Upscale Me

In art school we have weekly tutorials. These are one to one meetings with either a tutor of your choosing, or your academic advisor. They’re quite informal and really just a chance to  express ideas and chat about progress, maybe get a couple of artists recommended to you. Vocalising ideas and discussing them with other artists is often very thought provoking. I spoke to a tutor Moira last week. It was useful and I took one thing in particular away from it. She commented on my work so far being quite ‘table-top’ and suggested I get out of my comfort zone by upscaling my work. This is an exciting prospect for me. I’ve been working quite intricately throughout 3rd year, I think its time to upscale.

So how do I move this project away from being too ‘table-top’?

1. Get rid of the table. Done.

2. Look at the materials at hand. That bloody wardrobe from last year just sits and looks at me every day. Its a constant reminder of last semester. Last semester was good and at the time I thought I was doing well. But this semester just feels so much better. My head is so much clearer. So I don’t want remnants of old less successful work taking up space. (This is unusual for me, seeing as I’m such a hoarder). The solution? Smash it up. Im’a go at it with a hammer and see where it gets me.

3. Upscale what I’m already working on. The metal work is going well and producing a really nice aesthetic. So lets take that and make it bigger. I can’t make the cubes themselves too big because the metal is just too heavy for me to realistically work with. But I can upscale slightly and layer smaller ones into a larger structure. I tried a larger piece today and was pleased with how it looked among the others.

 

I always feel really nervous before I go into Metalwork but once I’m there I do enjoy it. Today I was the only one in the workshop and was just cracking on with the work. The radio was buzzing a string of indistinguishable songs in the background. Suddenly Beyonce started blaring through the speakers… and I mean, obviously its impossible not to dance about a wee bit to that. Bopping about while cutting big sheets of metal is quite empowering.

The harshness of the metalwork gives a nice contrast to my more intricate bottle piece. They’ll compliment each other nicely. I’m going to leave the metal boxes empty to further this, a sort of comment on absence itself while the other work is full of content.

So, yeah, theres a fair bit going on with me right now. My heads nice and arty. I’ve only had one panic moment as opposed to my usual 5 a day. Aaaand I’ve made contact with the gallery The Changing Room in Stirling to see if they’ll take me on for a short placement. Look at me go.

 

There is no ‘Right Track’

But I think I’m on it.

It’s 4 weeks into the semester and I’m having so much fun. Things are just working. I had a meeting with my tutor Graham Fagon this week, he’s been very encouraging to talk to so far. I explained to him my ideas and the things I wanted to do this semester, he seemed genuinely enthusiastic about my plans which is always quite motivating. I’m hoping to have a little collection of work by the end of the semester as opposed to just one final piece. So I’m actually working on 4 or 5 different pieces at the moment. Although related in theme and style, the medium and aesthetic will vary.

Today, I finished the grid for my bottle project. This is a very exciting development. Having been in woodwork all week I’ve spent most of the afternoon scratching at my hands getting paranoid about skelfs. It was oddly satisfying when at half past 5 today I pulled a 2mm splinter of wood out of my palm.

          

I did a little test run, attaching it to the wall and arranging the 84 bottles. I’ve not yet tried the contact lenses in the piece yet and there are a couple of other accompanying factors to create before this ‘Everything I’ve Ever Seen’ work is complete. But the work is steady and so far successful.

I’m also planning to work with a pair of binoculars I acquired last year. After all that musing on the irrational stowing of emotion within an object, I started covering some of the objects I had lying around in paper. It’s kind of a ‘presentation vs. preservation’ thing. Why do we keep things? For the aesthetic and purpose, or to preserve something more abstract?

I’m thinking about casting these binoculars, so I can play about with multiples of them. In my head I see shelves of the same object, covered in paper. It’s such an interesting shape to work with. I don’t want to damage the binoculars though. They date back to 1918 and WWI. First thing Monday morning I’m heading down to Sculpture to figure out my options.

So yeah there’s no specific track I should be on right now. But I’m making work and I’m loving it.

Today I Made Stuff

Or tried to.

I’m working on a structure to display my little bottles of contact lenses, for my ‘obsessive sentimentality’ project. The case has to be similar to a thimble case but be able to hold 84 bottles. So I thought I’d whip one up in the workshop.

