Testing, Testing

I have been spending a lot of time in the studio of late. I have had a spray booth delivered to enable me to spray glazes in the studio and at the same time have been experimenting with scaling up my work. It has been a challenge as I have never really worked on a large scale and therefore has pushed my hand building limits but the practice is paying off and I am quite confident that I can build on a large scale with a pretty good level of accuracy. I have been doing this with earthenware and porcelain and working at both temperatures. I like the porcelain as a base colour for spraying vitreous slips onto but it becomes impractical on a larger scale and expensive. White earthenware is far more forgiving especially when it contains grog but it does need a good amount of glaze on to cover the the protruding grog when fired. 

I have done a test with orange vitreous slip and white crawl on porcelain, the results and recipe are listed below in the photographs.

At stoneware 1240C

 

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Scale and Colour

I have been busy in the studio the last couple of weeks experimenting with vitreous slips on both earthenware and porcelain. I bought myself a small compressor and airbrush too to try gradational blends. I had wanted to try working with an earthenware clay to build forms as it opens up more opportunities in terms of colours and glazing. It also allows me to scale up using a more affordable clay.

I has tested two vitreous slip recipes one on the porcelain which was successful at 1220-1240

Stoneware Vitreous Slip 1220
100g Powdered HF porcelain (Both Potters)
35g-45g Potash Feldspar (could use 45g too for more vitreous finish)
10% Stain

I also tested several recipe with varying amounts of borax frit and lead bisilicate frit with porcelain powder for white grogged earthenware. I eventually found a satisfactory recipe

Earthenware Vitreous Slip 1140
100g Powdered HF porcelain (Bath Potters)
50-60g Lead Bisilicate Frit (Used 50 but could use more as a little dry, 60g starts to create a gloss so 55g is a good average)
10% Stain

Besides testing and creating more experimental forms I have been taking photographs of my work and using photoshop to create photo collages of the work. I can use the software to create individual compositions and play with the scale between object i.e. make small objects bigger in comparison to others.

Moving On

It has been over 6 months since i finished my MA. During that time I have been working on launching a new business in the States and establishing my studio in Bristol. It has been a very trying time with lots of deadlines and stress but it has also given me opportunities to see more art and meet more artists that inspire me.

I had felt a little stinted in my practice when going into the studio, not really knowing what to make and how to make things, not having access to the great facilities like I had at university has made me think differently about how and what to make, there is also the fact that my work from the MA that sold was individually composed of separate parts which makes it difficult to ship. So I had been exploring making one joined up sculptural work and using carving techniques to try to replicate the handmade, human elements of my work.

It was in preparing for the open studios weekend at my studio when a colleague composed all my work on my workbench that I started to look at it differently, she created compositions in a completely different way and started to build a display of work combining elements I had never thought of putting together. What was interesting too was to see how an experienced drawer used the materials to construct drawings and using the coils like a pencil line. The parts beacme like a tool kit to sketch with. They enabled me to check proportions, planes, how to construct works, whether to wall mount etc. Although they were always parts I was using these parts to make final pieces but perhaps the use of them as physical sketches is key to making successful sculptural or wall mounted works. I has also been looking at how Ron Nagle puts his pieces together and also Matthew Ronay. I want to keep the component element in my work, I like the incongruousness of the parts making the whole. I guess they are a kind a kit for maquettes, a visual library.

 

What next

I am always itching to get back in the studio and see where my exploration with clay takes me. It has been a hard but extremely rewarding two years, I have learned digital technology, a lot about philosophy and art, speculative geology and about myself. There is an element of play that is lost in the process of prepping for a show based on a theoretical discourse and I am keen to get playing again, extending my ideas further and trying new things like ....

  • Using building and joining techniques to create whole pieces that appear as separates
  • Testing new clays bodies and glazing or surface colouring effects
  • Extending my ideas about 'quasi objects' and 'things'

I have managed to secure a space in BV studios in Bristol with two other ceramic artists, I am looking forward to making connections  and applying for competitions but more than all I am looking forward to continuing my relationship with clay and ceramics.

