B.A.(Hons) Interdiscliplinary art and design. A broad based degree encompassing huge variety of media. My own specialist subjects are sculpture with textiles and photography.
I was pleased to be able to find some help in the studio on Thursday to make a body cast of myself. The charity shop swimming costume was a tad unflattering, but then I think I would have felt vulnerable and flabby in anything really.
The process was strangely reminiscent of a full immersion baptism, making it also partly a performance piece, albeit for an audience of only the four helpers.
I asked them to press me into the foam mattress I was lying on while the plastery fabric underneath me set. This was to give a good impression on the back of the cast. Getting me off whilst not cracking the set cast was a challenge, and my hair not covered by the bathing cap was firmly embedded in the plaster. One of the helpers started cutting it off until he began to cut too near my skin, and I asked him politely to stop. Or something like that. I ripped the rest out myself, control is everything where pain is concerned, and the hair does make an authentic touch in the cast.
The top side looks rather strange, as of course I knew from experience it would…..strange small head and pegs for feet (the heels). Quite doll like in fact. The back is much better, as I found out today, although no photos yet of that.
Also continuing on with making slide show type movies in a stop frame animation style, in order to get a really interesting projection for the back of the cast.
Starting to think of where everything will go in the show, how much to put on the walls, what photos to print and show….decisions which all feel crucial now, but may not in the end matter too much. Sence of inadequacy for the task ahead, along with great excitement and anticipation.
These weeks since the last post have been productive. The dreamy, blue, watery-heavenly images are starting to become a reality thanks to the gerbil tank, a very sunny day, and some blue food colour dropped in the water. 632 photographs later, I have a few sequences I could use for projecting onto my cast. By happy accident, I found some paper picked up in Kettle’s Yard Gallery in Cambridge 2 years ago, saying “Nowhere better than this place” I can’t remember the artist who produced it, but I have appropriated it anyway. The words emerge out of the swirls of blue-green.
Another pleasing development became obvious when handling some foot casts that I had sown grass seed into some weeks ago. I had used agar gel, which moulds beautifully into the (negative) cast, making a positive gel cast. With the grass roots growing into the gel, this cast was stable enough to pick up and photograph on perspex. I have decided to use this property, and make a whole body gel-grass cast to display above my plaster body cast – the inside, made into a positive. The grass will grow during the final show, then I may allow it gently to die, as a kind of farewell to Uni and all that it has meant to me.
Experimentation as a method in its own right really bears fruit: these outcomes look so intentional. Interesting to note that the cost of working this way is many hours spent feeling unsure, unfinished, undecided, behind the rest. A long, painful pregnancy without which the birth cannot happen.
Took some better photos of the installed “Deposition”. During the Easter period, there did seem to be quite a number of people looking at the cast and writing in the thoughts/meditations book I had provided.The reality of it was both better and worse than I had imagined. I had really wanted the traces of the body to emerge and change as the light merged from red through to white. As it was, I set up red light through lent, and then manually changed the lighting to white early on Easter morning. The lighting was better than a projection, coming from four sources.
I am now starting to create a lit, watery world using a tank of water, colours in the form of lights, cellophane, plastic bottles and food colour. I will then take a time lapse of this in order to project it onto a cast later. Bill Viola, (contemp. video artist), describes a drowning incident when he was 10, as he sank to the bottom of a lake, as the most beautiful world he had ever seen (he was then hauled out). This death-life baptismal experience has stayed with me. Baptism itself is a symbolic drama of death and resurrection, especially the full immersion sort. The cast to be lit by this time lapse film will probably be of my own body, perhaps pressed onto a foam mattress, or under draped fabric.
Grass sown into agar gel grows well in the casts, although making the plaster go very fragile. Wax spray seems to prevent this, but then makes it harder to keep the seedlings and agar hydrated. Chamomile has germinated, but not grown much yet. I plan to sow into the whole body cast, to use this living, body shaped textile either still in the cast, or to remove it and put it on perspex. The growth aspect, combined with the projection (probably on the back of the cast), will go some way to expressing the drowning-living echoes within baptism.
An eventful week. The big cast has now been transferred to the exhibition space at St Thomas’ Church, Philadelphia, Sheffield. Only a few bits broke. The scaffolding was a nightmare to put up, it just would not sit straight. Eventually, we had to sit it at less than a right angle, but I am not sure that anyone cares about that except me. Perspective on these things can easily be lost.
The projection of coloured light I had planned, (a timelapse of coloured frames starting from blood red, through dawn colours to searing white) did not work. The (old) projector gave every frame a greenish hue, and the rectangle of light looked odd. Scrapped in favour of four coloured LED lights, set to red and orange inside, and a purple for the outside during Holy Week. On Easter morning I will get there early and change the lighting to a blinding white, so the imprint of the body can clearly be seen. I hope the lighting will add to the possibilities for this piece.
Having recently visited the cast room at the V&A, I now plan to spend time drawing and photographing this devotional object, in true old school art student fashion.This practice also links in with the devotional meditation encouraged by the Medieval and Renaissance Old Masters.I will leave a book for others to contribute their thoughts, poems, drawings in.
I have also been sowing grass seed into foot casts, which has not sprouted yet. There is something going on for me around absense of the body combined with growth, change, life. I am also exploring the possibility of projecting images or live reflections of water on body casts, which I think is where my next piece is heading….
Blogging has been hard to sustain, but now recommitted after a talk from What!? Creative Agency (whatcreative.co.uk), two very knowledgeable and generous digital creatives, who explained the relevance of a web presence.
I have now made the Deposition body cast, see pic of work in progress, and all went well. Scaffolding is useful stuff, and I found a firm willing to sell it to me cheaply, and who will buy it back for the same price! The finished piece has a satisfyingly Turin-like imprint of Jesus’ body subtly on the inside, revealed when lit.I want to invite exploration, close inspection, helping people to really engage.
I am also experimenting with projecting images or light on the cast. So far I have a time-lapse of a sunset that has been turned into a sunset-sunrise loop by flipping images and editing. That may just be too many ideas on one piece. I am also wondering whether to just create a sequence of coloured light by the same technique, so the cast is lit by blood-red light fading through pinks and oranges to a blinding white. A kind of abstract crucifixion-resurrection sequence.
Here is an image I have to describe what this work is about for me. I am upside down, swinging on the bars of a familiar narrative, seeing things I never saw before, ‘unknowing ‘ things I knew, understanding it illogically, imaginatively, intuitively, inside-out, inviting others to take a look.