Archive for the 'Projects' Category



The Cautionary Tale of That Dreadful Man

There was an essay to read for the Creative Research group, a curator’s essay about an artist.

I couldn’t read it.

I started. I re-started. The first paragraph was mostly the artist’s words, a broad setting of the stage. Good. The second paragraph – I have no words. It had too many words. Strangely leaden, clumsy, repetitious words, desanguinated words, the life and meaning sucked from them.

Starting at the third paragraph didn’t help. The theme was dismemberment, and the writer performed his subject with a bloody pile of random buzz words, and disjoint references to other critics, other artists, other works.

The Creative Research group demurred. Yes, the writing was awkward, but the structure worth examining, the artist of considerable interest.

My creative life is limited, I declared. I can get better value elsewhere, better information without hand to hand combat with an incoherent foe. Too much of life has already been drained by pompous, arrogant, narcissistic, hollow, self-proclaimed authorities.

Finally I relented. That Dreadful Man was back in the to-be-read pile. At the end, beyond the cliff-edge of my life, never to be seen again. There was some discomfort. Declaiming with such vigour is suspicious – she doth protest too much. Something I could live with…

until the fates intervened. My day job faltered, the green fields of a Creative Life expanded, the cliff-edge retreated.

The curator, That Dreadful Man (TDM), re-appeared. Smirking.

Better get it done and gone. But I still couldn’t read it.

What exactly was the problem?

The writing was choppy, not flowing. In the unusual structure there was deliberate repetition with jarring variation. The writer was creating paradox, the unexpected, unconventional use of terms – clashing with the artist’s own deployment of those techniques, and looking even more contrived and weak by comparison. So much of the essay was not actually his words. It was a clumsy stringing together of other people’s ideas, like a cheesy clip show on TV.

Time to be specific. Generate a table of data, some numbers to quantify the disaster.

But that doesn’t take into account TDM’s words, only the insertions. Perhaps a visualisation of the types of words counted on 2 pages.

But that doesn’t suggest the fragmented character of the writing.

Using the same two pages, a count of the different categories of segments – a word or words of the same type, before they are interrupted by different categories. This time a treemap to show part-to-whole.

If this was an interactive dashboard you could drill down to see the individual snatches of phrases and references that make up the treemap. Would that help?

Perhaps the issue is around the words TDM selects. A somewhat subjective count of major word groups used gave a word cloud.

I still didn’t have an insight into the reason, or reasons, for my difficulties.

Perhaps a deeper dive into the text. How are the words used together? Those same two pages, only TDM’s words, and excluding words of three letters or less, gives:

libidinal economy, desire elliptical. That strategy. Some anti-Oedipal: they could what call, their function being . break object dismember plate convert regime desiring machine. establishes short-circuit canon virtuoso . aura object confronts social dysfunction.
lists some principles economy implies. places viewer game lack completeness, dismemberment cohesion. Minimalist economy resounds here. organization merely compositional economic. organizes whole tense confrontation with atomistic perception. resisting pulverization, effort against entropy.
What?
belongs family androgyny. quotes lines from : says. acknowledges that identity relates . object androgyny . observed that constituting home, work with Iceland, searching. points political ethos androgyny . argues that language compounds identity, that shifters, like, ungendered.
What?
geometry. appreciates geometry that there imperceptible, like Arctic Circle like geometry finds poetry. twenty-five blocks showing twenty-five letters remark. works , remarks.
Among, assigns continuous, baroque movement clown realm angular geometry. initial dispersion parts cut-up geometry, approaches pulverization seen lithograph . After disintegration, however, seek cohesion.
there poetry? quotes lines. Therefore, witchcraft.
What?
syntax, quite grammar.
book production, become. syntax involves orderly system things dismembered, destabilized, defrosted. requalifies form properties visual language. demands into planes reassembled, sometimes even conflated with parts particles another plate. diagram infinite grammatical sentences discussed. mediated relationship language – doubling, pairing, conjugation, editing, including memories. observes that require syntactic completion. compound smaller larger than original plate. stands fact discipline, says .
cognitive activity, invention syntax – would. makes analogy between scrambling syntax Cubist painting. operates rational scrambling

Another approach could keep the layout of TDM’s page. Just one page this time.

