Review of studio practice since February

Since my exhibition piece ‘Ebb and Flow’ I have continued to work with ice as a medium as well as experimenting with other natural materials. After the show I had a multitude of ideas to develop this concept and process but in hindsight I see that all these ideas fizzled out as I concentrated on my drawing project.

As the material choice of ice was inspired by my digital documentation of Farnham park I decided to experiment with projecting footage of the park onto a screen of ice. I was particularly interested in projecting the close up video’s I had of the bonfire from November, as I felt that this could make an interesting (if not obvious) comparison between the elements.

As I set this up in quite a light room, the projections were not as clear as I had wanted them to be, the best results were with videos that had a lot of light in them. I didn’t filming this as easy or as interesting as I thought I would, it didn’t feel that there was any real connection between the footage and the ice. One experiment that I did particularly like was when the ice had melted quite a bit and I projected the film onto the ice at an angle. The ice reflects the film at different angles whilst the water as a result of the ice melting reflects the footage too, creating a confusion of reflections and movement.

Although this was quite visually disorientating with all the different textures and reflections, I didn’t really feel that excited or interested by this experiment. This led me to ignore my studio project for a month or so as I felt I had many more interesting ideas for my drawing project.

After looking at banana skins in my drawing project I decided to experiment with this material further in my studio practice. I was fascinated by the rubbery texture of the skins and the way in which they changed from yellow to brown very quickly once they had been opened. I started my experimentation by photographing banana skins at different stages of decay, and then started to experiment with manipulating the skins so they would dry in different ways.

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I especially liked the result of peeling a banana skin into very thin strips as it made the material completely unrecognizable, and documenting this skin as it dried was interesting as you could see how the material had shrunk and warped. Another experiment that worked well was taking the ‘strings’ that come off bananas and their skins and pressing them lightly onto paper, I found that they stuck very easily once they had dried and made very delicate studies of the banana material that bordered on scientific.

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After these experimentations I started thinking about how I could make marks with the bananas without just letting them rot on their own. So I peeled three bananas at the same time, put one in water to freeze and left the other two to brown. Once the first banana skin sculpture had frozen I removed it from the mold and replaced it with one of the browning banana skins. Again, once this had frozen I replaced it with the final and brownest banana skin. This process created three ice sculptures with banana skins at different stages of decay. I was questioned at this stage why I was only using the banana skins and not the bananas themselves. I felt it was important not to waste food when making this work as its purpose is to talk about the damage and waste of capitalism and how it has distanced us from our appreciation of nature, and using the bananas themselves would be wasteful (and I’d much rather eat them).

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I set these banana sculptures up in my studio space and recorded them melting but I found this to be so tedious and boring so I knew that it would not make an interesting piece. Instead I started playing around with their composition, piling the sculptures on top of each other and spinning them, creating rotating spheres and confusing footage that I think has potential.

I decided to have the sculptures melt not as domes but the other way round as this resembled fruit bowls, which is the only way we interact with bananas in Western culture. I then documented through photography the deterioration of the sculptures along with the creation of the marks made by the banana skins.

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I was surprised to find that the freshest banana skin created the darkest liquid whereas the most decomposed banana skin created lightest. I also noticed during the melting process that the first sculpture had a lot of bubbles trapped inside it, which were beautiful to photograph and watch develop as the sculpture melted.

I was excited by the final outcome of this process; I had left the sculptures to melt on thick watercolour paper (as I didn’t want to have the same connotations to painting as I had done with the canvas in my last piece). The final, dried marks made looked like they could have been made from soil, which I felt showed the cycle of nature. I was also excited by the marks that were left on the plinth underneath the watercolour paper, as they looked like a negative, ghost print.

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After having feedback from other students and tutors I was told about the Panama virus that threatens the Cavendish banana. From this research I found out that because there is little variation in banana cultivation this virus is able to wipe out this particular strain of banana just as it did the Gros Michel banana in the 50’s. I found this very interesting as my research showed that the Gros Michel banana was much tastier than the Cavendish banana that has replaced it, showing the deterioration of the quality of our food due to capitalism (Cavendish is the only banana cultivated and the only one sold, if bananas were grown naturally this would not be an issue – all about money.) I feel that accidently this piece already talks about this idea of deterioration and extinction but now that I know about this issue I would like to have my work develop in a way that addresses it effectively.

