Part 5, Review and Research: Pleating

My brief is to explore the manipulation of a print from a flat surface into a relief or sculptural form. I have identified pleating, origami and nets as possible means of manipulation.

Reviewing my use of Pleating 

Pleating was one of the exercises that I began MMT with, I don’t think I really appreciated the process a the time. Looking back at my sketchbook, I note that I became very distracted by the instructional diagrams, enjoying their regularity as if they were patterns in their own right.

This was a natural development from ATV, where through Agnes Martin, I learned to appreciate uniformity and structure as a means of making sense of the chaos that surrounds us.

I actually recall thinking at the time that the pleating exercise didn’t really do me any favours; it brought out the very controlling part of my personality that often rears its head when I am anxious (a state Martin knew well).  I have spent the rest of MMT in pursuit of irregularity and imperfection, learning to relinquish control and how to incorporate play into my practise.

My application of the process in Part 4 was more successful in exploring the rhythmic patterns of pleating. I stopped agonising over measurements and folded spontaneously, the results became much less static. I became interested in how printing could be used to record folds, which mirrored an earlier investigation into how wrapping could be used to remember the essence of an object.

Researching Pleating.

I brought a wonderful book about pleating by Paul Jackson¹ and instantly realised the scope of possibilities. Jackson uses ‘pleat’ to encompass

“a furl, corrugation, ruff, drape, crimp, plait, gather, ruck, tuck, dart, ruche or wrinkle, or even plisse, smocking, shirring or gauging.” ¹ P8

This suggests that pleating is so prevalent in making (across many disciplines, eg, fashion, architecture, design) that we almost cease to consciously notice it. Often what draws attention to a pleat is an area highlighted by light or shadow. I paused to once more consider Anne Kyyro Quinn’s smocked wall hangings and soft furnishings. (SEPERATE POST???)

In Jackson’s description a pleat can be:

“straight or curved, sharp or soft, geometric or organic. It can create a two-dimensional surface or a three dimensional form; it can be made once, or made as an endless repeat. It can be flexible or rigid, decorative or functional, made from one piece or fabricated from many pieces, and made from one material or from a combination of materials.” ¹ P9

Quite a list! As well as being overawed at the vast range of choices that stood before me, I was excited at the number of dichotomies that pleating can represent. The relationships between opposites fascinates me. I find the fact that one state can only exist because of the presence or absence of another quite irresistible. (For example: we can only feel joy because we understand pain.) Will I choose to celebrate one property through the absence of the other? -Will the form be geometric with no organic properties at all? Or will the properties be explored in combination with each other? -Could a flexible fabric made rigid?

Just as I was set to begin, the introduction to the first chapter stopped me in my tracks…

“You are very strongly advised to refrain from diving deep into the book to make something spectacular and instead spend time in this chapter learning the basics of dividing paper…… So curb your enthusiasm and take the time you need to learn…Every minute you spent in this seemingly unglamorous chapter will enable you to fold and create for unlimited hours afterwards.” ¹ P22

This was exactly the point I was making about Sloppy Craft and Inter/Post Disciplinarity! I don’t have time to master pleating as a process; Jackson has 30 years experience. How can I learn the skill, in order to de/re-skill in a short time period? Or does the fact I never mastered the skill mean my work will be Sloppy by default? Or worse still, am I  an amateur to be marginalised even further because although my work looks Sloppy but I didn’t intend it to? ARGH!

I decided the most sensible approach was indeed to begin at the beginning, but from there to pick my own way through the exercises in the book. After all, I am not looking to master any one of the processes covered by Jackson’s definition of pleating. I am not looking for the minimalist elegance of one of the examples he includes. I am searching for a means to manipulate my prints in such a way that they take on a new form. In a sense it would be easier if I knew what it was I looking for but then I would be in danger of preconceiving the outcome!

There was only one way forward… start making and stop thinking!

 

¹JACKSON, P. Complete Pleats. Pleating Techniques for Fashion, Architecture and Design. (2015) LAURENCE KING PUBLISHING.

 

 

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Research: Making Sense of it All!

In an earlier post I mentioned Thomas Trum whose large scale murals are created through what I would deem as a playful ‘exchange between 2-D and 3D’. I can now see exactly what it is that attracts me to his work: I love the exploration of process and material. I don’t miss the mimesis, I like the simplicity of the pattern and colour.