Beginning to run out of ideas, I amused myself with a mesostic of That Dreadful Man.

None of these techniques were as effective in showing the source of my difficulties as a simple photograph of those two pages, coloured and marked as I worked and re-worked to understand the issues – not those explored by TDM, but the underlying cause/s of the unreadability.

All of this, and I still hadn’t read the essay.

TDM would not defeat me. I would read every single word, give weight to every word in the essay.

I knit it. Garter stitch, three stitches per word. Time and reading embodied in knitting.

The base thread is undyed tussah silk ribbon. Colour coded with strips of torn fabric to match the markup developed. Pretty much all my hand-dyes, a mix of tissue, paj and organza silk. Roughly 20 x 143 cm, although it will stretch thinner and longer. Scarf sized, it looks superficially useful but try it on and the tufts are just an irritation. A fitting description for the essay and the whole project really.

Seventeen days of active work, spread over a month. More time than I spend on most books. I feel there should be some moral to this Cautionary Tale. Beware of smirking, performing, “experts”. Trust your first instincts. But in the end, most annoyingly, I found the material interesting. This is an artist, these are themes, that resonate. The essay structure opens up questions and breaks down assumptions.

It was worth reading.

Wirrimanu: Art from Balgo

This current exhibition at AGNSW fills a gallery with pulsating colour. I’ve visited a few times over the weeks. A print-maker friend gave some interesting insights, speculating on techniques that may have been used in some of the prints included in the exhibition. My mother found it fascinating, having met some of the artists included in the exhibition when she visited Balgo/Wirrimanu for two weeks in 2000. Mum knew a couple of people who were working there. At that time there were no scheduled flights in, just the weekly mail plane which serviced the area. Mum helped out in the school (she’d been a teacher prior to the arrival of all of us), and went on a series of excursions around the area.

I tried to practice some attentive looking, spending some time with Kinyu (1991) by Eubena Nampitjin.

Eubena Nampitjin
Kinyu (1991)

From my notes at the time (a couple of weeks ago).
Attracted by un-balance. ‘Ribcage’ of white lines. Strength and support. spindly uprights. Sliding top accentuated by clearer lines of yellow and white above.
‘Stop’ of green line at boundary of painting, pushing back. Almost an unfurling lower right, about to stretch up.
Bubbles of form give lightness and a spring to the work.
Then I wrote quite a lot of waffle about cultural appropriateness and appropriation.

The gallery signage gives a little biographical information, plus some standard art-speak description – “… delicate white traceries surrounded by pointillist fields of vivid yellow…”.

There are no great insights here. Not even a minor insight. I worked at giving my full attention. I tried to see what was in front of me. Flop. Frustrating. So this post is a bit of truth in non-advertising.

Another work in the exhibition is by the same artist, with the same title, painted around 16 years later.

Eubena Nampitjin
Kinyu (2007)

Finally some photos from mum’s trip. The colour is wonky, scanned from old prints.

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Photographing shadows

Not many words today. I have some incomplete thoughts and reading on shadows and reflections, also the artist and viewer in the frame. Recent viewing of Rosslynd Piggott’s Tremor (12-Jul-2019); reading about Velázquez’s Las Meninas in Laura Cumming’s book The Vanishing Velázquez, about shadow in A Short History of the Shadow by Victor Stoichita, and its importance in photography and sculpture in The Original Copy: Photography of sculpture, 1839 to today. Trying to figure out what exactly is attracting my attention. So a little experiment, something that may or may not become a series. Take a photo of shadows, or a reflection. Then again, with me (or my shadow) in the frame. An un-selfie?





The first three were around the neighbourhood. The final one at the Museum of Contemporary Art, shadow provided by Matter Matters by Danie Mellor.

Plus another tower, trying for some deeper shadows and less fiddling in the software.

I’m off to Hobart soon, for another session with Ruth Hadlow and the group. It will be good to take a step back, plan some steps forward, and share some wonderful hours of talking and reading.