 

Show prep and set up

Leading up to the show prep I decided to create a wall hanging composition with selective single works and a collective larger showpiece. I purchased some sheets of black valchromat and created some floating shelves. I didn't want the have any fixtures showing so tried hanging with as election of keyhole brackets but the screws required to attach them were too lang and I ruined a large shelf  with the wood pushing through on the front when the screw went into the work so I cut some cleats to hang the shelves, they looked great hanging just off the wall creating nice shadows around them floating about a centimetre off the wall. Once made I used Danish oil the oil the shelves but used a sub standard oil which was problematic and smeared when using fine sanding paper to finish. I had to completely strip back three pieces and re oil using really thin layers. I used shelves to create a balanced composition of shelves with a small cluster of little shelves with a larger shelf running horizontally and another pieces running vertically on the floor. I had placed it there leaning against the wall with the work on it and Claire pointed out how it effective it looked leaning against the wall. I decided to use this method as it fitted with the selected objects laced and stacked and leaning.

It took a very long time placing the objects and a lot of thought went into it, there are so many variables with all the selected work and colours I had available. The moral of this story is always have lots of work to play with. I tried to create a balance with colour, texture, coils and a sense of curiosity in the placement of objects.

The larger work on the shelf was a tricky one to compose and I am not sure If I got it just right, I wanted to have a lot of objects on this shelf, leaning toppling, resting propping stacking, like discovering a new vista, abandoned quarry, a scene left behind, the Mary Celeste of the Humans desire for resources.

The work together works well, they are like three-dimensional sculptural paintings.

 

 

Changing Aspects and Coils

Continuing to make pieces for my show I started to group objects together and stack them. Only when doing this I realised that the slabs didn't sit well on selected objects used as 'feet' so I cut some pieces in pairs. Using thee pairs of 'feet' I stacked the works raising the plinths to place objects or arrangements of objects on top of. Seeing these compositions from a side profile elevated the objects which suggested a vista, raising the composition and viewing from the side increases the intrigue, these vertical compositions display traces on humans with their cuts, holes and protrusions but here is an absence and quietness present.

Using the coils that I had built to emerge or run through the solid forms and a block of fired bone china I arranged the coil to rest between the two blocks of bone china, it reminded me of a tool, a chisel that was used to fracture rock in a quarry. Extending this idea I used a couple of older moulds that I had CNC's from digital models to create press moulded stopper ends. These coiled forms added intrigue to the works, they were very difficult to make and I broke many in the process, adding a little bentonite to the extruded coils helped with plasticity and prevent cracking, although the vibrant colours were slightly dulled by the additions of bentonite. I also tried paper too but extruding these was problematic because of tearing.

Interpreting Drawings and Bases for Objects

Now that I have started drawing again with the knowledge of my making process and material possibilities I went back to making using bone china with its dry cracking qualities and parian that has a self glazing effect, these two materials allow me to get various surface effects and aesthetics quality along with temperature effects in the kiln. Using simplified CNC cutting to face and cut holes I stated to interpret my drawings, using various hand building techniques, surface effects and colour. I drilled a holed in one piece and placed a coil inside made of yellow parian. Although not a fitting socket I liked the effect, the movement it brought, the way the eye follows the work as if reading a story. It is like reading the stories of past geological histories, interpreting environments and formation of objects.

I have also been thinking a lot of presentation at my exhibition, floor, wall, plinths?? I stated to work on ways to place these objects or collections of objects. I CNC cut stained plaster, made handmade crank boxes, hand formed crank bases with vitreous slips in white and black and rounded corners, glazed press moulded (see images below). None of these i felt were particularly successful, apart form the colour of the black vitreous slip and the way the coloured works popped off. Trying to get these bases to stay flat was also a challenge.

