T1-MMT-P3 Molding and casting – Artist Research: Rebecca Fairley

Rebecca Fairley
Rebecca is Textiles Course Leader at OCA, was responsible for the development of the Textiles 1: Mixed Media course I am currently undertaking, and is my tutor. I started this research feeling a little extra pressure, but it’s also become an opportunity to reflect on the overall approach of the course, the what and why of the exercises, and to see Rebecca’s own work almost as an extended response to similar questions. What we’re asked to do – the whole process – in one part of a Level 1 course, is a template that can be scaled up and extended and repeated. I’ve also discovered a bit more about myself. More on that later.

All of the images below are reproduced by kind permission of the artist. Each is linked to the original larger, clearer photographs on Rebecca’s website, http://rebeccamfairley.wix.com/portfolio.

Rebecca Fairley Inspire Project

Rebecca Fairley
Inspire Project

The piece on the left was one outcome of an investigation of surface design possibilities. The form created is a rough lozenge in shape, the depth difficult to gauge but I would guess less than width or breadth. The surface is overall smooth, even polished in appearance in areas. Pockmarks of different sizes are distributed across the surface, occasionally in small clusters. A loose, powdery crust is visible, particularly in the centre of the lozenge and scattered on the surface around the object. A series of creases or small folds reach from the edges towards the centre. A number of depressions can be identified, some circular, some simple dips. A line is etched across the centre from left to right, cutting deeply into the edges.

Above I have described an object, particularly its surface. I don’t know its material or method of construction but it could be plaster or cement put liquid into a plastic bag, tied across the centre and a number of weights placed on top. Little of that was in my thoughts when first viewing the photograph. I thought of a captured moment, like a grey plastic grocery bag blowing empty across the street and almost tangling in my feet as I sat waiting for the bus (part of a longer story from last week, as it happens). I thought about the fragility of all constructs and barriers that we build around ourselves; about thin veneers that crack and reveal; about what we would see it this was dropped and split apart.

Rebecca Fairley Final Degree Show Project 2011

Rebecca Fairley
Final Degree Show Project 2011

This detail appears to show a base surface with a shallow texture resembling leather or perhaps ripples of sand on a beach. There is a sharp transition to a very roughly textured almost crumbly looking crust. Wisps of fibres are caught in the crust. Along the line of the transition are fairly regular perpendicular markings. This area also shows a higher concentration of pocking in the surface. Overall colouring is butter yellow, with blues and terracotta breaking through.

I wonder if the deeper texture and wisps at the top were formed by a textile of some kind placed onto the surface as it set. The more craggy parts could be aggregate appearing through the surface of concrete. Those irregular markings could be stitches or some other way of positioning and holding the textile. Perhaps concrete was cast in a container of knitting stitched to leather. Or something else entirely.

Once again these speculations came second for me. For some reason this photograph made me catch my breath – an immediate, emotional reaction. Delicacy, fragility, scarring, traces? The contrast of warmth and texture in a hard material? I haven’t been able to identify a reason or a story, but each time I look the emotion comes first.

Rebecca Fairley Final Degree Show Project 2011

Rebecca Fairley
Final Degree Show Project 2011

Another example from the same series of work. This time the concrete (?) is grey. From a sharply cornered base a textured dome rises. Fibres are caught in the surface – pale blue, mustard yellow, perhaps some red. The artist’s stated intent in the series was “to experiment and explore the possibilities for the manipulation and control of concrete surfaces”, and her results “broadened the perception of concrete as a decorative surface”.

My reaction is not as strong, but once again my immediate response is emotional, inexplicable – not analytical. I don’t see this as “wrong” – the artist is following her line of enquiry, the viewer brings to the work her own perception and context. However I find the disconnect interesting, and am actually a little irritated by an emotional kneejerk that I can’t explain.

Rebecca Fairley Investigating the Surface Qualities of Concrete through Creative Practice 2013 ​

Rebecca Fairley
Investigating the Surface Qualities of Concrete through Creative Practice 2013 ​

In a later project Rebecca focused on concrete, shaping the surface and trapping materials. This is an example of an inclusion, the smooth, reflective surface and translucence of the embedded material a wonderful contrast to the dense, pocked solidity of the surrounding mass of concrete. The dynamic curving lines remind me of a river cutting its way through a landscape.

I think there could be interesting technical considerations in the creation of this piece. For example heat is liberated as concrete sets and hardens. At what temperature would the inclusion melt (similar to the scorching aspects of Victoria Brown’s work (14-August-2015))? That attractive depth and cratering – is that related to air pockets, shrinkage, other factor(s)? How can this be manipulated?

Side note: My analytical and questioning faculties have returned. I find this piece interesting, aesthetically pleasing, decorative – but my reaction is different to that earlier. Curious.

Rebecca Fairley Investigating the Surface Qualities of Concrete through Creative Practice 2013 ​

Rebecca Fairley
Investigating the Surface Qualities of Concrete through Creative Practice 2013 ​

And it’s back. Subdued but back, that emotional response. In this image it looks like the folds of a fine-knit fabric formed part of the mould for the cast concrete. The surface texture of the (putative) fabric has been captured in great detail in the finished surface, but there is no trace of any actual fibres. The fine and deep texturing causes a range of depth of shadowing, an interest and complexity that attracts the eye and the hand.

Some ideas to take forward to my own exercises: don’t be precious – air pockets, cracks and flakey surfaces can all be attractive elements in a work; I definitely want to experiment with textiles to create surface texture; inclusions can be spread throughout a mix (like aggregate in concrete), or localised (particularly near the surface); mould release agents are a choice, not a necessity.

Finally, I’ve been reminded that both textiles and story-telling are very important to me in ways I find difficult to fathom. I would say that’s part of my personal voice – even when inarticulate.


T1-MMT-P3 Molding and casting – Artist Research: Rebecca Fairley
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 3: Molding and casting
Artist Research: Rebecca Fairley

5 Responses to “T1-MMT-P3 Molding and casting – Artist Research: Rebecca Fairley”

  1. 1 JulieB August 22, 2015 at 7:56 am

    Really interesting reflection both on RF’s work and on your own responses.

  1. 1 T1-MMT-P3-p1 Molding from a surface – Polymorph | Fibres of Being Trackback on August 23, 2015 at 7:59 pm
  2. 2 T1-MMT-P3-p2 Casting with plaster | Fibres of Being Trackback on September 26, 2015 at 8:12 pm
  3. 3 T1-MMT-P5-s3 Vessel samples continued | Fibres of Being Trackback on February 14, 2016 at 7:37 pm

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