Archive for the 'Energising objects' Category

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:

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

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.

Energizing objects investigation – 6

Potential for play

Mum let us each invite a neighbourhood friend to the Friday Craft Club. We cast and painted plaster models. We carved soap (Peter-from-next-door rubbed his eyes, causing stinging, causing crying, causing rubbing of eyes…). We made papier-mâché heads for hand puppets, then wrote and presented plays. Even in those days I was keen on projects like the costumes, involving stitching. Potato prints. Flip books. French knitting using wooden thread spools and some crooked nails.

I keep remembering more. Carving foam with a heated wire. People would move too fast, breaking the wire. Weaving mats with strips of paper (yes, my hand goes up again). Splatter painting with toothbrush on wire mesh, creating soft silhouettes of leaves. All sorts of constructions with paddlepop sticks and pipe cleaners and balsa wood. A bag of clay from the local pottery works became lumpen pigs and doorstop ashtrays. Not that anyone in the house smoked, so that was odd. In any case they all had unpredictable wobbles. Not well balanced.

Alternate version

Notes: I decided to limit myself to objects on my worktable. It’s not as visually dynamic as I hoped. The V formation looks balanced. Perhaps the earlier, simpler version is more effective.

More energizing objects.

  • Balance to create motion
  • A sideways step through memory
  • Process, objects…
  • Caption
  • Energizing objects investigation – 5

    A towering thirst

    I picked up bar work while travelling. First time was in a roughish part of Edinburgh, the Lady Nairne. Learn on the job in those days, no RSA. Back in Sydney I continued learning:

  • if someone asks for scotch, don’t give them whiskey.
  • if someone asks for ice in beer, double check. They wanted juice.
  • if dad asks for a pony of beer, be glad he dropped by to say hi, not embarrassed by the unmanly glass.
  • Notes: This came together very quickly in the kitchen. Initial focus was the top section, which surprised in coming together reasonably easily and holding well.

    More energizing objects.

  • Balance to create motion
  • A sideways step through memory
  • Process, objects…
  • Caption
  • Energizing objects investigation – 4

    Step 1

    Step 2

    Step 3

    Step 4

    Once a week mum would cook with one of us. Special one on one time, precious among five children. Hand made receipe pages, line drawings of blue open-fingered hands rubbing yellow butter into flour.

    Scones for afternoon tea.

    Notes: Improvising with objects in the serviced apartment when visiting Melbourne for the opening few days of Alexander Calder:Radical Inventor exhibition.
    Paper cord (made from 2 sheets of A4); books; series of kitchen implements.

    More energizing objects.

  • Balance to create motion
  • A sideways step through memory
  • Process, objects…
  • Caption
  • Energizing objects investigation – 3


    Grandma was a proud woman of the north, a Master Cutler in her family line, steel in her veins. Now in the south, we caught a bus into town, eyes straight ahead as we walked past the “loitering youths” (a nervous – making presence, subject of many warnings), to The Bon, the big store. Scissors. We searched. We asked. No Sheffield steel. None.

    I’d never seen Grandma so upset, almost arguing. How is this possible? No Sheffield steel in your store!

    Walking back, I had never seen her so tired. Sad. Lost.

    Notes: Cutlery, corrugating tool, aluminium strip. A chance combination of items on the worktable.

    More energizing objects.

  • Balance to create motion
  • A sideways step through memory
  • Process, objects…
  • Caption
  • Energising objects investigation – 2

    Ready for lift-off

    There was a question around the grandfather and his preference for a three-legged stool. Not my grandpa. A generic grandfather, the sort who gets caught up in a question on a school maths test.

    A question which puzzled housemate and soon-to-be qualified maths teacher Sean. Wouldn’t the four-legged armchair be more comfortable? “Not if it wobbled”, I suggested. “Three points define a plane, so no wobble. Centre your weight within the triangle and the stool won’t overbalance, though it might slope.”

    My early energising repeats the lesson.

    Notes: Weaving shuttle, chopsticks and kitchen scourer. There was a series of simplifications, concluding in a simple and stable tripod.

    More energizing objects.

  • Balance to create motion
  • A sideways step through memory
  • Process, objects…
  • Caption
  • Energising objects investigation – 1

    Coffee cabaret

    She sits in my memory. Sits in the dim, curtained dining room. Quiet drawers agape. Her hands hover, selecting her treasures. Her memories.

    A box open, silver gleaming. “A wedding present. I don’t know what they thought of me, writing to thank them for the grapefruit spoons.” A little laugh. A light sigh. A moment’s pause.

    Carefully packed away, finials aligned.

    Forty years and half a world away, grandma’s spoons spring into action.

    Notes: Spoons. String.
    A second series of investigations, energising objects by putting them into (un)balance / motion. (see also Glossary).

    More energizing objects.

  • Balance to create motion
  • A sideways step through memory
  • Process, objects…
  • Caption

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