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.
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.
John Coplans was a British artist, art writer, curator and museum director who was a WWII war veteran. Some of his work is known as he was a founding member and one time editor-in-chief of Artforum magazine. One of his most famous series of works was a series of black and white photographs that depict the human body, especially his own naked body. His face is never shown within these images, making the viewer question whether it is all his own. This also allows you to come away from the focus of gender and identity – it becomes very personal but generic.
“So, I’m using my body and saying, even though it’s a 70-year-old body, I can make it interesting,” he said of the work. “I don’t know how it happens, but when I pose for one of these photographs, I become immersed n the past…I am somewhere else, another person, or a woman in another life. At times, I’m in my youth.” – Artnet
After the war, he was offered a grant to create art, and was introduced to the Pop Art movement, and which he became deeply involved in as both critic and curator. Occasionally, through his photography, you can get a sense of pain or discomfort with the positions that he puts himself in, perhaps reflecting on the war.
“I have the feeling that I’m alive, I have a body. I’m 70 years old, and generally the bodies of seventy-year old men look somewhat like my body. It’s a neglected subject matter…So, I’m using y body and saying, even though it’s a seventy year old body, I can make it interesting. This keeps me alive and gives me vitality. It’s a kind of process of energizing myself by my belief that the classical tradition of art that we’ve inherited from the Greeks is a load of bullshit.” – Tate
Bridget Riley began painting figure subject in a semi-impressionist manner, which quickly led her to pointillism. This spurred her on to look at producing disorientating effects to the eye, and drew slowly away from pointillism, to where she is today. Each piece of work is individually crafted for the disorientation, confusion and slight bewilderment. “Although she investigated many areas of perception, her work, with its emphasis on optical effects was never intended to be an end in itself. It was instinctive, not based on theory but guided by what she saw with her own eyes” (Op).
Riley did not always work in colour, as it was a slow introduction to her black and white work. When it was introduced however, it was a welcome difference and a “music of colour”, which is what she wanted (Op.
When viewing her works at Tate Modern, London, you can see the disorientating effects of the paintings on the eye almost immediately. From afar, you can see all the details, as each colour is presented in large blocks. After moving closer, especially to the finer black and white paintings, you can see the extreme detail that goes into each one. Even when close-up to the painting, it is still disorientating due to the tightness and lack of space between the individual lines and colour. I wish to bring a part of this disorientation into my work, to confuse but bewilder the viewer.
Berenice Sydney inscribes her work with her passion for music and dance as she studied classical ballet, guitar and flamenco. She also throws in the sense of liberation and freedom of expression which prevailed Britain in the 1960s. The Cubist and fauvist eras was essential to her work, informing and inspiring her of new narratives through her work.
Sydney travelled widely throughout her life, gaining inspirations from every corner of the world. Some of the most influential to her were Greece, the Aegean Islands and Egypt, where the history and mythology provided subject matter for many of her paintings.
The movement and freedom is what caught my eye in her current exhibition Dancing With Colour at Saatchi, London. Each piece was different, but they all contained the same fluency of language between artist, paint and canvas. Individual movement seemed calculated, as if there was a routine behind the creation of the painting, and improvised, like a dancer listening to the music and letting their limbs move. There are some elements pointing toward that of the Greek and Egyptian inspiration, but my eyes saw the movement of dance and freedom of speech through art.
Maurizio Anzeri turns photographs into a form of photo-sculpture. He uses found vintage photographs, sewing directly on top of them to create garnished features, including that of the psychological aura, of photographs and subjects, stand out. There is a juxtaposition between the antique appearance of the photographs against the sharp lines and shimmer of the threads that cover it. “The combined media gives the effect of a dimension where history and future converge” (Saatchi).
Anzeri has previously talked about his work in a very personal sense, taking inspiration from his own experience and observation of how, in other cultures, bodies themselves are treated as living graphic symbols.
One thing that particularly surprised me when visiting his recent exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, London, was the scale of these images. I understood that they would not be large, taking up whole walls, but online, you cannot grasp that they are around A4 size. This size had a greater impact on the viewer than initially thought, and showed to me that small can have impact. The psychological auras and garnished features in each were unique, thought of and powerful.
Carrie Mae Weems in an American artist who has investigated the topics of family relationship, cultural identity, sexism, class, political systems and the consequences of power. She aims to enter the picture, both literally and metaphorically, in an on-going dialogue of contemporary discourse. Through these thirty years, she has developed a complex body of art employing photographs, text, fabric, audio, digital images, as well as installation and video.
In her Tate Modern, London exhibition of From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried 1995-6, I witnessed this personal history that she embodies into her work. The images were chosen from archives that included daguerrotypes of slaves taken in the 1850s to the 1950s. The exhibition sequence ends with the same photograph taken from these archives; an image of the wife of a Mangbetu chief in the Belgian Congo.
The images themselves are enlarged and overlaid with a red tint, mounting them in black frames behind glass. The text that is etched onto each pane of glass forms a powerful, poetic commentary that reaches both ends of the display. Both image and text show African Americans being forced into servile roles and presented as evidence to prove dubious scientific theories, and stereotypical characters in novels.
Weems does not shy away from the violence of where these people came from; one image shows a whipped mans back. Displaying this image alongside other, more gentle ones, confronts the complex and brutal history of these people, and of those that she came from. She encourages the viewer to recognise each face as individual when addressing them as ‘you’.
I was intrigued by the red overlay on the images, as it makes the violence behind each one more pronounced. This, along with the text addressing the viewer, draws you into the piece, and almost leaves you wanting to feel guilty for perhaps being a cause, or a part of the reason why these people were made to do, what they were made to do. The power behind each image alone was staggering, but displayed together was like a smack round the face – from here, you saw what happened, and you couldn’t do anything to change what the people in the images had for a life.
Samson Young often works with archival pieces, throwing politics, sarcasm with tenderness in with a mix of utopia and dystopia into audio artworks. Often these are site-specific works, along with installations and field works.
Themes around Young’s work look at war, identity and literature, while compiling or re-constructing interviews, songs and other aspects of sound that came from these time periods. There is also a large use of unexpected sounds, allowing him to push melodies formalist boundaries to create innovative cross-media experiences. These unexpected sounds include the ring of Gameboys, fanfare rides and Cantonese nursery rhymes.
Within each project, there is a heavy amount of research completed, and Young maps the endeavour through a series of drawings and recordings. While being a travelling landscape artist, as well as a sound artist, “Young sketches and records the sounds of each objects, to create a visual and auditory archive, which addresses the title of the work…” (EM)
I find Young’s work captivating, as he does not only record and utilise the sounds that are heard in day to day life, but also adapts his own sounds for each object he comes across in his journey. That level of dedication in his practice, and how he is able to hear sounds in objects, is somewhat fascinating.
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