Eva Hesse Documentary at the ICA
The screening of Eva Hesse at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London was an in depth journey of understanding the life and work of the artist. She truly dedicated her short life to her practice; Hesse’s use of materials, forms and the psychological presence in the act of making was borderline uncontrollable. That human presence and eccentric chaos was a pivotal focus that developed into a material manifestation of creating mordacious forms. What were of curiosity were her journal logs, the intertwining of her relationships with family and friends and her art. Hesse’s material choice was a particular artist decision that would eventually result in the temporality of the work; working with new materials (at that time) such as latex and fibreglass were classed as industrial, waste materials. They had not been transferred to sculpture or considered as a traditional material but this profound quality in her work is what is of interest. ‘Life doesn’t last, Art doesn’t last.’ Eva Hesse.
The end is nigh!
What a physical and emotional drain this week has been in the lead up to the MFA show deadline. It has been a continuous battle assuring that the work captures my initial vision; however curating a show and working amongst other artists and their work has been a struggle at times. Also deciding to exhibit two separate pieces from the same body of work in two separate locations has been difficult and at times has caused a sense of uncertainty. The focus has to lie with both works, spending equal amounts of time to secure a high standard of execution and curatorial skill. My work has had a strong emphasis on space, responding to an environment and initiating that contact. Both pieces are of a large and some would use of a ‘monumental’ scale, this brings into focus the ‘human’ and how heavy materiality forms a relationship with the movement through space. Working with heavy structures that are constructed out of steel and angle iron initiates my interest in minimal forms that contrast with soft, fragile and visceral materials such as latex, balloons and jelly. There is a sense of control and the loss of control and how I’m exploring the relationship between function and form.
I’m now beginning to conclude this work, working to a strict deadline can sometimes deter from the enjoyment and immersive mind set. This body of work has demonstrated potential ideas and materials that my next works will encompass. I view this show, this work and this course as the beginning; a stepping stone, an experience into the ‘real world.’ I have not produced the best work by any means on the MFA but it has allowed me to introduce and experience my potential; working with new materials, new concepts, and new theoretical, contextual and philosophical themes. As I will be taking up a residency in October with Exchange in Kensington, London, this will mark the starting point of working outside of an institutional environment allowing me to continue to explore and engage with my practice. It’s safe to say that the last twelve months have been a whirlwind of a rollercoaster. I have found juggling a full time course, working part time and taking on opportunities outside of the institution strenuous: however this is the process of becoming an artist and making decisions that will enhance and establish my career. It’s a gruelling process writing application after application, getting rejections after rejections but I’ve immersed myself into obtaining opportunities for exhibitions, residencies or creating a new dialogue with my fellow student Natalie Ramus where we explored the dialogue of artists working in a shared studio space through exhibitions, performances and recorded conversations as our material. The MFA show will highlight our passion as artists and emphasise the gruelling process of postgraduate study and my experience at Cardiff School of Art & Design.
I’ve recently been visiting exhibitions and exploring artists work in the flesh, Nairy Baghramian’s Scruff of the Neck at the Marian Goodman Gallery blew me away. The space itself and her material choice was a new encounter to objects that you were unaware of its purpose. What I was particularly interested in was the steel structures; the fabrication was visible yet elegant. The sculptures were engaging with the wall, floor and ceiling, residing in an open space that allowed for an immersive dialogue. I then went to visit another artists’ work that I have been researching; Louise Bourgeois at the TATE artist rooms. Her methods of suspending pieces were compelling and were an opportunity to study the forms in relation to their scale, weight and space they reside. Bourgeois’ understood materials and their properties, qualities and colour; the pieces instantly embodied amorphous qualities and were a study of the human form. These female artists influence those questions in my practice; why I work with certain materials and what are their qualities? What has recently come to my attention is the emphasis on temporal qualities and how my work questions whether there is a final state? My use of organic materials results in an unknown length of process. My work has become concerned with the body in relation to material choice appearing as skin or flesh; the colour and texture appear flaccid, grotesque that transcend into a dialogue between the inside/outside of the human form. ‘Devices to dissolve the visual sense into an awareness of the body.’ Lygia Clark. Clark was always in search of the body whilst breaking new grounds in examining the relation between art and society.
Nairy Baghramian. Scruff of the Neck, Marian Goodman Gallery.
Louise Bourgeois. TATE Artist Rooms.
Last week’s residency at the Sidney Nolan Trust, The Rodd Farm, Presteigne was an awesome opportunity to explore new mediums and processes whilst spending time away from the preparations for the MFA show. The week allowed me to ‘switch off’ and step out of the manic, continuous and rigorous structured schedule. I spent the week drawing, carving wood and print making; all processes that I am not familiar with or are part of my practice. However working with the printing process allowed for a new dialogue to occur where I explored sculptural forms in a two dimensional matter. Again using tools, materials such as masking tape, duct tape and balloons to create line, shapes, texture that resulted in large scale prints that were a response to my surroundings, space and touched upon elements of my practice. I allowed myself to become submerged in a ‘rural’ location, unaware of how much work was generated over five days. The farm, studio space and access to the facilities created a new dialogue and interest that has liberated my thinking process. I used the prints as a journal; enquiring, resolving and exploring organic ideas that became a repetitive way of making.
