Current Studio Reflectons
Since starting the MA my practice has altered, I am now beginning to investigate how my current concepts have shifted and understand how this directly affects my practice. I believe my work is provoked through journeys of self-discovery; both physical journeys such as walking but also the journey of understanding the properties of porcelain. I have also been investigating paleontology and geology which has derived from my local landscapes, I feel that this is still in early stages of development and I plan to immerse myself further into this scientific discipline post MA. Drawing has always been of Significance to me and very recently this has been reintroduced back into my practice. I am also starting to consider notions of memory, and will perhaps use film footage to engage with this idea. The subject of memory is incredibly personal to me and by allowing myself this connection I hope as my pieces become more personal they will become more considered. Methods of display need to be more thoroughly investigated and developed from the sample like elements I have been previously creating, these now need to be brought forward into more complete pieces.
Learning through self,
The anthropologist Tim Ingold discusses the idea of ‘learning to learn’ through his experience working in fields along with the Saami people, their instruction was “know for yourself”, he later realised that they wished him to understand “the only way one can really can really know things- that is, from the very inside of ones being- is through a process of self-discovery. To know things, you have to grow into them, and let them grow into you, so they become a part of who you are” (Ingold, 2010, p. 1).
Both my artistic practice and interactions with landscape have developed from personal knowledge and understanding, the foundation of my work with porcelain originates through a personal understanding of the material. Like Tim Ingold’s lack of instruction in the field I have never been instructed on how to use porcelain in a studio, and have gained a deep understanding of how the material responds and reacts to processes. In some respects gaining knowledge of a material through self is like that of understandings someone’s personality, I have endeavoured to understand the temperaments of my porcelain and what alters its being. A change in room temperature or humidity alter its properties and drying times therefore affecting how much water I need to reintroduce as I work with the clay. I feel developing my understanding of its properties and behaviours is key to my practice, I believe this connection is often underrated personally I feel that for me as an artist it becomes crucial.
The porcelain pieces are now of very thin fine quality, translucency was something I was always aiming to achieve, due to this it now further resembles a skin-like quality. The fragility of the ceramic replicates both how I feel about the fragility of fossils, but also how I wish to come across as an artist. Before the MA metalwork became a means to be tough and confident in myself, now I am allowing myself to become more open with my work and therefore anyone who encounters it is facing a glimpse of a more sensitive artist. I feel that by working with this honesty and becoming more confident to be fragile my work will become more sensitive.
As before mentioned I wish to apply Ingold to the journey of self-discovery with landscape, the landscapes I walk become my own through my interactions with them, I believe we seek the knowledge we wish to understand and through my own discoveries I have begun to understand landscapes on my own terms. I was first inspired by a stretch of coast on the Isle of Wight which runs from Yaverland beach along the Red Cliffs and to the white chalk of Culver (Figure 1). Whilst completing my undergraduate I began taking photographs of deep orange lines running through the lighter rock (Figure 2), they resembled drawings to me and were bright and colourful yet retained a palette of nature. I now regard this natural palette important to my practice and find that I continually refer to colours that are found in nature, specifically in my local landscapes. I have subsequently returned to this landscape many times and gained understanding of it geologically with the aid of a local museum, I find I often seek understanding through a scientific viewpoint, this has developed from my undergraduate where I understood more abstract theoretical science, whereas now I have the physical landscape that I wish to interrogate through both artistic practices whilst investigating its scientific properties. If we refer back to the deep orange lines I first photographed (Figure 2) I now understand the rock to be iron particles oxidising and staining sandstone, seeking out what I wished to understand I now experience the landscape with a new understanding.
I have spent time walking and rediscovering this stretch of coastline, this landscape interests me both visually and physically through the forms and sizes of the various cliffs, here surfaces are ever changing due to the impact of the weather, I enjoy seeing the impact of nature, there is also a shifting palette as the sediments of the cliffs change. These cliffs are also interesting geologically and are still debated about as I witnessed in a recent lecture from Andrew Gale professor of geology at Portsmouth University, during Gale’s talk he discussed the formation of the geological folding on the Isle of Wight and referred to the uplift an erosion that has shaped this particular landscape. The cliffs drastically range in age as you walk towards culver becoming approximately 60 million years younger, during the walk the cliffs tell prehistoric stories of rivers, shallow shores and the changing seas due to marine transgression and regression. I find it a fascinating that through investigation we can understand and retell these prehistoric events, we focus so much on ourselves as a species I enjoy imagining this pre-human world. These beaches and cliffs have become like a strange window to the past, where we may glimpse at what might have been there and if we’re lucky find some fragments of its memory.
