With classes and lectures finishing for the summer there are some quieter weeks coming up. A good time to re-balance, sort out my work area, and have some solid studio time starting to integrate all the external input.
Jessica Hemmings Making meaning: craft & labour
“Questions are a minimum of what we need these days.” “Why am I thinking about [a work] again?” Jessica Hemmings has an issue with works that are generic and anonymous, and took us on a rapid tour of some works and artists who make her think about craft and labour.
www.wemakecarpets.nl/ don’t make functional carpets. The works look like carpets, in materials like plastic S-hooks. The labour is hard and long – but is performed from a position of choice.
Toril Johannessen could be seen as gradually relinquishing control in an exploration of optical illusions, cultural identity and authenticity, moving from photographs to digital print to giving fabric to HAiK design collective – who then took the risk of taking the fabric to Ghana, designing there based on local research, rather than outsourcing being directly involved in production. Factory workers model the clothing in some photos. http://www.dn.no/d2/2016/08/18/2053/Mote/haik-til-ghana-med-kunstner http://www.kunstkritikk.no/kritikk/the-right-to-ambiguity/
Formafantasma, in Moulding Tradition, question craft, tradition, that has become synonymous with national identity. The functional becomes symbolic, attitudes become static. We forget, for example, that migration has occurred throughout human history.
In Kimsooja’s Archive of mind visitors queue to roll spheres of clay, to add to the huge numbers. Mundane activity – and very popular. There are aspects of mindfulness and contemplation. How different to the labour if it were an ongoing job?
Links to some other artists and projects mentioned:
http://creativetime.org/projects/karawalker/ Kara E. Walker’s A Subtlety
Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower seeds – provoked considerable discussion during Q&A. What is intentional? How much is media driven post-rationalising? The effort of creating the seeds, the meanings they continue to carry.
http://makebelieve.ie/ Creative writing about art practice.
http://lizcollins.com/artworks/knitting-nation Making hidden labour apparent.
The above is only part, but shows some of the consideration of what “craft” and what “labour” can mean. There were works that vacillated between personal and political, explored identity, issues such as child labour or the impact of automation, outsourcing, or creating employment and social empowerment.
During Q&A use of modern technology including rapid prototyping was discussed – mainly in relation to student use (we were in a tertiary institution). Hemmings commented that it is hard to make it interesting, to remain critical and questioning. I link it back to Ruth Hadlow’s discussion about the process, the levels of thought, knowing your starting point rather than end point.
Other discussion touched on material loyalty and inter-disciplanarity. It takes time to learn, and doing a little of lots leaves you feeling broad and shallow.
The craftiest of eyes (borrowed dress) 1994
“I have always seen the act of cutting as political, which I refer to as the ‘politics of cutting’.” (Smart, quoted in MCA material).
A very interesting work and artist, on this day I approached it trying to apply techniques learnt with Ruth Hadlow (see 13-Nov-2016). From long lists of properties observed and associations made I extracted
An aside – the approach was intended to mine the work to find my own beginnings, to slip sideways. Although I’ve been trying to develop my looking skills for a number of years, this felt the most intense observation and involvement with a work.
There were two long rows of works by John Nixon, one above the other, all framed the same size in neat white rectangles, all I think untitled and dated 1984 – 1988.
John Nixon has chosen to work with highly restricted colour and shapes, using the readymade, examining the possibilities of art making – a matter of intellectual enquiry rather than technique.
I find the results austere, beautiful, fascinating, satisfying. Repetition but so many possibilities in what at first seems severe restrictions.
Points extracted from my list:
My learning plan (15-Sep-2016 – in Ruth’s class it was likened to a Foundation year) identified collage as an area of investigation. Not much of a sideways movement to use ideas from collage to create a brief using collage… but maybe a combination from two such different approaches could give enough space.
An average of one per day for the rest of the year, working quickly and intuitively. Have an idea, do it. I’m using a spiral book of A6 cartridge paper.
I’m not quite sure what I mean by “bodies / identity”, but the thought scared me so seemed worth pursuing.
Day 1 was a quick summary of the arrangements used by Nixon, then a composition using a cross shape. The four corners came first, a photo of ancient ruins. For the body element this linked to eyes as windows.It’s too big on the page. Very (too) complex. I don’t think you can see enough of the central image, which was intended as a key to what is going on.
Is it noticeable that the only eye looking out directly is the animal one at the bottom? I like the (accidental) way it merges with the shadows of the neighbouring photos, so it pushes out into them.
The last night of the beginner class, and was meant to be with a life model. He didn’t turn up, so our brave tutor Mat both posed (clothed) and in his breaks went round the class giving feedback and advice. Perhaps because of the improvising, or just having got to know each other over the weeks, it was particularly fun – lots of work, but a relaxed, joking, supporting atmosphere.
We started with lots of 1 minute poses, just trying to get movement, then some 2 and 5 minute ones finishing with a couple of 20 minutes. Mat must have been stiff the next day!
Initial focus was finding the main line, capturing movement, if possible weight placement.
As the poses got longer we were encouraged to focus on relative placement, checking, not worrying about detail, using chunky charcoal to loosen up, getting broad areas. Then using a range of different widths of charcoal, moving material around, creating highlights with a putty eraser, going darker with compressed charcoal.
The final two poses, with detail shots:
The class was great and I’m booked into a life drawing class next year. Wanting to keep building skill – and having fun! – I’m trying cafe croquis again.
Staying with charcoal on cartridge paper – I enjoy it and like some of my early results.
Did all 5 x 1-minute and 4 x 2 minute poses on a single A2 page, rubbing over with my hand between each sketch. An interesting sense of movement. The 5 minute pose is on its own.
4 pages – 5 x 1 minute poses (general blocks rather than line); 4 x 2 minute poses; the 5 minute poses; then I used one of their photos and worked for 20 minutes.
Just a quick note that I visited this museum. Interesting textures and stories. A potential resource if I ever want a nostalgic / family theme.
Finally a quote from a book I’m reading, Alex Miller’s the simplest words: a storyteller’s journey.
“…our works…are imperfect experiments abandoned and left to survive as best they can on their own.”