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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