Gianni Colombo; ‘The body and the space’ at Robilant + Voena

“The body and the space” is a show that brings together a collection of Gianni Colombo’s most significant works made between 1959 – 1980 at the Robilant + Voena gallery, London. On reading the press release I was informed that; “Colombo’s practice aimed at overcoming the traditional notion of art as an object to contemplate, in order to create work that requires the active involvement of the viewer.” So prior to entering the gallery space I felt excitement at seeing work made over 30 years ago that evokes something that is sorely missing from the art world today, a physical relationship between viewers and art.

This feeling of excitement was slowly exchanged with a feeling of alienation as I entered the space. On entering the gallery I was met with a plush exterior of marble and stillness along with an overly polite steward who guided me around each piece with watchful eyes. In some ways this was an alternative gallery space, the beige walls and extravagant furnishings are worlds away from the conventional white cube. But instead of an exhibition curated to evoke relationships between viewers and art, this show successfully separated the audience whilst simultaneously turning kinetic art into conceptual artifacts.

‘Strutturazione pulsante (Pulsating Structuralization),’ 1959

All of the works that use electronical mechanisms, such as; ‘Strutturaziune fluida’ and ‘Robo optic’, to release their kinetic potentials are turned on and off individually by the steward as, of course, they are in a fragile state. This staged interaction transforms works that were originally designed to “[change] the spectator’s conventional relationship with reality, both physically and psychically” into relics held in a very wealthy museum. This dynamic between, viewer, work, steward and space denies the viewer of any reflective or intimate moments with the work, creating an awkward tension and inadequate presentation of the works incredible potential to engage viewers.

‘Roto-optic’ 1964

There was one space in this exhibition where this dialogue is allowed, and that is within Colombo’s immersive installation; ‘Topoestesia – tre zone contigue [itinerario programmato] (which translates to: ‘Topoesthesia – three contiguous zones [programmed itinerary]’). This is where I really felt the effect of what Colombo had designed for me as a viewer, I was transported into an other worldly interior that had disorientated my senses in a way that can only be experienced to be understood. I feel that this theme of wonder and visceral experience would continue throughout the show if the works were shown in the way that they were intended to be.

‘Topoestesia – tre zone contigue (itinerario programmato)’ 1965-1970

Of course, the limited function and interaction of these works is not the fault of the gallery but by displaying these originals instead of re worked productions places too much importance on the artist rather than to the experience of the viewer. It is known that Gruppo T (the kinetic art group that Colombo formed), had their works produced as multiples as a way to “distance the works from the artworld’s cult of the author.” These ideals of Colombo’s is something that I feel that this exhibitions curation ignores, thus creating an exhibition of incredibly exciting work that is made stagnant due to the importance placed on the items originality rather than it’s kinetic potential to evoke real awe and experience in the viewer.

ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME : New work

Between August – September I began work on very different ideas to the content of my previous work. During a trip through European capitals I started thinking about the Kitsch and the acceptance of throwaway culture in Western Society, especially the typical plastic souvenirs that haunt us in every agreeably nice place in the world. With the rise of ‘selfie sticks’ and the increasingly advanced technology of the smart phone camera I also found an interest in the way we treat photography now. It seems that now the photograph is so accessible we feel the need to take photos of every experience to prove that it was ours, as though if we take a photo we are some how experiencing the moment more intimately than if we did not. (These thoughts were also inspired by reading; John Berger: Ways of seeing, over this period.) From watching people take photos constantly without actually LOOKING at the things they were taking photos of I started thinking about how the photograph is now how we feel present in the world around us. We have generated a dysmorphic relationship with our surroundings. Our excessive photo taking distracts us from our sense of really ‘being’ in a place, an experience or a moment. This sense of being has become objectified in the photographic data of an Iphone, an Instagram post and Facebook profile pictures. We cannot be without instantly proving we’ve been.

ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME 2015
ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME 2015

This is the foundation of ideas that formed my piece ‘ENJOY ME/DESTROY ME.” The idea was a collaboration between myself and friend KAYA FEHMI, whose photograph is included in the piece. Our idea was to have a large scale image made into badges and attached to a denim hanging so that people could see and then interact with the image, being able to take a piece of it with them, until all the badges have gone. Through this process the piece aimed to challenge the audience to enjoy it whilst simultaneously destroying it, mirroring humans relationship with nature and the environment.

