Flâneuring

As I continue to work from my collection I am continually noticing and taking the time to find objects that convey my concept. This has tied in well with the acts of flanerie we explored within the first blog task. On reflection the time when I walk the slowest in my everyday life is on my way out or back home through the rural lanes, without the rush of traffic or crowds of people urging a sense of haste. In these short journeys I uncover different fragments dispersed and embedded into the ground within various locations.

With the extensive amount of rain recently, the loosening of the floor surfaces allows for these natural materials to be revealed. There is a constant cycle of debris being depressed into the ground and in turn a process of other matter being overturned and resurfacing. Although the actual objects and materials I discover are very distant to the more urban make up of the Chinatown/ Soho setting, there are also similar surface characteristics. In many of these rocks there is this tension between coarse outer layers and a much smoother patterned internal designs, that mimic qualities within my rough guide imagery but in a more organic colour palette.

Although I enjoy finding these small treasures I still feel conscious about stopping abruptly, or walking a few steps back to pick up things that caught my eye. In doing so I question why is it so uncomfortable and why such an action is judged. Although the roads I walk are mostly quiet and empty a paranoia comes over me when I go to collect an object, in particular the rocks that are more buried than I originally anticipated. The longer it takes to loosen the fragment from the clutches of the muddy ground, the more awkward the act becomes. In instances where I have hesitated or been unable to collect something that could have been promising I felt a sense of regret and even loss for an item I had never even held. If we continue to be rushed and concerned with the opinions of others we allow these fragments of beauty to be lost forever. If not me, who else takes the time or cares enough to rediscover them.

These fragments become small traces of the whole and although they can never properly exist in this context again I wonder whether they can be isolated from this loss and achieve their own individual meaning. With these ideas arising I am starting to see that many of  these objects become purposeless in this state and whether this is because, the view now is, it is better to have never known this object existed than to realise it in its defeated, ‘lesser’ form.

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Linear Textures

With my stitch experiments I have gone on to explore trapping further. Instead of quilting, trapping through a process of layering within, I wanted the ephemera now to texture and be seen on the top surface. I began combining my fabrics with more unusual and mixed media materials, seen here with the toothpicks, affixed to the fabric with a zig-zag stitch. I adjusted the stitch length to explore the disrupted lines within a drawing inspired by a tyre from my collection. I wanted to play with the concept of disguise and areas of visibility, which was something Yemi responded to in the tutorial. By showing her the drawing and having the object on hand we were able to discuss what was so alluring in the object and found it derived from the relationship between line, hard, fluffy and tactile textures. Yemi liked the fragmented quality and suggested beading and stitching shapes in linear patterns, mimicing my drawings. This was a fresh idea and not a process I would have considered alone, her suggestion to iron sequins to remove the shiny plastic connotations was transformative to the organic 3D textures I explored with the beading.

I feel as though I have pushed myself within my making and approach to the stitch pathway and with each suggestion or new technique I enjoy discovering my own individual realisation. Moving forward the I can see the mixed media making will develop in these samples.  Further techniques shown by Aimee using the iron and heat press with bondaweb, foil, flock and transfer paper are promising. Looking at how I add colour the heat transfer paper could become a way of fusing more intricate processes with bolder blocks of fragmented colour seen in my drawings.

Stitch Sampling

Visiting Goldhawk Rd to source fabric was a confusing yet also exciting experience. The rich variety of materials was compelling and within the different stores there was so much to take in and explore. With this overwhelming compilation of materials, my visual imagery including the wrappings became crucial in helping me select appropriate fabrics. I was conscious of colour as well as the different weights and textures of the material. Knowing that I would be exploring these fabrics in depth and manipulating them within different processes I felt it was important to have a variety of material qualities that were very contrasting but also in a way evoked a compelling narrative of juxtaposition.