Dry point print & Mono print of balloons.
I am heavily interested in the notion of fragmented materials and the organic matter; this is an endless focus in my practice through my choice of materials. The second work for my MFA show is a 7 foot x 4 foot angle iron frame; what I have been continuously struggling with is what will reside with this minimal form. I started to experiment with various materials and objects; netting, nylon nude tights, string, wax, domesticated objects such as dusters and mops and latex. There is always a continuous emphasis on opposites that resides in my work; the idea of tension or compatibility. Therefore I began to play with different compositions and positioning of these possible objects draped over the angle iron frame. Sometimes, I do find that less is more and in this instance with this piece of work it’s becoming a struggle to form a dialogue. What do I wish this work to speak to me as the artist and the viewer? I then started to think of a title, words that respond to the aesthetic to the work; ‘Organic Abstraction’ sprang to mind and instantly framed the essence of the work. Latex began to appear as an inorganic material that possessed a strong distressing appearance of skin decomposing under the strain of its weight, daylight and heat. I began pouring latex onto the floor in long strips, forming long and thin sheets that drape over the frame. There is a wonderful fragility and translucency about the latex that is juxtaposed with the strong presence of the industrial angle iron frame.
I began researching Carol Rama and found her use of objects and industrial materials in her later works very appealing and seductive on the eye. Her father was also involved in industry and this had a profound influence on her use of materials and practice as an artist. There is a profound emphasis on the human and animal anatomy; both mocking and ignoring the standardized binaries. There is a clear tension that appears in her work appearing to be beautiful but is benign. “The urge to devour in order to possess. All the while knowing that we are devouring ourselves.” (Carol Rama) The body has begun to emerge more predominately in my current work; there is a strong visceral essence and presence that has begun to invade. Does sculpture convey its grammatical tense? What is interesting with using organic elements is the desire to keep something alive in the present tense. I’ve sat with the work, observing its qualities and find an explicit use of material and ongoing transition that presents itself through the use of the latex. The juxtaposition of weight, texture and colour; the thin, light and fragmented sheets of latex draped over this heavy, angle iron frame begins to question my fetish for materials.
What continues to reign over my work is the physical tangibility that begins to evoke precarious qualities. I began questioning whether these works are forms of self-portraits and came across Rama’s quote “These are extraordinary self-portraits, extraordinary, not because they are beautiful, but the idea of these tits and bull dicks, this way of seeing anatomy of everybody in shared parts, extreme.” How I sometimes find my work a response to my physical presence, ability and understanding of one’s own body. Referring back to industry in the works, there was a strong presence present throughout my childhood and continues to evoke questions, material choice and physical ability and skill. The scale of my work has transitioned and continues to evolve; having consistent contact with hard, heavy and traditional materials that form the focus and central core to the work.
The making of the show is well and truly under way; however there are some hurdles that are causing problems. I’ve been spending quality and intimate time with the work in a solitude space as I feel that this is the only way I will clearly understand what I am making and why am I making it? The focus is entirely on the work for the show but has become a struggle at times with other opportunities and commitments from other sources outside of the institution.
How will the work be read? I’ve had multiple conversations with tutors and peers that have come into contact with the work and instantly a playful appearance and experience was revealed. But what is interesting about the work is not only is there juxtaposition in materials but the work itself suggests that there is something happening, evolving? Over the past two weeks the jelly has formed severe quantities of mould inside of the balloons and some have erupted inside of the plastic sack. There’s an interesting question as to what is happening underneath? I’m currently playing and figuring out at what height the sacks will suspend but find it interesting using different heights in relation to the height of the tripods.
In my tutorial with Holly Davey we discussed how I need to refine and define the work, spend time with it and respond to the materials. There is not only a dialogue between materials but an intimate dialogue between artist and materials and the viewer and materials. This is important, specifically with this work in particular due to the scale of the work and scale of the space; I’m introducing something happening, organic materials decaying, rotting over a period of time. The plastic sacks suggest a human presence, their scale, weight and suspension in space form this sensation to touch, investigate what resides inside their cavity. The contrast in the colour palette is what interests me, a jarring of dialogue develops between the bright and vivid party balloons and the jelly filled balloons that are decaying and unveil body fluids (blood, urine, puss etc.) When I define the work I think of my emphasis on opposites and the continuous tension and precarious qualities that forms the work.
The work is slowly in transition, this is visually present in the images and in the flesh. What’s interesting is how the materials change day to day, the space that they will reside in for the show is an open plan space, is constantly warm in temperature and has large open windows therefore heat and direct sunlight will dramatically change the personality of the materials over time. Referring back to the idea of ‘something is happening’ there’s a certain disconfiguration, evolving of forms and play on the known and the unknown. There is this idea of containment that is suggestive with this work; however we had discussed playing and jarring the idea of balloons placed outside of the plastic sack, almost invading the space further with their presence, form and weight.