Archive for January, 2019

Experimentation: unbalanced – 2

Einstein wrote “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” (well, according to one website the original was in a letter in German, and there are a few different translations around)

It fits with what I saw of gymnasts recovering balance (3-Jan-2019). Maybe I could fluff it into some “deep and meaningful” statement, but let’s not.

Back to the 30 day challenge. What does unbalanced/precarious/… look like?

Day 10
A classic approach, with basic geometric shapes and primary colours. Can I fool the eye / expectation by mixing materials to play against size | weight expectations?

Day 10

The dark blue was a poor choice for the small but heavy round fishing weight. I didn’t anticipate the impact of the line of the cardboard (used to block the distracting background). It adds to the feeling that the right side is sloped down, heavier.

Day 10 – in motion

It was actually really difficult to get this to balance long enough to take a photo, even with some tactical use of bluetac. An upset in motion provides a more dynamic photo.

Workbook day 10

I also tried a couple of drawings to see if I could get something more interesting to happen. Not convincing.

Day 11
This version was easier to photograph, as it was actually quite stable.

Day 11

A slight change in the cropping of the photo makes it a little more dynamic.

Re-cropped photo

The blue disc is no longer centered, reducing the sense of balance, plus the full shadow seems to be reaching up and almost pulling the tip down.

Day 12

Day 12

More balancing of simple shapes. The large egg, possibly fragile (actually rubbery) and the small disc. Yawn.


This was another difficult one to photograph, as it wasn’t very balanced. The failure is more interesting.

On reflection I realised my theme is meant to be un-balanced. The last few days were way too literal and way too static.

Day 13
Reading about Yayoi Kusama in Part Object Part Sculpture. A couple of snippets: “One is lost in a sea of apperceptions, as haptic and optic no longer seem demonstrably different from each other.” “… allows one, how counter-intuitively, to lose one’s boundaries …”.

This had me thinking about the loss of balance as one disperses in the seriality and repetition of the environments created. Which led to consideration of precipice/unbalanced/danger as a loss of orientation. Which led to Tony Tuckson, the sublime, Rothko – work which fills the vision, which I sway in front of. The shimmering movement. Leading to the shimmers and distortions and teasing gaps in the vision before a migraine. Which does actually circle round to danger and loss of balance.

Day 9

Having got this far, I noticed the reflections on the little corrugated piece on an earlier experiment. With movement or lighting changes or a bit of breeze that could give a shimmer.

Kitchen foil, folded and corrugated

Some kitchen foil, folded to fit through the little corrugating press.

It was then carefully unfolded. The result was firmer when forming a new shape (those clever corrugations!). The changes in direction caused by the different folds create points of interest.

Unfolded. Corrugation tool in background

Tried some more complex pre-folding, to get more changes of direction.

Just pressed, then opened

Day 8’s experiment was used as a stand.

Potential for lighting effects.

The photo looks rather static. Close cropping doesn’t help. With some extra shimmer from a breeze and some thoughtful, maybe flickering lighting, this has potential.

Could using it in a mobile increase the flickering I was thinking of? I made some more pieces of corrugated foil and put them on an early mobile conveniently hanging nearby (see 26-Dec-2017). A lazy photo gives a blurred indication of the result.

Sorry about the blur!

Plus: The foil is light and the large surface area collects any air movement going. This mobile is constantly on the move.
Con: Mobiles are all about balance, not un-balance. This version floats gently in space.
Possibilities: More complexity. A wider space, more pieces flashing and flickering past each other. Random puffs of air from the ceiling, creating a bit more vertical as well as rotational movement. Complementary (strobe?) lighting. Add colour to try to get reflections.
Also: Take a look at stabiles. My attempt 9-Sep-2017 has a gawky, ungainly, risky looking movement to it.

Slight variation:

Left side corrugated twice

The foil on the left above went through the corrugation process twice, unfolded and refolded between times. The surface is a bit less regular, the reflections broken up a bit. A small change, but could be a nice refinement.

Day 14
Thinking about loss of balance, I attempted to give an idea of a spinning top losing speed and balance over time. The sequence or passage of time is indicated by scale and intensity of colour.

Day 14 – first version on the left; with addition of “shadows” on the right

The “shadows” added later provide a lot of information to the eye. The whole thing doesn’t quite make sense, there isn’t enough variation and plausible change, but somehow I accept it.