To make my materials I was wire cutting clay off the block and drying it to slake and add gum and colours. I took one of these pieces and decided to face it using the CNC machine, the cut was lovely leaving the materials qualities on the edges but having such a sheer cut face juxtaposed against it indicated the presence of human. It indicates the excavation of materials that we as humans do in our never ending need for resources. Facing both sides of the wire cut pieces prevented them from warping.

Using collections of objects and these faced slabs I started to place these on a sheet of black Valchromat I bought to try as a plinth top, using this material I can get flat surfaces and oil the Valchromat to get subtle reflections in the work. I liked the way that the grouping of objects started to tell stories and pose questions like 'What Happened Here'. It ties in with my theoretical discourse, especially the post human aspects written in 'The Earth After Us' by Jan Zalasawiecz.

 

 

Back to Drawing

I had shifted my practice a little in the last couple of weeks. I had previously tried creating socket joints to join parts together. I would create sockets with the CNC machine and then have very accurate fitting sockets  like the piece below. Although technically it work I am not sure if there is any visual benefits. It is interesting but takes such a level of accuracy I am not sure that I am using the materials or at least exploiting their inherent qualities. Photo 22-05-2017, 10 46 59

I still wanted to explore this building or joining idea to give me more options when composing. I can stack pieces or place them but I like the idea of joining. It is what happens when humans and geology collide and mix. Using the CNC machine I went back to excavating a square socket from a section of bone china that I had forced cracked on its surface. I then machined it and using a section of different coloured porcelain built a square sectioned coil that will fit into it. I placed the coil into the piece when dry just to see the results. I like the precariousness of the join not being tight and perfect. Claire mentioned rotating it and making it vertical which was a good idea as it gave it so much presence and height which was what I had been seeking.

I have started to sketch a lot more recent too with watercolour and pen and ink. The watercolour is helping me to think more about colour and composition and the ink the surfaces and shapes. I am really enjoying doing these little sketches. I travel a lot so having a small sketch book is great and I can work whilst away.

 

Surfaces, Groupings, Materials

Its been a while since I posted following my last presentation. I was pleased with my feedback and a comment from Claire made me think about being more explicit about my work like why am I working on post-human speculative things. I guess it is a fear of human extinctions, the struggles we will face in the future and what kind of Earth we might leave behind. The things I create are memorials to humans mixed and melded into geologies. I have been working with coloured stains, forms and surfaces over the past few weeks but also thinking about how to present works. With regards to colour I am proposing acidic colours against a backdrop and collection of more neutral colours. It is representative of the polluted environments we create but also allows me to highlight particular pieces in group compositions. I am continuing material experiments with fine grain  materials of porcelain, parian and bone china, the surfaces of these have differing finishes when fired. They are also manageable and practical clay bodies. I can alter surface structures and textures by breaking, chiseling, coating, cracking and eroding. Whilst doing these materials surface investigations I also started to think about hand forming some forms into forms that do no have a base as such, that can be used flexibly in compositions. I also started to use clay to hold work in place when cutting on the CNC machine. This enable me to rotating works after cutting so not all the works are sitting on a ground. I see all of these forming processes and materials as part of my language informed by the geologies I know and see. Erratics, boulders, rocks, cliffs, stones etc. I also experimented with the idea of joining forms as well as stacking. I cut or form sockets into which I can fit other forms. It enables me to mix forms together like a steel girder would protrude from a sandstone in a speculative scenario.

More and more I am thinking about how to present my work at the show, wall mounting, plinths, tables etc. There are so many options I actually find it quite overwhelming. Nonetheless I have been creating plaster plinths stained with Gouache and cut on CNC for a good precise finish. The result was pleasing but a spill of coffee in the studio stained them. It highlighted a potential issue with their robustness and applying any varnish would take away the matt finish I like that contrasts with the sheen on the porcelain clays.

