels to add extra layers of meaning to the work. I can make the display of the final pieces work to my advantage here – labels, libraries, context etc.
  • The weaving is a condensation of all of the information of the map into a new object, and this is quite a powerful image I can play with (e.g. this one piece of textile is made from 10 individual 1:25000 O/S maps etc). This is not only true spatially but temporally as well.
  • The map is normally a folded object so what am I saying by showing it in a non-folded form?
  • Do I want my pieces to be touchable, will you be able turn them over? OR do I want people to see the underneath but not be able to feel it?
  • on this point, a map it a two-sided object. The back either has a new map, a blank space or an index/legend of some kind. How will I make use of this or acknowledge this in the work?
  • Remember eggs and baskets!

 

Storytelling with colour

After my last post, I had a nice chat with the lovely Bridget and tested my provisional show plan with her. Her reaction was good (apparently my ideas have much more me-ness in it). She noted the ethereality apparent within both the paper weaving samples and my latest calligraphic poems. [I don’t think I have talked about these on the blog yet – so as a quick summary, I have started looking at my ‘place identity’ using my asemic, consciousness poetry – calligraphy on top of monoprinting]

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So after meeting with Bridget, I’ve been making more weaving samples, experimenting with different ways of mark-making using the weave. I’d like to incorporate my story physically into the weave (as opposed as to just writing on top of it).

The latest samples:

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I love the effects with the colour pieces, and am less convinced by literally weaving in the words. Not sure this looks great and it is just too……well, too readable perhaps? I tried different warp dyeing experiment following on from this, which turned into a horrible mess. I then decided to follow this with baking a batch of chocolate muffins (after giving away 16 cakes yesterday), only for this to result in a horrible mess too and end up in the kitchen bin. Urg.

Some days go like this I suppose!

Something different then, and instead of making, I’m thinking about form instead. What object am I creating with all of these weaves? Something wistful and ethereal with fragments of words and poetry drifting into and out of focus at certain points? Oooh, I like the sound of that [blogging is a great way to empty the mind, instead of just talking to yourself]. I have been wondering about the forms I made in Unit 1 – looking back to pieces such as desire line from last September. Can I do basketry with pieces of weaving, would this be some sort of meta-weave?  This is conceptually very attractive.

Initial 3-fold and 5-fold paper maquettes and a quick material test with the samples I’ve got so far. I think I may need to find a form that is a little more open.

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The materiality of maps mini-project

I’ve been trying to concentrate on doing rather than thinking, so it has been a while since I’ve updated on progress. This will be a summary in two parts, reflecting the two areas of focus I am working with. This first post looks at the key point of feedback from my Unit 1 Assessment: “be more materially-led”. I started back in November looking at the idea of a map as material and seeing where it would take me.

In this post I started some ‘material sketches’, in particular a traditional-style patchwork piece which brought together significant places I cut out of an old map of where I grew up (Northumbria/South Scotland). I had written the story of why those places meant so much to me on each hexagon.

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From here I had commented on the signigfance of the stitching at the time, but on reflection was more fascinated by the bit of the map that was left behind after cutting. I said in my next map post that “There was something sad, sorrowful about the remnants. The leftover places which were devoided of all meaning through my act of cutting”.

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This took me to look more at the act of cutting to see what could be revealed though absence and incompleteness. This was quite fun actually, the process was relatively random – with no plan or meaning attached to how each map page was cut, simply an act of repetition going on through the A to Z. I moved away from the hexagon (a very quilting related shape) and moved to the more abstract circles.

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After this I had a bit of a break for Christmas and on getting back to my desk this week wasn’t really sure how to move on next. I started by playing with the pieces which had been cut out of the London AtoZ – using stitching and then folding.

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I then took a step back and went back to the idea of cutting a whole map, but this time being more selective on what to extract. I have acquired a absolutely fabulous set of old OS maps which I am using as source material. In this set I found a map of the place where I grew up on Tyneside. Having spent a lifetime with so much of my identity resonating with rivers, seas and waters (in no small part down to my fish-crazed dad), I was instantly drawn to the representation of the river, the shard of bright blue signing out amongst the city.

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I really liked these samples, there is something compelling about how the map looks once its lifeblood (and the reason the city existed in the beginning) was ripped away from the people and places around it. I thought to repeat this process on a bigger map and a different place, thinking more about the idea of deconstruction of place into constituent parts. I came across a map of my adopted home, so took that one, seeing what the material nature of the map would tell me about cutting or not cutting. This is what resulted:

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(in case you aren’t sure of the scale, fully laid out it’s about 1m x 1m)

I am quite pleased with this so far, and it is beginning to be more clearly influenced by the bigger context of my project (more on this in my next post). Now the question is where to go next from these samples?

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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