A3; The Selection Process Begins…

Beginning the Selection Process was a bit of a ‘False Stop’ (as opposed to a False Start!), just when I thought I was done I suddenly found myself with a host of new ideas! With a bit of time and space between me and some of my earlier samples, I began to see other possibilities.

A discussion with fellow course mate Inger, led to me considering the use of scratching and sanding as means of embellishment. This was something I hadn’t considered before- interpreting embellishment as the addition rather than subtraction of materials. This realisation led from these:

Becoming this:

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Which led to this:

I know that I should be avoiding this sort of narrative: “I did this, then that” etc. However, this seemed really quite important: I would never have dreamed of treating a sample like this in the past. I would have been too precious and ‘afraid’ of spoiling it to try and alter it. All the playing in Part 3, has led me to be much bolder in this respect. Even though the samples are not resolved or refined, I can appreciate them for their part in my learning.

The negative space in this Balloon/Plaster/Brusho sample was interesting:

I explored the possibility of a Kintsugi style join on shards of plaster left over from the Bonnet sample. This was inspired by a technique I tried during Part2, using a glue gun and transfer foils:

This method proved unappealing but this was useful because it forced me to consider another alternative:

Learning from the Whiteread ‘paperweight’ situation (read here) led to an inclusion in Resin which isn’t perfect: it has multiple air bubbles and a dirty great finger print right on the top. I started to wonder how much these things matter- the learning is more important!

Finally, I just couldn’t shake the feeling there was more to the Crochet Spheres…

I combined the two ideas above and using lessons learned from previous sampling created this:

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Drawing this sample in my sketchbook felt like a better conclusion to Part 3, than where I had previously decided to stop. It serves as a joyful reminder of what Mixed Media can do for me!

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3.2; Expanding Foam

Aims: To explore the performance and properties of Expanding Foam.

Degree of success: What worked/What didn’t? Why? I tried about six methods for casting with this unfamiliar material and two were successful in that that hold the potential for future developments.

Even though I classified the above samples as ‘failures’ in truth they were as useful as the ‘successes’ below. I learned about the performance of the foam from each attempt and carried this knowledge forward to the next sample. This very act of investigative play shows me how much I have learned about the creative process during Part 3.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour.

SAMPLE ONE: The foam has extruded through the lacy apertures, like whipped cream.

Photographed from above this distorts the floral motifs in a similar way to my manipulations in Part One: Cutting Holes, where I used shadow to alter existing patterns:

From a more sideways perspective the height can be appreciated.

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How does this relate to my contextual research? Had I selected black lace the colour contrast would have been greater but I was glad that I chose the neutral colour because I think I have avoided some of the sexual connotations of lingerie and whipped cream! Jeff Muhs work awoke feminist principles I never knew I had. Although the only readings of his work I could find were positive saying that he: celebrates the strength of the female form by translating it into a durable material like concreate, I disagree. The deliberate, albeit aesthetically clever, restraint and constriction of the material by provocative garments such as a corset or a Jimmy Choo, to almost comic proportions feels disrespectful. I get a very definite ‘sex sells’ vibe from the work, which I was keen to avoid in my choice of materials.

If I have misread Muhs intentions, I apologise, I am only now beginning to write about work that displeases me. It feels disrespectful to criticise another persons work; responding to work that elicits a more complex response than “wow, that’s pretty” is new to me. I am actually in awe of his sculptures because they forced me to think beyond the surface, beyond decorative qualities and think about how I felt in relation to the work.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour. Expanding foam challenges the boundaries of the crochet sphere. The irregular protrusions appear at regular intervals, a balance has been achieved between perfection and imperfection.

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Did I feel comfortable with the materials/techniques? Was there anything I particularly enjoyed? I became very immersed in the whole ‘play session.’ Even when it seemed like I wasn’t going to achieve anything I could use, I was still enjoying the experience.

How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future? Drawing unlocked the potential of the samples. In addition to my favourite watercolour pencils, I have used pen, correction fluid, inktense blocks and acrylic paints, varying the methods of application to explore the marks I can make.

I am coming to the end of Part 3 having learned to be more receptive to Mixed Media, seeing the positive effects it is having on my drawing.