Mondays attempt took half the day and I ended up pounding it with a mallet til it cracked and broke. Today I tried again using beech instead of MDF. The beech is a harder wood and just ‘nicer’ really. It worked a lot better, but theres still a couple of problems with the backboard to sort out. Its eyeopening making things like this by hand. I would have bought one from a shop without a passing thought for design or manufacturing. When presented with the need to make something from scratch, you realise how much you don’t know about anything…

That sounds depressing, but it’s a good thing really. I think.

So yeah, its a sort of slot together grid piece. Woodwork gets frustrating because often measurements can be even just a millimetre short of accurate, due to thick pencil lines or inconsistency in sawing, and this affects the whole success of the piece. Theres been a few dramatic ‘This isn’t working. I want to die.’ moments. A wood workshop is a bad place to have these thoughts… But it’ll all work out by tomorrow hopefully 🙂

 

It’s good being back in the wood workshop, I like just zoning out and getting on with the task at hand. Having thought through that previous sentence, I probably shouldn’t zone out when operating a band saw.

 

Such satisfaction when the strips slotted together today, there was no such luck on the first attempt yesterday. I hope second times a charm… I don’t want to be making this one thing all week. I have so many ideas this semester, I want to just go.

84 Eyes

I’ve written previously about sentimentality, and attaching affection and memory to a material object. This surrounds a lot of the work I’m doing this semester. Obsessive Sentimentality.

Let me tell you a story. I went to Paris in the Summer of 2010. I saw everything. I saw Matisse and Rothko, a perfect sunset on top of the Arc de Triomphe, quaint towns and monumental architecture. And when it came to throwing my monthly contact lenses away at the end of July, I just couldn’t.

Which is stupid. It is completely irrational behaviour to allow these pieces of plastic that have been sitting on my eyeballs for a month, to have some kind kind of lasting power. If I lost the knackered old lenses, would I lose the visions of what I’ve seen? No. But its somehow a comfort having them. There’s a feeling that memory just isn’t enough.

So sometimes I keep my lenses. Because I can’t not.

I’ve worn 84 pairs of contact lenses. I keep some and remember them all. And I allow them to represent everything I’ve ever seen. Am I crazy? Perhaps… Certainly an obsessive sentimentalist. But I could make some art of this.

 

‘Things’

Sentimentality in materiality. What am I going on about now?

People are constantly trying to keep hold of the past. We assign memories and significance to objects, allowing them to represent events in our lives. Having a physical reminder of something provides comfort and reassurance that we did something, we saw someplace or we knew someone. Memory is not enough. Its odd really, and sort of a luxury. We accumulate all this unnecessary tac, give it power.

Would you notice if these things were gone? Do you look at them daily? Or is it just a comfort that you still have that old concert ticket stub? The memory itself is fading so the object is used to keep it alive somehow. Perhaps its even vanity. To prove you’re a certain type of person. Your ‘things’ can say a lot about you, and therefore its a selective process in deciding what to surround yourself in.

Personally I’m overly sentimental. I have a good memory for colour and image. This is handy, but can be annoying and provoke a lot of overanalysis. Getting ready in the morning would be a lot less of an ordeal if I didn’t attach memory so freely. I can look at any article of clothing in my wardrobe and instantly recall its triumphs and downfalls. I’ll use this as an excuse for my constant need to buy new clothes. But never throwing away the old ones of course.

This is all just musing really. About the importance placed on often unnecessary material objects. How people tie themselves to their ‘things’ whether the things themselves are valuable or not. Bellow is a photograph of a few of my possessions. I’ve covered some up and even though their appearance is hidden their sentiment is unchanged to me. Its not for aesthetic value that we collect and horde, but for personal comfort. Three of those objects are second hand. Which addresses another habit of mine. Being nostalgic about times I have not even lived through. Talk about clinging onto the past…

 

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Now playing: Sentimental Heart – She and Him – YouTube
via FoxyTunes

Time to Weld

Metalwork might be a bit of a challenge this year. That doesn’t have to be bad though, right? Having spent all last semester in woodwork, I assumed the skills would be pretty transferable. But theres now an even greater fear that I’m going to lose a finger. Heavier machines, sharper materials, being entrusted with hot metal…

However, the look is pretty sweet. So, lets see what we can do.

Too Small for Metal

I have ideas. Lots of ideas. Well… three ideas. Which is lots of ideas! This should be reassuring. But I’m a worrier.

It’s hard to ‘just get things done’ when you’re panicking about the result. Is it easier to not try, and therefore not fail?