I then tried using grogged course grain clays cut with templates cut on the laser cutter, these are still in development and I am deliberating on whether to use a natural clay appearance for plinths and shelves or some coloured vitreous slips. I am still working on this and have a few kilns booking to test the results.

I have also been wrapping up my essay for Mahnaz, I have really enjoyed connecting Geology with Philosophy. These subjects excite me and are a never ending source of inspiration for my work. The very deposits of clay the geology of sediments is my materials used in my language of future geologies.

 

 

Revisiting techniques

I have been trialling clay bodies with inclusions of granite, mudstone, fried porcelain and glazes by press moulding and slip pouring mixtures into my plaster moulds. The results were mixed, comes colours were a little burnt out but I was excited by the textural quality of the fired pieces.

The results were pleasing in the sense that the inclusions caused textural variations, some colours burnt out, like the red iron oxide at 1260. The inclusions of granite or already fired porcelain caused shrinkage and cracking. The granite inclusions although cracked held together as a from, I am assuming that this is the feldspars in the granite that have fluxed.

My favourite piece however was the simple porcelain form. It was created by dribbling glaze into the mould and then back filling with porcelain slip. The results were beautiful and the melting of the glaze caused what appears to be a sort of erosion typical of that of fluvial pr.

 

Im addition to filling moulds I also explored other ideas of placing inclusions into the clay body, as one would situate a fossil in its bedrock of deposition and preservation. I wanted the inclusion to appear like a small object of curiosity embedded in bedrock. I tried two approaches to this

  • Creating forms in plaster moulds and then coating them in wax to prevent the wetter clay breaking down the form when inserted into a slurry of wet clay retained by a wall of clay.
  • Try a similar approach with a ceramic resist.

The wax on setting broke the forms, I think it is expanding or contracting and therefore straining the forms that were joined together. The resist seemed to work better.

Since my tutorial with Claire I have been thinking about how to compose works or objects that work together in an overall display. I have explored plinths made of plaster coloured with Gouache but also have a small selection of kiln bricks to use as a fireable plinth.

Thinking about the eroded surface from the porcelain form with melted blue glaze I went back to direct CNC on dry clay. I liked this method and wanted to revisit it so CNC'd a large block of earthenware. Using a resist I coated the piece and used vinegar to erode the surface. Result can be seen below and are very pleasing so far, I will have to work on clay body inclusions, glazing, eroding and display over the next few weeks.

 

 

 

Visual explorations of the human geologic

It’s been while since my last post after having been away travelling over Christmas. I haven’t been in the studio but took the advantage of time away to further my knowledge and research or works by Jan Zalasiewicz, Manuel DeLanda and Bruno Latour. Zalasiewicz works are based on the human geologic, speculative writings on what the earth may look like in millions of years and how geological processes might possibly affect the geological impacts attributed to humans. There are a few paragraphs in his book whereby he describes palaeontology and a careful investigation of interpretation, it reminded me of looking at art and interpreting artworks

DeLanda’s ‘One Thousand Years of Non Linear History’ is a terrific book comparing energy systems to both science, biology, geology and human systems. I love how his writing examples compare energy systems of thermodynamics and bifurcations across academic disciplines. For example his reference to micro organisms use of mineral to create exoskeleton and bone and humans use of mineral to create habitat, towns and cities.

Latour’s work is very inspiring, his writing on objects and networks in ‘We are not Modern’ and ‘Actor Network Theory’ suggest a delicate balances of systems whereby culture and nature are intertwined. He suggests that objects and should be given voices and a parliament of things should be established to govern the Earth. It approach is similar to others that approach Object Oriented Ontology.

The speculative approach of Zalasiewicz has gripped my knowledge of geology and my inquisitive nature. I has made me think speculatively about future visions, human detritus, erosion, deposition, decay, transportation of dust, rock, plastic, concrete etc. The possible scenarios are vast and complex but allow for playful exploration in the studio.

