stretched horizons / photography and sculpture / tutorial summary & Rachel Garrard

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stretched horizons / photography and sculpture / tutorial summary & Rachel Garrard

On Monday morning I had a tutorial with Virginia. We spoke about how last week's exhibition went and how I was feeling about it. She was really positive about the 'stretched' canvas pieces, particularly the element of the hand stitched seam - alluding to a horizon or longitude line. 

I also re-worked two pieces from last term, with more stitched elements, so they could also be stretched over canvas supports. Virginia and I both agreed that the stretched works have a greater authority in comparison to the works in their raw linen form. They are elevated from pieces of linen to pieces of art simply due to being presented in more of a clean-cut, finished way. 

We also spoke about my photography inductions and my ideas for the work that I will make over the summer and in third year when I have more knowledge in the field - plus once I have had my darkroom induction.

Talking about my new mediums led me to tell Virginia about my ceramic plans, too - that I want to at least have some sort of prototype in place for hand-in. This way, I can make evident in my portfolio for hand-in that for both ceramics and photography, I have been spending a lot of studio time researching and preparing for future work to come.

I also spoke about my plans to return to making my own pigments with both the previously explored process of natural dye and the new process of using a pestle + mortar to grind rock and earth and minerals and ash - making colour directly from the landscape. 

I wish to challenge myself, not to make the same work twice, and to keep my process evolving so as to not become stagnant.

The seams throughout these latest works act not only as a horizon line but also make a distinction between the two parts of the work. I have written before about my wish to make work that explores the relationship between dualities in landscape - the two panels in the work aim to address that.

In my next piece I want to take that further, using two separate panels of fabric to create a raised seam with linen frottage and naturally dyed linen.

Another thing to think about is paper. Making paper by hand. Mixing pulp that contains earth, grains of sand and other traces of the landscape, trapped within the fibres. Paper made from place. 

Over the past couple of days I have been researching the work of artist Rachel Garrard. Her process involves the use of natural materials. She also places a heavy emphasis on the process element of her work and often documents the act of making work in beautiful ways - such as video or a series of photographs - that could exist as artworks in their own right.

 

Rachel Garrard

256. 2016. chamomile, green buckthorn and purple cabbage on cotton. 44x48 inches.

256. 2016. chamomile, green buckthorn and purple cabbage on cotton. 44x48 inches.

"There is a sense in Rachel Garrard’s work that is internal and external, dark and light, feminine and masculine, organic and simulated, personal and universal, invisible and omnipresent."

There is a dance of dualities in the work.  

What is, perhaps, even more important than the element of dualities in the 'natural paintings' is the in-between: the process, the medium, the diversity behind the making of each work. Her art is topographical, a simple but equally complex analysis of the world. 

In her practice Garrard travels, collecting rocks and grinding them to a powder that then becomes pigment when mixed with a binder once back in the studio. The work is imbued with process: the travel, the collection of minerals, the grinding, the watering down, painting, washing, drying.  

The result could refer to landscape - work made directly from the earth - but also could be seen as the opposite of landscape. It could be argued that it cannot be seen truly as a direct representation of landscape, as the pigments and hues require a certain level of human interaction. 

320. 2016. turmeric, chamomile and green buckthorn on cotton. 44x48 Inches.

320. 2016. turmeric, chamomile and green buckthorn on cotton. 44x48 Inches.

PInacle. 2015. Rock powder pigment on linen. 22x24 Inches.

PInacle. 2015. Rock powder pigment on linen. 22x24 Inches.

The series of works Condensations use quartz and powdered ash to recreate light and shadow. There is a reference to an inward and deliberate process, a searching for materials, a drawing out of their utilisable states. 

Influx. 2014. Powdered Quartz and Ash on Linen. 33x36 Inches.

Influx. 2014. Powdered Quartz and Ash on Linen. 33x36 Inches.

Garrard uses these materials in a performative painting practice through a reduction of elements— wood into ash, stone into powder, fire into smoke.

The colours are not manufactured, they are not are simply chosen, bought in a tube and applied with a brush. The colours themselves have a life and a history, that has been brought to attention at the hand of Garrard and her practice. 

