3.1; Research: Victoria Ferrand Scott

Ferrand Scott’s sculptures cast in plaster and concrete are minimal. The surfaces are polished smooth and the shapes are organic and sensual. I feel quite reverential towards the sculptures, torn between wanting to touch and afraid to reach out.

Restraint (2001) reminds me of a Georgia O’Keeffe landscape. In both cases the bulges are curvaceous and feminine, line is eliminated and definition is provided through light and shadow.

Restraint is an installation, arranged in a grid format that naturally appealed to me.  Looking at how the modules are formally arranged on the floor reminded me of Whiteread’s Untitled Floor (1992). Having spent several months during Part 2, considering how to join elements within a design, I now seem to be attracted to those that interact more freely and are interconnected only by the space that travels around them.

The open space between the components is where the similarity between these two seems to end. Whereas Whiteread incorporates the marks of everyday wear and tear, Ferrand Scott seeks a flawless surface. This use of perfection has been counteracted by the spontaneous shapes that gravity has pulled the casting material into.

I enjoy pattern but am beginning to appreciate how highlighting certain features can disturb rhythm to dramatic effect, for example: the subtle variation in shape and height of each cluster of peaks in Restraint. In ‘Pointers for the Next Assignment’ my tutor advised:

“Push yourself to keep exploring imperfection and irregularity.” 

I learned a lot about when and how perfection can be used, by comparing these two artist. If Whiteread’s finish was as smooth and polished as Ferrand Scott’s her sculptures would lose their reference to humanity. If Ferrand Scott’s surfaces contained pocks and flaws this would detract from the subtlety of the forms.

My plaster investigation in Project 1, actually drew more from Rebecca Fairley’s work than Ferrand Scott because the domes I created included texture and loose fibres. In Project 2, when the casting medium is contained within a vessel, I hope to create some smoother shapes that focus more on form than texture. This will give me an opportunity to explore the link between perfection and imperfection.

3.1; Research: Rachel Whiteread

I gained a good appreciation for the development of Rachel Whiteread’s work from reading Charlotte Mullins book¹. What impressed me most is how it has evolved over time: the scale of her plaster sculptures grew until she cast an entire house, then shrank again as she explored new materials. Once more her ambition becomes apparent as small resin sculptures were replaced by enormous projects, previously considered impossible in that medium. I love her rebellious refusal to be contained by the apparent restrictions of a given material or object.

Translating empty spaces, (for example beneath furniture) into tangible sculptures that can be seen and felt, forces the viewer to regard the world differently. The changing the relationship between space and negative space, or object and space fascinates me. Untitled: Floor (1992) is my favourite example of this.

I feel much less emotionally involved with the destruction of the domestic objects in Whiteread’s work than I did with the sacrifice of natural organisms in Rachel Dein’s. However, I think it is really important that Whiteread’s chosen objects are domestic as this makes them accessible and relatable to the human body. The human link is vital to the plaster sculptures in particular, without it I think they would just be solid lumps of material, the imperfections caused by the human body add life and soul. This is a really important observation for me and my perfectionist tendencies!

The resin pieces are more forgiving because colour and translucency have already made them attractive. Of this collection of works, I found Untitled: One Hundred Spaces (1995) to be my favourite. The spaces beneath chairs have been translated into glowing, jelly like forms that are hard and solid. As well as being beautiful in their own right, the grid like arrangement is very satisfying, not least because it adds another layer of ’empty space around solid space that should be empty’.

One Hundred Spaces, is also testament to material led investigation:

“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 lot of time figuring out how I could push it. Playing with materials is very much part of my ongoing investigation.” ²

This actually reminded me of the cutting edge technologies Janet Echelman has had explore in order to actualise her vision. If I am honest this dedication to problem solving scares the life out of me- sculpture is not for the fainthearted!

Whiteread’s book sculptures had the biggest influence on me and I found this strange because I actually like them the least of all her work. I find them really creepy and looking at them makes me feel uneasy, deep down in my stomach. I am beginning to notice that I am able to sit with works that evoke unwanted and undesirable emotions. When I first started with OCA, I would have simply bypassed these pieces. I now understand that I don’t have to ‘like’ it, to judge it successful. Perhaps it is the power of the response illicit that measures success?

