SWAP: Offsite Show

SWAP was the show put on by Freya Everest, Charlotte Grocutt, Nicole Davies, Meryl Yana, Katherine Scardifield and myself. We formed the group as although we use different mediums and processes, we thought our work would all make sense in the same space. We wanted to set a conceptual framework by which to make work. We felt this would result in an exhibition that was cohesive with work that was somewhat related to eachother. The idea of the swap came about and this was our favourite idea for the framework. We liked the idea of making work specifically for this exhibition rather than exhibiting an unrelated piece of work.

SWAP poster

I swapped with Katherine. We found our practices to be the most similar of the three pairs so were trying to think of a unique way to swap. We decided to demonstrate and capitalise on our differences by working with similar objects. These two pieces of metal were paint display shelves. We decided to each take one shelf and make a piece of work out of this.

The two paint shelves. I used the one on the right.

I was unsure what to do with my shelf for a while. I knew Katherine was considering using eggs as she has worked with them before, so I thought about what materials I am drawn to. I eventually decided to make an installation based around the shelf and moss. Moss is a material I’ve used before so I thought it made sense, in the context of the swap, to clearly demonstrate the difference between Katherine and I’s practices by using a material that really resonates with me, and one that I almost consider a trademark of my practice. The combination of organic and inorganic matter is something I have explored before, so with this piece, I wanted to explore this in a different way.

I turned up to the space with a kit of sorts as I felt this was reminiscent of Katherine’s practice. I had the shelf, the moss, two sheets of wire mesh, a sheet of brown-tinted transparent plastic and a thick sheet of glass. I knew I wanted to use these materials in some way but was not sure exactly how. Katherine’s work has a focus on material quality and mostly involves the use of slightly unconventional materials, so I tried to channel this in my material selection. Also, Katherine’s work is often site specific so I thought it was important to only choose how exactly I’m using these components when actually in the space.

View of the space as you walk in

I was instantly drawn to what would have been the storefront as it had a slightly different feeling to the rest of the space. The space was marked out already as the floor was concrete in this section. I liked how unconventional the space was in comparison to the rest of the room.

The front of the space, where my piece was

I packed the moss into the back of the shelf and attached it to the wall, the moss bursting through the grooves in the piece of metal. The result was a strange metal vessel that contained a strange organic matter. I liked that the moss was somewhat unidentifiable as it was only visible through the gaps in the metal. The storefront was good for this as it was a fairly inconspicuous place to display work. At this point the shelf looked like a radiator that was part of the room. 

I placed moss on the ground and pressed it under the thick sheet of glass out of interest. I really liked how this looked as, again, it made the moss slightly less identifiable. I placed the sheet of plastic over one side as I liked the slight moss residue on it due to an experiment. It added a sense of unity to the piece.

The finished sculpture

I was really interested in this idea of confining organic matter within rigid manmade structures. I like that the moss is visible but always held either inside the metal vessel or underneath the thick sheet of glass. The material quality of the items I chose to work with complimented the space and, more specifically, the area that my piece was displayed in. My main objective was to channel the playfulness and lightheartedness that I see in Katherine’s practice. This seemed like the perfect time for this due to how I’ve been struggling with motivation. This exercise worked as a manageable and low pressure way of making work based on experimentation.

Moss compressed under glass

Detail of moss in the shelf 

Detail of moss under glass

Although the piece wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, I am happy with the outcome of the show. I was very happy with the space, everyone’s work and how it was hung. Our private view had a good turnout and was a great night.

I was quite interested in seeing the piece uncovered and unrestrained when I disassembled it.

Katherine and I wanted to leave our shelves together.

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Reflecting on my Practice

My essay explored themes of calm in art and film as the most successful pieces I’ve made in the past have often focused on a calming process of creating. Although after writing the essay I still feel like I don’t fully understand the topic, it definitely pushed me to think about how calm is relevant to my practice. I’ve noticed I tend to make things unnecessarily hard for myself so I wanted my next piece of work to be something a little more lighthearted. I want to resume making work as a therapy. I have been really struggling to produce work so making something in this way may help my practice to regain some momentum.

Therapeutic work tends to be mindless and calm. It is mostly process-based. I need some sort of automatic, repetitive action in order to produce work. This relieves any pressure of making decisions while assembling a piece. Being able to calmly and quietly get on with a piece in this way is a great exercise to relax and have an opportunity to think. Something about slowly carrying out a process where all the decisions have been made beforehand is such a relieving feeling. It feels like the one time you don’t have to think about anything and are excused of normal life responsibilities.