The works are all performance in that they enact a transformation, beginning in one state and transformed to another. As Garrard does, in my own practice I like to document the process of my making - due to the fact that it is the moment, a sense of being in place and the act of making that interests me.

The work that remains is a residue of that process.

Stream. 2015. Rock-powder-pigment-on-linen. 22x24 Inches.

Stream. 2015. Rock-powder-pigment-on-linen. 22x24 Inches.

Beyond. 2016. Rock Powder Pigment on Linen. 22x24 Inches.

Beyond. 2016. Rock Powder Pigment on Linen. 22x24 Inches.

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studio summary / stretched horizons

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studio summary / stretched horizons

This week was the second exhibition of the second year show at The Poly. I was showing two photographic prints of my site-specific sculpture project, alongside two framed up linen pieces. 

Work wise, I have been in the studio trialling new ideas of taking my frottage further, into pieces that feel more 'finished' and final. I have been hand stitching a seam into fabric - the linen landscape bearing a frottage trace of the coastline's topography.

The idea was that when opened out, the seam would create a shadow to the panel; adding texture, alluding to a horizon line, breaking up the two distinctive parts.

In terms of research and reading, I have been dipping into a lot of Lucy Lippard's writing. In 'The Lure of the Local', Lippard weaves together the themes of geography, photography and contemporary art to explore how these things can elicit sense of place. She discusses land use, perceptions of nature, how we produce landscape and how the landscape affects our lives.

In terms of her relation to my practice, Lippard raises concerns regarding the role of art in environmental catastrophes. I realise that my practice, which is linked to the genre of land art, must begin to make deeper contextual connections in order for the work to continue to be critically relevant. It is all well and good to 'map' landscape with my work and my academic explorations into the theme of sense of place and the horizon line help me with this - but I want to take these conceptual suggestions further. I am consistently thinking about ways to ask questions about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

Texts like Lippard's will hopefully drive me to make work under the genre of Land Art that maps landscape but also addresses contemporary environmental concerns. I use natural dyes and wish to explore other environmentally friendly processes, but there are still many more ways in which I can present my work against a backdrop of environmental issues, raising the importance of such topics in the contemporary art world.

Yesterday morning I had a photography developing and processing workshop. We learnt how to load the film into the developing canister, the quantity of chemicals to use and how to wash and dry the negatives. After the Easter break I'll have my final session, in the darkroom.

The workshop got me really enthused about using photography as a key part of my creative process. I spoke to Lee, the technician running the workshop, about various different avenues I could pursue with the facilities available on campus. I'll finally have the opportunity to explore caffenol developing, make some chemigrams and exploring the process of making cyanotype negatives.

The best part about getting inducted into the photography department now is that after the fast-approaching hand in date on April 7th, I won't have a studio space to make work in. It will be a key time to focus on my dissertation project, but I can also then use the photography workshops up until they close in summer to perfect my processes and decide on what elements I would like to take forward into my third year practice. 

After the photography workshop I went back to the studio to finish the sewing of the seam into the linen and try my hand at stretching it over supports I had put together earlier in the week. I stretched the horizon line slightly off centre, so it'll need to be re-stretched before hand-in - but I love how the frottage continues right over and around the edges of the piece.

I'm looking forward to getting back to the coast to do more field-work on Monday, to collect recourses for making and to do some more frottage drawings for further works in this collection of 'stretched horizons'.

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artist research: Chloe Burke of Whinblossom

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artist research: Chloe Burke of Whinblossom

Recently, I have been thinking about more ways in which I can explore the genre of sculpture. In a tutorial, Virginia suggested I could make resin casts of the stones that I pick up and collect on my field-work trips to the coastline. However, I feel that such a process does not sit well with my practice, in which I strive to embrace natural materials and methodologies where possible.

Thus, I have become enamoured with the idea of returning to the ceramic process. I did some ceramics during A Level as part of larger sculpture works, but it seems more appropriate now than ever to return to that process. Alongside my other choices of media, ceramics will act as another method in a bid to answer my questions about the topography of this raw, wild and remarkable Cornish landscape. 