What do I want/need to do next? Time to review what I’ve made so far and begin the Selection Process!

3.2; Incorporating Wrapping and Tying

Aims: To explore the possibilities of distortion using wrapping and tying to alter the shape of the vessel; plaster filled balloons will be wrapped with yarn.

Why did I select this material/process/approach? The balloon always gives the material inside a similar egg shape, I wondered how binding and constricting areas could alter this regularity.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour.  Irregular shapes were formed, they are smooth and bulbous. Fine linear creasing forms at the intersections providing a contrasting texture.

I was hoping that ridges would form where the yarn was wrapped but the plaster was rather too forgiving. This technique is more useful for dispersing volumes of plaster into other areas, which because they are contained by the elasticity of latex, form bubbles.

Did I discover anything new/unexpected? No not really, this set of samples feels rather safe and predictable…

How does this relate to my contextual research? The visual research in my sketchbook clearly relates to my samples. By spending time drawing the work that visually attracts me, I gave myself extra time to think about the forms I wanted to create. I wonder if this is why my samples feel predictable?

I enjoyed researching these bulbous forms. It was really interesting comparing Ferrand Scott’s sculptures- which I really like to those of Jeff Muhs- which leave me with a bad taste in my mouth (see sketchbook).

I didn’t enjoy the process of actually casting, wrapping and tying, which is strange because the practical elements are usually the most joyful moments. Whether I simply tired of balloon filling and was treading old ground, or whether I had already decided my outcome in advance, I don’t know- I simply feel there was no sparkle.

Determined to get something out of this set, I concentrated hard on the characteristics and qualities of the samples through drawing. This was enjoyable:

How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future? Drawing revealed what wasn’t at first apparent. It has given me ideas for development using fabrics.

What do I want/need to do next? I have discovered half a tube of Expanding Foam, in Mother-in-Law’s shed, I feel quite optimistic that an unfamiliar and less predictable material will provide the sparkle I am missing here.

In my research I observed that Ferrand Scott’s materials push outward and extend to the boundaries of their containment. Muhs’ constricts and contains his concrete. I want to push beyond the barriers.

Revisiting Mouldable Polymers

Aims: To cast the internal space of a balloon with Polydoh granules.

Why did I select this material/process/approach? This was a spur of the moment, intuitive decision. I had been thinking about the balloon/plaster/volcanic eruption episode- which isn’t something I will forget in a hurry! I simply thought dry granules would be easier to pour into a balloon that wet plaster. I had no idea what would happen but was fairly confident that the balloon would withstand the hot water because of previous experimentation vulcanising latex.

The importance of the above description of what I was thinking is that it clearly illustrates my changing approach to sampling as guided by my tutor. I have a sense that I am beginning to understand the importance of sampling without a clear picture of the result in my head beforehand. This willingness to ‘play’, without fear of ‘wasting materials’ or ‘messing up’ has been the crucial learning for me in Part 3.

With that said, I find myself wondering if the next question matters more or less? It seems rather a strange paradox that the less I worry about the final result (or success) of the sample, the more important my discoveries are.

Degree of success: What worked/What didn’t? Why?

As recorded in my sketchbook, some methods worked better than others. I felt the samples were most successful when viewed close up under a very strong backlight:

Did I discover anything new or unexpected? It was all new and unexpected! I began to draw some of the samples using familiar media with the inclusion of correction fluid, inspired by Rachel Whiteread:

In the spirit of trying new things, I opened a tin of Inktense blocks that I brought ages ago and never got round to trying… and WOW! I love them!

The blocks felt quite familiar, they are shaped like oil pastels which I love drawing with and they can be manipulated with water like the pencils I am comfortable with. I was really impressed with how the colours pop but most of all like the way I can draw on top of each layer once it has dried, watercolour pencils just won’t allow that. I felt the blocks encouraged me to be a bit looser in my drawing style and to leave the sketches rather more unrefined than I would normally. Having said that, after exploring the inside of the Polydoh shapes by casting their internal space in silicone, I tried a more finished drawing:

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How could I use this sample/technique/material/research in the future? For the first time, I began to appreciate the positive effect working in mixed media is having on my drawing. Drawing is one of my strengths and something I really enjoy, finding a new medium that suits me has been exciting. It feels incredibly freeing.

