Levels is a photograph and photogram double triptych of stairs hanging in a sandwich of Perspex. These stairs are either made or found by Abraham, exploring the everyday in the conversation between photographic and sculptural techniques. Both triptychs’ use repetition in their formal structure, physically playing with the interpretation that is available to the viewer. This occurs due to the subject matter and develops the comparison of photograph A to photogram B. There is a focus on materiality, and the stripping of one material to make way for the other, taking you further into the conversation between photographic and sculptural techniques, and where the line is drawn between the two.
The theory behind this work comes from manipulation of space and material. Richard Galpin stripped the silver layer off scaffolding photographs to reveal fragmented forms in spatial compositions, transforming pieces into futuristic spaces through linear regularity paired with a geometric swarm. Abrahams’ work takes this into account, but instead removes the subject of the staircase, replacing it in another form. Using wire and natural light, the photograph and the missing subject become a sculpture, conversing with the physical, sculptural staircases that are depicted within the image. One could repeat the circle between sculpture and photography, for the way we think is not linear, but rather a story connecting the elements.
Abraham was specifically interested in the reality of images, with the progression of subtlety using an every-day item. Thomas Demand bought forward a different perspective of his miniature sculptural rooms through photography. Without the sculpture, there is a warped view of reality through the evidence of photography, ‘becoming a reality for its own sake’. Abraham bought this into her own work, displaying no context to size or material, but rather the product of photographic medium. The transfiguration philosophy of sculpture into a photograph and into a separate sculpture comes from Walter Benjamin. He describes that through photography, humanity can see the beauty of the subject, no matter how ordinary. Subtlety is found within the subject and the display of Abrahams’ work, depicting her ideas within the conversational double photographic triptych.
The choice of images was a difficult decision for Abraham, determining only those that would portray the light between photograph and sculpture and questioning where the line is drawn between the two. With a wide selection of photographic techniques and experiments, there was a temptation to create a new reality with them all, but simplicity was the key. Both photography and sculpture retain one instant, drawing upon a momentary process of a story between elements. The echoing similarity between staircases and triptychs bring together this story, blurring the line between sculpture and photography and ultimately asking whether there should be a line in the first place. Within future experimentation, Abraham wishes to look at the impact of size on this conversation, playing further with both light and reality. Abraham considers her own boundaries and relationship with mediums using the final material that illuminates the sculpture-photography conversation; light.
There was some hassle with the final piece as the Perspex that originally arrived had four holes (one in each corner), and not the desired two, and I had only received 11 out of the 12. Finding a spare piece of Perspex in the workshop, I was able to cut this down and screw holes myself, creating the necessary number of pieces to create the sandwich effect. The next confusion was over gluing these together as I did not realise you had to squeeze the pieces of Perspex together as you brushed the glue between the seal. Once I realised that this needed to be done, I was able to quickly and efficiently glue all the pieces together in their pairs, ready for hanging.
I hung the Perspex sandwiches with 1.5mm corded wire, replacing the parts of the photograph that had been cut out with a physical substance. With the four holes, I had thought about using the wire to reach the floor, as this is not an abnormal hanging technique, however I quickly ran out of time while hanging. The final display was then two wires hanging from beams to the Perspex triptychs holding the photographs and photograms.
The final outcome of Levels is one that I thought I would not get to due to previous hassles in this project. I found that the piece had more impact than first anticipated through drawings and planning, and the spare piece of Perspex that I had cut and screwed myself was not obviously visible. I am proud of how the piece came out because the display was unique to the piece, and aided itself well to the conversation between photography and sculpture. If I were to do the piece again, I would not leave it so late to plan the display, allowing extra time for deliveries and mishaps before the deadline, however I would hang it in the same way due to the impact that the natural light has to the piece, adding itself to the conversation between sculpture and photography.