Chloe Burke / Whinblossom

Photography by Maria Bell and Grace Elizabeth

I have followed Chloe Burke's Instagram feed for some time now. She is in her final year of BA Contemporary Crafts at Plymouth College of Art, making beautiful ceramic vessels with minerals that she collects when at her family home on the bays of the Isle of Wight, St Lawrence.

She says that 'Whinblossom' is indicative of her journey from the cliffs to her studio in Plymouth and that the vessels 'capture' the landscape she calls home.

Chloe collects minerals from the cliffs, dries them in front of her wood burning stove, grinds them down and takes them back to university to use in her studio work. She hand whittles most of her works - the faceted exterior making visual and tactile links to the process of the ocean shaping the line of the shore and the ever-changing cliff face. 

She only uses one glaze on the earthy and raw vessels, meaning that the minerals are the focus of the work: "I wanted to take my audience back to the cliffs as they looked at my work", she states. 

Every collection is named after the place it came from, pointing people back to the location of origin. This is similar to the naming of my own collections of works, under names of places or specific co-ordinates, I refer back to the 'source' of the work.

Chloe spends a lot of her time sitting at the bay, writing poetry, describing the landscape and looking at how the elements interact. Going out into the landscape gives her drive, much like how my field-work trips form the basis of my own making.

Working with natural minerals means that outcomes are often unpredictable. I find this with my own practice; as I use natural dye methods and process-led drawing, the outcome is driven by the process of the making and the landscape I am making in. However, even when the outcome is not to plan, Chloe writes that in all of her work, she sees "a glimpse of the cliffs at home". She is working with and alongside the elements, achieving a sense of place in her stunning vessels, objects that travel far from the island but nevertheless elicit a feeling of being immersed in the raw coastline they derive from.

A frequent process Burke adopts is to look at her work through a loupe lens. In this way, she can observe the details, "look past the vessel itself and into the minerals on the cliff". The work tells a messgae of the underlying importance in awakening our senses within landscape, rather than just 'seeing' it.

Chloe certainly achieves this with a great elegancy - even without my being able to appreciate the tactility of the vessels, the photographs of textures and forms she creates are sufficient enough. This is the sense of 'being' in landscape that I strive to translate to viewers of my own work. 

After spending today doing a little more in-depth research into Chloe's background and her current practice, I haven't been able to stop thinking about potential ceramic avenues to explore. I wouldn't wish to make functional pieces like Chloe does with bowls, pinch pots and plates - instead my vessels would exist as sculptural works - to be held in the palm of a hand, to be felt, touched and understood. Existing purely as 'forms'. 

Just like with my present process of frottage; taking a sheet of linen out into the field or to the coast, I would take clay in my backpack. Like I take a trace of the topographies of the rock formations with graphite and linen, I could do the same with clay... taking an impression of the tactility around me. Pressing the clay into rock crevices and collecting the textural run off of the Cornish coast.

I am so taken by Chloe's use of natural minerals to imbue her clay with.  I am thinking about collecting sea glass, grains of sand, stones and pebbles. How can I take these elements and bring them forwards in the process of my making?

Similar to how I facilitate the process of natural dyeing to make a link to the landscape from which the work originated from, harnessing the colour itself with layers of history and conceptual energy, the elements of the coast forever encased in clay may perhaps echo the elements of the coast I traverse. The sculptural form, the pebble-like vessel, tells stories of the coast however far from it's 'origin'.

I think back to a word I discovered when reading Robert MacFarlane's 'Land Marks': dòirneag. The translation of the Scottish Gaelic word is "a round stone that fills that palm of the hand when held".

I would love to make a series of 'dòirneag' ceramics. Stone-like shapes, made out of clay, with elements of the Cornish coast preserved in them. A nod to the coastal stones that are picked up and pored over on beaches by children and adults alike, some kept and treasured in a box or on a windowsill, some put back in place or thrown into the sea. The ceramic process would allow for a mapping of these special stones, making work that charts their ornate, distinctive surfaces.