When I look at Trum’s work I can evaluate it using Formalist values, I understand it. I see broad confident lines that traverse large planes. The use of a single colour, the scale, the type of mark-making and the location of the work (being displayed on the wall) causes me to relate it to my own experiences of decorating walls with a roller. As my eye follows Trum’s lines I have a bodily involvement, I imagine I too am reaching up, stretching for the hard to reach areas. This provides me with a feeling of satisfaction, as I rest I notice where the strokes overlap they create different tones of the same hue, emphasising particular shapes. I see the painting in a new light and begin to follow the path of the roller once more. Then I notice the quality of the lines themselves, I register the imperfections, the slight shakes and wobbles. I wonder, did Thomas Trum do a ‘Sloppy’ job?

NO! I realise the imperfections are there on purpose. In a similar way to the tremor of an Agnes Martin grid line, the wobbles evidence the presence of the human hand. They emphasise the stresses and difficulties of the technique, whilst at the same time serve to add variety and create interest. Clever? Very, he did do a ‘Sloppy’ job- on purpose!

I found an interview with Trum, in which he was encouraged to give short answers (link). When asked: When did you decide to become an artist? He explains that he used to be a house painter but decided to treat paint differently. This fits my theory of needing to master a craft before it can be subverted.

The answer he gave to the following question has been swirling around my brain for weeks: What do you find most fascinating about your work?

“When I’m finished, it looks so simple, but it took weeks.” ¹

When I read in one of Julie’s posts that she attributed success to:

“Sitting down to making having prepared (research, materials, understanding the brief) but then being open to what happens next.” ²

it reminded me of Arlene Shechet talking about her studio days:

“You are prepared but then you don’t know anything.” ³

I suddenly realised, in order to see the answer to my previous question: How can something that is thrown together in minutes be more appealing than something I have laboured over? I needed to stop viewing it in isolation. None of the pieces I selected that had this ‘undone’ raw aesthetic were created in a vacuum.

Washing Machine Spoon occurred at the end of a long wrapping session. The stencil I cut rapidly came after I laboured over several more intricate designs. In short I had already attained some degree of skill which I then used loosely (Or ‘Sloppily’!)

For quite sometime I have been identifying this pattern of my best work occurring as I tidy up. Connecting the observations of Trum, Shechet and Julie to Conor Wilson’s explanations ∗ of Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of “flow” and the Taoist concept of “the totally free and purposeless journey”, made me realise that although my work might appear less refined or even be executed quickly, I have always put in a lot of effort beforehand.

So, maybe time is a consideration in valuing art after all? It is not necessarily the time it took to produce a single piece of work that should be measured but the time dedicated to learning the skills and practising the mind set that enabled the piece to be made in the first place. If this is true, then intentionally ‘Sloppy Craft’, could be more closely aligned to the ‘Slow Movement’ than I originally thought. I find this a more attractive proposition than reading Sloppy as Crappy! Mindful rather than mindless.

¹ http://www.horstundedeltraut.com/dutch-artist-thomas-trum/

² Julie Bancroft. OCA Textiles Student. IAP.

³ SHECHET, A. https://art21.org/watch/extended-play/arlene-shechet-pentimento-in-paper-short/

∗ CHEASLEY PATERSON & SURETTE. Sloppy Craft. Postdisciplinarity and the crafts. (2015) BLOOMSBURY. P151

 

 

 

 

 

Research: Sloppy Craft

Sloppy Craft was a difficult concept for me to take on board and I found the book¹ that Cari recommended quite a challenge to begin with. In this post I intend to discuss some of the problems I had in relation to this:

Firstly, the word ‘Sloppy’ itself really put me off; the definition of sloppy can be read as careless and excessively casual. As a pairing ‘sloppy’ and ‘craft’ appear incongruous. If ‘craft’ is to be defined as skill, what can be gained from the casual application of it?

Secondly, as with many categorisations in the art and craft world, the term is open to interpretation. The book contains essays by a number of authors each outlining their own perspective and its implications. As I read through them I found myself experiencing polar opinions: sometimes I was won over, yet at other times wondered what on earth all this had to do with me!