On return to the studio I started to fill my souls with broken porcelain, earthenware, granite, colours, glazes etc to test and see what it does in terms of colour but also what happens to the surface, there is a likeness here to a geological laboratory. I had a tutorial with Claire, we discussed the breadth of my work, from installation to object. Style and colour. The discussion was very productive and left me with some good ideas to investigate.

Glazing forms in a single colour and position of plinths made of plaster, kiln bricks etc Possible use of others colouring methods, paint, acrylic, powdered colours in plaster. Using fired engineered parts in raw clay deposits.

Thinking about installation

I have had a really good couple of weeks in the studio, quite productive in terms of making and learning from creating models in Fusion 360and then making plaster moulds by directly cutting them on the cnc mill. Claire's question "Think About How to Display Your Work?" was a good question that resulted in a shift from directly cutting the clay body with inclusions on the mill to cutting plaster blocks and then using them to create form. The limitations of the milling machining mean that objects are restricted to 5/6cm on one axis which means that whatever object I choose to make by directly cutting into clay has a volumetric restriction and therefore result in object of a similar size distribution. When referring back to compositions of paintings and composition generally it is difficult to create this as milling dry clay means I can only create volume by stacking. I then started milling plaster moulds directly with the mill and including locators, this means that I can work with leather-hard clay and therefore join, distort and build with the resulting press or slip cast forms.

I started to produce a few samples from the moulds, slip casting, joining, including some glaze chips (earthenware glaze mixed with gum arabic and then dried and broken into chips) I had used before in the clay body. I had a tutorial with Natasha discussing the work and techniques. We discussed the visual style/language developing and possible ideas for installations or objects. I felt I was at a bit of a cross roads in terms of where my works sits, either as object decorated with colour and texture in the style of Ron Nagle, miniature landscapes OR something more installation based. Natasha suggested that the work was lacking in context, what was I saying with the work? what was context/concept? We discussed some of my interests and influences from images on my board, Geological, Earth Based, Human Activity of Making, Mineralogy, Anthropocene etc. I had a discussion with Martin Woodward who has a good knowledge of place and the geologic in art. I read some works he suggested The Non-Human Turn, Grain Vapour Ray, and several other works and videos regarding Speculative Realism, Object Oriented Ontology (links below)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3EMdei8aoc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_FbbXlgkgE

https://youtu.be/QJ0GR9bf00g

http://www.sonicacts.com/portal/anthropocene-objects-art-and-politics-1

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/object-oriented-ontologythe-philosophical-movement-art-de-balbian

https://environmentalcritique.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/explaining-object-oriented-ontology-to-your-non-ooo-friends/

http://www.thedewlab.com/blog/2012/07/12/introduction-to-object-oriented-ontology/

Regarding suggested artists to research whose interests lie on the geologic Natasha had suggested Tyler Lotz who's work I already know and Tom Schmidt whom I didn't know but makes interesting work relating to the geologic and digital processes. I also discovered another artist who was unknown to me Jonathan Mess.

http://www.tylerlotz.com/

http://www.thomasschmidt.org/

http://www.jonathanmess.com/

The context of my work is definitely beginning to focus on my interests in geology and the human geologic or the Anthropocene whether or not the term has yet to be validated by  official bodies the presence of human activity in the geologic record is factual.

The questions I seek to answer with my work are based in present futures.

  • What does the Anthropocene time look like in Strata,
  • What agents contribute to the strata identification, chemical, physical, mineral, particle?
  • How are these agents interrelated?
  • How will the Earths 'natural' processes affect this Anthropocentric layer e.g. will they become fossilised, will they be continually eroded and deposited and subjected to the geomorphological processes that have already shaped the surface of the earth, what will be the consequences of these actions? (Shell in the wind story in Grain of Grain Vapour Ray)
  • Will there be any value in the Anthropocene to future inhabitants, visitors of the planet in the post human?
  • Why do we care?
  • How do geological processes interact from a OOO perspective, refer to the 'Shell and the Sand' story in Grain from Grain, Vapour, Ray.