Day 15
A reo-wire figure was quickly put together, with a total disregard for actual body proportions. It allowed some quick and easy posing with fishing line and blu-tac.

There’s a lot of cricket on TV at the moment, hence a “catch” as the first pose.

Day 15

I like that the shapes formed aren’t necessarily physically possible with muscles, tendons, etc. I’m definitely interested in the lines and proportions of the human body, suggested but incomplete or not quite right. Our minds put a lot of work into interpretation as something well known.

Day 16
An actual photo of an amazing catch was the basis for this outline.


Given foreshortening the proportions seem a little out. Note again the impact of shadow, assisting interpretation.

“Real” proportions

This wireframe plan was based on a photo, still and full frontal, so at least in theory should be close to “real” proportions. I wonder how much variation there is in practice.

This week I’m going to summer school, Anatomy for Life Drawing. Hoping it will provide lots of relevant inspiration.

Research: Unbalanced, Precarious

3-Jan-2019 presented my brief-to-self exploring the pivot / balance point / precipice / knife edge / danger / unbalance idea. I wanted to actively explore what “unbalance” (etc) can look like, and showed the first nine days of experimentation.

In tandem with this I’ve done some more concentrated research:
* a couple of hours at AGNSW, searching for relevant examples;
* some internet searching;
* a review of this blog to find work that has caught my eye in the past.

Art Gallery of NSW
At first it seemed surprisingly difficult to find examples that fit the investigation. But of course most artists want to keep your eyes on the work. Even if dynamic, with lots of movements, diagonals, etc, paintings generally resolve with some form of balance.

Matthew Smith
Jugs against vermillion background

I’ve seen this before. For example Matthew Smith’s work Jugs against vermillion background. 31-Jan-2014 I wrote “The most surprising thing in viewing this picture is the balance. There is so much information and action on the right, and on the left… I’m not sure how well it shows in the photograph, but that red on the right is so intense, so solid, while the red on the right hand side is just a bit darker, not quite so saturated – and it works.” All the action is on the right, there’s even half a body sliding diagonally down off the frame, but my eye doesn’t go with it. The space and the intense colour on the left provides balance.

Charles Meere
Atalanta’s eclipse

In the painting by Meere above, the two racing figures are unbalanced. The painting as a whole is dead steady.

Robert Klippel
No 102 Metal construction (1961)

Robert Klippel
Left: No 48 Entities suspended from a detector (1948)
Right: No 35 Madame Sophie Sesostoris (1947-48)

Last post I showed some small sculptures by Robert Klippel. Those were from 1995. A much larger metal construction made in 1961 is a complex and fascinating form, with lots of unexpected projections and unlikely balance in the detail, but overall staying steady and firmly in place.

The earlier suspended entities has a very sturdy upright, well able to support the small elements hanging from it.

William Kentridge
Bird catching (2006)

This print by Willian Kentridge, aquatint and drypoint on paper, is more relevant. The figure is definitely falling, one foot not even visible, the other foot outside the internal frame, and although it seems likely the body will fall within the space of the print it doesn’t look like anything can stop the tumble.

I took a couple more photos of different things, but on review they’re not convincing.

Internet search
This was more successful, especially when I changed the significant search term from “unbalanced” to “precarious”. Results have been collected on a new pinterest board –

Blog review
A scan through photos previously shown on this blog produced some more examples.

MoMA at NGV 15-Sep-2018

Umberto Boccioni
Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
1913 (cast 1931)

Seeing the work itself, appreciating the scale, was important. This work has movement, but not the sense of potential loss of control. It is striding confidently.

Aleksandr Rodchenko
Non-Objective Painting

I found movement and depth in Rodchenko’s work, but I wouldn’t say it’s in imminent danger.

National Gallery of Victoria

François-Raoul Larche
Loïe Fuller, the dancer
c. 1900

This lamp base has movement, with the additional sense that it wouldn’t be possible to hold the pose for any length of time. In a beautiful and elegant way, it is unbalanced. And I note here a resistance in myself – elegance, the controlled movement, lessens the sense of the precarious.

13 Rooms exhibition – 13-Apr-2013

Coexisting Clark and Beaumont

Nicole Beaumont and Sarah Clark occupied a plinth together – eight hours a day for the eleven days of the exhibition. A sequence of movement for one to stand up seemed particularly perilous.

