Archive Page 4

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.

Robert Rauschenberg – Dylaby

Attentive Looking involves engaging with a work, unpacking one’s own response. Not external information, not that “answer” on the label on the wall (or at your fingertips with the O device at MONA). Looking. Seeing what is happening, an event where the work meets or affects you. Mining that experience, the points of attraction or impact on you, how you could use those as a new starting point in your own investigations, in your own terrain.

This week I went to AGNSW, to the area in the Contemporary galleries just outside the Duchamp exhibition. What collection works would the curators have chosen to respond to that?

One work in particular called to me straight away.

Robert Rauschenberg
Dylaby

I stood there, trying to figure out why. I scrawled notes.

Robert Rauschenberg
Dylaby (detail)

Scale – not too big. Garage or shed or maybe farmyard detritus.
Found objects with history, materiality.
Echoes of past use, but not loud or forceful.

Timber and rubber. Good, solid, known, functional, familiar, materials. Complement each other. Natural, but formed by human.
Texture – the grain of the wood, the tread and molding of the tyre, the gaps and joins, the runs of paint.
Components match in size as well as complementary material.

Double headed arrow. Asking me questions.
Strong geometric shapes. Circle, rectangle, the triangle of the arrowheads.
Repetition of shapes and levels of detail. Rectangles within and across rectangles. Circular molding on tyre as well as the major edges.

Limited, neutral, colours. Cream paint, brown of timber, black of tyre and paint, deeper black of glimpsed interior.

Interior / external play.
Unified. Balanced. Coherent.
Self-assured. Self-contained, but not trapped.

Chosen to be together. Linked by found status, by random marking in cream paint – but not “matched”. I suspect the doublehead of the arrow was a modification by the artist. Another sign of choice, of the conscious eye and hand of the artist.

Definitely an object (a current area of interest and research).

I think the biggest challenge to me in my own work, the question asked, is in materiality. I’ve been reading in that area. Ruth Hadlow has challenged me in that area. I can feel an internal resistance. Part of that is practical. The found objects most available to me are domestic, and it feels hackneyed. That was the major reason for the “tip of the tongue” theme I haven’t written about yet. There’s a lot of junk in the house, which we’re currently clearing out. None of it is particularly evocative. And if it were, there’s the storage consideration. More thought required.

Adroitly redirecting attention, going to external sources of information gave a different view. This “combine” is one of very few items still existing from an exhibition in Amsterdam in 1962 of the same name. It’s an abbreviated form of “Dynamic Labyrinth”. I can’t do justice to it here, it sounds totally crazy – see for example https://stedelijkstudies.com/journal/ludic-exhibitions-at-the-stedelijk-museum-die-welt-als-labyrinth-bewogen-beweging-and-dylaby/. A total contrast to the galleries in which I saw the Rauschenberg work. (I was going to write about the cool and calm gallery, but AGNSW has its noisy, colourful, crazy moments too.)

It’s good to have that contrast, that reminder. My experience of the work was very different – quiet, personal, contemplative. A work can be different in every encounter.


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