1.5; Joining: Forming Angles, Considering Scale

I thought I had finished Project One but after visiting the Entangled Exhibition at the Turner Contemporary and receiving my Assessment Results on the same day I felt compelled to do ‘just one more’ sample.

I had been playing with the idea of lashing sticks together at angles, briefly exploring how I could attach small slices of plastic tubing with stitch. I felt that this investigation was leading backwards to joining curves rather than discovering anything new, so I decided to move on.

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However, returning to my desk, full of enthusiasm at the scope of Entangled, I was greeted by the above samples. My immediate and almost subconscious response was to poke brightly coloured drinking straws (brought at Ikea on the way home) into the tubing.

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The straws looked more impressive when they were full length and the thread colours in no way relate to the colours of the straws but in its way this ‘sample’ reflected how I felt about Entangled. I just had this feeling that ‘Entangled’ made the impossible, possible and the implausible, likely. There is a sense of fun about the exhibition; whereas I constantly ask myself “why”, the artists seemed to be saying “why not?”

One of the first pieces in the exhibit was a large ceramic crab covered in the sort of crochet that I would normally associate with my Great Grandmother. Looking at this first piece by Joana Vasconcelos I wasn’t entirely convinced that I liked it but later on saw a second piece by her: a lizard that seemed to have a second skin. I ‘m not sure if it was the colour of the crochet cotton of the second piece or the lively shape of the ceramic lizard beneath but it seemed to work better in my opinion. The red crab is covered with white yarn, which is quite a stark contrast. The green lizard has an analogous blue yarn which feels more sympathetic. The ‘second skin’ is quite convincing, it reminded me of when my puppy was small and her skin was slightly too big for her frame, you could see her hard muscles clearly defined beneath her soft coat.

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I found this soft covering of a hard object really interesting, particularly because the object that has been wrapped is still so clearly defined (in contrast to a Juditth Scott wrapping for example). I also liked that the crochet appeared in quite a traditional pattern, like the lace doilies my Grandmother made, sometimes I think we are so keen to reinvent a technique we forget how beautiful its history can be.

I went into the garden and noticed a large blue ceramic sphere, could the straws project from the surface? – “why not!”

I produced a really random net of crochet to join pieces of tubing to represent a doily, the photograph below shows how I envisaged the straws protruding from the surface:

Excuse Fingers! I had to hold the straws in position to get an idea of what it would look like:

Now I know it would work, if it were stretched out taut, I’m actually less inclined to finish it. I think it was one of those things I just ‘had to do’, I’m glad that I did because it seems to me that it was an appropriate response to my ATV Feedback that suggests I need to develop my work by addressing the scale of my samples and by broadening my awareness of contemporary practitioners.

I think the simple chaining is actually quite effective and think the inclusion of the straws could be potentially successful. I can’t imagine having the time to create something as intricate as Vasconcelos so to finish this post I sought out one of Great-Grandma’s doilies (discovered when researching Archive pieces for ATV Part 1) and one of my own made to replicate her style and placed them over the sphere.

Photographing the crochet over the sphere really reinforced how I felt about Vasconcelos’ work. I can’t imagine ever being able to use or display either piece in my home- the ‘fashion’ has had it’s day. The lady who owns the yarn shop near me had made a similar doily to my own and mounted hers inside a hula hoop, a great idea but I still wouldn’t want it in my house. What Vasconcelos has done is allowed is combined traditional with modern and come up with something rather exceptional.

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1.5; Joining: Curves, Angles and Sonia Delaunay.

Sonia Delaunay’s exhibition, in 2015, at the Tate Modern was the first large scale one-‘man’ (or rather woman) show I remember going to. I make the gender distinction because it seems more important now that I begin to consider the context and debates surrounding the subject of Textiles. (Feedback from ATV Summative Assessment – March 2017). At the time, when my studies were in their infancy, it didn’t matter to me whether Delaunay was a man, woman or an elephant with a paintbrush. What spoke to me was the enormous scope and quantity of work- all of which I liked. From the moment I walked into the gallery and saw Nu Jaune, I knew I had fallen in love with her use of colour. I would say that I still feel the impact of this exhibition, months later.

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As I began the joining exercises I found myself thinking about Sonia Delaunay’s continued use of circles throughout her career. Although In the 1910’s she was still working figuratively, her paintings which chronicle the popularity of the Tango and the introduction of electric light, contain strong circular elements which radiate from a central axis. I love the way she breaks up the circle motif with colours that swirl around the canvas making me feel almost dizzy. I feel by the 1960’s her paintings had lost some of their energy and hedonism, yet they still explore a sense of repetition, rhythm and motion.

I looked once more at my concentric circles and wondered how I could relate them to the joining of materials to form angles and corners..

 

It was quite by chance that I found my way forward. Inspired by joining bark to fabric (as described in my last post) I moved onto lashing sticks together with string:

I realised I could join the circles in the same way as I joined the sticks, at perpendicular angles, and so Full Circle was born:

Part of me worries that this far too simple to qualify as ‘Art’ but as it hangs above my desk it twirls constantly. Its perpetual motion, reminds me of Delaunay’s dancing shapes. This version has been made in a restful green that quite suits the serenity of the hypnotic movement, (like dancers slowly swaying and rotating?) I think the mood of the piece would be very much dependant upon the colour, if I were to choose a bolder scheme I could look for Simultaneous combinations that would change the tempo.