I found the mixed messages of the book quite difficult to deal with, this is not an authoritative text that tells you what Sloppy Craft is. It asks as many questions as it answers (probably more) and in turn my responses were more often questions too. I am unfamiliar with sort of thinking and reading but take it as a good sign that I have arrived at degree level analysis!

The book also highlighted to me how much I don’t know about the art/craft debate and the many issues that surround it. I was genuinely surprised when I received my ATV assessment to have scored highly in all areas apart from Context. When I read the assessment criteria, Context covers: Reflection and Research. I thought my research was fairly broad and well integrated into my own work, I honestly didn’t understand how I had missed the point so spectacularly. I do now!

Many of the issues raised during the discussion of Sloppy Craft were unfamiliar to me, I had to keep stopping to look things up, which made this first reading hard going. I now have a long list of further reading! Despite having to admit my ignorance I really enjoyed this more academic approach to my studies. I found the cyclical nature of discovering something, which led to something else, which in turn led back to the same subject both compelling and rewarding.

How Sloppy Craft relates to me.

I think the most important thing I learned from reading the book was not to take things for granted, things shift and attitudes change. When I started MMT I had a certain set of values and these have changed as I sought to embrace imperfection, Sloppy Craft has amplified this by causing me to question my attitude that things should be done ‘properly’ (another word that comes with it’s own connotations!)

As I read through the essays in the book, I began to see how the term related to the less refined aesthetic that has been developing in my own work. As experimentation with materials and process have become more important in the production of samples my work has become more raw. MMT has pushed me to move past neatly bound edges, hidden stitches and traditional materials; Is this what is meant by Sloppy? In my interpretation of the term: Yes. Skills are taken from a traditional discipline, for example sewing and are applied in a way that would have the Stitch Police knocking on the door in minutes.

The discussion of Inter or Post Disciplinarity, especially in regard to an educational setting, also felt particularly relevant. Textiles and perhaps Mixed Media Textiles in particular, is a good example of Inter Disciplinarity. We are not bound to or by our appropriation of any particular skill or material. It is acceptable, if not actively encouraged for us to try our hand at all manner of processes. I now realise that this has been the source of much of my frustration. I believe in order to subvert a process, or as the book terms it de-skill or reskill, it is necessary to first acquire a certain level of understanding. There is never time for this in MMT there is a constant need to push forward and try something else new. If Inter Disciplinarity is the vogue in education at the moment maybe the term Sloppy Craft exists as a means to excuse the poor craftsmanship of today’s degree students?

Don’t get me wrong, I like not being tied to a particular discipline. When I studied Fine Art I would have been mocked for using knitting or crochet as a process but I wonder if 20 years on this would still be the case? Nowadays Conceptual artists regularly appropriate craft materials to their own ends. Mirroring this trend those engaged with craft often investigate conceptual themes. Does this signify a blurring of the boundaries of art and craft once and for all? I don’t think it does.

I honestly believe that the backlash of a movement like Sloppy Craft can only be the return to traditional values and a strengthening of the divide between art and craft.

¹ CHEASLEY PATTERSON and SURETTE. Sloppy Craft. Postdisciplinarity and the Crafts. (2015) BLOOMSBURY

4.2; RESEARCH: Claire Nash

RESEARCH: Claire Nash

Of all the Contemporary Printmakers featured in the book: Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking,¹ Claire Nash was the artist who appealed to me most.

Nash’s Collagraph prints are bold abstractions of colour and texture. She says her process is: “instinctive, spontaneous and impulsive” ² and she clearly has a healthy level of curiosity about the textures around her, using all manner of materials. I thought this approach was a good example of the way my tutor has been encouraging me to work.

I found I agreed with Nash on one specific element of the process, she prefers not to seal her plates before printing: “I don’t want the feel of the materials to be lost, or even dampened down.”  I had had very similar thoughts about this, I couldn’t understand collecting all the textures to construct the plate and then nullifying them by applying a uniform coat of the same material. Hence I tried to avoid doing this.

Another useful tip I picked up from Nash was to paint an + shape edge to edge on the back of the plate before fully coating the front. This prepares the plate for the wetness of the materials used to construct it and prevents the curling I experienced in 4.2.2.