In Just a Blink of an Eye
Xu Zhen

Xu Zhen’s work is a suspended moment. Entirely beyond precarious, yet motionless.

Art History annotation 23-May-2014

The Townley Discobolus
One of several Roman copies made of a lost bronze original made in the 5th century BC by the sculptor Myron.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

The moment before an explosive release of energy, however I found the work strangely static.

Paul Landowski
David combattant
bronze, cire perdu (lost wax)

I showed for comparison a David actually in action here in Sydney. The figure is focused, committed. Action regardless of consequences.

Matt Bromhead Longline exhibition at pompom 22-Jul-2018

Matt Bromhead

Seeing Matt’s work and taking a workshop with him (10-Jul-2018) are a major drivers of this exploration project.

ARTEXPRESS 2018 exhibition 18-Feb-2018

How Irrigating
Hannah Raeside

There are better photos on the AGNSW website – Not quite what I’m looking for, but some very interesting elements – both for balance, and for use of (I’m guessing) concrete.

Sculpture at Scenic World 2016 exhibition 1-May-2016

Elyssa Sykes-Smith

This suspended work by Elyssa Sykes-Smith has bodies reaching, stretching, impossibly.

Her work in Sculpture by the Sea 2013 (3-Nov-2013) shows what appear at first glance more static figures. Quickly the strain of the figures, the weight of stone, give a sense of impending doom.

a shared weight
Elyssa Sykes-Smith

Sculpture by the Sea 2016 6-Nov-2016

Johannes Pannekoek
Change ahead

Is this unbalanced or precarious? I suppose the answer is “yes”, but it is so massive it seems stable. There’s also that sense of elegance in the movement, a confidence that seems to dilute what I’m seeking.

Tom Bass Annual Studio Exhibition 2-Oct-2016

Margo Hoekstra

Centered, but precarious.

Lisa Reidy

This doesn’t really fit my current brief, yet feels somehow relevant. An echo of Louise Bourgeois’s Personages? Arms outstretched, striving for balance?

20th Biennale of Sydney 3-Apr-2016

Nina Beier
Installation view

Another “maybe” example. Clearly there is something clever done to suspend the mugs, but the end impression isn’t one of danger or movement.

Art History research – Gillian Lowndes 26-Feb-2016

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

Another seminal work for me. So exciting.

The mug is broken. There has already been a collapse, and another is moments away.

MMT research at AGNSW 30-Jan-2016

Fiona Hall Slash and Burn

Definitely dangerous. Menacing.

Art History assignment 9-Dec-2013

Dancer looking at the sole of her right foot
Edgar Degas
bronze, cire perdu (lost wax) 1900-1910 cast 1919-1921

Macquarie University Sculpture Garden 26-Jun-2016

Errol B Davis

Experimentation: unbalanced

1-Jan-2019 included a dot point about ongoing research on the pivot / balance point / precipice / knife edge / danger / unbalance idea. 4-Aug-2018 has more words – Precipice, counter balance, leverage, impetus, precarious, shimmer, shiver, glide, hesitate, teeter, catch (of breath), instant of focus, moment of coherence and balance, the space between – spark, pivot point, point of balance (mobiles!), tipping point. 22-Jul-2018: Play with balance. Go for risk, the precipice. I prefer my humour whimsical or quirky. Push beyond the first idea. Surprise yourself. 14-Apr-2018: my brief for Confluence – Capture that moment of coherence and balance when everything comes together just before it all flows apart. Back on 26-Feb-2016 my research on Gillian Lowndes identified an attraction to Unbalanced; balancing act; teetering; precarious – and included a small brief. That led on to my whole approach to the final assignment in the OCA Mixed Media for Textiles.

The new brief is pretty simple, with a major goal to get beyond words and research and actually do something:
* explore what “unbalance” (etc) can look like
* illustrate off-balance most days and document for 30 days.

Day 1
A photo from a search on unbalanced provided the basis for this pencil sketch.

Struggling for balance on a post

Day 2
Trying out placement of “blocks” in watercolour. How much is enough to give the impression of disaster about to strike? That final block at the top appears almost stable/static.

Angles and gaps

Day 3
A search on images of gymnasts provided forms that are more balance-in-motion. The gymnast couldn’t have held that position, but the sequences were generally controlled. Of more interest but not used here were videos analysing movements of gymnasts fighting for balance on a balance beam. An initial flailing of limbs was quickly turned into a more flowing sequence of movements, recapturing balance.
This silhouette was made in gimp, based on a photo.


