Having completed my “piece of my own” last Saturday I’ve spent time looking back through my themebook, design development and construction. On Sunday I also re-visited two major sources of inspiration.
The first was the Francis Bacon exhibition, now in its last week at the Art Gallery. I posted about this in December, just as I was finishing Assignment 4 (see post 25-Nov-2012). I wrote at the time it “felt raw and shocking and visceral and demanding and thumped me about the head until my ears were ringing” and “in every screaming face I saw Nancy, the subject or at least focus of my Ageing theme book”. I did sketch after sketch melding those screams and the nursing home room.
On this last visit my perspective had changed. I no longer saw Nancy – that image has developed down a different path. Instead I found myself seeing the paintings as paintings, looking at colour and mark-making and composition. I noticed details that I’d totally missed before. I was more familiar with the paintings, able to move on from that raw emotion. Interesting.
The second visit was later the same day, my standard 4pm Sunday with Nancy. Her voice has changed in the last week, it’s a little deeper. She’s still shaky and weak after the episode a fortnight ago and is even thinner – the bones of her hands used to be prominent, with the skin falling away, but now there are dark caves underneath the bone as the skin curves under. It is amazing the tenacity and endurance of the flesh, and I should be clear that not every moment is bleak or filled with despair. I’ve learnt a lot, read experts’ opinions, tables of statistics, lots of individual views and I have much stronger and clearer opinions myself – but it will be good to put those to one side for now and focus on doing whatever little I can to support the person, Nancy.
So on to the Assignment questions.
Can you see a continuous thread of development from your original drawings and samples to the final design?
Over the development period I had lots of ideas that were winnowed away as the design progressed. Ignoring the paths not followed, elements of the final design are evident from the early stages of collecting material in my theme book.
A page dated 23-June-2012 has a little sketch tucked on one side that is surprisingly like the final design.
In Stage 1 of Project 10 (blogged 22-Dec-2012) traps/constraints was one of five areas of focus I considered, and red tape was mentioned under the heading of strong emotion.
In Stage 2 (blogged 28-Dec-2012) I had considerable more clarity of focus – an exhibition piece focused on an individual and the critical experience of loss of choice, trapped in intense physical and emotional pain. The moodboard shown in that post has been a powerful guide throughout my work on the final piece and included the sketch shown here which is very close to the completed work. There are differences in the detail level – the figure itself was formed by binding, the container had bars more like a prison…
The plasticine model I made of the figure (first seen in the blog 1-Jan-2013) was a vital part of the design development. It let me think about the work in three dimensions, the shapes that could be created. I referred to the model throughout construction of the figure.
I also made extensive use of photographs of the model. It was an opportunity to check for other design directions, plus I gained familiarity with the shapes I wanted to make and I’m sure that assisted the actual fabrication. Re-reading that post I see mention of the importance of shadows. I’d forgotten all about that – it turns out my assumption that the shadows would be interesting was spot on.
I tried a few construction methods for the figure (see post 6-Jan-2013), with the felt version the clear winner. I noted down a couple of extra ideas at the time which were included in the end, such as use of Nancy’s own dress, a loose “skirt”, and contrast colour in the mouth. One of the discarded samples had binding in the black spikey yarn overtaking the body, and I used that on the leg of the final figure.
Ongoing sketchbook work also played a part. On 7th of January I played around with overlapping words, and this was later developed into the binding on the container. This element was the last to be resolved in construction of the piece, as earlier ideas for interpretation of it did not work well in practice.
Further sampling and mockups assisted in colour choice and what I thought were final design decisions – although in retrospect I was too quick to dismiss my concern that “the sample wrapping is much too confused and visually distracting” (blog post 28-Jan-2013). This led to the only significant change of the design during construction. The plan of stitching words on black cotton tape to bind the container did not work. Another round of sampling was required to find different materials and techniques (blogged 15-Feb-2013) – although in the end the solution harked back to my earlier thoughts of red tape.
In summary I feel there was is a very clear and continuous thread from initial collection of theme ideas, through all stages of design development and sampling, to final design, construction and the finished piece.
Do you feel you made the right decisions at each stage of the design process? If not, what changes would you make?
I think I made good decisions at each stage. I kept true to the emotion which drew me to my theme in the first place. The choice to make an exhibition style piece was right in that sense, but it had to be interpreted within the postage constraints of volume, weight and cost.
I’m pleased that I was able to make decisions that hurt, that I didn’t want to make. Judith Scott’s work (see www.judithandjoycescott.com and my comments 28-Dec-2012) really influenced me with those overtones of constriction and distortion of the body, but my small sample raised problems with scale, and as a story having the body bound within a container didn’t quite make sense.
It was difficult to give up the covering blanket (see post 7-Jul-2012). I was so happy doing that bit of weaving. It would feel so right right as a weaver to have some weaving incorporated in the final piece, and even now looking at my work I can imagine a little blanket in there. However I think it would have been unnecessary complication and would have detracted from the work as a whole.
Were you able to interpret your ideas well within the techniques and materials you chose to work with?
Generally I feel the work is a sound interpretation of my design.
The wire I used at the core of the figure was not firm enough to get the shaping I wanted. The figure is more rectangular rather than curved. If I wanted to do something similar in the future I would explore other materials, gauges and type of wire, or at least doubled the wire.
I thought the figure could end up looking like a doll (or at one point an alien in a cheap sci-fi movie) but in my eyes it avoids that. The strange proportions, the multi-jointed leg, contribute to an overall sense of wrongness.
The synthetic organza ribbon and the printing film can look a bit artificial and plastic depending on lighting direction and intensity. Overall I think that choice was alright, but not spot on.
The biggest test of my choices is yet to come – will the work survive multiple trips through the mail?
How successful is your final design in terms of being inventive within the medium and coherent as a whole?
I don’t think I have been inventive as such. Possibly using the needle-felting tool to attach the dress to the body was unusual. Crushing the box was a small thing that may not be obvious but gives some interesting reflections. I think it was a good idea to scan the binding yarn and include it on the printing for the ribbon – not something you might be conscious of when looking at the work, but a subtle ratcheting-up from the alternative of blank space between phrases. I did things I‘ve never done before, but nothing that hasn’t been done by others.
In my eyes the final work makes a coherent whole. Each element has a purpose and makes a contribution. I’m not totally convinced by the black yarn binding, it’s a bit clunky visually, but it’s very important structurally. Obviously I hope to go on to make more and better work, quite possibly on the same theme, but Aged Care pretty much achieves what I set out to achieve.
I have tried to follow a development process, but my emotional attachment may have taken over from course requirements at times. I don’t regret that at all. I wouldn’t want to work with a theme I find so intense all the time, but certainly it should be a substantial part of what I do.
It’s ironic that this work about the voiceless will itself never been seen or heard.