Experiments in materiality

The earlier Towers gifs (21-Jul, 22-Jul, and another 22-Jul) were jerky, with inconsistent and flat lighting. Barely adequate as documentation of the process, but not satisfying.

Time to experiment.

Step 1: To reduce the immediate recognisability of the crockery and to put more focus on the combined shape of the eventual tower, I sponge painted individual items with a mix of gesso and pva glue. It doesn’t stay on particularly well, but does reduce visual differences of materials and may get a tiny bit of “tip of the tongue” delayed recognition.

Step 2: Hoping to encourage some emotional intensity, I mended the crockery broken so far using the kintsugi-ish techniques learnt in a workshop with Naomi Taplin (7-Oct-2018). It makes more concrete the real risk in the towers. I used a lot of glue to make raised, scar-like weals. I also left some gaps and discontinuities.

I chose to use silver thinking of the importance of mirrors and the way they bring the viewer into the work in recent viewing/reading – the thin strip in Rosslynd Piggott’s Tremor (12-Jul-2019); the reflection in the mirror in Las Meninas by Velázquez (recent reading The Vanishing Velázquez by Laura Cumming); an observation by Briony Fer in Eva Hesse: Studiowork on the action of the reflection in the glass pastry cases used as display mechanisms by Hesse.

Step 3: As a further level of not-quite recognisable I tried casting a cup in other materials – wrapped then heat-shrunk plastic (based on sample p2-70 of the Mixed Media for Textiles course – 22-Jul-2015); and using composimold (sample p3-25, 6-Sep-2015).

Nowhere close to tip of the tongue, all sense of risk and fragility lost, and without the structure to work in a tower.

Materiality combination

Step 4: Wanting a more visually interesting result I tried side lighting, to get some shadows, curves, form.

At this stage I don’t think it can be classed as “energizing objects”, the originating brief to myself. Not quite good enough to be anything in particular.

Step 5: In a recent lecture at AGNSW Michael Hill expounded on the importance of shadows falling in photography of sculpture. He often chose older, black and white images of works in preference to modern, flat, colour photography. This weekend I downloaded the latest version of gimp, so I experimented with a new-to-me filter. Two versions based on the photo above.


I printed the variation on the right onto watercolour paper, slightly over A4. I think this has promise. Some more towers using different settings of the same filter:

Morning List

A list inspired by Georges Perec. Over recent months I have developed and honed a morning routine which costs a bit of sleep, requires some focus and dedication, and lets me lock in an hour of reading and reviewing every morning before I leave the house.

Click the image below to open the pdf.

I know that for some the idea of routine is stultifying, numbing to the brain and deadening creativity. To me it is a framework that carves out time and space, that gives me freedom. To me it looks like this:

A mass of collapsing towers

Following up the series idea from my previous post.

Collapsing towers continued

This time a comparison of display formats.

First: a gif made using gimp

Second: an mpg using PowerDirector

Third: a gif with fades, using ezgif.com

Not a huge difference in file sizes.

Any thoughts?

At the moment I’m leaning towards the gif from gimp. Jerky, but crisper. So another tower using that.

Some work to be done on consistent lighting. A couple of frames there the camera decided to “help” with it’s own flash.

And there’s yet another series that I haven’t processed yet. It doesn’t get as high, but did result in a smash – something I find interesting.

And at last there’s one of my favourite words. Interesting. I’m beginning to feel engaged.

The original intention was to use materials more familiar to a hypothetical viewer. More chances of resonance, connection. But these crockery bits don’t have a lot of that for me. A couple of orphan things gifted by friends who knew I was breaking up plates for earring pieces. Some other bits from a local op shop. A rummage around the backs of cupboards. Nothing precious to me – because I’m expecting breakages to suggest risk, but at the same time don’t want to risk something precious. All very circular.

But now pieces are becoming familiar. I’m learning how things work together. I have plans for the broken pieces, and also for bringing in just a bit more coherence in the group, trying for an uneasy balance (!) between individual items and a single whole of a tower. There are connections to some reading and thinking I’ve been doing around memory – not nostalgia, but how we form memories. How we remember “memories” – which may or may not reflect the past.

