While in University of Ottawa, I was able to take a 1 credit workshop on music and movement and the Dalcroze model. This workshop was not what I expected, as we used our bodies, and other equipment, to become more in tune with not only the music that others and ourselves produced, but also with our instincts. Much of the time we used improvisation, and building upon previous exercises, including quick reaction and rhythm exercises.
Within the two day workshop, one of my favourite parts was an improvisation with chairs, in which we chose a partner to improvise with, along with the chairs. There was an exploration of the chairs, developing your relationship with them. Within this exercise, we were able to move with, against, or in contrast with the music. This showed me that there was a deeper relationship between body, movement and sound than I originally anticipated.
I also found the singing exercises very useful, as we moved our bodies on instinct with the tune of the singing and accompanying piano. The movement and singing allowed a more intimate interaction with the melody, bringing me a further understanding of how movement, melody and instinct can play an important part within works. I found that I was able to push some of my limits of where I was comfortable within the workshop, allowing me to pursue more of the knowledge that was available.
I would find the application of what I have learnt in the two day workshop to my own artwork interesting, especially if I continue to work with digital mediums and performance. The movement and accompanying music can completely alter the ambience of the piece produced. I would enjoy the exploration of different movement, and different sounds to produce my artwork.
Below is some of the piano music that we used within the workshops:
- Collect the items that you want to use in the relief mould. These items can be any shape, size and consistency. The hard objects will make very direct moulds, whereas soft objects may appear unclear.
- Roll out a large amount of clay into a desired shape. Depending on the thickness of the clay, will depend on how far in you wish to push your objects – the more projecting you want the design, the thicker the clay will need to be.
- Once the clay is the desired size and thickness, start pressing your objects in. A pattern may not be necessary here.
- Use a rolling pin and your hands to firmly press the objects in.
- When they are a desired depth, take all the items out. You may need tweezers for this, especially when getting smaller items out that may be stuck in the clay.
- After all objects are out of the clay, build a tall, thick clay or cardboard wall around the outside, ensuring it is at least double height and liquid-tight.
- Mix some thin plaster and pour into the mould, ensuring to cover the clay with a layer to get all the detail of the relief. Keep pouring plaster until the cast is at least 3/4″ thick. This will allow for a sturdy piece that will not break too easily.
- While the plaster is setting, make a hook out of wire, twisting it for extra strength. Add the hook when the plaster is able to hold it, without letting it sink. This is optional
- Once the plaster is set, take off the clay. It can now be cleaned with water and a paintbrush to remove the clay.
- And you have a relief cast.
Making the items flat in the mould was considerably difficult, especially while using a rolling pin. For the mould to be very prominent, you had to push each item in further, which was sometimes difficult with the delicate leaves. I also had problems getting some of the ghosts out. Although these problems occurred, I still found the project enjoyable, and I was pleased with the final result.
The final cleaned relief mould of ghosts, fall leaves and flowers.
Richard Learoyd uses a home-built camera obscura to create a large scale image of humanity, and to be an experience, rather than just an image. With his photography, you are able to see eyelashes and dust on the surface of fabrics from the high level of sensitivity of the camera that he uses. The result is completely grain-less. Learoyd takes his ideas and inspiration from visual culture and images, to continue his photographic lineage that he has created.
“A photograph should have the ability to communicate a sense of humanity, especially if it’s a picture of a person, and it should have an internal narrative that allows you to walk away with a question or two in your mind.” – SFMOMA
Each image that Learoyd creates aims to encompass the sense of humanity that portraiture can often forget about.
Pascal Grandmaison uses film, video, photography and sculpture to explore and investigate the relation of the part to the whole, and ‘how the experience of viewing a work is mediated by the act of capturing an image’. Grandmaison often works in portraiture to reflect this, and displays the interest to the inner self.