My problem now is how to develop these concepts within my work, I feel the melting piece is too natural as to demonstrate the negative impact of man I need to manipulate the banana skins in some way before this idea of extinction. I have been struggling to come up with any good ideas for a while, until I started thinking about my recent experiments with printing processes in my drawing project. I personally found the intaglio etching process to be an incredible experience, but a process that also seems to be dying out in favour of Photoshop and more immediate printing processes. I thought maybe I could link these two long-standing ‘things’ (the Cavendish banana and the rise of technology) by making etchings with bananas. Before the Easter break I waxed up several etching plates so that I could experiment with drying banana skins on them to see if any marks would be made. Hopefully this experiment may lead me to a resolved piece but I am still searching for ideas.

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Raw and Unseasoned – First year London show

11069680_965142136859304_477401772_o‘Raw and Unseasoned’ at Hundred Years Gallery offers an honest insight into the progress made by over 40 BA Fine Art students in their first year of study at UCA Farnham. For most participants this will be the first time their work has been exhibited in London, marking a milestone for these emerging artists.

This debut show aims to demonstrate the achievements of these explorative students as well as outlining the potentials of their artistic practice that will be developed in the years to come. Some works will focus on the process and materiality of their creation whilst others were born out of concept, bringing together a show as diverse as its creators.

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A walk through British Art at Tate Britain, A review.

It is the third of ‘Three studies at the base of a Crucifixion’ (1944) that haunts my imagination every time I hear the word ‘painting’. It may be the animalistic scream echoing from the mouth of the spliced subject or perhaps it is that this painting seems to carry the brightest orange of them all, and with it the most excruciating pain. Either way, memory does not do justice to the reality of standing before this triptych that is so vibrantly dark, it steals the natural light that flows through Tate Britain’s glorious architecture.

Francis Bacon – ‘Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion’ (1944)

If you are able to drag yourself away from this introduction to the galleries, it is possible to take yourself on a tour of some of Francis Bacon’s most famous works within the BP walk through British Art display. Moving into the gallery exhibiting works from the 1970-80’s, one will find another dramatic expression by Bacon, ‘Triptych’ (1972). Here we can see the development of both Bacon’s painting style and subject, but when looking around the rest of the room we can also see the development of the art world as a whole. From Antony Gormley’s bread ‘Bed’ (1980-1) to Eddie Chambers’ ‘Destruction of the national front’ (1979-80), signs of post modernism are everywhere. At both sides of the rooms entrance sit two quadrilateral monochromatic pieces; to the right, Stephen Partridge’s ‘Monitor’ (1975) and to the left, John Hilliard’s ‘Camera Recording its own Condition’ (1971). Both of these pieces seem so far removed from the emotion and exploitation of Bacon’s ‘Triptych’ that it seems strange they can even be displayed in the same room.

Stephen Partridge – ‘Monitor’ (1975)

It was the performativity and playfulness of Partridge’s ‘Monitor’, a video displayed on the screen that is the subject of the video itself, which initially led me toward it. Displayed at eye level, the screen rotates and twists, hypnotizing the viewer with its slow, rhythmic beat, making it difficult to distinguish from the physicality of the real monitor and the representation of itself within the film it shows. It was this use of entrapment and reflection within a single medium that also drew me towards Hilliard’s ‘Camera Recording it’s own condition’. Just as repetitive as ‘Monitor’, but on a much larger scale, this piece both critiques the analogue photography process whilst also showcasing its possible perfection. Hilliard is most famous for his photography work that exposes the faults and subjectivity of the medium. I was aware whilst at Tate Britain that his piece ‘Cause of Death’ (1974) was being displayed down the road at the Hayward Gallery’s exhibition ‘History is now’, demonstrating the relevance of Hilliard’s technological exposures 40 years on.