De Cherico and Carnaro

When talking to Claire about the objects I had been making she suggested thinking ahead about how to create or present the works but also how to consider shape and form and proportions of the pieces. Claire suggested De Cherico, although I am not keen on his paintings they do have a good sense of proportion and geometry with unusual perspectives with different buildings or statues positioned in the paintings. It made me think about construction one whole piece or an arrangement of pieces based on paintings. I had visited the Isabelle Carnaro show at Spike Island last year and was mesmerised by it. A beautiful selection of objects arranged meticulously based on the landscape paintings by Nicolas Poussin. I like this idea for me personally it gives my material and process developments a context and some boundaries, something that Claire had suggested to me before.

More results

Had a good tutorial with Claire last week, looking at my recent work to date. We discussed the films I had made that were process based and the fine lines between the type of videos that are presented as art pieces like Richard Serra’s ‘Catching Lead’ and those that are instructional like the type of educational video found on youtube etc. I had slowed the video down and edited the colour, took the tools out of the studio and put the sound through filters which changed the context.

We also discussed the new fired work I had made including both extruded porcelain pieces joined together with coloured slips and the more earthly lumps of clay that i took from the gorged terracotta  and white gorged earthenware slops bucket, both were then CNC milled with digital models I created in Fusion 360. Reflecting on the appearance of both styles of work presented a few questions about quality and language of the resulting works. My route to creating these pieces is based in the material and processes I am investigating. I am not sure of the narrative but it still sits in the past present futures analysis. Raising questions about cause and effect, geological process’s and human impact on the land. Looking at them again they are not dissimilar form the forms of Ron Nagle’s work, miniature landscapes. I discussed the fact that I didn’t really have a narrative for the work and that I felt I was forcing a narrative instead of letting it evolve from the material and press based investigations. I really feel like the material and process is informing the work and my investigations into it are shaped by my interested in the earth and geology. Claire preferred the less engineered pieces those form the slopes bucket. I agree with her that the more organic broken forms picked from the bucket produce something more natural in appearance and provide a greater contrasts between the digital cut forms imposed upon them. I decided to proceed with more investigations like adding gum arabic to glaze mixtures and chipping them into small chips when dried to wedge into a clay body which I will cut on the CNC mill later. I also researched Akiyama Yo’s process of heating the outside of clay forms and bending the form to reveal cracks on the surface which also presents a rocky geologic quality which I can mill .

During the digital process tollbooths are created that make interesting geometric line images, also an are I would like to investigate further in terms of presenting a body of work in the future not like the context of the video these images too could be screen printed, etched or presented smoothest that they are removed from technical process and into the context of gallery installation.

Material Additions and Further Reductive Processes

Its been a while since my last post. I have been trying to solve some problems associated with the machining of clay using CNC machines. The last object I machined was fired to low bisque at 700℃. It was quite wearing on the tool but also had some breakout near the edges of the form as the clay was brittle which led to a series of investigations. I carried out a series of tests using the CNC machine to cut into clay.

  • CNC cut green porcelain that and also green porcelain that has been adjusted with Linseed Oil, Gum Arabic and Glaze Hardener.
  • CNC cut grogged green clay
  • Create a more open structure and CNC machine
  • Use was to reinforce the sides of the green forms

The results are illustrated below.....

Findings from these tests...

  • CNC cutting is cleaner and easier on tooling when used on greenware. Using additives; linseed oil, gum arabic and glaze hardener in the measure 1% additive to 99% water by weight seemed to make no difference to quality of cutting on green ware.
  • Wax coatings assists with preventing breakout but melts on contact with tooling so clogs up machining area, a harder machinable wax might prevent this but is an expensive option
  • Grogged green terracotta clay also cuts well but crumbles a little
  • Open forms break easily, they are very fragile

Further investigations...