For me, the importance of the denim for the background of the photograph was to demonstrate the culture of the Western

Peter Blake, Self-Portrait with Badges 1961

world. By taking second hand denim jeans and cutting them up to make a flat sheet I was taking something practical and useful and making it functionless, as I feel the buyers of plastic souvenirs do to natural recourses. The use of badges on denim also took inspiration from Peter Blake’s: ‘Self portrait with badges’, a physical representation of his painted collages.

I found the large scale making of this piece to be very physical, it became in itself a ‘mass production’ of plastic objects as I attempted to make 486 badges by hand. The badges themselves were made from plastic poker chips, electric tape and safety pins with photographic paper stuck on with double sided sticky tape. I enjoyed the physicality of this making process along with the sewing of the denim by hand. This idea of handmade but ‘culturally disrupting’ objects echoes the process of Ai Weiwei’s work, especially his sunflower seeds due to their initial interaction with viewers in the Turbine Hall.

From a collective perspective the badges create a whole aesthetic image, which is about distinguishable. The moment a badge is removed it transforms from part of a whole to a bland combination of grey and white pixels, making it as worthless as a €4.50 souvenir that loses it’s value and meaning as soon as you remove it from its surroundings.

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower seeds, 2011 

The photograph used is of the Hungerford Bridge’s ‘Skateboard Graveyard’ by Southbank. The image appropriately documents an accumulation of old and broken skateboards that have been abandoned onto the bridge support, an island of consumer waste in the middle of the Thames. So to stage the interaction between audience and piece we decided to take it there, inviting people to take a badge rather than to take a photo, to be present beyond the screen of their phones. This location did not work for this piece as it was at an awkward angle for people to interact with it, so we later moved it opposite Southbank skate park, this change of location turned the piece into an almost-memorial for the fate of the on looking skateboards.

Kaya Fehmi, Skateboard Fehmi, 2015
Kaya Fehmi, Skateboard Fehmi, 2015

The expectation of public interaction with the piece was where it failed, it seemed that people were too awkward or just plain uninterested to interact. I believe now that the piece would only have been able to create this interactive presence with the viewer if it had been much larger. It was very easy to ignore, due to its height and placement at the side of the pathway. If it had been bigger and able to stand independently it would have been impossible for people to ignore and possibly less embarrassing for those who were interested but shy. Interestingly a lot of people asked how much the badges were and were confused that they were being given away. At some points I felt that there would have actually been more interest if the badges were for sale rather than for free. Possibly at this stage it was a little over ambitious to expect people to interact physically with my work but I feel that the majority of my ideas came across successfully here and I am happy with the visual outcome and repetitive processes that it developed.

Before interaction
Before interaction
On Hungerford Bridge
On Hungerford Bridge
With sign
With sign
Post - interaction
Post – interaction
Individual badge/interaction
Individual badge/interaction
Opposite skate park/interaction
Opposite skate park/interaction
In loaction
In loaction

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.

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.

Adventures of the Black Square: 100 years of Abstract art and society at the White Chapel Gallery

Almost ironically I found this exhibition to be a visually and intellectually overwhelming display of a genre of art that began by simplifying perspective into geometric forms. This notion of abstraction as a universal language felt absent in the curation here as I fought my way through a bombardment of imagery and descriptions in my own adventure of the black square.

Kazimir Malevich – Black quadrilateral (circa. 1915)

Opening with Kazimir Malevich’s visual representation of utopian ideals through the compositional balance of ‘Black quadrilateral’ (circa. 1915) we witness the birth of abstraction, and with it the notion of revolutionary art. From here on the exhibition traces the development of artistic abstraction over the past centaury, observing its on going relationship with an ever-changing society. We are followed by Malevich’s paintings and those he closely influenced until we are introduced to Piet Mondrian’s painting; ‘Composition with Yellow, Red and Blue’ (1937-42). The exhibitions curation suggests the influence of Malevich’s black square in Mondrian’s foundations of neoplasticism. Yet here we see Mondrian’s visual practice of the dynamic equilibrium theory coming together with the abstraction of natural perspective into primal shapes that influenced a movement of aesthetic design.