¹ and ² MULLINS, C. Rachel Whiteread. (2004) Tate Publishings.

 

3.1; Research: Eduardo Paolozzi

I am really interested in the subject matter and the themes addressed in Paolozzi’s collage and print works, particularly as many still factor in our lives today. I found identifying these themes really useful for understanding his three dimensional work.DSCF4842

Putting Paolozzi into the context of Post WW2, with the threat of the Cold War looming helped explain why fear seemed to play a such a huge part in Paolozzi’s work:

” a lifelong exploration into the many ways humans are influenced by external, uncontrollable forces.” ¹

I feel the presence of fear particularly strongly in his three dimensional biometric forms. The 1950’s was an era where people believed machines and technology could take over the world. Cyclops (1957) deals rather sympathetically with the human form, yet encrusts the surface with cogs and bolts.

The surfaces of Paolozzi’s sculptural works, whether 3-D form or relief, are constructed from composite shapes. They are literally littered with mechanical looking parts. There seems to be no logic to the arrangements- no suggestion that the ‘machine’ could ever function. To me this reinforces the theme of fear: there is no reason, just a fractured representation of a frightened mind.

As far as construction goes, Paolozzi welded and bolted components together, then used Lost Wax Casting to recreate the surface. This seems like a necessary step to unify the collection of ‘found items’ into a cohesive structure. I found this interesting because it seems at odds with the way I would have previously considered building a surface. I would normally think about the production of ‘modules’ which I would then connect in some manner (like a Karen Margolis structure).

My realisation that a collection objects could be assembled and cast, led me to design a Paolozzi-style tile. I evaluate this decision here.

 

3.1; Research: Rachel Dein

Rachel Dein creates floral tiles by pressing flowers and foliage into clay and then takes a plaster cast of the imprint. I discovered that as well sourcing from her own garden, she preserves wedding bouquets. In Part 2, I explored how cloth can be used to remember objects, so researching Dein seemed appropriate.

At first, I found the tiles rather attractive. The subject matter and plain white plaster suggested a cheerful, clean and stylish solution to the inevitable decay of natural materials. Yet the more I considered the tiles the more melancholy I felt. On Dein’s own website Ngoc Ming Ngo describes the tiles as ‘ghostly’ and ‘haunting’ ¹; I think these words are highly appropriate.

Dein’s process evolved from nature printing by early botanists, I wondered if this scientific heritage was what gave the tiles their cold, stillness? I researched Botanical Illustration, Botanical Art and Flower Painting; made a Master Study of G D Ehret and considered Redoute’s typical composition. What I discovered was a lot of tenderness and warmth in the details, particularly in the application of colour and extraordinary draughtsmanship, concluding this wasn’t the reason the tiles made me sad.

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The plain, empty space that characteristically surrounds the flowers in both Botanical Illustration and Dein’s work seems to contribute to the stillness. The images appear like icons, isolated and detached from their surroundings. By changing the composition in my own tiles I was able to alter the ‘feel’ of the tiles by bring texture right up to the edges. I found this combined with the addition of colour made the tiles feel more ‘alive’.

I observed that Dein’s tiles gave me a similar feeling to walking into Ipswich Museum, with its extensive collection of Victorian taxidermy. Later when reading about Rachel Whiteread I found the probable cause for this:

“The vast majority of Whiteread’s work can only be created at the expense of the object- a floorboard, a table, a room, a house. Her sculptures document the history of the object up to that moment, but only by destroying it’ future life”. ²

This could equally be applied to Rachel Dein, her subject matter is also robbed of it’s future potential. One could argue that the organic matter would shrivel and decay without her intervention and in her work it is preserved forever. I think it interferes with the nature order of things and breaks the cycle of life.

What I learned from this research regarding casting, is to look further than the aesthetics of the materials used. My initial thoughts were investigate the physical aspects of the work: colour and composition.  It wasn’t until I considered it in broader terms that I understood the feelings it provoked in me. It seems the object that is to be moulded from can be as influential as the material that records it.

¹ http://www.racheldein.com/about/

² MULLINS, C. Rachel Whiteread (2004) Tate Publishings. P47