Time passed. Such is life.
Lecture: Denise Mimmocchi Tony Tuckson and Stuart Scougall: Building the Australian collection (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
From the period of “discovery” and invasion Aboriginal art was considered in scientific, anthropological and ethnographic terms. For many years works were objects of curiosity, relics of a “dying” culture. During the 20th century the aesthetic value of indigenous art came to be appreciated.
In the late 1950s Tony Tuckson, then deputy director of AGNSW and himself an abstract expressionist painter, and Dr Stuart Scougall, an orthopaedic surgeon, made two expeditions to Australia’s north to commission significant bodies of works – Tutini (Pukamani grave posts) and bark paintings. This marked a shift in thinking, seeing through the lens of art history rather than ethnography. The expeditions were part of longer term relationships, and involved close communication with the artists and communities, documenting cultural context, processes of production, significance of associated rituals etc.
As well as giving background to the expeditions and the works involved Mimmocchi briefly considered the influence of Aboriginal works on Margaret Preston and the issues of appropriation of the works into a modernist framework. There wasn’t a lot of discussion on the cultural meaning of the works, but mention was made of the work as a political act, an assertion of connection to country.
Lecture: Wayne Tunnicliffe Bring the world to Australia: The John Kaldor Family Collection (part of the AGNSW Collectors & Collections series).
A wonderful story of a man with vision, deeply interested in the art of his generation and time. Instead of joining the long list of expats in 60s London, fleeing the “cultural desert” of Australia, Kaldor brought the art of the world here.
He bought/brought art of everyday materials, breaking down barriers between art and life (Robert Rauschenberg Dylaby); transformative art (Christo and Jeanne Claude Wrapped coast, one million square feet, Little Bay, Sydney, Austalia); art with systems, removing the artist’s hand (Sol Lewitt); seriality and repetition (Carl Andre Steel-copper plain); art with an element of chance (Richard Long Stone line); kitsch (Jeff Koons White terrior).
The works seem purchased on gut reaction rather than an intellectual pursuit, to live with (in a classic wooden home, not a modernist white cube), or to share, in the many Kaldor Public Art Projects http://kaldorartprojects.org.au/.
I was hoping to get to my first meeting of Basketry NSW this week – didn’t happen, as sharing a cold seemed a bad way of introducing myself. Anyway, in preparation I needed a work in progress to take along.
This was based on coiled baskets introduced in Lissa de Sailles’s workshop (19-Mar-2016), combined with paper felting learnt in Angela Liddy’s workshop (10-Jul-2016).
Lissa de Sailles class
The stitching on my class sample is very static – partly due to the straight sides and more the way I placed the stitches, but there’s also that extra horizontal of the thread which I found too heavy for current purposes.
An internet search found the Native American Basketry, with interlocking stitching of coiled baskets and a way of starting.
Coiled interlocking stitch
First a quick attempt in large scale materials to work through the instructions. This is thick polypropylene cord, the spiral around 8.5 cm across.
While considering that I made a ring of felted paper to form the rim of the basket. There are some opportunities for fine-tuning, but I’m happy with the lacey edge and cutouts.
The idea is to make a coiled basket, using some of the same papers plus some more co-ordinating colours, with the final round of stitching used to attached the basket to the felted rim.
Coiled paper basket begun
Next working with the mulberry paper, stitching with waxed cottolin.
The general look is what I wanted, but I quickly became aware of problems. I have a lot to learn about shape and proportion.
The coiling is meant to be the star, the felted paper collar important but a trim. I wanted the lines of the basket to work with the lines of the collar. So I started curving from a small base to have enough space.
Coiled paper basket pieces
These are never going to fit together in a stable object.
Perhaps I’m making a series of baskets!
To be continued.
Yes! That’s a surprise.
This started thinking about folds, discovering depths and dimensions, breaking through…
The top layer of some corrugated cardboard was stripped away unevenly and roughly painted with white gesso.
The board was propped vertically and running paint used in lines of folds. Difficult to take a photo of the result as the board has curved. Obviously the photo shows it rotated from the position when painting, but I get a sense of movement and rhythm which could have potential.
There’s also some interesting detail, particularly where I sprayed water to encourage movement and where the folded interior of the cardboard is exposed.
An idea to keep exploring.
Paul Schimmel and Jenni Sorkin (Eds) (2016) Revolution in the Making: Abstract sculpture by women 1947-2016 Hauser & Wirth Publishers.
Continuing with this – slowly, given the one-thing-leads-to-another phenomenon.
Going back to the essay by Elizabeth Smith, “‘What can be done,what I must learn, what there is to do…’: Process, Materials, and Narrative in the 1950s” and ignoring that daunted feeling, I’ve been wondering about narrative. Sampling materials and musing about ideas are fascinating. Narrative makes me nervous, so perhaps I should be exploring that.
