T1-MMT-P5-s2 Research – Gillian Lowndes


Gillian Lowndes
Cup on Base
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Starting with the subjective. I used the image above in the workshop with Ruth Hadlow (25-Feb-2016). The class task: looking at a contemporary art practice that interests you, extract information and turn it into a brief for sampling. (“define parameters” an alternative expression for those who had trouble with “brief”).

I used the image above, and also works shown in a monograph by Amanda Fielding.
My list of what attracts my attention:
Unbalanced; balancing act; teetering; precarious
Textured; rough; unfinished
Unexpected mix of objects; mix of shapes
Recognisable but not
3D – something you can hold
Use of wire animates
Coils – energy
Solidity — fragility
Slumped – a result; a moment of change; not crisp and new
Happenstance; provisional
A captured moment
Result looks inevitable, not random
Works look like they have a story, history, but are complete as they are
Some resist narrative – sufficient
Almost geometry
Level of detail – intricate, not fussy
It feels risky, but unconcerned, not nervous

From that list I developed a brief to guide my exploration:
Select objects
Record with a photo

My first iteration
Object balance exercise
I look at that, and suddenly my mind is buzzing.

I’ve written about presenting my collection – it’s always been an integral part of the exercise. In my thinking I’ve been in default mode – white surfaces, different levels, good lighting, conversations between pieces… Look at the photo above – how much more exciting, how connected it is. The table surface isn’t passive, it contributes. The pieces are animated. They aren’t separate any more, but have joined in a much more interesting whole.

Suddenly I’m clear about what I want to do over the final few weeks, how I can keep sampling and pushing. A slight variation to the simple brief:
Select objects
Select environment
Record with a photo

Stage 6 is prototype/maquette-making, and I think this fits extremely well.

I’m getting ahead of myself here. I feel as if things have been spinning in my brain and they’ve come together with an almighty click! I feel I’ve finally done what my tutor asked for in her last feedback – picked apart my research material to find what I can learn from it.

Before racing into this bright new future, there is the objective style research I was already doing – still of value and I think an edited version worth recording.

The work by Gillian Lowndes shown above is not a vessel and not a collection, but it is certainly an exploration of materials and space. I was led to Lowndes’ work when researching Debbie Lyddon. In an article on textileartist.org (www.textileartist.org/debbie-lyddon-art-that-inspires/) Lyddon talks about influences, including Gillian Lowndes. Lyddon: “What inspires me so much about this work is the way the ambiguous nature of the objects Lowndes made speaks not of things or concepts but purely of the materials and the processes of change used. They are mysterious objects that create connections between many different things. Her work has encouraged me to question, explore and experiment with non-traditional textile techniques and materials and to use the physical properties of materials to evoke a sense of place.” So much of the work I was researching at the time had deep emotional significance, unlike the samples I was actually producing. A focus on materials their physical properties was clearly more closely related to my samples and the material exploration I was doing.

Lowndes explored far from traditional pots. She worked in bricolage, mixing found objects and everyday materials in her ceramics, transforming all through high heat in the kiln. Lowndes’ work was open, ambiguous. Her work was “about process and the random relationships of different materials” and she stated “I want [my works] to be elusive, mysterious objects which have all sorts of connections to all sorts of different things” (quoted in Fielding, p. 60). Alison Britton wrote “What is the appeal of an object that is like something but is obviously not being that thing? A visual metaphor, a transfer of meaning, is in operation, and there can be a sort of energy, a ripple of understanding in the recognition… ” (quoted in Fielding, p. 75).

A wonderful resource is Ceramic Points of View: ‘Cup on Base’, by Gillian Lowndes, a collaboration between The National Electronic and Video Archive of the Crafts and the Victoria and Albert museum (www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/ceramics-points-of-view-gillian-lowndes-cup-on-base/). There are video responses by six people to the work shown at the top of this post. I find Alison Britton’s particularly exciting as she handles the piece while discussing it, giving a sense of the physical presence, the weight and substance, of the work. Britton’s comments include “Very experimental, but it’s not idle experiment, it’s always with a very strong voice … clear purpose.” (this is in the transcript not the edited video). Very relevant to the MMT method and Ruth Hadlow’s class.

Included in the video are comments on vessels in comparison to sculpture – I wonder if that reflects a ceramics view of the world, where vessels are normal, traditional, and sculpture is a step somewhere else. Display is also mentioned – something Lowndes experimented with, putting work on walls or mounting it on perspex. Both of these feel very relevant to me as a textile person moving perhaps somewhere different.

In terms of my own work I know I haven’t got all I will from Gillian Lowndes. I think she will be a hero of mine for a long time, and I’ll keep returning and finding new points of interest and relevance. For my current project a couple of key points are around combining forms and display and being more confident about exploring materials and process without an attached meaning, and separate from this the video commentaries, which I’ve already experimented with (5-Feb-2016 and 19-Feb-2016).

Fielding, A. (2013) Gillian Lowndes Ruthin Craft Centre The Centre for the Applied Arts, Ruthin.

T1-MMT-P5-s2 Research – Gillian Lowndes
Textiles 1 – Mixed Media for Textiles
Part 5: A final piece
Stage 2: Research
Gillian Lowndes

11 Responses to “T1-MMT-P5-s2 Research – Gillian Lowndes”

  1. 1 JulieB February 26, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Good to hear you feeling so positive about your own work, Judy, and the contextualization is really thorough and enlightening. I came across Gillian Lowndes in my research into 3D work, so inspiring and thought provoking.

    • 2 fibresofbeing February 27, 2016 at 6:41 am

      Interesting. Odd. I’m feeling absorbed, excited, curious by the work and my developing understanding, but hadn’t noticed I was feeling positive. Are they different things I wonder?
      Gillian Lowndes – I don’t think I’ve ever seen work quite like it. It reminds you of all sorts of things, but remains entirely its own thing.

  2. 3 Lottie February 27, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing so much detail. I’m going to borrow your initial listing exercise as this seems to have been a really fruitful exercise in finding the ‘you direction’ for your work.

    • 4 fibresofbeing February 27, 2016 at 7:46 pm

      Glad you’ve found it of use Lottie. It was a great workshop with Ruth Hadlow – I’m hoping to do more. The listing really helps you focus on what exactly is attracting your interest.

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