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exhibition prep / studio update

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exhibition prep / studio update

The past two weeks I have been focusing on the writing of my dissertation proposal and gathering together the odds and ends of my work to submit for next week's exhibition.

As such, I have let my journalling pratice slip. I have still been reading extensively and thinking a great deal about what's next to come post-exhibition - but I haven't sat and gathered my thoughts for a little while. 

Now that my proposal is handed in and I have decided on pieces of work to submit on Monday, I have been making progress with my journal practice again this weekend - getting up to date with the thoughts in my head and putting them down on paper.

On Thursday morning I went to a 35mm photography induction, the first of the series I will be attending over the next few weeks. This week I am to shoot a roll of film, which I'll learn how to develop and process on Thursday. I'm looking forward to learning more about film photography, with professional guidance as opposed to watching YouTube tutorials online. I feel that, with these new skills under my belt, I can look to make photography a more prominent part of my practice.

Something I have been debating about a lot in my head recently is my reasoning for encompassing this multi-faceted making process that includes photography, drawing and field work. The idea was that I would combine all of the mediums together to form final pieces. However, as much as I have tried in the studio these last couple of weeks, I can't seem to get the elements to sit well with one another. 

I have been thinking more about why I should feel the need to combine my mediums in order to make cohesive works. I think that my trials have resulted in pieces that can look messy, or too much like the elements have been forced together. So many of my favourite artists work under different mediums - but don't feel obliged to collate them for authenticity. I think part of this stems from my insecurity about having a specific 'genre' to make work under - do I want to be known as a multi-disciplinary artist or should I commit myself to one genre?

Something I read in a book of selected statements and interviews by Richard Long changed my viewpoint on this. He writes that he sees his work as having the freedom to 'be' in the world in many 'different ways'. That his art may be "a stone or a photograph or a word or a map" - that he sees himself as "working always in the same direction...it's just that I happen to use different forms"

I am working in the same direction. All of the mediums I am exploring and working in aim to achieve my goal of mapping landscape, charting place, eliciting a sense of being in the landscape through the genre of Land Art.

For example, I am really enjoying working in the new (to me) sculpture genre. As my ideas regarding sculpture have progressed, after photographing them in various compositions, I have been drawn to the idea of creating hanging sculptures, like mobiles. I remember reading something Tania Kovats said - that she does not feel any sort of drive to make work that specifically looks like it is 'hers'. I need to take a note from Long and Kovats - to let go of my fears and focus on making work that answers my questions, rather than feeling the need to make work that fits into my existing oeuvre. 

To come to some sort of conclusion about this, I am interested in being an artist working under a multi-faceted practice. I will work particularly but not exclusively under the genres of drawing, photography, frottage, field-work making, writing, natural dying and sculpture, to create pieces that are strong enough to exist as stand-alone works. 

Thinking beyond the exhibition next week, I want to continue to trial photographic works - both digital and film. I want to be at a point where I feel confident enough in them to say that the photographs can exist as works themselves. That does not necessarily make me a photographer; it makes me an artist who uses photography as method.

I will also continue making my series of frottage drawings on linen, but pursue my earlier desire to stretch them over canvas supports. I will continue to make drawings from the field, both from life and from photographs when back in my studio. I wish to get 'better' at drawing and train my eye to see more of the intricate details when I'm doing so.

I would like to refocus on the process of natural dying, which lost it's way a little when I started looking at other genres to make work under. Alongside this, I will be making and collating another printed book, similar to the book I made in first semester, but with less writing and a greater focus on photographic documentation of process, sketchbook drawings and my day to day studio practice. 

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studio summary / vija celmins / claire oswalt / rebecca solnit's 'blue of distance'

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studio summary / vija celmins / claire oswalt / rebecca solnit's 'blue of distance'

This week I have been dividing my time between studio work, exhibition prep and writing for my research portfolio assignment, due next week. I also completed a journal last week and am on to my third of second year so far.

I love the idea that by the end of my degree I will have books filled with my thoughts and ideas from these crucial years...

Something I have been making more time for in the studio is drawing. With the stones I picked up from Castle Beach when making my site specific installations I have been working on some intricate drawings in my sketchbook. 

