Following on from ‘Holding back on assignment 3’ I have taken some time to reflect further and hopefully to come to more fruitful outcomes ( I have made additional notes and reflections at the end of this piece)-
As I look back to my previous assignment and the aims we talked about for this assignment my mind turns to the reflections I wrote after getting my report-
I experienced what seemed some very strong thoughts about the work I have been doing that link in with things I have discussed with both you and with Olivia. I wrote these words in my reflections-
‘In a way I just feel I want to acknowledge that they may be of importance, but I’m not quite sure how to negotiate them, so I will move forward just holding them in the edges of my thoughts.’
These are some of the things I have held in my mind as I moved forwards-
- ‘lines that nature has grown’- the idea of growing my own subject
- links into ideas of nurturing, needs and care.
- The greenhouse as a place of work/studio- thinking of it as a laboratory
- How can I include experiments into resolved work?
- How does the documentation fit in relation to work?
- Control/lack of control- collaborating with nature
Working towards Assignment 3 I hadn’t really appreciated fully the impact that this time would have on me. November was the anniversary of my son’s tragic death and the nature of it meant we didn’t have his funeral until the week before Christmas, then there was Christmas and New Year, and on 29th Dec. would have been his 21st birthday. Lots of difficult anniversaries. So in many ways I have immersed myself in work and reading, following trails, so that as I have approached this assignment I started to feel a little unsure about what I have achieved. As I have tried to assimilate what I have done into some order, however, I think that although there are things that I had hoped to do, like produce a slideshow showing 6 months growth of my willow and developing a bibliography, which I haven’t achieved yet, I have actually covered a lot of ground.
Work made since last assignment-
One of the aims following on from assignment 2 was to have produced 2-3 resolved works. When I look at what I have done it has very much been focused using materials from the willow to create artist materials that I can use in my work, so I see ‘Making work in inks’ and ‘Can I make a spherical charcoal form?’ as significant works. ‘Reflections on documentation’ also outline my thoughts around the group of willow sculptures that I still intend to make the focus of work. In many ways the time of year has impacted on work as I have had to give attention to the trees- collecting remaining leaves, re-potting some of them, collecting roots, weaving in this year’s growth, along with recording these things. I have made works inspired by these willows, but do not consider these resolved.
Works in progress-
Previous solar dyeing works are nearly ready to uncover
New solar dye works relating to tophat and 3 circles have been started.
Panel of 8 de-collage pieces relating to the group of 8 still need sanding back.
Slideshow of group of 8 growth over 6 months needs new learning around appropriate software.
As I think about the nature of the work I have been making and what has fed into it over recent months-
- Susan Griffin – Woman and Nature
- Alison Syme – Willow
- Roger Deacon – Wildwood
- Anthony Bond- Trace (from 1st Liverpool Biennial 1999)
- Anna Lovatt –Drawing Sculpture– essay from publication by The Drawing room, London
- Liquid lines talk– Tania Kovats (artist), Tim Knowles (artist) and Kate Macfarlane (The Drawing room, London)
- Artist – Eva Hesse
- Artist – John Newling
- Artist – John Wolseley
- Artist – Doris Salcedo
These are some of the sources I have explored as I try to negotiate the work I have made and the work that I could potentially make. I have tried to document thoughts on these as I have gone along, but something I have not yet written about is the word ‘hybrid’. It is a word that I have started to notice cropping up in writing about artists- some examples are Anna Bariball, John Wolseley, Christine Borland. In biology a hybrid is when you get offspring of 2 animals or plants of different breeds, varieties or species. It seems that perhaps there are a number of ways this is interpreted, as with Christine Borland where it seems to apply to the combining of the scientific with the artistic. With Anna Bariball is seems to refer to a combining of a drawing and sculptural approach, and with John Wolseley a combination of his approaches within one work- highly gestural marks made in collaboration with nature along with closely observed watercolour of flora and fauna, relating to the same landscape. It is interesting that it is perhaps a way that acknowledges the overlaps in practice apparent in many contemporary artists work. In the final paragraph of Anna Lovatts essay ‘Drawing: Sculpture’ she writes – ‘What emerges is not necessarily a ‘post-medium condition’ in which all specificity is lost to a catch-all term like ‘installation art’, but a situation in which divergent practices might be used to critically interrogate one another.’ I find this all very interesting, as one of the issues I have wrestled with as I make work is the different nature of some of my work, being both 2 and 3 dimensional. I think another reason this has captured my attention is that one of the predominate characteristics of the willow is its ability for natural hybridisation that frequently occurs in nature and can make classification a challenge. With this thought I think of my own difficulty in thinking about where my work sits.
I have spent a lot of time also considering the work of John Newling. I have written about him briefly, but intend to expand on this for my Contextual assignment. His work includes growing his subject, making work that reflects the role of care and nurturing, and has made works that are a form of documentation.
