The last few weeks have involved very little making but more reading and trying to form a basis and understanding of my practice. My interested lie in purely material and objects manipulation and defining space they coexist in. I began to wonder whether my work was focuses on responding to a space but this has never been a focal point when making and I’m still unsure whether it’s important or even relevant. That’s not to say site and location shouldn’t be taken into account when making work; however this can restrict decisions. As part of this module, a critical study essay is required that somehow relates or is relevant to my practice. I began working with metal to construct frames and instantly had an urge to enquire into this material further. The sculptor Richard Serra who creates sculptures on such a monumental scale offers both a physical and visual experience; these qualities intrigued me; the invention of form and how this has developed over the years. “Does Sculpture have a language?” How can one answer this? What is interesting reading about Serra is that he explores a material and the process of that material to the extreme; his work banishes those pictorial qualities and focuses on forming a relationship with the movement through space.
This has reinforced an interest in steel; how I can begin exploring weight, balance and form by enquiring and testing materials and their transition through process. Another artist that creeps into my research is female sculptor Phyllida Barlow; she explains ‘I need time to understand what I’ve done, and that is an odd paradox,’ I can completely relate to how she works as this has been a reoccurring problem for me with my practice. I tend to make and continue to make work and then I soon realise that I’m left with ‘stuff’ and then the WHY? gets asked. I want the work to remain minimalistic; minimal form that engages with various materials to explore weight, balance and colour. Colour had never been anything to consider or of any importance in my previous work; however this quality will become an area to explore and consider further moving forward. I decided to make a visit to Michael Beutler’s ‘Pump House’ at Spike Island, Bristol. The installation is a real experience and captures the space and redefines scale using industrial and various materials that explore form, surface and texture. What initially caught my attention was his use of bold colour and how playful the work read, the structural build and mass of material that surrounded, filled and interacted with the space defined its environment.
This led me to play and explore certain elements from my previous work that could uncover possible encounters with various materials and objects. I have built a steel tripod to test suspension, weight and gravity; using tarpaulin and building merchants bags that are filled with water hanging from engine hoists. Scale is a crucial factor with this work; what I found difficult to achieve was a perfect circle form which needs further time to develop. What also comes into the work is site and the environment the work will inhabit and the space it will define. Due to the industrial nature and qualities, a warehouse or open indoor space would suit the aesthetic. I had previously used balloons with nylon tights so thought about playing with a steel structure and balloons; referring again to form, weight and colour. The problems that occurred was that the balloons fell through the steel frame; I then thought of using reinforcement mesh to construct a cubic shape frame that will contain the balloons. What’s an interesting quality with the balloons is how they will loose air or burst over time; therefore the work will take on a performative quality and will allow both a physical and visual experience.
This term has been a struggle identifying my practice and the understanding of how to develop new work. I realised that I need to explore and identify the properties of materials and processes and not refer to descriptive formations. What is Sculpture? What is my understanding of Sculpture? I’ve lost what questions I ask myself in regards to my practice, the making and my own personal point of contact of enquiry. How can I explore and push those materials and processes further in my work? I need to consider and analyse how artists work and their exploration of process and materials. I began looking at ‘Tate shots;’ watching videos of artists in their studios and how they engage with material. Eva Rothschild, Carl Andre and Alison Wilding were a great starting point in understanding their method and ways of thinking. There is a real sense of materiality in their works, contrasting materials and forming relationships. Sculpture as a form demands time and experience. This is completely true and is a clear explanation to focus on. Rothschild mentions ‘You use what you need to get what you want’ sometimes I find that I overcomplicate materials and feel the need to find a reason for the usage; however my work tends to develop from materials and objects that are within my surroundings or that I can get my hands on easily. Does this matter? Do materials have to come with an explanation for their use? Material; a crucial point of contact as a sculptor, it’s interesting to use materials that somehow don’t have an inherent form, purpose or function and discovering new ways of exploiting their qualities.
I began thinking about my practice and what are the key focal points that I wish to reference in my work. My work has always involved a focus on materials and the physical relationship I have with the making process. Recently I’ve become more concerned with my role as a female sculptor. This could be due to my tendency to use ‘masculine’ associated materials such as steel, buoys, rubber etc. however the work is non-gender and I don’t wish to focus on masculine/feminine qualities but rather on materials, space, scale and form. There is a distinct threshold between the ‘made’ and the ‘unmade’ and how I can continue to push, develop and rethink the relationships between material and form. I began to think of ‘process art’ and whether the work sat in this category but again does this matter? Does the work need to sit in a particular category/ discipline? The question that was asked last term was whether the work was sculptural or installation based? I found this difficult to answer; the work has sculptural qualities but conforms to site and space where I explore defining space rather than to occupy. The problem I faced was that I overcomplicated the work and began referencing gender; gender is not significant or important to the work. The focus now needs to involve the continuous engagement with materials and objects. Sculpture has this ability to arouse complicated feeling about materials and/or objects and their state of mind and condition. There are three key areas I wish to focus on over the next few weeks; location of work, materials, objects and process and the interaction of both artist and viewer with the work.
Blurring the Boundaries: Subconscious Collaboration at The Roath Park Pub.