 

How does my learning relate to tutor feedback/personal development? Cari has encouraged me to include more drawing in my sketchbooks. We have discussed ways to refine my practice to prevent narrative and duplication of information between the sketchbook and blog. The purpose of this was to increase the time I had to make and draw. I am now beginning to feel the benefits of this and appreciate the relationship between drawing and making.

What do I want/need to do next? I want to draw with Inktense blocks for ever!

3.2; Silicone and Resin

Aims: To cast one of my Balloon Pebbles in an alternative material: Create a silicone mould to cast a clear resin duplicate.

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Why did I select this material/process/approach? Curiosity of new materials informed my choices. I felt very inspired by Rachel Whiteread’s resin castings and have been a long time admirer of Meredith Woolnough’s encapsulations, I simply wanted to experience these materials myself.

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour. As expected the resin casting is a perfect copy of the plaster original.

Where the resin was in contact with the silicone the finish is like frosted glass. Only on the top, where there was contact with air, have I achieved the glossy, transparent surface I was expecting. This surprised me because in the tutorials I had read, people complained that the exposed resin can remain sticky and not cure properly (suggesting sealing with cling film or the like). This was not my experience.

A rather unusual lip has formed in an irregular circle shape, this was due to the hot glue seal I used to adhere the plaster sample to the base and prevent seepage. At the time I worried about this but I have decided it is one of those serendipitous imperfections that create interest and add character. It creates a clear window through which the magnified grid can be viewed. There is a happy contrast between rounded and straight edged shapes in this sample.

The frosted finish and uneven edges could be addressed by polishing and buffing. Although it might be difficult over the relief texture it would be possible, had I chosen a more complex texture rather than the grid I don’t know how a clear surface could be achieved. Clearly, if I were to develop this investigation, more technical research would be required to solve this issue.

Did I feel comfortable with the materials/techniques? Was there anything I particularly enjoyed? It was surprisingly easy to achieve the result I did. I admit I was a bit apprehensive about mixing chemicals, measuring proportions and dealing with the Health and Safety issues, but it was really much more straight forward than I imagined.

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The above photograph shows how I have been using drawing to plan and record my methods. Below is an image of the silicone mould, such a lot of work went into preparing and using it, it seems a shame not to feature it.

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How does this relate to my contextual research?

In my sketchbook, I copied out a quote by Rachel Whiteread from Mullins¹,

“A lot of the work I do involves pushing materials to the limit. With the resin pieces, the people I spoke to about the material, the chemists, were saying that the scale of what I wanted to do was impossible. The materials were designed for making paperweights, very small objects. I spent a long time figuring out how I could push it. Playing with materials is very much part of my ongoing investigation.”

This seemed particularly fitting as I rushed my way through this whistle-stop tour of moulding and casting. It highlighted to me that all I had created was indeed a paperweight! I thought about her Water Tower project in Manhattan, in all it majesty, and felt my sample was rather inadequate. The realisation that a comparison between my first try at resin casting with the carefully researched and developed final product of an established artist, was actually really not helpful! This offered me a different perspective on sampling and indeed on this course as a whole. How can I ever hope to ‘push materials to the limits’ without trying them first!

Was I experimental/logical/controlled/expressive enough? I had to be methodical and controlled for this technical experiment because of the nature of the unfamiliar products I was trying. I often wish my art was more expressive but this was one occasion where my organisation and logical approach was useful.

¹ MULLINS, C. Rachel Whiteread (2004) TATE PUBLISHINGS. P70

 

 

3.2; Adding Colour to Plaster, continued…

SAMPLE THREE: My approach for making this sample was quite different from what I am used to, it developed from my consideration of my Feedback for Part 2. Cari has encouraged me to: “demonstrate experimentation, investigation and growth” and to seek this above “perfection and refinement”. This advice felt really counterintuitive to begin with, I have always regarded improvement as getting better at something: as mastery of a technique. I am beginning to really appreciate the benefit of ‘growth’ above ‘improvement’.