I’m also finding the idea of a series that just keeps on and on, pushing one’s endurance level, but somehow forcing its way to becoming something more.

There have been doldrums, but the wind is picking up…

Collapsing tower experiments

The Energizing Objects stalled. This weekend it morphed into collapsing towers, exploring materiality, hoping for higher risk. A further experiment is the use of gifs to present the building series. And a final experiment – what does this look like on the blog?

No discussion at this point. Working through the technical issues.

Rosslynd Piggott -Tremor

Attentive Looking at Rosslynd Piggott: I sense you but I cannot see you, National Gallery of Victoria.

2019-07-12 19.34.04

Rosslynd Piggott
Tremor


Unbalanced
Odd angles
Slice of reflections
Reflections of reflections
Glass bubbles like a spirit level
Weighed down, bolted down
Would / could those wire (?) ties loosen?
The glass bubbles would float
Twisting effect of angles
Looks like sliding around
2019-07-12 19.35.34

Fragmented me

Constantly responding (mirror shaft), not a captured moment of motion
Motion right now – from reflection, from me
Transparency and reflection – glass, high gloss of black
See, hide, reveal
Hard to stand steady – tipping one way or another
Gap could widen and we’d fall through – through the floor of the gallery, through the foundations and earth and mysterious network of pipes. The abyss.
The blackness of the chasm, reflecting but could change, start absorbing, at any moment
Watch my step, don’t want to tip it
Reflecting me and my unsteadiness, instability. Fractured.
Now feels dangerous – edge of the cliff
I’m part of it.
Not trapped, but moving in it, moving it.
Displayed in a quiet corner. Does that amplify the danger?
Is it near a supporting column? Would that feel safer?
But more exciting, exhilarating, than scarey
The maroon colour of one weight, of what I’m wearing. Increases sense of personal involvement
It’s closer to the edge than the other. Is it sliding?

I found this process – standing there, forcing myself to stay with it, think, notice, focus, scribbling away – absorbing and energising.
The link to un-balance is clear. Reflections, making the viewer part of ongoing motion… How can I introduce that?

Later I read the signage. Some correspondence, some significant differences. Harsh to say, but it’s not relevant to my purpose.

Momentary (un)balance

It’s been a while since I posted. This is going to be a bit of a ramble. Glancing to past, present, and future. I chose a title that might give a bit of space for reflection. For exploration. To challenge. To be challenged. Who am I? What am I doing here? That sort of stuff. Well, hopefully not too much of that final stuff – too tedious for anyone, including me, and the answers will be different in a day or hour or next thought.

After all balance, or not, is a moment by moment thing.
And could one say there is more fun in un- ?
fun-balance?

In the interregnum there was the second group session with Ruth Hadlow in Hobart. How to show the activity of my glossary and energizing objects investigations? With just a few days to go I thought of the balancing act of a house of cards, and quickly printed out material from the blog.

Un-balance House of Cards

Results were poor as a presentation device. While talking I was unable to get beyond two cards before the anticipated collapse eventuated.

For communication? Mixed response. People seemed to enjoy passing them around for a look, and it was probably easier than a laptop showing the blog. However to an extent the cards were interpreted as a work in their own right, and from that perspective there was a lot of refinement to be done.

It led to the suggestion of looking at documentation and research as forms of creative practice.

It also led to some discussion of the use of a blog. Not necessarily polished writing and presentation. Not private, unrestrained “thinking writing”. Mine is an uneasy balance – some warts showing, but not all. And I quite see that the viewer of an artwork might not want their response to be directed or narrowed by my titles, and might prefer some mystery and wonder rather than be told the balance was actually easy (15-Apr-2019).