Between the Week 8 Exhibition and the Final Exhibition, my ideas and practice further changed to include more experimentation with light within the mediums of photography and sculpture. Through the use of new matchstick designs, I continued to play with the aspect of reality, but I felt as though I wanted photography to play a larger part of the project. This is where the play with light, that was initially introduced in the Week 8 Exhibition, was highlighted through the use of photograms, photographs and cyanotypes. These photographic processes manipulated light in its raw form to create different realities on paper. Each of these also use light in a different way, playing with the manipulation of an added medium. Here, I looked into the Paradox of Photography in which ‘to insist on the materiality of the print would be to undermine its founding attribute, that of illusion’, so I ensured that I addressed the reader with a continued reference to light and sculpture, rather than photography. Taking it one step further and using inspiration from Richard Galpin, I stripped the photographic layer from the photographs that I had produced of stairs around the University of Reading. Removing this layer I ‘volatilised the real‘ and made the subject and reality difficult to determine. By removing this layer I have also inverted the conversation previously held and created a sculpture from the photograph, bringing together the conversation between sculpture, photography and light and determining where the line was between them. I wanted to ultimately display more within the final exhibition, but after a lengthy discussion I decided against this and drawn in the simplicity element that worked the best throughout the previous works. This investigation of the conversation between sculpture, photography and light was also aided through the glass workshop and my final display designs with photographs within perspex and hung by wire.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Within the Week 8 Studio 3 Exhibition, I displayed in the AV Room, down the corridor from the studio space. This area was curated by four of us, ensuring that everyone had the space that they needed, and the audience were able to interact with each piece in the intended fashion. I displayed all three designs of the matchstick stairs, hanging them from the ceiling with a different coloured spotlight on each. The different colours of these was an unintentional element that added to the work, highlighting the differences between them and allowing the evaluation of the individual staircases. There is also a practical element to the spotlights, as they ensured people did not walk into the staircases that were suspended from the ceiling. When people did walk past them, there was an element of motion that was carried forth into the staircase as they would slowly rock back and forth.
The blurriness of each image added to the element of optical illusion. This somewhat stepped in the opposite direction that I originally intended with the stairs, as I wanted them as real as possible, such as in the negatives I have recently developed. However, as they are hanging you can see their positioning, but you are more captivated by the almost primal draw of the shadow from the spotlight.
I found that I enjoyed these elements coming together, and I want to explore the elements of real versus optical illusions through the use of shadow and light. One way to do this may be through the use of photograms, or using some of the negatives that I have already produced. I am not sure what my next steps will truly be as there are now multiple paths I could go down.
I was invited back to the Tate Exchange 2019 with Art Lab for ‘a series of participatory workshops that will enable visitors to explore the theme of movement’. There were several stations on the 5th floor of the Blavatnik Building in Tate Modern that lead people through different types of motion. Some of these were by other departments from the School of Arts and Graphic Communication at the University of Reading, including performance workshops and conversations around the theme of travelling and movement.
One of these was a ‘listen and draw’ activity, asking people to react on paper with pens and pencils to what they heard on headphones, in a silent disco manner. The sound recordings were made by first year students in the module Reading Objects Writing Images. Both schools and members of the public found this a very fun activity which allowed freedom around the papered space. As they were approaching a large piece of paper that was not blank, it was less daunting and allowed further engagement from those of all ages.
The second station of Art Lab’s was that of a selfie sphere which was a big shiny ball suspended from the ceiling. Participants were invited to draw a self portrait in this sphere and then take a 360 image with a GoPro with these self portraits on their head. We found that many would want a photo without the drawing, however it was still a very engaging activity with all ages.
The last station that Art Lab ran was the one I helped out most frequently with over the weekend. This used Augmented Reality (AR) through an iPad, which was placed onto a TV screen. It was originally intended for people to act like sculptures, recreating images, however it ended up that people were interacting more with the objects and animals that we were placing on the screen. We also found that this interaction caused a lot more enjoyment, and allowed us to play around more with the software. It was particularly funny to see the confused faces of those who saw the object on the screen, but not on the ground in front of them.
I also helped in the social media management of the event, posting to @artlabuor and @unirdg_art Instagram accounts to promote the activities. Interacting in a different way than helping out at the stations allowed me to see more of the background work that goes into such a large event. I look forward to see more of the running of large events such as this, and helping in the Tate Exchange with ArtLAB next year.
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