With my current work the 'making' element happens incredibly quickly - the process-led drawing through frottage is fast, wild and uncontrollable. The photography element is, in a way, controlled; but still a process that is instant, especially when working digitally.

I have been partially inspired by the work of Vija Celmins in the making of these drawings. Celmins is best known for her photo-realistic drawings of phenomena such as the ocean, rocks and clouded skies.

The meticulous attention to detail in her works is something to strive for. The fine detail in the drawings renders the work as elaborately photographic. Something I am often too impatient to achieve in my own work... 

These new drawings have allowed me to focus on slowing down parts of my process - to pay attention to the intricacies of nature and add a new, deeper layer to the visual topographies I am accumulating for my work-making. 

In terms of keeping my natural dye processes afloat whilst I explored other avenues, I left a jar of paper samples soaking in fern leaf dye a few weeks ago. I got distracted by sculpture and forgot about them until late last week. The sediment from the dye resulted in beautiful markings developing on the surface of the paper. 

With these, I plan to make a series of mixed media works; combining frottage, dyed papers, photographs, drawings and potentially some sort of written element too. I have been playing around with compositions and different ways of combining these mediums - thinking about how they can come together to form a comprehensive map of the place they derive from.

In terms of my artist research, alongside Vija Celmins I have been looking at Claire Oswalt, an artist working with collage as a primary medium, but also working with drawing, painting, and sculpture.  

In her minimal, watercolor compositions, Oswalt relies on “the energy behind quick decisions, and the ruthlessness to pare the work down to the essential.”

She seeks to juxtapose dualities in her work be it "spontaneity with restraint" or "dynamic with static". She plays with her compositions until she reaches a harmonious form. 

Oswalt's work is imbued with the colour blue and emits a certain calm because of it.

I have been researching conceptual connections to a certain shade of blue that Rebecca Solnit writes about in her book 'A Field Guide to Getting Lost', in a collection of essays titled 'The Blue of Distance'. 

There are two umbrella themes that manifest in the essays; getting lost in order to find ourselves, and the colour blue. A certain, intangible shade, a shade that will never be graspable: the blue of distance. She perpetually refers back to this blue, meditating on the faraway space between ‘here’ and ‘there’.

A recurrent theme in the essays is light; it’s ability to get ‘lost’ and thus scatter: “…some light does not make it all the way through the atmosphere, but scatters”. In one of the essays, Solnit writes that the shade of blue she seeks solace in can be found in this scattered light: “Light at the blue end of the spectrum does not travel the whole distance from the sun…It disperses among the molecules of the air, it scatters in water”. 

On light that travels through water, Solnit considers how shallow water takes on the colour of whatever lies beneath, but that deep water is full of ‘scattered light’. On the significance of this, she writes that such light is a source of true beauty, “…so much of which is in the colour blue”. The scattered light will cluster, casting illusions to the eye under the guise of a shade of blue.

Solnit is enamoured by that specific blue, one that coexists with scattered light - but only in the depths of water or on a horizon line, as ‘The Blue of Distance’. An intangible horizon, an unattainable blue.

This intangible horizon and the blue ‘distance’ that it accrues from is another thread that reprises; “…the blue at the horizon…that seems to be dissolving into the sky, is a deeper, dreamier, melancholy blue…at the farthest reaches of the places where you see for miles, the blue of distance”.

The blue that Solnit writes about is a conceptual shade - because it may never be replicated in the way that perspective establishes it. Without distance, it cannot be extant; it cannot be grasped or possessed. Robert Hass wrote that “desire is full of endless distances”. It could be that Solnit’s fascination with blue stems from the longing for distances we may never arrive in; “for that is the beauty of the the blue world, the beauty of the faraway”.

The ‘faraway’ that facilitates the ‘blue of distance’ in perhaps the most obvious theme to be taken from the essays. Solnit contemplates that all her life she has been moved by “the blue at the far edge of what can be seen…the colour of where you are not”.

Perhaps what is most captivating about this blue of distance that Solnit establishes in her collection of essays is that it is the colour of where we may never go. A colour we can never truly know.

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