Summer Week 1: Final Display Planning

Over Easter, I originally designed four different layouts for the final, summative exhibition. I based a lot of this on the Week 8 exhibition where I found the circles and continuation of the stairs off of the piece to be very successful. These original designs were very full on, taking into account everything that I had done; cyanotypes, photograms, prints that had been cut into and the matchstick stairs. I wanted to display too much.

After a much needed conversation about my work, I realised that the simplicity of the piece worked best in the Week 8 exhibition. I had originally crossed the boundaries by making sculpture into a photographic substance, but I wanted to cross it the other way this time by making the photographic substance, sculptural.

After much deliberation, I needed to step away from the automatic reaction to display things in a frame, and decided to utilise the cut out elements as the missing sculpture. By sandwiching the triptych of individual photographs in Perspex sheets, the light will be able to pass through and highlight this element. I would hang the photographs with cut out stairs from the beams in the art department in somewhere with lots of natural light. I would then hang a triptych of photograms from another beam near by, so that they are in conversation with each other. Because the photograms will not have the stairs cut out, I may have one on each side so that there are a total of three triptych’s in total. This is what I aim to experiment in the department with string and plastic sleeves.

With the perspex, I am also looking to hang it with wire for a seamless look. I would also prefer wire to a thicker chain as it hints towards the thin lines that have been cut from the photograph, and almost translated into the material it now hangs from.

Above: A selection of possible display formats for the photograph set, and the up-to six photograms.

Easter 4: Shadow Stairs and Photographs

Building up from the feedback and ideas from the week 8 exhibition, I wanted to explore the use of the light against the stairs and projections of the corresponding, or similar photographs that I had previously taken. I was also planning to use plinths around the department to create a blocked sculpture, however I could not find many and this would have been difficult to manipulate in the time frame I had nor complete the goal that I had in mind. I instead used my stairs, laying them on top of the OHP in a corresponding manner and a random angle to the image, and dangling them in from to create an suggestion of a shadow. I found that the ‘wrong direction’ stairs that were directly on top of the OHP surface worked the best as it created another suggestion of a staircase, while also producing interesting shadows both on the wall and the staircase itself. Despite the experimentation, I do not think that I want to go down this avenue further as I enjoy playing with light in a photographic manner with the subject of something that is sculptural.

Easter 3: Cutting Photographic Prints

I wanted to further investigate the impact of cutting prints of photographs that I had taken after initially producing a small number of these. I wanted to go larger too, to see if this impacted the experience of the viewer from these empty spaces, determining what the stairs looked like, or the environment that they are supposed to belong in. I wanted them to be varying sizes so that I can display them alongside my photograms and cyanotypes as a juxtaposition and a hint to the different photographic methods that I have used alongside sculpture.

Due to the fragile nature of these prints, I would prefer that they are framed prior to exhibiting. With the larger prints that I have not yet cut into, it may be possible to leave ore on the photo to give a glimpse of the surroundings, unlike any other medium that I have used.

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Easter 2: Cyanotypes

I previously worked on cyanotypes in week 11, playing with the different stairs that I had produced and the strong shadows that the sun was producing. They were very strong, creating stark contrasts between the stairs print and the blue of the cyanotype chemical. This collection of cyanotypes were lighter than previous attempts, for reasons I was unsure of. Al of them were very shadowed (despite the images being clear, but this was an auto-correction on behalf of the camera). I enjoyed the manipulation of the light to create ‘new’ stairs for malformed shadows due to the strong sunlight. Although these pieces are relatively small and despite wanting to go bigger, I hope to use some of them in relation to the photograms and photographs for my summative piece.

Easter 1: Photograms

These photograms are an extension of the earlier collection of photograms that I produced from the original three sets of matchstick staircases. I enjoyed creating this first set within the boundaries of smaller paper, but through the exploration of several staircases on one piece of paper with the cyanotypes, I wanted to translate this into the dark room.

I used several techniques including double exposure with two different staircases, double exposure with small movement of paper and layering to create a forced perspective on the flat piece of paper. The individual staircases on smaller pieces of paper are effective and give the perspective of going further off into the distance, past the paper. The photograms with multiple staircases give the same effect, but are clearer and more distinct than the cyanotypes produced in the same manner. I wish to use these in my summative exhibition as a nod to the notion of a larger staircase with other pieces also being displayed along side these.

Bloomin’ Exhibition London, Art Clubbers

I was invited to Stour Space, London, as part of Art Clubbers first exhibition, Bloomin’ – Growing into Art. This was somewhat a familiar experience of setting up exhibitions and collaborating together to ensure that all pieces were hung in a suitable time, and getting everyone the space that they wanted. I exhibited I Am Not The Label You Give Me as a set, the first time they have been framed after the Study Abroad exhibition earlier in the year. Stour Space is a gallery and working space for artists, and I enjoyed the set up of the gallery as well as it not being a clean cut space – it has been well loved and I feel like that not only added to my piece, but also the exhibition as a whole.