Piet Mondrian – Composition with Yellow, Blue and Red (1937-42)

This tangent of abstraction that talks about consumerism in the Western world was the easiest for me to follow due to my own reality. Following Mondrian’s composition I was struck by the lack of colour in both Dóra Maurer’s ‘Seven Rotations’ (1979) and Hassan Sharif’s ‘Drawing squares on the floor using a cube’ (1982) that seemed to continue Mondrian’s message. Both are similar in their process of squashing 3 dimensions into 2 dimensional representations but I think it is their suggestion of the endlessness of both art and abstraction where their strength lies. The presentation of Maurer’s photographs was worth the trip to the gallery itself. The transformation from the initial image to the last exploits the audience’s process of image reading. Demonstrated by the simplicity of the first image of Maurer holding the emptiness of the white square alongside the complexity of the final photograph, where the audience is asked to mentally deconstruct the image to understand it’s origins.

Dóra Maurer – Seven Rotations (1979)

Upstairs this theme of materiality and disorientation in abstract art lead me to Gunilla Klingberg’s video piece ‘Spar Loop’ (2000) where I began to see evidence of contemporary abstractions perception and interaction with society. Klingberg’s kaleidoscopic animation of logos explores the abstract of the everyday in Western society by mimicking the spiritual capacity of consumerism. In some ways this piece echoes the realization that Roland Barthes had that; ‘the cultural work done in the past by gods and sagas is now done by laundry detergent commercials.” Spar Loop demonstrates the way that the general public is exploited by capitalist structures of society that allow advertisements to excite us in a way that was once done by transcendental powers.

Still: Gunilla Klingberg – Spar Loop (2000)

This is not the only place in the exhibition where Barthes theories seemed relevant. For an exhibition that explores the liberation of abstract art I felt that too much emphasis was put on the authors. Alongside each piece was a lengthy description citing the authors past inspirations, although useful, this meant that it was easy to spend more time reading than looking. As Barthes points out ‘To give an Author to a text is to impose upon that text a stop clause, to furnish it with a final signification, to close the writing.” This is precisely what I felt happened here, although the artists exhibited used abstraction as a universal language to cover a variation of themes and mediums, the emphasis put on Malevich’s realization of the Black Square meant that all focus was on the fact that the work was abstract. In this space the works cannot individually grow or adapt to their audience as they have been forced into a curated timeline where there only purpose for display is the fact that they were in some way inspired by a black square, all other purposes are cut off within the walls of the White Chapel Gallery until the 6th of April.

Photocopying photocopies

For the second unit of the drawing project I have been working with using photocopying as a means to manipulate and expose images. In my initial experiment using a close up photograph of a canvas painted with ice I found myself making 3 photo copies out the original image using a particular technique and then choosing the most ‘visually successful’ image and repeating the process with that image.

When I realised that I had subconsciously been doing this I became very excited about how this process could be used in part of a bigger sequence. So I continued with more experiments where I consciously made 3 photocopies of each image using a particular technique then chose the one I felt was most successful and used another technique. I felt excited about this because I realised that the possibilities of this process were endless, you could continue to photocopy photocopies stemming from one image repeatedly, so the piece itself could be infinite, or at least suggests its own infinity. I felt a sense of evolution when looking at the series, and thought about how it could talk about the natural evolution of our planet into present day. The photocopier here would act as a symbol of man’s modern day immediacy warping our perception of the world around us, removing us from our human nature. I felt that the way I was presenting this, as a diagonal so that each set of photocopies was seen in relation to its original, showed this. But when speaking to a tutor he recommended I think about using a grid, as the current presentation was too decorative. On trying this I found this form both allowed more photocopies to be shown in the same space, and made the transitions between images easier to read.