I saw a TED talk by Jordan Raskopoulos about high functioning anxiety that explained this idea well. Raskopoulos is a comedian and performer and therefore relates her experience to being on stage, but the principal remains the same.

Although I have not been diagnosed with high functioning anxiety, I relate to what she says about being on stage. Raskopoulos explains that performing is the one time her mind is at rest. While normally clouded with countless thoughts, being on stage allows her mind to focus only on the immediate task ahead: in this case, delivering a talk. Like Raskopoulos, my mind is also constantly thinking about ideas, which is good but incredibly paralysing. I don’t think I experience this to quite the same degree as Raskopoulos, but it is definitely a feeling I relate to.

This video made me really question how I make work. Trying to understand how my practice works and why is something I have been considering, but I now realise this is better done by exploration and making work. There is something intensely calming about knowing exactly what you are doing for a period of time, and I suppose the reason I like repetitive and mindless processes is because they are inherently predetermined. Maybe, as long as work is either partially or fully predetermined I should be more able to actually make it.

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Bea Fremderman

Fremderman has a playful way of making work, shown not only in her choice of materials, but also in the way she assembles them together. She often combines organic and inorganic matter or uses organic matter to make something typically inorganic. There is a definite surreal quality to her work, but it remains grounded and relatable in the use of everyday, familiar objects. Her work is mostly focused on environmental issues and is therefore inherently linked to nature. Her sculptures and installations are often time-based, involving the growth or decay of organic matter.

Work from ‘Solastalgia’, 2016 (http://www.beafremderman.com)

Pieces are assembled out of living things, such as seeds or shoots, and manmade objects, such as clothing or plastic, and are then left to change. Her work germinates and disintegrates over the course of its display. Fremderman allows her work to take it’s natural course. This means the work can be considered almost as two performances: one of assembly and one of decay. It is this attention to some of the basic, key principles of life that gives her work the pure, natural, and ultimately calm quality that I interested in.

(http://www.beafremderman.com)

While primarily focused on ecological issues, her work also eventually marks the passage of time. She explores themes of homesickness and a lack of familiarity, which usually manifests itself in, much like Mickiewicz’ work, the relationships the audience has with fairly mundane objects. Fremderman really emphasises the ordinary and the overlooked, presenting the most basic yet all-encompassing fundamentals of life in a gentle, approachable and calm way.

(http://www.beafremderman.com)

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Nightlife

Nightlife is a film by Cyprien Gaillard made in 2015. It follows a series of atmospheric visuals depicting urban areas of specific cultural relevance. One of the most striking visuals in the film is the maniacal whipping of juniper trees along the streets of Los Angeles. These bizarrely animated trees radiate so much more life and energy than the fairly mundane streets they grow upon. The trees somehow simultaneously exude both furiousness and a sense of calm as they almost dance, an effect achieved by using a leaf blower. The notions of calm is achieved by the high quality slow motion, which presents a series of what would ordinarily be agitated, excited movements as graceful and hypnotic.

Image result for nightlife cyprien gaillard

Gentle panning shots of the juniper trees in bright coloured light are almost psychedelic while maintaining a sense of dream-like calm. The soundtrack is hypnotic and repetitive, with an almost dystopian feel to it. A constant drum beat and looped vocals play as an instrumental fades in and out, the dynamic contrast reminiscent of drifting in and out of sleep. The audio is layered with effects, resulting in a muted, underwater-like soundtrack with a distinct sub-marine tranquility.

Image result for nightlife cyprien gaillard

I understand Gaillard’s intention is to explore themes of culture and cohabitation, however I interpreted the film to be an exploration into something a little more internal. To me, the use of plants bridges the gap between animals and inanimate objects, acting as something in between. This piece channels calm as a sense of vacancy, which I interpret as a state of dissociation. It achieves this by the absence of human life, making the trees more animate and alive, whereas when people are present, plants tend to recede and return to inanimate objects.

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Animation Plans

After being really happy with how my test animation turned out I want to make more animations with more ambitious movements and pathways.

This piece involves a stationary creature with animation motion lines around it, an almost comic-book-style of animation. I like how it depicts movement without actually showing any motion.

I want to try an animation with harsh corners as I want to take advantage of the fact that animation doesn’t need to be a physically possible motion.