I’m intending to try metalwork this year, however it’s off to a slow start. Apparantly I’m too little to work the metal cutting machine, and my clothes are too ‘flattering’ to weld in. So, plan of action? Three McDonalds meals a day and denim overalls. Or perhaps I could just wear old clothes and ask for a bit of assistance. It was a rare occasion today where I felt that my gender was holding me back. I felt like such a ‘girl’ in that metal workshop. It’s stupid really, I was in woodwork all last year and coped pretty well. Metal is probably more complex, but I’m going to try.

I’m thinking a lot about multiples this semester. My starting point in metalwork is to make a variety of cube like structures. Progressing from there, I’m hoping to play about with light, I did a bit of wiring last year but I’d like to make it more of a feature. This is a pretty vague explanation of what I’m thinking.

It’s disappointing not to have any pictures of progress yet. Tomorrow will be my day.

Why I like Christian Boltanski


I like French contemporary artist Christian Boltanski. From what I’ve read, our thoughts on art go hand in hand. Boltanksi admits that when you’re an artist, ideas of creation sometimes just don’t come, you can sit for days feeling unproductive with no drive or spark.

“You must wait and hope – there’s nothing else you can do. And when you have an idea, you can do it in 10 minutes.”

A lot of manual work, building and making, is time-consuming, but often the idea itself and the initial sketches can happen in a very short space of time. Sometimes this is reassuring because on those dwindling hours of having nothing to work on, you know that something could inspire you at any minute. Something small. Ideas come from the tiniest things. A lot of time in art school is spent sitting at my desk, idly scribbling nonsense words. Time to ‘do nothing’ is so important in the thought process. Boltanski reiterates,

“Sometimes in two minutes, you realise what you must do for the nest two years. Sometimes its in the studio but other times its walking in the street or reading a magazine. Its a good life, being an artist, because you do what you want.”

I always find comfort when I read interviews with him. The way he openly admits to artist block and even commends it is refreshing. Its easy to feel lazy when theres no ideas.

Aside from his attitude and views on art, I like Boltanski because his work is beautiful. He takes heavy subjects, the fragility of life, memory and loss, and works them with such a subtle flair, often even with humour. The image bellow of No Man’s Land shows a giant pile of used clothes and a large crane scattering the clothes into separate clusters. A good example of Boltanski’s subtle handling, the piece does not scream his intention, but allows the viewer to draw their own conclusion. A child would look in wonder at the giant crane, an old widow might see the clothes and think of remnants left behind by the dead. A young adult like myself might be intimidated by the scale of the piece. When I see this, it hits me how small I am, how many people have come and gone before me, and the traces they leave behind. I’d love to see this piece up close, to let it fully affect me.

So there’s a little bit about why I like Christian Boltanski.

Get. Things. Done.

I’m not making resolutions this year. Last year I wanted to learn something. I learned many things actually, basic skills such as how to make a circular box and avoid drilling a hole into your left thumbnail, and then some more abstract lessons, lessons that the natural progression of a year provides.

But this year is just about survival. Get on with it. Keep breathing and don’t complain. Get it bloody done. Perhaps even make some noise while doing it. Take a train if you need to. Ask questions and work on answers.

So, to initiate this, tomorrow I will begin to look for my artists placement. Infact, I might as well look tonight. Get. Things. Done.

I’ll end with this photo taken on my iPhone on a train from Edinburgh arriving into Dundee. Its blurry and unrecognisable as the Tay. But I like it.

It’s All Over Now

2011 had its ups and downs, as all years do, but was still a little bit amazing. I always get quite sad at new year, I’m not a fan of change and the future scares me frankly. So all I can say is “bring on 2012” and hope for the best.

This year is dissertation year, start of degree show plans, figuring out what I want to do with my life… This is a little bit much for my head to take right now, so lets take it one step at a time. A new project to get into shall suffice for now. I got good grades for my work this past semester, but I want better. So I’ll get better.

My feedback seemed mostly positive. They advised me to look at some examples of architecture and try to incorporate old with new, rather than just ‘old’. I’ll have to think about that one. My wardrobe project in particular was met with enthusiasm from the tutors. However, I was told that if I’d made one change, I would have got a whole grade better. Which sucks to hear but at the same time, I kind of already knew this, I just didn’t have the guts to go ahead and make that change. The opinion was that if my piece had simply been an empty wardrobe on a bed of berries it would have said so much more. I was too scared to do this. I tried to highlight the point I was trying to make by putting empty jars inside my once-empty wardrobe, to comment on empty space. But they’re right, I should have left it alone. Need to take more risks and get some confidence.