Last night was the first collaborative show by me and fellow CSAD student and friend Natalie Ramus at Roath Park Pub. We had a fantastic and supportive turnout; all came to explore and submerge themselves into our work in an unusual, abandoned and rustic room. The harsh red, half stripped wallpaper and rotting wood resembled a fleshy, phallic aesthetic on appearance. When we first came across the red room, we were instantly drawn to its bold, harsh context which was the inspiration for the RAMUS|EVANS photograph. ‘Blurring the Boundaries’ stemmed from our continuous dialogue in our studio spaces and subconscious connection through our work. This exhibition became a journey through the last few months of our time on the MFA course and formed relationship as female artists. Natalie comes from a more conceptual background whilst I focus on sculpture and installation. The processes used within our practices are very different from each other. Natalie is conceptually driven and works in a multi-disciplinary and sometimes performative way, whereas I am much more driven by process and engaging with juxtaposing both organic and industrial materials.
We included a range of media and work; sculptural forms, photography, objects, live audio of weekly conversations me and Natalie have in the studio space and a live one to one performance by Natalie which involved domestic objects and personal space behind a closed curtain. The aim was to achieve a journey of the unknown. The work was not labelled but cohesively feed off one another; creating dialogue between objects and materials. The evening allowed for us to curate a space that explored shared space and how our practices have informed and influenced one another. As female artists we are interested in defining space rather than occupying space; engaging in dialogue in relation to gender, body and form. Having a ‘one night only’ formed an exclusive taster of shared space and a collaborative show.
Untitled (Lard) 2016. lard, soil, grass, steel
Untitled (foam) 2016. foam, bungee ropes, meat hooks, steel, tarpaulin, halogen flood lights
Natalie Ramus. One to One performance. 2016
Over the last week I’ve been trying to clarify, simplify and break down my practice and refocus the qualities. What is the work? What is its purpose? What’s its clarification? How do I read the work or how the work is read? I previously addressed how feminism was a focal point for the work; however I have now realised that this isn’t the case. Instantly a physical appearance; aesthetic; approach with the use of the steel. Do I class materials with gender? Is there a general association of steel linked with masculinity? The work involves such physical application; submerging the foam into large buckets of water and suspending them from the steel frames. The weight of these forms and the process itself creates a sense of performative objects. What interests me are the qualities of materials and that tension, relationship between materials; how they interact with one another. The foam possesses this raw, flesh like, fat appearance and to touch; when I introduced the water, this elevated the work, emphasising weight, depth, gravity and the natural sagging of the material. The water seeping through the foam, gushing from height and bouncing off the floor is visually and aesthetically pleasing on the eye.
I’ve been exploring where the work is placed and situated, whether it becomes site specific? The work has been placed in Chapter’s dark studio in Cardiff, an outside space and dark space (evening time) using the halogen flood lights. All three spaces created a different tension and atmosphere around the work; the use of the flood lights creates an aggressive dynamic atmosphere, a rawness quality of the cables left exposed as an extended version of the work. That rawness aesthetic in the foam, the rusting steel and visual impact of the flood lights has a very alluring and unsettling quality. I had previously addressed the presence/absence; whether this resides in the work? What exactly am I referring to being present or absent Again, this is a reoccurring question that needs further attention. Does the work possess gender? Does the work need to possess gender?
I’ve been continuously questioning gendered qualities or associations that cross over in my work; the choice of materials and objects and the gendered qualities they become associated with. What is the tension between materials? What is the relationship between presence and absence in the work; and in the space the work is situated? How do I define femininity and masculinity in the work? I need to consider the works parodies and how it functions in relation to female sculpture and installation. Does the work convey an anatomical or anthropomorphic quality, aesthetic maybe? What’s crucial in my practice is the dialogue between materials; however I view space as a material in relation to my work. The material aesthetic and relationship that forms when producing the work has a sense of physicality and materiality. How can I produce the work to possess the quality instead of illustrating the quality?
My focus is to work with the foam and steel structures and to continue to explore the distortion and the extension of gender. I had previously addressed how the work had taken on an anthropomorphic nature; these qualities come to focus in my most recent exploration with foam and substance/fluid. Continuing to develop these forms and relationships between materials and questioning how the foam can convey the tension, gravity? The weight and depth of the foam forms suggest sacks of flesh, pieces of fat or perhaps an extension of human form. What’s interesting to consider is how sex can be read through materials. I attended Sarah Lucas in Conversation ‘Power in Woman’ on Tuesday evening at the Royal College of Surgeons, London; Lucas made it clear how she tends to work with what she’s got, what’s around at the time, recycled, reused and other basic materials. How can one put value on materials? Her work has a clear bodily and gender aesthetic; does gender have a binary quality? Can the work not be what it is? These are all interesting aspects that arose during the conversation but I realised how my work is purely about material, site, form and scale.
What arose yesterday whilst spending the day in the studio space at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff was how interaction and the physical nature of the materials and objects inhabited the space. There was a sense of a journey through the space; setting a scene, creating a dialogue between site, materials and artist. However the work was not on display (to the public) but purely placed for documentation and exploration of media. I need to consider placement; do I leave work in location over a period of time for people to stumble upon it? Does the work posses a theatrical aesthetic or quality?
There is an element of an unfinished quality; the use of the spot lamps, cables left in eye view and large tarpaulin sheets layed across the floor. Why are these objects left in a raw state? The foam forms were submerged in water, hung with meat hooks and left to sag, seep and drip onto the floor. Another element that comes into focus is the gushing sound of the drips onto the sheeting creating an uneasy, tense atmosphere surrounding the work. Working in a range of locations allows me to experience the work in new ways and challenge that dialogue between materials, objects and space.