Again, I like the harsh turn but also making sections of the path completely straight.

Another combination of a sudden turn and straight lines, really utilising basic geometric shapes.

I’m unsure whether to slow down the turns or keep them the same pace as the rest of the movement.

This idea plays with depth. Depending on the outcome I will either feature this more often or just stick to animations at one depth.

This is a wave motion, almost snake-like or a fluid swimming movement.

Another pathway using perfect geometry as I like the flatness it suggests.

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Book of Creatures 3

Some of the creatures are really starting to become quite strange and abstract as I work with referencing inanimate objects in their designs. These creature-object forms are some of my favourites from the book so far.

Bird-like creatures

Jar of jelly-like creatures

Serpent-dragon

Fish

Frogs

Shape-shifting creature

TV-mammal hybrid

Tree spirit

TV-plant hybrid

Computer screen-plant hybrids

Computer-plant hybrid

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Book of Creatures 2

Filling the book has been really enjoyable. Drawing one piece per page is a way of working that I think suits me as it doesn’t feel so weighted. There are certain creature archetypes that are starting to appear as I fill the book. Different species are essentially evolving within the drawing formula.

Serpent

Bear-like tree-dwelling creature

Amphibian-dragons

Algae/swamp monster

Plant-mammal hybrids

Seaweed-serpent

Dragon

Bubble/cell-like creatures

Anemone/seal-like creature

Another bear-like creature

Forest dragon

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Thinking about Aesthetics

I’ve been thinking about aesthetic art and how people react to it. Purely aesthetic art is just as valid as any other form of art, but it seems as though striking the balance between conceptual and aesthetic art can be really effective. A film by artist Maryam Tafakory was what made me really consider the relationship between conceptual and aesthetic art and how this relationship can be used to alter the audience’s experience.

Still from Absent Wound, 2016  (http://www.maryamtafakory.com/absent.html)

I saw Maryam Tafakory’s film Absent Wound in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016. I was initially drawn to the screen the film was playing on solely for the visuals. It was an aesthetic that really resonated with me and I wanted to see what the film was about.

Still from Absent Wound, 2016  (https://www.ica.art/bnc-2016-artists-index/maryam-tafakory)

I saw Maryam Tafakory’s film Absent Wound in the Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016. I was initially drawn to the screen that was showing this film for its aesthetic value, with scenes of the quiet, unkempt bathroom particularly catching my attention. The actual content of the piece then held my interest further. The film follows two contrasting events: the aggressive training rituals of Persian warriors and an anonymous young girl having her first period. Violent chanting and the ritualistic, hypnotic whirling of armed men juxtapose scenes of an isolated girl quietly and peacefully washing away the blood dripping on her feet. There’s a sense of pain in the way in which the girl quietly and patiently washes her menstrual blood from her feet and the floor, performing recitations as she does so. She is resigned, moving in a delicate manner as she fills various metallic bowls and rinses her feet. One imagines a rhythmic dripping of water, emphasizing the ritual. By stark contrast to the girl in the bathroom, the warrior scene is aggressive, with displays of manhood and machismo.

 

 

I discovered Gizela Mickiewicz’ work online when I saw an image of her piece, Negotiating Distant Memories, online. Much like my experience with Maryam Tafakory’s piece, I was instantly interested in this piece.

Negotiating Distant Memories, 2016  (http://galeriastereo.pl/gizela-mickiewicz)

Mickiewicz’ work led me to consider how to go about taking inspiration from a conceptual artist when making aesthetic art. Should the concept behind an artwork be ignored if all you are referencing is the aesthetic of the work? I don’t want to disregard an artist’s intentions but they may not be relevant to this theoretical piece.

Mickiewicz typically creates sculptures which play around with the basic form of the object or piece of furniture. Objects are treated with such care, often having components straightened out and made regular. Each sculpture is made from an object or collection of objects, such as a section of wire fence or bathroom debris, with one aspect of its physicality manipulated or emphasised in some way. These alterations make her work playful while being executed in a heavily considered, logical way. Due to her interest in fairly stark household objects, her pieces are almost entirely comprised of neutral grey and off-white forms. Most of her sculptures evoke a sense of calm, the pieces giving the impression of a relaxed posture, with no sense of agitation or stress. The familiarity of each sculpture due to its use of everyday items also adds to this calming nature.

