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.
It’s been a few weeks since I last updated my blog; it’s been a busy month to say the least but I’ve had some exciting news and fantastic opportunities. Most recently I was selected as a member of The Royal British Society of Sculptors; this truly has given me the confidence to say,’ yes I am a sculptor’ which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I have continuously referred to myself as a visual artist, when my work is plainly of sculptural appearance, language and aesthetic. As part of the RAMUS|EVANS Collaborative we had the opportunity to develop a new show and body of work for Spit & Sawdust Gallery, Cardiff; Dialogue: Detritus explores our relationship with materials, form and organic elements that feed into our daily dialogue and studio practices as MFA students. The show is open until July 31st. I then received confirmation that I would be showing ‘Maureen’ in SHE in London, an International Exchange Exhibition exploring the construct of femininity. ‘Baked Beans’ was also then chosen as part of the exchange in their partnering galleries in Texas, USA and Vietnam; this will take place at the end of July and I am truly honoured to be exhibiting work alongside such a diverse range of artists.
I’m now on the final stretch trying to overcome that hurdle prior to the MFA show; I’m at that stage where I understand what needs to be accomplished yet feel panic and a sense of resilience towards the work. What became a reoccurring question was whether the work was Sculpture or Installation? I struggle to answer that question and identify those qualities that reside in sculptural or installation based works. I recently listened to a panel at the Nasher Sculpture Centre, including artists Eva Rothschild , Phyllida Barlow and Michael Dean with Lisa LeFeuvre as the immediator of the discussion on Why Sculpture Now? It was interesting to hear sculptors and curators define sculpture as a discipline, discussing the conversations around sculpture and its ability to wrestle and go beyond material but to think about narrative. Can I call myself a sculptor? Rothschild explained that it had taken her years to call herself a sculptor as she was not confident in the understanding of sculptural language as a whole. We call ourselves ‘artists’ but often struggle to express that we may be for example, a painter, a photographer; however does this then put you into that box and then the problem of only allowed association with that discipline?
In my proposal for the show I originally would only proposed to have the steel tripod pieces but have now decided to exhibit a second sculpture. My research has led me to artists Monika Sosnowska, Robert Gober, Carol Rama and Gunther Uecker; the material assemblages, exploration and process involved in their work has influenced the second structure that is made of angle iron, and now latex will be introduced as a secondary material. Process and material is the core focus that surrounds the work, in my tutorial this week with Mark Gubb he mentioned how I need to be aware of other possibilities and narratives that may surround the work and that playing with materials is not the only element to consider. I have this desire to make things that will exist in the world; however my interest and use of organic elements or substances suggests a non-permanence, a vulnerability. But I see sculpture as a relationship, there’s so many physical encounters and a continuous battle with this uneasy companion. The scale that I am working on for my MFA show is the largest I have produced to date, its competing with me as a human being and is challenging my skills, ability and its response to the space. The question that I ask myself is whether I care about the encounter with the audience? Is my own personal encounter, experience or journey more important?