Immediately back in the studio I surrounded myself with my drawings to begin sampling. Although it is very tempting to get lost in the visual research, through my making and experimentation I was able to isolate a few sources that really inspired my processes. Looking at even a single drawing there was so much to explore,  from the way the media lay on the surface of the page, the interaction of marks to combinations of colours and more. The broken needle technique was intriguing, as in combining the delicate grey fabric with piles of thread, this almost aggressive stabbing action revealed a very subtle mark and beauty, with the thread pierced through delicately on the reverse side. From my drawing on the sandpaper, qualities of texture and relief arose and using stretch jersey and the free machine embroidery I was able to create a textured surface . The emerging colour palette became inspired by the greys and peach tones in the drawing and what was most interesting was how the pastel was ingrained into the coarse sandpaper whilst also sitting loose in other areas. 

“The act of stitching is one that is simultaneously repetitive, meditative, and industrious. It is also a series of tiny acts of violence: cutting, piercing, grafting together, that when added up, become a realized form.”- Laura Bell (www.laurabellstudio.com/sculpturalembroidery/)

In thinking about different levels of texture I also tried quilting techniques with the blue fleece. Here I was looking into the pockets of depth suggested within one of my swatch drawings, thinking about layers, cutting away, meeting points and intersections. I also felt the bold blue cobalt colour I pulled from my photos was an exciting choice and brought about a new sense of mood within my samples.

On the second sampling day I was helped greatly by my tutorial with Yemi. At this point in my sampling it was valuable to be able to reflect and receive some feedback on how to develop. With the blue quilted sample Yemi liked the idea but suggested that it possibly wasn’t fully satisfying because it had a different quality to what my drawing suggested. She brought out the idea that the drawing conveyed ideas of translucency and suggested that the top layers should possibly be lighter, in contrast to the deeper pocketed hole slits.

Technical Block: Stitch

Today we started our first technical block rotation off in Stitch. By this time, with the rough guide project and drawing I was really ready to get going and start making. The stitch pathway is extremely intriguing to me as I saw the degree show last year and was amazed by the variety and expansive areas of material exploration that the work showcased.

Aimee began by inducting our group onto the sewing machines. The stitch room is incredible and so inspiring with all the walls covered in sample experiments that only demonstrate to me further,  how diverse the stitch pathway is. Not only was it helpful to be shown the in and outs of these specific machines but also to explore the possibilities of stitches that I had never been aware of on my own machine at home, such as curved lines and irregular zigzags. Playing with tension and stitch width also came into practice here and helped to create some exciting variations. We were also shown how to adjust the settings on the machine to allow for free movement stitching which I had already done previously. I love being able to draw with the threads and combine different colours together for a textured surface. Aimee demonstrated a few techniques that moved further from the simple stitches, using the bobbin to add thicker embroidery threads. The effects she was able to achieve were intricate, visually compelling and surprising as when working in this way you are essentially working backwards, with the back of the work then becoming the front. In a similar way she also wound shirring elastic into the bobbin and with the fabric stretched as tight as possible began free machine stitching. When she released the work from the hoop the elastic contracted and the material immediately became more 3d and textured.

For the second half of the day we were with Isabel, the tutor of the pathway,  who demonstrated how to translate drawings into process. It was so amazing to see how fluid the process was within her mind and what she was able to express with such few materials and supplies. This brought me back to the TED lecture, thinking about sustainability of materials and the designers responsibility to respond to the changing world. She looked at each of our drawings and focusing on a subtle mark or quality improvised an exciting and dynamic technique. I particularly like the comment she made comparing the combination of techniques to recipes and being able to experiment to make up her own. Isabel also showed us images of previous work and opened us up to the idea that the stitch pathway is  very mixed media and goes into much more depth than just simply working with the sewing machine. It was even possible for the work to end up not using the machines at all! This really enticed me and made me consider the possibility of Stitch as my chosen pathway as it immediately appeals to the ways I like to create.  However I am always keeping an open mind and trying not to think too far ahead, but instead relish the experience now.

We were briefed for tomorrow, to source materials to begin sampling and were told to only buy a few fabrics. Although I had some supplies tucked away in my room, Isabel said we should buy new materials as making these choices responding to our visual imagery was part of the process. This was very thought provoking for me as I am always conscious about pushing myself to develop new ideas and possibilities. By using unfamiliar materials I can discover new ways of working and explore the possibilities in depth without being stunted by the conclusions I had already come to of a particular material. I am really looking forward to seeing what I can get, and how the fabrics will influence the direction of my material and stitch exploration.