  • Try adding gum arabic in greater quantities to see if the green body holds together better during machining.
  • Continue exploring forms and ways to create component parts using the CNC machine and designs created on Fusion 360
  • Explore creative ways to record methods
  • Keep exploring reductive methods of creating forms revealing subsurface structures and pattern.

 

Focus on Process

To start documenting my process I borrowed a camcorder and started to record myself doing activities like extruding, mixing clay slip with oxide and grinding with Pestle and Mortar. I have never really produced films using Adobe Premiere but nonetheless gave it a go. Using the camcorder and Premiere I produced a series of short video clips which document process. It raised questions for me about how to film, what to edit and what to include, what does it communicate. I started reading  journals and books regarding documenting process, its history, purpose, what and how it is edited and put in the public realm. Imaging/Imagining Craftwork by Geoffrey Gowlland and other writings by Sophie Ann Lehmann's Hiding Making - Showing Creation plus the writings of John Dewey and Richard Sennett who discuss the process in the making of the artefact or craft object. I have included a few of the videos here,  I am thinking of including them in my final show as process is very important to me, the act of doing, touching the material of clay and the tools. I used slow motion to enable the viewer to focus on the process and the way the material behaves.

https://youtu.be/0IOaQoJKilM

https://youtu.be/68fqPx8tn8E

https://youtu.be/s3lHqX8HDIU

https://youtu.be/yTy7TrhzSVI

In the studio I have been building around forms and occupying space using different making techniques including plaster formers and clay objects as a starting point. I decided to try building a really dense form and take density of form to the extreme so I extruded some porcelain and started building a solid block of porcelain joined by coloured slip. I want the making process to show in the work, exploiting the viscous nature of clay slip and the process of joining extruded clay sections together. I then used a reduction method to take part of the form away using CNC milling. I was pleasantly surprised by the resultant form. The cutting gave rise to some really interesting cut sections, with a juxtaposition between the machine milled and handmade block. I was pleased with the object i felt it demonstrated process both old and new and thought about taking the idea further.

 

Line of Investigation

I discussed my summative assessment for my first studio practice module with Pete a few weeks ago. It  was clear from the discussion there were a lot of lines of inquiry to explore. Simply by extruding, cutting and joining there are endless opportunities for constructing forms and occupying space. The module was far more difficult than i had thought it would be. It challenged my reasons for making and creating, what was my intention for making objects, was there a narrative, what did I want the audience to get from my work. These were all challenging questions, I found it difficult to isolate one subject or narrative. I am not interested in exploring a language with narrative but more what arises from experimenting and building forms, the ACT of making is very important to me. I a recent group tutorial with Claire Curneen another student asked me what my work was about, my response was vague 'visual metaphors for the human experience'. My response made me rethink. Claire asked what was important to me when making, a very straightforward question but one i had not been asked before. It made me realise that although I had been exploring the concepts of life and death, monuments, human experience and Being THE most important element of working with ceramics for me is the ACT of doing so, the process for me is a meditation, DOING is an important part of my Being, it shuts out the noise and allows me to feel free from the mundane everyday activities . The resulting product may well present forms that can be interpreted but I am not interested in creating literal responses. Claire reminded me about something that Pete had discussed with me earlier in the programme, recording my process. It seems very obvious now, if my DOING is as important if not more that the product of my doing then should at least be documenting it.

Having a week or to to reflect on this glimmer of enlightenment I thought about my thesis subject on the 'Aids crisis and art' and whether it was a subject I wanted to pursue when it was really my starting point. I feel making a decision early on in the two year programme the same time as the full time students is a mistake. I had not really discovered what I was making or doing or why and needed time to reflect on context.

It was my early confrontation with mortality that eventually enabled me to arrive in a place whereby DOING became very valuable as a meditative process. I also thought about how people document process and read a few papers regarding documentation of temporal artworks. I am more enthused with this subject. I poses a lot of questions which I would like to research further.