The opening was very exciting, with lots of people engaging and commenting on the works. It was the only photographic piece there and stood out due to its clear position from the door of the gallery, as well as the clear cut mode of presentation. Doing this exhibition has spurred me on to enter more calls for submissions in different areas to see my work in more of a professional space.

All images courtesy of Art Clubbers Facebook – Bloomin’ Into Art

Week 11: Cutting Photographic Prints

Inspired by Richard Galpin, I wanted to see what cutting into my prints would do to the stairs and how it would impact the visual simplicity that I am looking for in my work. I tested out my cutting on several of my worse photograms that I had completed earlier, using two designs – cutting out the background and, cutting out the staircase. I found both of them to work equally as well in their own right.

I then decided to do the same to some prints of stairs, to bring my work back to the ‘real world’ and to comment on the fact that we often ignore fire escapes and staircases that are outside. I used both techniques on two photographs, with each of them working well. I found that I was more attracted to the ones with more detail of the staircase, especially the one that is in front of other buildings. The simplicity of the lines coupled with the complexity of the image that are presented together allow the continual movement of the eye. I wish to do these bigger, with the staircase ending outside he boundary of the image such as in the spiral staircase.

Week 11: Cyanotypes

I first played around with cyanotypes last year in the summer school with Reading Scholars, where I was able to take away some of the paper that we used. On a very sunny day, I laid out the stairs and paper in the sun and produced 30 different cyanotypes of the staircases in varying sizes. I found that the overall look of them was very ghosted and shadowy. This does not work in some cases because they are too dark, merging into the background, however some work very successfully. Working on these cyanotypes, it has made me want to do larger scale ones with a spotlight or projector such as I did in my week 8 exhibition. I do worry that by doing it this way, I will have a very fuzzy image, but it is something that I am willing to try.

Artist Talk: Barbara Walker

Barbara Walker presented in our final artist talk of the year with her fluid work, responding to the world around her. This technique gives her a unique way into the painting and drawing that looks at the social and political.

One of the first works that was shown looked at disabled bomb experts and those who have fought in wars. Walker attempts to look at the ‘true’ perspective, with prompts from conversations, media and daily life. For this, the prompt came from a conversation that asked whether black soldiers can fight on behalf of Britain in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

Walker’s collection of works and style looks at the chronology of the past 100 years of war. She doesn’t really like wars, but this was the premise to have a conversation through the artwork. She also finds that she has one foot in history and the other in a contemporary practice. Walker is regarded as a research-based artist (80% research, 20% making), to try and unpick, learn and have a foundation to build and make from.

Not only does Walker look at the past, but she also takes a look at contemporary soldiers. This is a difficult subject and it is touch-and-go when trying to have a conversation about this. Because it is a difficult conversation to have by many, she decided to put that idea aside and look more at the historical aspect, especially of her own, Caribbean, history. Immediately there was a need to know where these people came from, bringing images to the surface and using them, scavenging them from archives. Walkers’ work plays and disrupts the photographs and images that she finds in these archives. She identifies the photograph, buys the file, enlarges through certain formats and then works from these.

Charcoal is one of the preferred mediums for Walker, a medium that she is comfortable with, thus she is able to make a statement and a metaphor because of her interest in the hierarchy of constructs (those she draws are lower in the hierarchy, and charcoal is often considered ‘behind’ painting). Her works look at the individuals claiming the space again, giving rebirth and celebration, but also critically looking at images and re-framing them. You always have to disrupt to make a new, or continue an old commentary.

In some pieces, Walker drew with charcoal directly on the wall, which she has to wash away. In other pieces, she has taken an eraser or white chalk to an area of the piece. Both methods are somewhat aggressive, and make an impactful statement. If things become too familiar, she moves on, to bring challenges to her work and move forward.

Walker also looks at the female contribution as a challenge to her own work and uses the same processes as before. In one image, she may emboss one woman and drew the other two. In others, she will cut out an image which is severe, but also subtle, placing the drawing, or part of the photograph in a different place. These different techniques come together to create powerful pieces of work. A last medium that Walker has demonstrated her skills in is installation, commenting that wars should not be drawn on pieces of paper, but also on the walls in the pavilion where many of these soldiers were stationed. It brings some humanity back to such an ugly word. Walker makes a stand that these people were spoken about but not commemorated, bringing their lives to the surface in a provocative manner – ‘hitting the audience with a sledge hammer’.

Glass Casting Part 2: Derek the Duck

The first part of the glass casting workshop looked at moulding wax and creating a mould for the glass. The second part of the glass casting workshop worked with the cast class and hand grinding it. First step was to soak the plaster mould to weaken it and get the glass out. We were then able to break off some of the unwanted glass in a safe and controlled environment. To get rid of the larger, rougher edges, we used the technique of glass grinding with silicon carbide by hand (YouTube link). This was an intensive and very noisy process using grit and water on top of a thick piece of glass, and then grinding the object against this surface. Not only did I flatten off the bottom, but I also curved the grinding round so that some more of the bits that stuck out were smooth and in line with the bottom and the side of the design. The final product was a flat bottomed platypus/duck in a canoe.