I began with just the seed of an idea about casting the internal space of a hat. This interested me because it seems the closest I can get to casting the inside of my head. (That probably sounds stranger than it is meant!) In Sample 2, I found a way to record the space in my lungs by blowing the contents into plaster. This inspired me to think about how the mind/imagination could be represented.

I played around with some hat type metaphors and sayings for a while, then decided to grab a hat and some plaster and get on with it… I think this is key to my changing approach. I investigated the ideas through materials before ‘thinking them to death’. Usually I would: decide what to do using skills I already have, design it in my sketchbook, then simply transfer the pre-determined outcome into physical materials.

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This was what I achieved. Whether or not it speaks of what is ‘inside my head’ no longer seems to matter. I poured multiple batches of different colour plaster, I peeled and cut at the straw bonnet, I knocked shards away, I photographed and I drew. I literally learned so much when I didn’t really know where the investigation was leading that the process has become more important than the result. I know I was ‘playing’ and I think that is what both my tutors to date have been alluding to, a sort of freedom from myself?

I could continue this post by analysing the physical qualities of this sample, the shapes, colours and textures but I have already covered some of this in my sketchbook. I don’t want to repeat myself but also I don’t want to detract from the fact it was the experience that was the learning here not the finished product.

 

 

3.2; Adding Colour to Plaster

Aims: To find an alterative means of colouring my plaster samples created by casting inside a balloon.

Why did I select this material/process/approach? Although I liked the achromatic appearance of the samples I wanted to try to compensate for the loss of colour once the balloon had been removed. I knew from earlier experimentation that the porous surface of plaster can be painted by sealing it before hand but was keen to find an alternative.

In the video about Maarten de Ceulaer that I watched here, he appears to have coloured the water before adding plaster. I wondered if Brusho would work since a tiny amount of powder in a large quantity of water produces quite intense colours?

Sample properties: Look/Feel. Structure/texture/colour.

SAMPLE ONE: I rescued this sample from the bin, hence why pieces are missing. I initially rejected it because as I removed the balloon it disintegrated. Being my first test of adding Brusho, I wondered if the chemical structure of the plaster had been altered in such a way that made it more porous and chalky. I later discovered it was over handling at the curing stage that caused the breakages.

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I’m glad I saved the sample, the surface quality is totally different from anything else I achieved with plaster. It does not have the silken smooth finish I associate with Ferrand Scott. The rougher texture suits the broken nature of the sample. The raised bubbles which are reminiscent of bubble wrap were actually created by pressing into a previous sample, in this regard they are informally arranged, which I think is more appropriate than a regular alignment in this instance. Reconstructing the pieces formed new negative spaces that are rather interesting.

I would like to develop this sample but as yet am unsure what to do exactly. I wonder if some sort of Kintsugi style join would work. I had some success with using hot glue and transfer foil in Part 2, as identified by my tutor:

“Your use of the hot glue, which can be very hard to use in a sophisticated manner, was also interesting. The foiling completely changed its visual impact: it highlighted the irregular form of the glue in a way that made it a relevant part of the design (rather than a bogged joining method, as it so often looks).”

SAMPLE TWO: Looking at Rachel Whiteread encouraged me to try a more conceptional approach to sampling. This sample was inspired by the volcanic eruption that occurred when I blew into a balloon, partially filled with plaster, with a straw.

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The craters formed in the plaster were made by blowing through a straw, as such the internal space of my lungs is recorded in the disc. The Brusho has highlighted the irregularities of the shapes created which were a pleasure to draw:

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Some strange things happened over the next few days: the colour on top of the sample deepened, as a result of colour particles being pulled to the surface as the moisture content evaporated:

Conversely the base of the sample lighted, appearing almost bleached of colour. I would have expected the colour to be stronger underneath where the plaster sat on the desk (a bit like currants sinking to the bottom in a cake) this was not the case. This slightly unpredictable set of findings would need further investigation if a more archival colour was required. However, thinking about how Eva Hesse’s work (particularly in latex) must have degenerated over the years I wonder if this is part of the story of the object?