Reading and general workbook activity has been continuing throughout. One of the joys of the summer break is having some more time. Hope the momentum continues.

With all my fiddling on components over the past few months, I never got far in actually making something. This current project was intended to get me unstuck, and initial signs are positive. I’m actually interested in trying this out.

Day 4
Having got the new shelving pretty much level and balanced, tried playing with marker and watercolour looking for minimal expression of unbalance. Doesn’t look too promising.

Revisiting past work

Unpacking some old OCA work to start filling the shelves, it was interesting to see how many played with asymmetry and pushing the notion of balance. I love the defiant lines (“plastic horsehair”) escaping up and out.

Materials from that time continue to be important, especially the resin. Heat-distressing techniques too. Building and destroying.

Day 5

Sketch of Femme Volage

Notes on Louise Bourgeoise

Reading about Louise Bourgeoise’s series of Personages in Part Object Part Sculpture was interesting. Helen Molesworth writes of the human scale of the work, and then this: “Each work displays the same tenuous sense of balance as they grow increasingly slender towards the bottom, and seem precariously placed on flat metal bases…”

I’m not convinced that either of my attempts look particularly unstable.

Day 6
A photo of a mountain climber was the basis for the day’s watercolour.


Workbook day 6

Ideas progressed on actually making, incorporating some of the materials and techniques from the OCA samples.

I’ve also been thinking about my motivation for wanting to base lines on the human body. Looking around at past work, the body appears again and again. I don’t have a compelling message or wider purpose in my art. On the other hand, the body fascinates. People are so unfathomable, and no matter how closely I look it gets me no further in understanding. I don’t think I can read an individual’s life in their face or body, but I keep trying.

Day 7
Another attempt to use reduced lines to show unbalance. Not convinced.


Day 8

Robert Klippel
Small polychromed tin sculptures

On a visit to the Mosman Art Gallery for its part of Destination Sydney: Re-imagined, I was entranced by Robert Klippel’s small sculptures. I’m sure I’ve seen them in the past, but this time round the impact was much greater.

Strangely enough, in all this world of intricate and quirky forms, pretty much all looked balanced. The was a sense of sturdy whole-ness. It had me questioning my obsession – but not enough to change course. Instead when I got home I tried once more to find simple lines that illustrate unbalance.

The next step was to try to create something like it in wire. There were modifications as I tried to minimise the “foot” of the object.

First steps into three dimensions

Day 9
This variation attempts to play with visual weight. The base includes a fishing sinker – heavy for its size. The end “flag” is very thin metal – not much more than foil. The structural use of blue-tac isn’t exactly elegant, but at the moment quick improvisation seems key.

Ideas of visual weight

Postscript: while searching back in the blog for “balance” I found 29-Aug-2018, titled “Walking in circles” and excited about Part Object Part Sculpture and Alberto Burri. Fast forward to 1-Jan-2019 in which I wrote about circling, Part Object Part Sculpture and Alberto Burri. Blimey! It’s lucky I’m ambivalent about the whole concept of “progress”.

Items of interest

Go Tad!

What happened to December? I blinked and it was gone. Work was particularly busy. There was a graduation. Given the time of year there were plenty of social and family gatherings. That leads to my first blog-able item.

John Chester Jervis’s earrings
First blogged 6-Jul-2018, that pesky time vanished and it was the day before our major family Christmas dinner that I finished the final few sets.

I dressed up some little white boxes for presentation, gluing on papers matched to either recipient or earring.

I’ve checked the family tree. JCJ was the brother of my grandmother’s grandmother. It was fun to share some family history.

Plain weave and twining copper vessel

Side and bottom views

Somehow missed in my last post, a small vessel in copper. It’s basically the same as the blue and green waxed hemp twine piece shown 11-Dec-2018 – but prettier.

Twinned copper vessel

Motivated in part by trying to understand my strong and negative emotional response to a recent exhibition (18-Nov-2018), in part by the future need to have an explanation or story about myself for the upcoming creative research program, I’ve been some purposeful reading, thinking and writing. It’s a work in progress (and always will be), but a few dot points:

* The line – Still need to write about the current Tony Tuckson exhibition at AGNSW. The quality of line is fascinating. The exhibition catalogue led me on to the “gestural calligraphy” of Pierre Soulages, then on to the rhythm, line and structure of Chiang Yee.