I have now produced a selection of trials/objects etc that were sitting on my desk during my tutorial with Claire. Claire started to position object next to each other but also with other students work. It made us all think about composition and installation methods. I took pictures of these pieces moving them and placing them in different positions. It sparks a series of further lines of inquiry into methods of making, process, and outcome.

 

 

Reflections

Whilst preparing fro my summative assessment i really struggled thinking about a statement of intent, I didn't feel comfortable setting a narrow contextual intention and therefore focused on a more general existentialist context of the shifting states of human experience. The following is the extract from my statement of intent....

“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” Vladimir Nabokov 1951

I intend to develop a visual language about life and death and the shifting states of human existence caused by disease, war, environment and natural disaster. Using clay and other materials I aim to create sculptural objects or experiential installations that capture these changing states and pose questions to the viewer about process, cause and effect, what might cease to exist and what might remain.

My starting point will be to take or create objects that signify human existence and then by constructing forms that occupy the space around them create a resultant sculptural form that contains a volumetric imprint of the object or reference to life.

By experimenting with a variety of construction methods, materials, volumetric scale and process I intend to explore the degree of familiarity between the original signifier and the resulting sculptural form in an attempt to illustrate the temporal nature of existence.

Actions to take forward

  • Explore construction techniques that will enable me to build forms occupying spaces around a form e.g. extruded, hand formed, units, fractals, densities, direction of build, volumetric comparisons
  • Trial glazes and clay/body additions that enable me to create a sense of temporality or changing states.
  • Investigate live processes of ‘live’ changing states, immersive experience, melting wax, live performance, slow decay, adding, subtracting, burning, film, photography
  • Consider presentation methods e.g. wall hanging, ceiling hanging, floor standing and viewpoints.

Its been a while since my last post, I have bisqued my work that I had started a while ago using terracotta paper-clay formed around a plaster former. It fired well and didn't crack in firing. The overall appearance was organic, and less regular that the other I made with square sections. The density of the coils was pretty regular throughout the form and the form within was only visible when viewed from the top or when wall mounted.

I embarked on another built form this time using grogged white earthenware using a composite form. I wanted to explore the possibility of abstracting the former from a regular to non regular composite shape and also extending the build of the form in only one predominant direction. I also used the same building method of joining coils but this time changing the lengths and densities throughout out giving rise to a more organic irregular form. The shape of the form within is unrecognisable in the resultant built structure built around it.

When viewing the two pieces I wanted to explore the presence of the former in the final piece. The two pieces that I had made using these coils had more or less disguised or lost the shape of the former so I thought I would try building around a fragmented form. I used a mould of a rubber bone to create a small clay model which I partly deconstructed and then started to build on the pieces like pins on a broken leg.

Firing results and reflections

Taking the ideas of building forms from extruded clay by simply cutting and joining and building in signifiers into the contracted form I took a simple plaster mould from a bowl and started to build around the form. Initially I had attempted to build in a regular way but as the shape evolved it started to lose geometry and a sense of randomness was introduced, I exploited this quality and started to leave some doing incomplete with ‘missing’ sections. When reflecting on the resulting form I was pleased with the introduction of the irregular aspects and intend to research this by further building. It also posed many questions about build methods, density/direction of build, degrees of ‘completeness’ all of which would produce a forms that would be worth bulking and reflecting on.

I glazed this work with a 60% Mag Carb 40% High Alk Frit glaze, the resulting fired form was still quite architectural or had a sense of monument in its aesthetic  appearance but one that was in a state of decay with the glaze adding a biological feel. I built a second form but this time constructing it around a former I had handmade, one that was less regular and more organic. Whilst building this form I thought less about the result but more the process of cutting and joining. The result was one that was more organic in appearance but still had a sense of architectural structure, the square cross profile of the extrusions was limiting the joining so I decided to try the same process by extruding circular paperclay coils leaving them to dry with curves and performed the same exercise with which I gave rise to a more organic structure.