Have I noted before how the work I’m most attracted to is very often by women? “The objects and environments they created spoke not just to the mythic or heroic but rather to the essential properties of the body/the self in relationship to others or to ideas of known and unknown worlds” (p. 31) Smith shows the wide range of work made by women, while also suggesting connections or qualities that go beyond specific works. An engagement with materials, a “commingling of form and content”, an emphasis on process, on the hand of the artist.
Anne M Wagner “What women do, or The poetics of sculpture”
“Sculpture is no longer ‘itself:’ it is no single thing, no necessarily even an object, nothing more (or less) than the inflection of material, place, and space.” (pp 80-81) The possibilities of sculpture have been transformed, broken open. I want, need, to find a space within that where all these swirling thoughts coalesce, my textile sensibilities, interests in space and light and layering and boundaries.
There are so many choices raised here. The importance of context – or not. A resonance with tradition; the physicality of production; performative; poetics – “the terms in which any sculpture tries to extend and transform the world of things” (p. 85); work with both sculptural and typographical forms…
This essay makes so clear the power of words interpreting work. Of Michelle Stuart’s work: “handpolished… subtly stony glow… effect of countless feet on hard stone paving. In a cathedral this happens over centuries; Stuart somehow managed to speed up the passage of time.” (p. 87) How loaded is that word, cathedral! And later, of the same artist, “[Stuart’s] books, scrolls and codices seem selected as vehicles to figure something as elusive as the opacity of narrative and the intransigence of time.” There’s also “”…the physical presence of women’s sculpture so often served to conjure absence: its materiality is haunted by ghosts.” (p. 88)
Jenni Sorkin “Five propositions on abstract sculpture”
My notes on this essay are even longer, so the snippets here even more disjointed.
“But art is not just about telling a story. Through object making, an artist invites a viewer not necessarily into her inner, conceptual world, but into its consequences, and its material gestures.” (p. 141) Material gestures – it sounds exciting. A statement that I am here, seeing, touching, changing (I noted a link to Wagner’s earlier essay, p 84, and Abakanowicz’s view of rope. “What was missing, she declared, was her own contribution, ‘moving it, touching, changing its position and arrangement…’.” To claim such a thing, to own one’s work and its value!
A lot of the material reminded me of MMT work, for example “Bundling, in particular, is a formal strategy used by artists from a previous generation to invoke conditions of displacement, nomadism, concealment, and memory. It is reminiscent of ancient mummy bundles, the cloths encasing ritual objects found buried at ancient grave sites…” (p. 145). I did those exercises with a fixed focus on material possibilities. At this point, rather than daunted I felt energised, excited by opening possibilities. Why not more layers?
Of Cristina Iglesias: “the viewer experiences the liminal threshold of both inside and out-side simultaneously.” “[Her] sculptures are ignited by their relationship to light and shadow, which grants them interiority, thereby creating a larger metaphor for reflection, self-possession, and the richness of perceptual experience.” “Mediating discovery of the interior space” (p.153).
So many artists to follow up. Liz Larner is one – “an empty interior space that vibrates, visible only through the chinks in its armor.” “The sly presence of the linear” “drawing on the continuous interest in reconfiguring the grid, which spans several generations of postwar sculptors.” (p. 152), but so far my focus has been Jessica Stockholder: “Stockholder’s work is less a conversation about accumulation in the sense of owning or having, instead she is interested in the abstract nature of space and how the body experiences the interstitial: moments of entering and exiting, under and over, behind and between.” (p.150)
There is a lot more reading on Jessica Stockholder’s website, http://jessicastockholder.info/. Reading as well as looking, as there is rich documentation not just of her work but of her writing about her work and about the work of others.
Conor Wilson Sloppy Discipline
This essay gives a quick run through theory of art and craft, for me making the discussion currently relevant and evolving/emerging, rather than tired old arguments trundled out. Instead of squabbling over definitions, it becomes a question of what am I interested in paying attention to, in doing, and how to write about and describe that.
Wilson writes about the negation of much modern art – being radical, oppositional, transformative – and an alternative lens of “the artist’s practice as a way of life” – and a deskilling (that is, a distinction from craft). Not exclusively – “art can be anything, but, obviously, craft will only be accepted as art if it is framed according to the rules of contemporary art practice.”
Conor comments on teaching and assessment in the UK and the emphasis placed on concept, context, and quality of finished work, depending upon the discipline. He is interested in a new approach – “three distinct but intertwining disciplines – Art, Craft and Design”, extending even further to mix with other areas of study and practice.
Some interesting ideas, which feel very relevant to me as I ponder how to approach Level 2 studies, and if indeed that’s the direction I want to take.