I admired Nash’s work but even more so her process. She inspired me to think of the final print as yet another stage in making: “I’m really interested in pushing the boundaries of the defined print.” She will sometimes use a print as Chine Colle applying it to another surface and I found a tantalising reference to casting a collagraph plate.

I went into 4.2.3, considering this statement by Nash: “Printmaking is about making works of art and shouldn’t be precious.”

***

On a more practical level, as I researched Collatypes on the internet I discovered some really useful technical information. It transpired that it had been written by an OCA Printmaking student, I wonder why it hadn’t occurred to me to cross disciplines seek out their wisdom before?!

¹HARTILL & CLARKE. Collagraphs and Mixed Media Printmaking. (2004) BLOOMSBURY

² Same publication, Page 85.

4.1.4; More Stencils

I wasn’t happy with my first series of prints made using stencils. At first I thought it was simply colour that was the problem, there were a lot of rather dark, muddy images, particularly when I tried to incorporate back-drawing. I was very grateful to fellow course-mate Julie for her comment that:

“the offset Paisley print is really lively and quirky, I think allowing this kind of ‘accident’ into print making is very effective – otherwise I think prints in general can be rather over-controlled and therefore static”

Julie’s observation helped me to identify that I was actually being too tight and controlling. When selecting the prints for submission I really had to fight myself not to include these:

but actually these as I find them much less ‘static’:

RESEARCH: RUTH ISSETT

To help remedy the issues I was having with colour, I looked at the work of Ruth Issett, in her book Print Pattern and Colour. What I noticed was the clarity of her prints, despite the multiple layers.

Isset uses a broad spectrum of highly saturated colours, each colour seems to have it’s own punch. There are no thick black outlines to define the shapes nor does she typically leave areas of white to allow the colours to float and interact. I think what she does so cleverly, involves layering complementary colours and exploiting the relationships between neighbouring values. She obviously has an excellent grasp of colour theory.

I decided to be more conscious of the colours I was selecting, building on what I learned in Part 3 of ATV. I think intuitively I tend to err toward more analogous colour selections, this is ok if the colours are partially blended within the same layer of the print.

I also picked up a useful tip about creating the stencils from freezer paper, which means they can be ironed directly to the fabric rather than applied to the plate. I found this made registration so much easier and resolved the problem of the mask sticking to the plate.

I printed this freezer paper mask over one of my clean up cloths, the complementary pairing of red/green has been utilised to define the edges. A black outline is not required as the warm red motif stands proud of the cool receding green.

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A limited palette of red/gold has been combined with black and white, feels like quite a sophisticated choice of colours for such a loose composition. I experimented with combining a range of techniques tearing, cutting, collage, overprinting and back-drawing to avoid a static image.

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A double triad of complementary colours yellow/purple-orange/blue has been successfully combined. Both sharp and diffuse edges are apparent. Watercolour and found objects were applied to add detail.

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Finally, a full spectrum of highly saturated colours has been balanced by considering the relationships between them. The motifs were applied using freezer paper directly onto fabric to ease placement. Small stitches were added for interest and too address the similar scale of the printed marks. I tried to avoid ‘outlining’ each motif, allowing the colour to do the work.

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ISSETT R. Print, Pattern and Colour. (2007) BATSFORD

 

4.1.3; A BIG Idea

My contextual research of contemporary monotypes led me to discover this article about working on a really large scale: Printing Really Big Monotypes by Steamroller, Skateboard and Breaking Dancing. I loved the idea of using machinery and movement to create marks. The final prints remind me work done to music, they have a similar sense of rhythm and repetition. The project transported the process from the print shop (or in my case kitchen table) to an outdoor festival atmosphere, the marks and colours reflect this. The venture presented some difficulties, but interestingly they seemed to be the same problems materials pose no matter what scale one is working at.

I love drawing on a large scale, which is something I have not done during MMT. There is something about having a large space to fill that encourages speed and fluency in mark making… you have to use more than your hand and wrist, the whole arm and upper body become involved. It can feel like dancing, which very much links to the project above.

This was in the back of my mind on holiday, when I happened to notice sea-gull footprints in the sand:

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I love the random nature of the pattern made by nature (I can see the link to the Colour of Hair Project, that my tutor directed me to look at also). I wondered if I could ink up some paper and persuade my chickens to perform the mark-making dance for me?

