www.suejmann.com


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Developing larger scale work

Until now, I have worked extensively with graphite on 90 gsm pergamenata paper. I work with this surface predominantly for its translucent quality, making it good for layering drawings. Layering enables the drawings to interact with each other in response to natural light, changing character throughout the day, and aligns with ideas that built environments reveal themselves to us over time through light and shadow.

I have good material knowledge of the capacities and limitations of this paper. It is surprisingly strong and accepts repetitive addition and removal of graphite marks really well. It doesn’t, however, respond well to wet materials or moisture. As a result, large scale installation methods have not yet enabled installation over long periods of time as the paper prefers the protection of glass, as tested with smaller scale framed works.

One of the aims for this studio residency is to address this issue, with initial ideas to test fabric as drawing surface. To approach this problem, I proposed working on paper on a smaller scale at my home studio, alongside working on a larger scale at AHH Studio Collective. The intention was that results from each may inform the other and this has proven to be a good way forward.

Firstly, I chose to explore working with charcoal instead of graphite, as initial exploratory tests worked better on sheer fabric, and began by seeking to develop ways to manipulate charcoal on pergamenata paper, my preferred choice. Previous attempts have been problematic as the surface held charcoal too well for removal or manipulation. Building on ideas introduced in Kate Boucher’s brilliant book on the subject, I developed ways to work with masks that are now working well with this paper. Results bring a more tonal shadow-like, even ‘painterly’, quality to the drawings, producing outcomes that feel elusive.

Secondly, with more space and light at AHH, I began testing new configurations of my existing steel frame, as well as new, more reliable, ways to hang the surface, starting with pergamenata as this was to hand. Documenting tests to think about between visits proved helpful and revealed possible ways to install the larger scale layers of charcoal drawings on pergamenata that produced more stable outcomes. Testing this approach not only enabled a more active, bodily experience of the drawings but also brought flexibility to adjust scale and composition according to the space. Current stability tests (on 205 x 107.5 x 55 cm frame) are so far proving successful and may enable continued use of my preferred paper material, rather than moving to fabric.

Having the time and space for research and experimentation, problem solving, testing methods and analysing results, has uncovered unexpected ways to think about impacts of exterior light on interior spaces. In addition, new installation approaches have introduced ideas around the exterior and interior of the drawing.

Note

Boucher, K (2021). Drawing with Charcoal. The Crowood Press Ltd.


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New approaches to larger scale work

For the main aim of the studio residency at AHH Studio Collective, I have been testing new approaches to making larger scale work. As my work is about exploring how spaces feel through drawing, currently through the lens of architectural light, I am testing methods to present the work so it can be experienced in more active, bodily ways.

Alongside drawing, I have been revisiting practice research from 2019, questioning perspectives in relation to the covid pandemic. It has been an interesting exercise to reflect on my experience of architecture, particularly of home, before, during and since the pandemic.

Pre-pandemic I was reluctant to position my work in the home for many reasons but felt an underlying tension as I recognised how fundamentally my experience of home shapes me and motivates my work; “the architectural dwelling is not merely something we inhabit, but something that inhabits us.”

The covid pandemic has universally enforced a re-evaluation of our experience of home. During lockdown, alone or surrounded by others, with employment impacts such as work from home, furlough, or neither, our experience of home altered. For me, my home (and workplace) was full again, expanding to accommodate returning family with multiple new roles of work, rest, and play. Although grateful for the comfort and safety it provided, my home environment felt different and in a global pandemic, as I took care of those around me and watched my professional landscape morph, in many ways I felt creatively paralysed.

Now two years on, it is interesting to reflect on the impact the legacy of the pandemic is now having on our experience of home. How do we feel about ‘indoors’? What value do we now place on home? How has our home changed? How have our roles at home altered? This residency has enabled the space to work away from my home studio and this move has unexpectedly prompted clarity reflecting on my experience of home, from the outside, looking in. I am thinking about how our ‘interior’ and ‘exterior’ lives have been impacted by the pandemic. For many, our homes have become more public (exterior) through the ‘open doors’ of hybrid workplace video conferencing, and yet it seems to me, this has led to a stronger need to protect the private (interior) space of home.

For me, drawing enables a deeper understanding of my interior, and while reflecting on these ideas, it has been interesting to note how my initial motivation is related to the making process; to make larger scale work, I have been drawing in a more active, bodily way. In addition, as I test installing these larger drawings, physically interacting with the drawing in a bodily way, I am thinking about the ‘interior’ and ‘exterior’ of the drawing.

Note

Fuss, D (2004). The Sense of an Interior: Four writers and the rooms that shaped them. Routledge.


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Developing a visual conversation project with Holly Rowan Hesson

Holly and I both make work in response to architectural spaces; Holly through sculpture and me through drawing. As a way to navigate the impacts of the covid pandemic, recently we have started making work together to explore working differently.

The initial idea was simple: one artist makes a new work that interests them and shares an image of it on Instagram; the other responds to that image, making and sharing their response on Instagram; and so on, thinking aloud, like a shared sketchbook, a visual conversation. We are keen there should be no restrictions or limitations such as time, material or process apart from the above; the only requirement, to make work of interest to the artist.

Having agreed to work on our own responses independently, initial individual chosen material, processes and outcomes have been interesting:

  • We are both working with found materials, including architectural drawings: Holly from an archive of gathered material; and me, from drawn mono prints made in 2017.
  • While testing new approaches to making, we are exploring our own as well as shared interests through the works, such as texture, colour, rhythm, composition and light.
  • We are also testing the collaborative process. Although we are predominantly making work that interests us, in some way or other, we are also making with the other artist in mind. As we are responding to each other’s work, it is unsurprising the other’s work is influencing our own.

Reflecting further on initial responses, some interesting findings are emerging:

  • Rather than making work in response to a physical architectural space, we are making work in response to each other’s work and through that process, we are working with reimagined architectural spaces.
  • We are also working with and responding to the virtual space of Instagram (much like an exhibition space) as this in some way influences some of our decisions. For example, Holly rejects the standard Instagram post image size and works outside it, while I work with it.
  • Having up until recently both worked independently, it is becoming clear through this project, collaborating and working together, we are inspiring each other through the work, prompting further project ideas and plans to transfer to physical spaces.

Notes

Holly on Instagram

Sue on Instagram


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With a strong interest in built environments, I make work in response to architecture through drawing. Recent works are inspired by architectural features such as light and shadow, and comprise contemporary abstract drawings, often on translucent material activated by light in the space.

Having worked independently for over 5 years, I am grateful to have been awarded an a-n bursary to support a period of professional development this year. It will enable the time and space to focus on exploring new ways of working with the following aims:

  • To research expanding current drawing approaches to work on a larger scale.
  • To test working in a different environment at AHH Studio Collective.
  • To develop a collaborative project with Holly Rowan Hesson.

I have chosen the title Drawing Out to reflect my intended approach to address these aims. Referring to the literal meaning of drawing outside my home studio, I am seeking to test ways of working that are outside my current working practices. In other words, and including further meanings, I am seeking to extend my current thinking and approaches, in order to extract new findings and ways of working. In addition, I hope to improve skills to talk more freely about my work by reflecting on my process and outcomes through this blog.


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