After researching John Cage’s printmaking techniques I realised that my process was too objective to present something so based on chance. So like John Cage I experimented with using a random number generator in order to get my head around the process before applying it in a different ways to this photocopying work. I realised that to be able to use the random number generator I would need to categorise all the different techniques I have been using to make the previous photocopies so that I could assign them a number. I found this difficult to do as there are so many variations of techniques so I had to be really concise about how this would work, making strict categories and sub categories. It was also around this time that I came across John Hilliard’s piece ‘camera recording its own condition’. This piece too aimed to expose the inadequacies of it’s own process of making.

John Hilliard - Camera Recording its own Condition (1971)
John Hilliard – Camera Recording its own Condition (1971)

At this stage I realised that I the image I was using was as important as the process itself. I had mainly been using pictures of natural forms as a visual representation of nature being warped by technology, but I felt like I needed to find a ‘pure’ (non-objective) image for this process to really work. This really hindered me as I felt like I couldn’t start categorising my techniques until I had a ‘pure’ image. In the meantime I started doing small observations of bananas and passion fruit shells decaying, focusing on making forms and patterns with them. Then I experimented with photocopying these 3D objects and moving them whilst being scanned. From this I got an image to work with to realise all the categories, I decided to get a still image of the fruit as I felt this was more truthful, but not yet a pure image as the composition was considered aesthetically.

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From this I finalised my Categories to; Wiggle, Holding away from the scanner and back down again, circular motion and left – right, and a sub category; portrait or landscape. I found an image to work with by cropping and enlarging natural textures found in Tomas Marent’s collection of Rainforest Photography. I then made a set of 9 to start practicing with this technique. I didn’t feel entirely happy with this outcome but I think that is due to my struggle of finding or realising a pure image to work with.

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I still feel that this pieces process is not fully resolved. Afterward I experimented with dragging the image across the photocopier left to right at the same time as the photocopier. I then alternated between photocopying landscape to portrait with the image. I found the outcomes of this to be much more exciting than the ones using the random number generator, so maybe experimenting with using only this could lead me to a resolving piece.

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I feel now that I need to leave this photocopying process alone and feel eager to get it resolved, but I have had an idea of possibly resolving the piece using the intaglio print process. Thinking about how I could manipulate a plate one stage at a time (using processes and co ordinates selected by a random number generator), taking a print after every action for x amount of times and using the final image to make the same amount of photocopies using the random number generator to decide what process will be used to manipulate it. Although this does not really talk about the manipulation of nature that I wanted the piece to talk about it does expose two separate printing processes in different ways.

Intaglio printing experiment

In the past week I was granted the opportunity to try out the intaglio printing process. In preparation for this I researched Dora Maurer’s work with printmaking as I had heard that she aimed to produce indeterminable outcomes from processes, which is what most interests myself. In my research I found her piece ‘Throwing the Plate from Very High” to be of most influence to my own approach to the intaglio print process, as I too wanted to catch something as fleeting as a moment of impact. My initial brainstorm in the workshop was thinking about how I could capture ice melting through this process, unfortunately this did not seem possible given that water softly shrinking would not mark the soft ground applied to the plate, but perhaps I may be able to do something with water, salt and vinegar that would arrive at a similar outcome once I have a better understanding of this process as a whole. In the end I decided that the best way for me to start using this process initially would be to mimic Maurer’s use of the process but instead of throwing the plate, drop a slab of ice onto it.

This made a much larger mark than both the technician and I had expected which was positive, but as a saw that there was still large pieces of ice intact I decided to continue smashing the remaining pieces onto the plate until there was none left. The spontaneous performance of this was quite exciting, being free to smash blocks of ice as an expression of nature felt liberating and almost therapeutic. The plate took around 40 minutes to get a good etch as I used steel with a very thin layer of soft ground. At first I found this process quite intimidating because of its complexity but once I had inked up the plate and created my first print I felt much more comfortable in the print workshop and I am eager to experiment with the boundaries that this process has to offer.

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‘Dropping ice from quite high’

Despite having got a final outcome from the plate I didn’t quite feel that this piece was resolved yet. In my other studio work I had been experimenting with a more common process of printmaking; photocopying. Using an A3 photocopier I have been manipulating colourful images by moving them sporadically whilst being scanned and working repetitively from those scans rather than the original image in order to expose the colours. I decided to see what would happen if I did the same to this black and white image, but I didn’t feel that it would be right to add more movement to the print as it was being scanned as the ‘action’ had already happened within the image. Instead I decided to see what would happen if I continued to photocopy the previous photocopy of the print as I was hoping that this in some way could visually resemble the process of ice melting.