John Hilliard – ‘Camera Recording its Own Condition’ (1971)

Both of these pieces by Hilliard and Partridge were born out of the rise in technology and although they are created from documentation, they subvert the limitations of the mediums used, marking the birth of photography and video as an art form. Meanwhile the use of these accessible tools, materials and simplistic processes also diminish the social boundaries of high and low art. In comparison to Bacon’s paintings these pieces are devoid of emotion and cultural history, but because of this they become limitless. They swap emotion for playfulness and cultural history for technological boundaries, finding the foundations and limitations of these new mediums before they can be developed into artistic expressions. Although I will always find the paradox of an art display funded by BP hard to swallow, this longstanding display at Tate Britain is always giving. There is always something to be learnt in the static interior of these gallery spaces whilst the world outside its walls continues to shift and change, just as the worth and relevance of the work it holds.

Resolving Photocopy work

In my last post documenting the progress of my drawing project I talked about my struggle finding a pure image to work with for my photocopying series. Since then I started to research the work of Anna Atkins, who took the first Cyanotype’s of natural forms. I felt that these images would be most appropriate to work from, as they are the first example of technology capturing nature.

Anna Atkins Cyanotypes from Photographs of British algae: cyanotype impressions. / Part I.

Anna Atkins Cyanotypes from Photographs of British algae: cyanotype impressions. / Part I.

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I also decided to simplify my process as I found that the outcomes where I dragged the original image from left – right across the scanner felt the most successful as this both mimics the technology of the photocopier and the way we read in Western culture. To take away my visual control over the piece I used a random number generator to determine whether the original would be scanned in Portrait or Landscape and what specific co ordinates (X or Y) would be dragged along with the light of the photocopier. A selection of the 12 results:

Anna Atkins photocopies 4/12

Anna Atkins photocopies 4/12

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I did another 12 experiments with an Anna Atkins inspired image that I came across. Strangely, when researching Atkins I realized that the ‘Google Doodle’ of the day was an interpretation of her process to spell out the search engine’s name. I found this to be a strange tribute to Atkins and an interesting representation of Westerns cultures relationship with nature and technology so I used the same random number generator technique with this image.

Google Doodle Photocopies 4/12

Google Doodle Photocopies 4/12

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As these outcomes where made of 12 A3 sheets each the only way to view them properly was by laying them out on the floor. This did make me think that these could make an interesting floor piece, as walking around/ up and down the photocopies put a whole new emphasis on the outcomes as a large scale piece. But I wanted a more truthful way of presenting these images to the viewer that didn’t ignore the process of their creation so I tried making zines.

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I thought the zines would help guide the viewer through the process, being able to flick the pages between the progression to understand the origins of the last image and the progression of the original. I made a third zine that compared both of the outcomes from the original Anna Atkins Cyanotype and the Google Doodle as they were born from the same random number generator decision-making. When comparing both outcomes I noticed that there were similarities in texture and patterns at each stage, which could talk about the similarities that are found in nature and technology.

Unfortunately these zines didn’t work, although I liked the truthful paper materiality of them, they felt boring and static when the piece is meant to be about transformation. Looking at my previous work with photocopies I decided to experiment with film, but didn’t just want to make a slideshow. Instead I filmed the photocopies being scanned in, so that the photocopier physically makes the transition between the images, mirroring the reality of the process they were made from.

I was very pleased with this initial outcome; I was especially excited by the audio. The mundane rhythm of the photocopier becomes a melody partnered with these vibrantly abstract images. I found that the most successful transitions between images was when they lined up and you could see exactly how one image created the next. I realized that this only happened with the Landscape outcomes, as this is how they are viewed on the film. So this lead me to make a new series with Anna Atkins Cyanotype where I used the random number generator again to determine co ordinates but only scanned in the images Landscape.

I felt that this could work well as a wall piece or floor piece better than a video as from far away it doesn’t feel like the image progresses at all but close up you can see the change in colour and lines which I find really interesting. This is very different from the series I had done before, and I missed the abstract textures that initially led me to this process so I then decided to scan each of these outcomes in portrait, using a random number generator to determine the co ordinates.

This gave some of the most colourful outcomes yet, but I now feel stuck with where to go with this next. I feel that I am just on the cusp of realizing the full potential of this piece but I don’t know what comes next. I feel that my most successful outcome is the video experiments but I now do not know which one is most relevant, or how this could be displayed completely truthfully. I feel that there is much more I could do with the audio – maybe I could have a series of several films of different series being projected at once, all starting and finishing at different times but all in the same rhythm of the photocopier. Maybe I have reached the full potential of this piece and simply one of the video pieces I have already made is enough to display my concept and process fully.