These concepts of Prehistory are reflected in my current studio practice, which now contain many of these fossils and fossil fragments alongside which my porcelain fragments have begun to amalgamate. This theme of fragmentation is continually revealing itself, I wish to further this concept with notions of memory which I will discuss later. Looking at the photographs and writing of Sean Scully (Figure 3) I am reminded of my fossil slab experiment and the cliffs in Lyme Regis (Figure 4,5), and can see how documenting this through photographs can be very effective, these pieces are also reminiscent of the work of Andy Goldsworthy with the interaction with natural materials. After working with fossils over the summer of 2017 I accepted the shift in scale in my work, I began working smaller replicating the scale of smaller fossils or fragments, this was subconscious at first however now any smaller fragments are concisely made and I am more active in collecting smaller fragments of fossils along the coastline. I remain inspired by these tiny fragments that tell stories of a prehistoric past. Working on this new scale poses challenges for myself, I must understand how to make a piece effective on this scale when I am unable to hang my work on a wall and it becomes lost on a regular plinth how do I rectify this, there is potential for experimenting with the effects of accumulation of smaller elements such as in the work of Claire Twomey or Ai Weiwei. I also need to answer what makes a piece effective and what do I wish it to discuss, if I am juxtaposing smaller fossils with fragments of porcelain how does this articulate concepts and meaning.
Experimenting with different ways of displaying such as small wooden plinths, floor based collections and now larger limestone rocks, I wish to step away from a museum like display, I don’t wish my pieces to act as scientific education, I feel that my interest lies with my own education and experiences with landscape and fossils. I am interested in the act of discovery, there is something similar to making art when out collecting, the location is like the medium you may have an idea of what you might find as you would plan a piece of work however, you never know exactly what the outcome will be. I question the act of looking now, when out collecting you begin to train your eyes to look for specific things, shapes, colours therefor when in the landscape I am continually switching between seeing as an artist and looking as a collector. Collecting can become an almost meditative state, a space for thinking about my practice alongside the experience of the landscape I’m walking through. I continue to question where my practice balances with this act of finding in the landscape, to making in the studio I wonder whether it is through these haptic interactions with both fossils, landscape, and porcelain that my work develops from. Where do I then place myself within my practice? I feel I’m beginning to consider my presence as a divining point that establishes the objects being, whether finding a fossil or creating something in porcelain.
I was reminded the other day of how much I value drawing, I am considering the larger porcelain sculptures as drawing the landscape with clay. I have now drawn some of my porcelain pieces (Figure7) and I have found I used some of the techniques I used in learning paleontological style drawing (Figure 6) have arisen in my current work. I wish to use more drawing in the next few months allowing it to become more of my practice so that hopefully the porcelain fossil elements alongside drawings will become the main body of work.
By referring to the current large drawings I am now gaining an idea of how I can bring together individual pieces of porcelain, drawing on a similar scale to my proposed piece is also useful and will act as a reference point for when I am actively making the individual elements. I believe giving myself this sense of direction to be important as I will have a better overall idea of what I need to make rather than making individual pieces and hoping something will happen, the making will become more structured.
Memories as fragments
After a conversation the other day I was reminded of how much memory or missing memory has impacted upon my life, this conversation confirmed to myself that I should engage with the notions of what is memory, and how it is noticed when its missing. Reading Anne Rorimer’s “Subject as Object” she discusses ‘memory piece’ by James Colewell, this piece consisting of the repetition of text using tape recorders “…makes clear, only memory allows the mind to retain the past, however imperfectly, with reference to the reality of the present” (Ventures, 2012, pp. 123,124). This artwork is very similar to neurological exams to test the capability of someone’s brain after a brain injury, Rorimer continues with discussing the reliance on memory and the distortion of memory which the piece articulates. I am interested in the change in memory, through personal experience I witness the fragility of memory on a daily basis and I wish to articulate this, through fragments I am beginning to explore this. I have many smaller fragments of skin like porcelain, both deliberate and from breakages, larger pieces of porcelain have cracked and weathered edges when assembled these pieces appear to have been pulled apart and are hollow, missing elements from inside. I am also considering using my video of fossiling trips to investigate this idea further, originally the film footage was a documentation process for myself, now I feel that it can be moved forward to explore this idea along with the porcelain
For much of this year I have felt very under confident in my work however, now I am beginning to piece things together, I can see ways in which I am able to construct these larger pieces taking my inspiration from the surfaces of the cliffs. I have begun to understand that my work is able to unite many ideas and although some may be in my mind I do not have to share everything with whoever happens to be viewing my work. I need to remember that this work is for me to explore and interpret my ideas how I feel is necessary. If I am to take one lesson I have learnt so far it is that it’s ok to not understand exactly where you are or what direction your work is going in, the important thing is to investigate it and experiment with your ideas, to be in the studio, or in the landscape until something occurs.
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ede, S., 2005. Art And Science. London : I. B. Tauris.
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