In short, NO, chickens don’t perform. I also tried to involve my dogs, who never fail to stand on my work if I leave it on the floor… typically they didn’t want to cooperate either. Once I finally got them to stand on the prepared paper/plate, I discovered that they actually weren’t heavy enough to leave any trace of a mark (so the chickens wouldn’t have been any good anyway). Re-reading the article Rostow states the steamroller couldn’t apply as much pressure as an etching press, so I don’t know what made me think a chicken could!

(The article was actually helpful in answering another of my problems, in my last post I described how I couldn’t shift the ink from the plate, they used an Akua Release Agent).

It was such a shame to waste the paint/ paper I had prepared, it took two tubes of oil paint to cover the A2 paper so I decided to sketch the sunflowers in my garden:

DSCF5520The first drawing was lovely and soft, the Burnt Umber suits the loose lines and reminds me of Gauguin’s prints. Black would have been too dark and heavy. I am particularly pleased with the composition, I like the way the heads crowd together at the top and the leaves cover such a large area. This is so much more reflective of sunflowers in the garden, than brought from a supermarket in a vase. The sketchy quality also suggests movement of the tall stems in the breeze (which links back to the idea of dance and movement in the Steamroller/skateboard project).

DSCF5524I had a lot of fun with the mark making in the second drawing (again A2), there is a lot of energy but I think my fondness of pattern still shows in the scribbly marks. There is some difference in the thickness of line, afterward I wondered if I had really exploited the scale of the drawing? Could the lines have been even thicker at this size?

DSCF5519A final test showed me I could have been more ambitious with the mark making. It required a lot of pressure to generate lines this thick with a lolly stick, but the broad smudgy lines were worth the effort. Considering the drawings were made in an attempt to salvage the materials from the failed chicken project, I’m not too disappointed!

ARTICLE: By Susan ROSTOW: http://www.akuainks.com/printing-really-big-monotypes-by-steam-roller-skateboard-and-break-dancing

 

4.1.3; Back Drawing

I knew I was going to love Back Drawing before I even started this exercise! I have used a similar process in the past, drawing on the reverse of a sheet that I have covered with oil pastel or wax crayon. I like the quality of line that is transferred to the paper beneath, I have also found that the process has the effect of loosening the drawing rather like a non-dominant hand exercise.

I thought I knew what to expect but I surprised myself; what I learned from my investigations is the versatility of this technique.

I began by looking at the works of Gauguin, Klee and Emin. It was actually Emin’s monotypes that elicited the strongest response from me. Once again I had to grit my teeth and consider art work that is not pretty, doesn’t make me feel good but is very powerful. I intended to write up my research in an academic manner on the blog but considering my tutor’s comments about how wordy my last assignment was, I decided to do something different. This is my response to Tracey Emin’s monotype “Something’s Wrong”:

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Mimicking Emin, I wrote my thoughts backward and forward onto a sheet of glass and printed the result. I had a bit of difficulty with the ink being far to thick at the beginning, so I was actually able to create a whole series by pressing papers together. It was hard to decide which print was the most successful, so I photographed them together. This made me realise their strength lay in them being a collection. The hidden benefit of producing a multiple was that the relationship between the text being the right or wrong way around was more fully exploited.

Aesthetically the monoprints were not at all what I expected because the backgrounds feature so heavily. Usually the motif in a monoprint is suspended in unprinted space, with only incidental marks being present.

The patchwork of linear patterns showcases the text that appears haloed in ink. I decided to reference more of Emin’s work (the neon signs) by overpainting with vibrant colour:

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Whilst I am pleased with how my prints look and with the concept of responding via art work instead of a formal analysis, I felt drained by this whole process. Emin’s shock tactics make me feel irrationally angry. It was sort of cathartic working on the prints trying to decide why. I seethed and hated as I printed-It took a lot of energy and actually I felt like I had crossed over to a darker place. When I looked at them the next day, I felt almost hungover with embarrassment about them. (And no, I hadn’t been drinking.) This was a strange new way to work for me- very raw and uncomfortable.

The prints I made surprised and shocked even myself! I was in two minds whether or not to share this experience, no offence is meant by it! All power to Emin who has consistently provoked reaction from the public throughout her career. Brave!