Tuesday, 17 March 2009

September/October's work

Finally, true to word (if not a little later than planned) here are some images of the ideas and visual explorations I have been working on recently.

Although I'm most keen to document all that I'm working on now, bear with me as I try to offer some context for my ideas.


When I moved to RMS back in September, I needed to establish for myself a 'starting point' - not only for my 'next project' but also to kick start my transition from art student to aspiring artist.

In my second year at University I'd developed a home made modrock material which I used to take casts of the surfaces of bricks. For my end of year project, I applied the material to a wendy house.

The project was successful and I was sure that there was still scope for me to develop my work, taking the brick-modrock material as a new starting point. Nevertheless, regretfully, I didn't trust myself not to fall into the trap of trying to recreate a minor success and was afraid of becoming stale and repetitive. Instead of taking that risk as I progressed into third year I built a new project entirely.

This year, free to explore without the fear of failure and of not achieving a degree out of my explorations, I felt much less timid about revisiting the brick-modrock material. And so I adopted it as my new 'starting point.'

I began with the brick motif again, using different materials to take 'casts' from the surface:

PVA and mosquito netting

I chose to use mosquito netting, inspired by artist Do Ho Suh, whose work I first encountered at the Pyscho Buildings exhibtion in London (Hayward Gallery). Mosquito netting seemed appropriate for all the memories and assosiations it holds in the context of my childhood in Indonesia. In terms of formal qualities, I liked it's transparency & the idea that it's used to let some things through & keep others out. I thought it had a lot of potential to be interesting.

I'd hoped the PVA would stiffen the fabric so that it would pick up the relief of the brick surfaces - it didn't. Although the dirt from the brick formed an interesting pattern, I considered the experiment unsuccesful.

Plaster and mosquito netting

In the past, I've worked with plaster a lot. I thefore decided to try pouring plaster into the groves between the bricks, as a kind of mortar, in the hope that it would address the issue of the netting not picking up the 3-D-ness of the surface. It wasn't very successful either, as the netting tended to pull away from the plaster and the plaster cracked and crumbled.

Mosquito netting and hand stiching

Since I was working with a material I decided to try stiching the brick pattern in. I thought that by gathering material as the mortar it would become more three dimensional. I tried both hand stiching into the netting and also machine stiching. I much prefered the hand stiching to the machine work, but was still disappointed by the outcome.

Amongst all this experimentation some of the classes from the Textiles department at RMS were learning paper making techniques. As I was talking to the head of Textiles, Rachel, about my failed experiments she suggested that I tried taking a cast of the surface using paper pulp, from the paper making technique. I thought it was a great idea, and immediately set myself up to give it ago.

Newspaper sample, bricks

This is the first sample I produced. It's made from pulped newspaper.

The sample is fairly stiff and has very different properties from the home made modrock surface from my project at university. I liked it less, although do quite like the edges and the hole that accidently occured in the middle of it.

Taking a cardboard cast of brick surface

I decided to experiment with cardboard as well as the newspaper. I liked the brown/earthy colour.

This picture shows the process of taking a cast of the surface of the bricks. One problem I encoutered was drying time. The cardboard (and newspaper), unlike the home made modrock where the plaster set fairly quickly, took days to dry. Furthermore, it was barely possibly to lift the cast from the sufrace without it falling apart.

The home made modrock had very material like properties, but the newspaper and cardboard retained their paper qualities and were much less useful. For example, I wouldn't be able to curve them around corners in the same way.

cardboard 'cast' of brick surface
This is an example of the cardboard cast which disintigrated whilst trying to release it from the brick surface.

I do like it's archeological look and how it has become fragmented. I think it makes an interesting photograph, but is not particularly useful or easy to work with as a surface.

By this point I had become quite attached to cardboard as a material to work with. It's interesting to me because it draws assosiations of packing life up into a cardboard box and moving house. Also there are further significant assosiates for me, due to the stereotype of homeless people 'living out of cardboard boxes'.

And so it was in this way that I began working with cardboard, and from this point that my current project has really evolved.

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