“My work I about the power of thought that one can have over things, others people, on the world around us and our own internal universe.” – National Gallery of Canada
At the National Gallery, Ottawa, a portrait from the “Glass” series is displayed on its own, showing the viewer a snippet of the large scale portraiture and the impact of Grandmaisons’ work. The series has a total of nine portraits in which a ‘young person holds a glass panel that extends over the entire surface of the image, except for the right side’ (Grandmaison), where the subject’s hand holds the edge of the glass. Within these portraits, there is a focus on the image making, reflection and flat surface. There is a repetition in all; they all hold the glass with the same hand, arm at a right angle, head down and eyes lowered to the floor, with body aligned with the camera’s plane. There is a small reflection of the camera in each, making the photographer and subject united and separated through the glass.
Sketchbook spread outlining process and ideas of alginate and plaster casting
I have previously worked with alginate before in Plaster Workshop
, as well as throughout the plaster project. Because I previously completed a design of my hands, I wanted to adventure into a cast of my foot, or toes. The containers that we had use of only fit my toes, but I felt that this was sufficient for the cast that I wanted to get out of it. The alginate is a one time mould.
- Get items ready for casting – tubs, water, item for casting
- Add water to alginate. Different consistencies have different purposes;
- THICK ALGINATE: this can be used on areas such as the face, ears, and vertical surfaces. Apply to the area with a paintbrush, getting into all the nooks and crannies for detail. Keep still, and once dry take off the cast. Make a mother mould using plaster bandages dipped in water. This keeps the alginate in shape.
- THIN ALGINATE: place the object in the desired position in the tub and pour the alginate around the item. Tap the container to get rid of air bubbles in the alginate and allowing it to settle around the object. Keep still, and once dry take the item out of the cast.
- Mix up plaster – pour a thinner mixture first to capture details. Keep adding until the mould is full, tapping the mould to get rid of air bubbles.
- Once the plaster is dry, take off the alginate to reveal the plaster cast.
I was very pleased and surprised with the level of detail that the alginate and plaster were able to capture, as it even grabbed the dirt that was sat on the bottom of my foot. There is a certain delicacy with only doing the toes, and showing the sole of the foot which is often covered and protected. The added base keeps it routed the wrong way up.
Arnaud Maggs uses a multiple-grid technique with serial photographs of faces and miscellany to display his fascination of systems, classifications and historical documents. Through this technique, Maggs was able to reveal the distance between symbols and their representation.
“…what I really wanted to do was to use the camera as a documentary tool – Just as Atget had. And I realized you didn’t have to resort to any visual tricks to do it. I wasn’t after a style. I just wanted to act as a recorder. I realized that all I wanted to do with the human head was simply to let people see it.” – National Gallery of Canada
His photographs give the viewer the opportunity to look at our surroundings to see ‘the unusual beauty in the commonplace’. This is everything from the markings on old books, to the shape of people’s heads. Maggs was not afraid to display his production throughout the exhibition process, recording the people, places and lived experiences that not only he found significant, but also those that have marked him. They can be seen as portraits of the artist.
When viewing his work at a recent exhibition in the National Gallery, Ottawa, the initial viewing of the pieces looks familiar, as it is something that many artists have adopted. Faces, from the centre of the display, looking in a more outward direction as you get to the edge of the display. When viewing this work closer, however, you start to see the imperfections of each photograph, where it may not have been developed fully and blurriness of movement. This makes the work seem more human, and brings you a closer connection with not only the piece, but also the development of it. I wish to allow the viewer to have this connection with the development of the piece when displaying my own work.
Ken Nicol often uses foul language in his work, writing in grids and pattern to overlay text in different orientations. His work also includes drawing, making, collecting and counting, and explains that “if you are offended by foul language, you’re probably not gong to like a lot of my work and you’re probably not going to like me…” (Toronto Guardian).
There is also a sense of the observation of an international and intellectual obsession of collecting within his work. No matter the medium that Nicol works in, it is always meticulously structured, creating a humble and mesmerising piece of work which makes you question whether he made it himself. His penmanship displays this the most, with repetitive words written in exactly the same way, thousands of times. Through the works, there is also a respect for the analogue and old-school practises through a juxtaposition of such practises and the smart, humorous and elegant practice that Nicol also uses.