Ready for lift-off
24-Mar-2019

Then there are the actual objects. For me a weaving shuttle plus red chopsticks from a local cafe have meaning beyond the balance. For others those materials are most likely unrecognised, mute. Even more so my trusty annealed tie wire, or threads in resin, or corrugated copper foil, or …

A towering thirst
15-Apr-2019

Can I add to my work in my choice of materials? One point of resistance is that these materials are already meaningful to me. How much to I want to vary my standard, selfish, focus? Plus the obvious thing is to go household/domestic, but I’m wary of being obvious. Which led me to the idea of “on the tip of the tongue”. If I choose to take this path, can I disguise the objects so people have to reach for recognition? To me that stretching, vibrating feeling of trying to pin down a reference is very close to the rapidly variation adjustments trying to keep balance. I need to learn more about material approaches.

Then there was the surprising (to me) realisation that all my samples were very literal illustrations of balance. That was set up in the briefs for each investigation, but still… Over the days of the session there was some mention of my strong literal, analytical, pedantic aspects. Something to challenge?

Growing pondering list:

  • Types or aspects of creative practice: research / documentation / sampling / polished (“worked”) work…
  • Intended audience. Myself / peer group / wider world
  • Materiality. Potential for enrichment, complexity, layers of meaning…
  • Types of writing. Narrative / authoritative / propositional / thinking / notes / poetic articulation. Audience, level of re-working…
  • The analytical etc. Something to challenge? Or aspects to reframe, reposition, harness as strengths, or at least with positive potential.

    The Essential Duchamp exhibition at AGNSW is well timed for me.

    Marcel Duchamp
    Nude descending a staircase (no 2)
    1912

    Nude descending a staircase (no 2) depicts a body in motion. From the catalogue by Matthew Affron: “a marionette-like figure decomposed into repeating linear elements that serve as an abstract, graphical record of its movement.” It mentions the lines and planes of the changing position in space, and also “small dotted lines indicate the swinging motion of the figure’s visible hip and legs”. There was inspiration from motion photography.

    Pendulum
    19-Apr-2019

    An extra step for me could be to work further with my photographs, abstract from them, use them as a base for development, say brush and ink drawing or maybe monoprinting.


    On the left above, a view within the gallery. Various readymades, most of them replicas of the originals. The choice of the objects was (allegedly?) made with visual indifference, although the first, Fountain, was definitely provocative. An alternative perspective on materiality. What currently particularly interests me is on the right, effectively a display case compendium of around 69 works. Miniature replicas, print reproductions, all in a case that closes to 40.6 x 37.5 x 10.8 cm. Lots of different ways to see this, but to me one is to regard it as documentation.

    Marcel Duchamp
    The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Batchelors, Even (The Green Box)

    It becomes clearer in The Green Box, containing 94 facsimile documents – manuscript notes, drawings, photographs. An accompaniment to The Large Glass, objects in their own right, artefacts of Duchamps process, a guidebook, a literary form… and documentation.

    Tentative conclusions so far:

  • I want to keep Un-balance as a focus. Without going into complexities of a multitude of recent resonances, a simple example of how un-balance is pursuing me. One of the recently weekly lectures at AGNSW was given by Mark Ledbury, on Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. Towards the end Mark showed us a couple of Géricault’s portraits of the insane – The Monomania of Envy and Portrait of a Man Suffering from Delusions of Military Command. The very next day a book purchase arrived, recommended by Ruth as an example of a creative practice in documentation and research – Fiona Tan’s 10 Madnesses. Focused on the same portraits by Géricault.
  • I want to learn more about research and documentation as forms of creative practice. So far it feels like a good fit for me.
  • I’m attempting to bring some of my day-job analytical skills and data visualisation techniques into play. So far that means building up some data. It will take some time to develop.
  • I’m back here blogging. Not everything. Watching what works for me, how it fits with other aspects of what I’m doing. But it’s just too valuable to give up. It’s an index; an archive; an opportunity for communication, interaction; a means of organising thoughts; a reminder to look back, maybe synthesize, not keep rushing on to the next experiment; showing research and work in progress, rarely if ever polished presentation of finished work.
  • In practice all this means I’m am reading up a storm and producing copious notes. Not much in the way of making, but I’m confident that will come.

    I’m sure there was more I was going to include. If it’s important it will come back to me. I hope 🙂


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