Mining the Museum

From Emmanuel’s lecture exploring the concept of the gallery as a space of control, the task is now to think critically about how curation affects the history we are given. Something is unsettling to me when I truly consider why it is so uncomfortable to question this institution that promises to give insight into what is unknown. Why have I never considered what it is that gives four stone walls and grand museum titles the power of the information to be taken as fact? In thinking about how museums and exhibitions are curated, I now see how anything that is ever edited is done so with the intention of an individual or set of individuals to create a desired narrative, so why not in this context also. On reflection too many times I have been to a museum and found out something truly fascinating that I then go on to tell someone else. In the question ‘did you know…?’ the premiss is that we believe what we have been told is entirely trustworthy without questioning.

With this in mind I visited the Tate Britain’s  BP sponsored ‘Walk through British Art’ display. Being able to reflect on the lecture discussion, the power of the museum was immediately apparent when I explored the collection. With museums, and this one in particular, designed architecturally to look like temples and churches of the ancient world, the associated sanctified demeanour which we adopt evidences the authority we give to the institution.  By adjusting what we see and how we behave, how we react is then not completely unadulterated.

‘Museums shelter not so much objects as meanings, and their work is that of articulating, linking and arranging them in a network of significance. ‘ – Thomas Keenan, No Ends in Sight

(http://www.manss.com/en/Project/Tate-Britain-Signage)

Tat Britain. [Online image] Available at: <http://www.manss.com/en/Project/Tate-Britain-Signage&gt; [Accessed 20 Oct 13]

The display is ordered chronologically and begins with a group of historical paintings. In order to critically evaluate what narrative is being conveyed I looked to the images shown as well as the text that accompanies them. The labels are positioned not directly underneath the work but much closer to the floor. In a way this is an immediate positive step as it allows the viewer to see the work as they chose without a preconceived idea of how they should react. Despite this there is also a sense of anonymity that is not so reassuring. At a glance we have no idea who these people are or why they should be featured.  Within the labels the information given is also sparse, with more detail on the acquisition of the work rather than the subject or even the intention of the artist. The title ‘Portrait of a woman in Red’ struck me as I questioned who the curators intended to present as important.  This is particularly problematic as this exhibition sets out to explore ‘British’ Art and here the curators directly reveal in contradiction that many sitters favour foreign painter for their level of skill. With the subject often anonymous the apparent importance is with the named artist, who in many cases was European. Although many of subjects are unnamed they still convey a sense of power and prestige, this is controlled by the strikingly similar compositions of the works. They all seem to feature a very direct gaze and tilt of the shoulders, which create the most flattering view possible. The pose then feels contrived, ornamented with deliberate imagery to convey the sitters own intended narrative.  Now, looking to the lack of information I began to consider that it does not leave the floor open for thought but rather the curation is more controlled. With less text to question, we accept the visual narrative we are given, of these men and women being highly regarded figures despite being nameless.

With the grouping organised by date, it became relevant to consider what this was trying to say of the era. Are these the ‘best’ examples of people of the age and what does the term ‘best’ even mean? Is it the defined in most accurate or most pleasing illustration? This notion brings me back to concept of mapping and what parts and types of people are left off when documenting a certain time or place. The layout also led to some unusual curation choices. The juxtaposition between Wright’s painting of the erupting Vesuvius against an image of a child and his dogs was particularly unusual. In the idea of taxonomy these works wore placed together due to the age’s interest in nature. I really responded to the painting by Wright due to its vivacious energy. The text given expresses the painter’s desire to create a sense of impact and immense power of the natural force unfurling its dangerous wrath. However despite recognising this their decision to present these images together seemed to diminish this intention and trivialise the grave subject matter. The museum here removes something out of its original context and recontextaulises it with its own created narrative that seems undeserving to the work it recognises.

‘Artists look at museums, Museums look at themselves’ Lisa G.Corrin

Museums make us feel safe because they are about continuum. As I reflect, their authority seems to be like that of a textbook, where the printed word has a validity or power as it feels established and part of history itself. It is worrying to question these institutions as possibly by doing so could allow the meaning given to collapse. In both cases what is seen is not to be queried as it teaches us what we should know in order to become better educated or cultured.  From this thought I began to consider the concept that when knowledge is power, then the true power is in the hands of those editing what should be known.