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Paul Klee gets a mention of course.
Stroke, mark, line – for me dimensional in space, and based on the body – my own movement in making, and the form derived in some way from the body.

* Chance and intent. See Matt Bromhead for this (10-Jul-2018). In the Tuckson catalogue Denise Mimmocchi writes “Tuckson’s sketchbooks reveal that their overall forms were often considered, but the paintings appear deeply anchored to their rapid moment of execution, and the Bacchanalian rush of colour” (p. 52). Aida Tomescu finds “an essential link between the precise readjustments, the measured approach and the final open structure, which has a feel of utmost spontaneity and improvisation” (p. 76). Matt’s process was to look at the result of play, adding touches to bring elegance and decorum.

* Space. Here a link generated by reading Textile Perspectives in Mixed-Media Sculpture by Jac Scott. Chicka Ohgi looks at the interface between the space and the objects. She works “not knowing the consequence of [her] actions”, which are only revealed in installation in a space.

* Haptic – bodily experience, textile background. In Part Object Part Sculpture Briony Fer considers the Italian neo-avant-garde in the 1950s and the “literal materiality of a thing” (p. 51). I’m still reading in that section, so more another day, but the work of Alberto Burri and Lucio Fontana is very exciting.

* Sensuous | Austerity. Mimmocchi writes of the “sensuous line work” of Tuckson, and the “austerity” of the compositions of Barnett Newman. I am not comfortable with the sensuous – perhaps the convent school education lingers – but I think challenging myself here could be productive. In her foreword to Part Object Part Sculpture Sherri Geldin writes “Deftly dodging the plethora of industrially replicated machinations known as Minimalism, Helen [Molesworth] follows the more sensuous, tactile, and handmade impulse that simultaneously coursed through sculptural production over the last fifty years” (p. 11).

* Enough, not everything. Tomescue: Tuckson “uses absence and the incomplete form” (p.77). It’s amazing what the human eye can do, leaps of interpretation. Plus make the viewer work, invest in looking, participate.

Jac Scott
Image from Textile Perspectives in Mixed Media Sculpture

* The pivot, balance point, precipice, knife edge, danger, unbalance
A conversation with a friend months ago has led to ongoing reflection on what this could mean.

Jac Scott uses an image of her own work in a chapter on plaster. Perhaps more elegant and controlled than what’s in my head. There’s no sense of danger. Plus I’d prefer free-standing.

Orpheus (Maquette 2) (Version II) 1956, edition 1959 Dame Barbara Hepworth

Scott mentions Barbara Hepworth in the Metal chapter. Again elegant and controlled. I like the use of folded metal as a construction approach. Also there is tension in the strings which gives a sense of potential energy stored. Could there be a snap and a spring and an unravelling?

Louise Bourgeoise Observer

Helen Molesworth writes of Louise Bourgeois’s body of work entitled Personages: “Each work displays the same tenuous sense of balance, as they grow increasingly slender toward the bottom, and seem precariously placed on flat metal bases” (p. 39).

Over the weeks I’ve identified a circling, a repetition and revisiting of ideas which at times felt suffocating, instead of my usual sense of enriching. As I get deeper that question of stagnation has faded. Currents are reappearing, but in new combinations and with different emphases.

Part of the regrouping has been a simple matter of seeing. Over the summer break I have bought shelving – storage shelves, bookcase, but in particular some display shelves. I now sit surrounded by work done over the last decade and more. I can see recurring threads, and ongoing change and experimentation. Most of the base building work was finished yesterday, but I’m still going through boxes, trying out what I want to see for now.

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My workroom is the-room-formerly-known-as-the-dining-room, and most but not all of the objects visible are my work.

Learning brief
As part of the research and reflection I’ve developed a little brief for experimentation. It’s ongoing, so more on that another day.

Mimmocchi, D., 2018. Tuckson. Sydney, Australia: Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Molesworth, H., 2005. Part Object Part Sculpture. Penn State University Press.
Scott, J., 2003. Textile Perspectives in Mixed-Media Sculpture. Crowood Press, Limited.
University of Wollongong. 2016. Artist in Residence: Chika OHGI. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 1 January 2019].


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