“A practice that is deeply rooted in conceptualism. Nicol’s obsession with repetition results in work that demands our contemplation and attention forcing us to take renewed notice in the order and structure that surrounds us.” – Gallery Stratford
I was surprised when viewing Nicol’s work at the National Gallery, Ottawa, as it took someone else to point out the repetition of ‘fuck’ throughout the piece, that reminded me heavily of Josef Albers. I was in awe of the precision, care and detail that was evident throughout the pieces, and wanted to take this to continue into my own work.
Plaster can be manipulated in several different ways to create multiple effects. I ave previously used plaster in Plaster Workshop
, where we created an alginate cast. This allowed me to feel more confident about getting on with the ideas and concepts as well as exploring the medium, rather than worrying about how to mix the plaster. The first way that we learnt, and one of the most simple manipulations, was with clay;
- Flatten out a block of clay to a desirable thickness for your object. For a leaf, no more than 2cm thick.
- Press your leaf into the object, pressing it in for optimal detail. Add a small amount of water and soap on top of the leaf to bring out the veins.
- Mix up a medium thickness plaster, easy enough to pour onto the leaf. Pour and wait for plaster to slightly thicken.
- Once the plaster has thickened slightly, add on top to the existing plaster to create a thick base.
- Wait for the plaster to dry (it normally goes through a wet and cold stage, then becomes very warm and cools down again. Once it cools down again, this is normally dry. Always leave it for longer than you think to ensure you don’t deal with wet plaster in a cast).
- Once the plaster is dry, you are able to peel the plaster and clay away from one another. Normally, the plaster will be tinted brown where it has sat on the clay. This can be washed out, and a toothbrush can be used to scrub it without taking away any of the texture.
- And you have a relief cast of a leaf.
Final relief cast of a leaf found outside. Created using clay and plaster.
Lee Friedlander looked at the chaos of city life, organising vasts amount of visual information into dynamic compositions in photography. This creates humorous and poignant images of the everyday life that city dwellers and workers create for themselves. He has photographed portraits as well as city-scapes, and has curated several books around his own work. The marriage between the people and the city creates an urban social landscape in his photographs.
Friedlander works primarily in 35 mm cameras and black and white film to create high contrast pieces, using detached images of urban life, store-front reflections, structures frames by fences, and posters and signs all combining to capture the look of modern life. There is always some stillness in the movement in each of the photographs, capturing the bustling city life while also showing the serenity of daily tasks.
Through photography, and other mediums, I would like to capture the daily events of people in a similar way. The use of the 35 mm camera allows you play a larger part of the photography process, making you ask yourself the questions that the camera would automatically do for you. I want to have to play this part in the process, and to have to make these decisions myself about the photography of everyday people.
Michael Snow came from a family with two cultures – English and French, and used his artwork to look at the juxtaposition between the two using visual art, experimental film and music. His contributions to these have been recognised internationally. His father became blind after an accident at a work site, and Snow reflected on this inspiration through his drawing, painting and writing. He often turned to music throughout his life, and improvised many of his pieces when performing, recording and composing for international audiences.
His travelling exposed him to painting and sculpture, as well as the work of Paul Klee, which confirmed his decision to become an artist. Working with film allowed him to continually experiment with music and more visual and still art. As a multi-disciplined individual, he was able to draw upon many aspects to create one piece of work, and translate it through those aspects. Snow was always conscious of the nature of the medium he was using, and manipulated it to intensify the spectator’s involvement with the artwork.
My paintings are done by a filmmaker, sculpture by a musician, films by a painter, music by a filmmaker, paintings by a sculptor, sculpture by a filmmaker, films by a musician, music by a sculptor… sometimes they all work together. Also, many of my paintings have been done by a painter, sculpture by a sculptor, films by a filmmaker, music by a musician. There is a tendency towards purity in all of these media as separate endeavours.” – ACI
When visiting his artwork in the National Gallery, Ottawa, I found that his artwork was very different to what I had anticipated. The photography was intimate and showed individual steps, while his sculpture made you explore. Within both artworks, you were able to view yourself, or someone else, through it, making the viewer more involved with the piece. Coming from an often narcissistic society and generation, with the use of selfies and social media, these pieces make you think about the wider world, and the relationship between cause and effect, and how view points can differ.