In Part 1, I had an idea to translate the gradations of shade in a pleated sample into a two-dimensional drawing, suggesting that shadows could be permanently adhered to their facets as a shape unfolded. I know this was an idea my tutor identified as interesting so I thought about developing it further. I became somewhat side tracked however by the consideration of Delaunay’s presence upon the canvas.

This is easiest to explain if I compare Delaunay’s work to Agnes Martin’s. I feel you need to be somewhat of a connoisseur of Martin to appreciate the slight tremors of her lines and the very subtle textures of the canvas. Where Martin is restrained Delaunay is wild. She scribbles like a child with felt pens, she leaves mad brush strokes and bold pastel marks which add a sense of urgency and passion. As I explained previously my watercolour of the sheer sample had been rather flat and lifeless, I wanted to avoid this happening again.

 

 

Thinking about what I learned from the above experiments I attempted to draw ‘Full Circle’:

The drawing has some energy but the application of colour was a bit rushed. In an attempt at being spontaneous I failed to really consider the relationships and placement of a broad range of hues.

I wondered if I could add texture directly to the sample itself, rather that at the drawing stage. Colour was reduced to this analogous selection of browns. Texture was created by wrapping hoops of card in yarn. I love this sample, however, the construction has left it rather static because of the additional weight and the join made from DK yarn rather than cotton thread.

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If this version of the sample were a dance I have no idea what it would be! Something slow and muddy? For some reason it makes me think of wellington boots. Maybe a festival? Maybe it is part of a song about the cyclical nature of the seasons?

I have impression that part of my soul has already left Project One and has started Project Two: Wrapping.  Just when I reached the end I realised I have one more post…

1.5; Joining: Forming Corners and Angles

Forming corners and angles seemed like a really purposeful task. Considering how much of my work is flat, I feel that I approached it with some gusto.

Remembering woodwork from school, I began by cutting what approximates a dovetail join in some watercolour paper. This reminded me of some of the samples I produced for the Cutting Flaps exercise from Part 1 (2.5)

I recycled a piece of watercolour card that I used for colour testing as I mixed colours for a representation of the sheer organza sample (in 1.4). The join I made has abstracted the blobs of colour, forcing them to interact in a different configuration. I found this distortion and the oppositional angles that the tabs create attractive but difficult to draw. This caused me to observe the chevron pattern along the centre line.

I played with other ideas of joining card at 90 degree angles to a base. Some were like pleats which seemed rather similar to what I had already done. But some began to utilise a sort of ‘guy rope’ system like a tent.

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The thin, fragile threads, place in the lower third of the upright, make the foam core look almost monolithic in proportion. I can see why textile artists have chosen to make thread sculptures. As well as exaggerating the delicate nature of the thread, these sculpture play with the idea of deconstruction of a fabric- exploring a warp without out a weft?

This link, lists and provides brief overviews of artists using ‘string’ in this manner. It begins with some historical context including: Eva Hesse and Lenore Tawney (who interests me through links to Agnes Martin). It is worth tapping ‘next’ to view more pages which cover contemporaries such as:

  • Akiko Ikeuchi : Wonderfully delicate silk threads which reveal geometric shapes in the negative space in a similar way to Andy Goldsworthy’s organic sculptures.
  • Ernesto Neto: An extremely exciting use of crochet and macramé to build strange interactive landscapes reminiscent of children’s playgrounds.
  • Janet Echelman: In her own words: “idiosyncratic, delicate, ephemeral and voluptuous”. ¹ In mine: living, breathing, floating organisms.
  • Gabriel Dawe: Lengths of thread dynamically suspended in screens that allow the prismatic colours to  overlapping and mix in the air.

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On a couple of occasions during this project I tried to work with some bark that I had collected after being so inspired by trees over the Christmas period. My stitching was thwarted by the fragility of pine chippings every time!

In Overlapping (1.4) I also explored joining birch bark, initially to a sheer, then to a tweedy woven fabric that shared many characteristics: colour and linear marks.

Having abandoned this idea, I now returned to it, changing the intended orientation of the bark. This allowed me to experiment with the ‘guy-rope’ style joining method:

 

I have been sitting with this sample pinned up in front of me for a few days and I’m still not entirely convinced by it. I quite like the subtle colouring, although there could probably be more contrast, the bark and fabric are very similar (but that was the idea of combining them). I like the perpendicular nature of the join which reminds me of fungus:

Perhaps it makes more sense then if the three dimensional factor contrasted like a fungus, rather than matched the bark? I would have to give this more thought.

I felt that recording this sample provided a bit of a breakthrough for me. Having never had much success with collage in the past and having many concerns about my ability to take on board the ‘mixed media’ nature of this course, I approached this ‘drawing’ with a sense of abandonment. (If that is the right word? What I mean is, that I just sort of flew at it headlong with no thought or consideration of what was going to happen- liberation from my hang-ups?)

DSCF4552It came together ok, its not a masterpiece but what is important to me is that I can see elements of my learning contained within it:

  • Pattern and repetition- 3 horizontals and 3 verticals, incorporation of patterned envelope.
  • Rhythm and repetition-  curvy linear shapes, bark and wire.
  • Repetition and movement- The Louise Bourgeois confident gestural, short hand style.
  • Colour theory- vertical, receding blue. horizontal, complimentary orange, pulling three dimensional aspects forward. 
  • Experimentation- no obsessive measuring. Instead: tearing and snipping. Combinations of materials: papers, foil, paint.

¹  KETTLE & MCKEATING, Handstitch Perspectives (2012) BLOOMSBURY P.43