Raw Time, 2014. (http://contemporarylynx.co.uk/gizela-mickiewicz-artist-in-residence-at-gasworks-in-london)

Her work uses a lot of components that I am particularly drawn to for their material quality. She uses a lot of textures and colours that I favour. I’m drawn to tiles, concrete, plants, water, anything relating to bathrooms or swimming pools. Although these components are not necessarily present in my work, I see a vague resemblance in some of the textures and shapes I work with.

I identified some traits that seemed to be a running theme present in a lot of my work. My work tends to be calm, unimposing, non-threatening. In the same way people might make ‘angry art’ or ‘sad art’, I make calm art. I make non-threatening and unimposing work as I feel this allows the audience to get closer to a piece without being intimidated. I don’t want an audience to be scared off by a piece, I want them to be comfortable in the presence of my work.

 

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Book of Creatures

I remember working on a project about making a comic that came to a standstill. I wanted it to be either a comic or a collection of images or scenes that would cover a general theme instead of having a concise and explicit plot as I thought this would better communicate the idea behind what I envisioned. I thought the idea of having a comic without a narrative to be compelling as it kind of removes the comic’s main function, which is to tell a story. The project lost momentum as I was struggling to think of how to move the project beyond the planning stages and start making work. I wanted the drawings to be spontaneous and not heavily considered, so although planning was necessary, I felt that it might reduce the authenticity of unplanned drawings. I wanted to return to this project at a later date when I had a better idea of how to carry it forward.

Although I’m not making a comic, at least for this particular project, the idea of using a book seems an appropriate format to show this collection of creatures. So despite leaving the comic project behind, I wanted these drawings to still channel the same sense of spontaneity and originality as I envisioned the comic to have.

Using a book is a good way to encourage exploration. The end result will be a book of drawings in chronological order which is a good way to show development and how these creatures evolve over time. I’m hoping the a5 format will encourage me to produce lots of drawings without getting too held up on how ‘good’ I perceive each one to be, and having a physical book of drawings feels like a more substantial outcome than a collection of loose drawings.

A segmented creature

An almost god-like serpent creature

Stingray-like creature and a skeleton diagram

Goldfish

Serpent

Pocket-sized creature

Genie/wizard inspired creature

Serpent-bear hybrid

Dragon-like serpent

 

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Water Sculpture Ideas

I had this idea to try to make the most appealing liquid I could imagine. I’ve also been thinking about creating a sculpture that would hold water. Combining these two ideas seemed to be the most effective way to use them as the sculpture will be a way for me to display the perfect liquid I’m imagining. In order to make this perfect liquid I’d need to try out mixing different combinations of liquids and pigments. I already have a pretty good idea about what this liquid would look like. 

Easy washing up liquid

The bright, turquoise-green colour of this washing up liquid is what tempted me to buy it. The liquid is glossy and slightly viscous and it also smells amazing as it’s aloe vera scented. I’ve almost become a bit obsessed with it so I thought it seemed appropriate as a starting point for the perfect liquid.

Sketches of water sculpture ideas

The sculpture is a way for me to hold and control a transient material, which is itself manipulated by how it is held and controlled. The piece contains something abstract

Another idea I had was to make a sculpture that holds a specific measurement of water. I thought about ways to measure water that were illogical or nonsensical, almost meaningless. It would be interesting to work with a two-dimensional unit of measurement as it’s so incoherent and inappropriate for measuring a three-dimensional material. A sculpture could be made with a one-metre-long groove on it, meaning that when filled the sculpture would hold a metre of water. Again, this could be combined with my ‘perfect liquid’ idea to result in a sculpture that holds a metre of this perfect liquid.

Sketches of ‘1m of water’ ideas

The sculpture holds water in a measurable way. The piece would quantify and contain a material that is difficult to quantify and contain. However, its quantified in an illogical unit of measurement, so this precious, perfect liquid is only presented as a nonsensical, abstract form.

When I thought about making this I was unaware of Duchamp’s 3 Standard Stoppages. My piece is similar to Duchamp’s in that both pieces physicalise and quantify something intangible and impermanent. However, the intention behind his piece was to ‘imprison and preserve forms obtained through chance’, whereas mine is more focused on containing and storing a transient material.

3 Stoppages Etalon, 1913-14  (http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/duchamp-3-stoppages-etalon-3-standard-stoppages-t07507)

One could argue that the artwork is the experiment rather than the actual physical piece. The piece is only an object to preserve this experiment, meaning the work can be replicated for the same effect, which has really immortalised the piece.

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