The plan for my Major Project relates to nature. I have a group of 8 living willow sculptures, along with 3 others, ‘3 Circles’, ‘Tophat’, and ‘Red disc’, that I intend to make the focus of my work. I have made observations and recorded various aspects of these over the year which I will use to make work. I intend to make at least one significant work relating to each sculpture. Part of the idea about these works will be the sense of working in collaboration with nature. There is a reciprocal relationship that requires a degree of commitment in terms of care and nurturing, and the willow provides not only a subject, but also materials that can be used in the making of work. I have researched and made inks and charcoal from the willow, and have used organic matter in other works.
Artists that have recently informed my work include Eva Hesse, Land artists- David Nash, Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy, Tania Kovats and John Newling.
- Environmental Concern
- Need for sustainability
- Concerns relating to loss, fragility and lack of control.
- I shall continue to use an experimental, intuitive approach to my work.
- I shall continue to work with, investigate, collect and record aspects of willow to inform my work.
- I will use photography in addition to drawing to record aspects of willow.
- I intend to collate the drawings, photos and studies I have made for each of the 11 sculptures as a source to work from.
- I shall continue to explore working in 2 and 3 dimensions in relation to painting.
- I intend to make a work about each of the sculptures (at least 11), but the nature of them may be different from each other.
- I intend to include the use of materials I have made derived from Willow, ink and charcoal, in the works I have made. Some of this will be home grown.
- I intend to use other organic materials- leaves, roots and stems, as are available and seem appropriate.
- I intend to use paint, which could be watercolour, acrylic or oils.
- It is likely I may include the use of other appropriated materials as I work.
Revised-Provisional artist statement.
Goldsworthy’s words ‘Learning and understanding through touch and making is a simple but deeply important reason for doing my work’, have a resonance for me.
Willow has become my vehicle through which I can try to explore my world. A piece of willow is a line and its natural inclination is to make a circle. These are elements I can see in my work. Along with the physical nature of working with the willow, it has a repetitive nature with a sense of rhythm, it is intuitive and very much led by the material itself and the outcome is always uncertain.
I have very much tried to focus on the doing, responding intuitively and spontaneously to my creative activity.
I have worked with willow, both living and basket makers willow, I have made studies and drawings of various aspects /details of the willow work, I have also used photography to record the willow, but have also photographed drawings that I have then manipulated using photoshop. These observations could be viewed as a way of trying to understanding the process, but possibly also to transform them into something different.
The living willow sculptures add a different perspective to consider. In contrast to the observation of nature, it requires a negotiation with nature- the form I can achieve has its limitations that are wholly led by how the willow grows. A way of working in collaboration with nature that requires an element of nurturing and the out come will be reflective of how well that is done, which in turn requires an understanding of its needs. The nature of these works is also slow. Dependant on the turn around of the seasons, when in the winter months the new growth can be tied woven back in.
Through my work with willow I have come to focus closely on the natural world and its natural cycles, in particular the uncertainties and challenges it poses us.
In a wider context I can relate my work to concerns around the natural world and the need to try and create a more sustainable future.
I have only changed this very slightly at the moment.
Response to Susan Sontag’s essay ‘Against Interpretation’.
In the same way that Sontag reflects that ‘none of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself’; equally it is a challenge to really know what it was like 50 years ago when she wrote this. I was 2 years old then and you might consider her essay another of the ‘interpretations’ in the arts that she describes. And when she talks about the idea of avoiding interpretation and risking the fact that ‘art may become a parody, or it may become abstract, or it may become (merely) decorative or it may become non-art’, was she describing what was actually happening as she saw things unfolding.
She says ‘the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities’. Later referring to a film suggesting that a certain interpretation ‘only express’s their lack of response to what is there on the screen’, and ‘in good films there is always a directness that entirely frees us from the itch to interpret’. I imagine this directness is what she is alluding to when she speaks of ‘Transparence’ and it’s liberating value in art.
I can’t help but notice her comments about the ‘sheer multiplication of works of art available’, ‘on overproduction; the result is a steady loss of sharpness in our sensory crowdedness’, ‘all the conditions of modern life…… cojoin to dull our sensory faculties’, and all this in a time before the internet and the explosion of access to unprecedented amounts of information, and undoubtedly interpretation.
She says ‘our task is to cut back content so that we can see the thing at all’. So I think there may be some thing to be taken from what she says particularly in a time where we are bombarded with images and information more than she could probably have imagined, and one can so easily become distracted form an initial train of thought. In terms of my art practice I have found that the making and the doing are what makes the work happen, the thinking, interpreting, analyzing can be distracting. Only yesterday I watched a video of Agnes Martin talking about not thinking in relation to painting. She said,’ the trouble with art today is the artists have an idea, but then have another 50 ideas before they get anything on canvas. She says she just thinks about the painting. I can see that thinking, researching and analyzing are important for progression, but that perhaps they need to be separate.
Additional thoughts on assignment 3-
Through February and March I have completed some works that where on-going-
- the De-collage series of works relating to the Group of 8
- the various solar dye works – oneWtree, threeWtrees and 6 months on…. along with the related reflections.
- further reflection on documentation
- and additional work inspired by 3’O’s
- along with work inspired by No.1
I haven’t re-written my artist statement yet, but feel much better placed to do so.