IMG_7815

Hatoum, M. (1985, 1995) Performance Still. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, mounted on aluminium. London: Tate Britain

 Although this work is featured within a later room in the display due to its more contemporary dating, I found something very curious about its curation. The work immediately compelled me through its deliberate choice of display, resting on the floor, detached from the wall. The image represents bare feet almost shackled by the shoes tied with the laces, now dragging behind . To me the image evokes issues of identity and control. This journey of walking on the bare ground is emphasised in this style of display. However intriguingly in front of the work features a line of display tape. When the curation engages us to relate, with our feet on a similar level bringing us closer to a state of empathy, this line that is a prerequisite of distance is problematic. Due to curator concerns of the piece being vulnerable to possible damage it can be understood the distance is for the safety of the work. Nonetheless, whilst the photograph speaks of oppression we see this confinement again ourselves, with our viewing experience also being controlled as if we too are shackled by the institution that has brought us this very work. In a way the museum creates its own unintentional narrative about institutions of control. With those in control, seen in the image by the cold hard industrial boots, with a weight and power over the everyday man, the bare feet being a raw and universal commonality we share.
Bibliography
Duncan, C. (1995) Civilising Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums. New York: Routledge
Keenan, T.  No Ends in Sight. In: Borja-Villel, Manuel J. and Hanhardt
Wilson, F. Corrin, L. ed. (1954) Mining the Museum: an installation. New York: Contemporary
Images
Gheeraerts, M. (1620) Portrait of a Woman in Red. Oil paint on oak. London: Tate Britain
Hatoum, M. (1985, 1995) Performance Still. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, mounted on aluminium. London: Tate Britain
Wright, J. (c.1776-80) Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples. Oil paint on canvas. London: Tate Britain

Gridded

The idea that it is often through breaking something up that we get closer to the true being of the original, is one that is becoming central to my concept for the Box Clever project. We explored this idea in drawing with Kathy through a consideration of grids, cutting up and dissecting chosen forms with our imaginations. It also seems to be relevant within the drawing process as we pull from an object to extract information. As a personal development I went on to further pursue this idea and decided to use the photocopier as a ‘drawing’ process of its own.

By taking 3d objects to the photocopier and reducing them to flat images I am able to explore surface as well as space. Although the image is 2d, the object still has a depth of shadow and form, almost trapped within the page. I was extremely intrigued by not only this new version of the object but also the machine’s interpretation of light and space. This interest came about due to the uneven, extended forms of the objects that obstructed the closing of the photocopier lid. This translated in a stripped pattern, often directed in a juxtaposition, against the lay of the object. This visual ‘interruption’ in the image was striking as it possessed a similarity to the original surfaces I created with the photos and tape peeling.

With this reflection there could be great potential in creating and working from imagery with this linear overlaid pattern. As I photographed the images I also played  with light and shadow to bring yet another layer to the surface. It is as though each new way of recording my objects, brings its own form of intervention and disruption to leave a transformed multi layered image. In a way the compilation of processes embodies the idea of trying to puzzle together the fragments of my objects. By combining these layers I feel this idea could become quite fascinating when I go on to try print and work on photoshop.

Adding Colour

Developing on from my black and white swatch drawings, I began experimenting with colour. The way I chose to use colour had to be more sensitive and selective, as the brief was to only use 2 colours per box. I really loved the rich colours and
texture of the photos within my box. To explore this within these focused constraints, I selected areas and juxtapositions of colours that struck me and cut them out to create small photo swatch ideas, responding to the matted and varied surface texture of some of my organic fragments.

As I began drawing I realised it was important to use not only the right colours, but the tones and shades that together would convey the essence of the texture I was trying to describe. I considered the interplay between the proportion of different colours. Bold block areas of  contrasted to more considered detailed marks. I was particularly interested to explore qualities of opacity and translucency through my media to show the layered depth of textures within my objects. From mark making within these swatch boxes I can now see how to develop my drawing in a more experimental expressive way going forward.