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36 photocopies of photocopies

This is the result of photocopying photocopies of the print 36 times, although changes in the quality cannot be noticed when a photocopy of the previous photocopy are compared, the 6 diagonal copies in the middle show the disintegration of the process concisely. I am pleased with the development of this idea, what I was most interested in Maurer’s work was the way in which she exposed processes and I feel that I have achieved this to some extent here with the photocopies. The repetitive and tedious task of photocopying photocopies exposes the fact that this instant process of reproducing an image has its faults, every time a new photocopy is made the image is manipulated further away from the original and truthful image. For me this is important as I think it could be applied to the way in which society, especially western society, views itself within the natural world. Over the most recent period of history we have found ourselves progressively loosing touch with the natural world of which we are apart of, with the focus of our day to day lives slowly leaning toward technology and ridiculousness, instead of growing to understand ourselves and the world around us.

Paul McCarthy, WS SC at Hauser & Wirth exhibition review.

Before entering Paul McCarthy’s latest exhibition at Hauser & Wirth I noticed a sign on the blacked out windows of the gallery warning of the explicit content within. As I have grown up living amongst the capitalism of the modern Western world I shrugged this off, safe in the knowledge that from a young age mass media culture has exposed me to such absurd realities that anything fictional could no longer affect me. When I was to leave the exhibition an hour or so later, the only words of reflection I could write were; ‘shocking to the point of anxiety.’

Although McCarthy’s ongoing appropriation of fairytales is incorporated in the title of this exhibition, WS being a twisted abbreviation of ‘Snow white’, there is little visual inclusion of these comforting symbols of childhood innocence here. Instead McCarthy frames these abject large-scale paintings, with adverts ripped straight from magazines. In ‘WS, Dolce & Gabbana’ a D&G perfume advert stares back at me from it’s lustful airbrushed mask whilst unknowingly being swamped by the down pour of ‘sexy’ feces coming from an obscene lewd act above.

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‘WS, Dolce & Gabbana’ 2014

All of the paintings have a strange feel of stagnant voyeurism about them; once past the blacked out windows viewers are exposed to multiple scenes of awkwardly absurd sex acts limply played out by warped figures against pastel backgrounds. Each depiction of niche fetishes is devoid of passion, the characters aren’t sad or happy, they are indifferent, detached but yet seemingly aware of their own bleakness. In contrast, the collaged images of Internet porn tease us with the guilt and disgust that comes with looking at such literal exploitation.

In ‘SC, Luncheon on the Grass’ a young woman stares straight ahead from an A4 print out centred at the top of the composition, upon her head is a festive Santa hat, yet her mouth is agape with the feces smeared across her cheeks. McCarthy parodies this anonymous girl into an ‘updated’ version of Manet’s ‘Déjeuner sur l’herbe’ where sexuality is no longer subtle and secret but crude and cruel, highlighting the state of human compassion in the structure of capitalism we live in today.

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‘SC, Luncheon on the Grass (Déjeuner sur l’herbe)’ 2014

It’s not just consumer culture and famous paintings that are sexually parodied into McCarthy’s lurid paintings though. Hollywood celebrities native to McCarthy’s hometown of LA are also dotted around the exhibition, appropriated as embodiments of both fiction and reality amid these chaotic portraits, which imitate the blur of the virtual and literal in our technological society today.

Just as the Modernists revolted against the industrial revolution, here McCarthy revolts against the technological revolution. With his collective use of disturbing sexual imagery and the consumer porn of advertisements alongside the context of fairytales, McCarthy begins to build up a chronological narrative of how basic human instincts are affected by the uprising of technology. He points out that at a young age we learn morality from fictional characters in fairytales so that later on we can learn about sexuality from fictional relationships in porn. Ultimately this exhibition explores truths about the technological advance that we find ourselves in, and how obscenity has become our reality and will remain to be so for as long as our basic human instincts are exploited and manipulated by capitalist systems.

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‘SC, Brad Pitt’ 2014