Saturday, 16 February 2013

'Textile Perspectives in Mixed Media Sculpture'

by Jac Scott
pub The Crowood Press Ltd, Ramsbury, Marborough 2003 (2010 impression)
ISBN 978 1 86126 578 4
All the photos in this section are all from the book, except where indicated.

Book cover showing 'OFFICE BLOCK' Jac Scott 2002
Plaster, recycled office workers' shirts, plaster sealant, paint
Photographer: Rachel Elliot

Wow what a book.

Reading this has given me so much already, and I suspect will keep on giving me new inspiration and broaden my horizons as I absorb it more thoroughly, and follow up some of the references. Most importantly it has given me a vocabulary to talk about what comes out of me when I allow my creativity to take over. Since the introduction sets out the author's hope to distil her own thought about the place of her own work in contemporary art, for me she has done this very effectively, filling out a whole landscape for me in a way that I can now think about and talk about more clearly.

I was initially very excited by this book, because of the range of beautiful photos that drew me in and motivated me to adapt my reading to the intellectual art language. And because of the familiarity and directness of some of the more powerful female images.

I am not going to go through to review it more than this here, but just make some notes for myself of things that struck me, or artists I want to find out more about as a result of reading it.

The History of Textile Art
Magdalena Abakanowicz 'transformed weaving into a dynamic sculptural technique'.
Joseph Beuys 'credited with being one of the most influential artistic figures in the last century.' Worked with felt and fat.
Louise Bourgeois

Sculptural Materials
Traditionally malleable, castable, carvable and/or constructional.
Structure, weight, balance and scale.

For the sculptor, tactile values are not an illusion to be created on a two-dimensional pane, they constitute a reality to be conveyed directly as existent mass. Sculpture is an art of palpation.' Causey, The Art of Sculpture 1998.

I completely relate to this statement, although I would have used more sensory language! I have definitely found it difficult at times to understand why one would make a drawing of a texture when one can make a metaphor which can be experienced with the fingertips.

Creative Journeys
I found it helpful to have the design process reiterated here, but with the proviso that some artists do it differently. Of course they do. And I have found myself that I have tended more to the side of having a vision and then working out how to produce it. Sketchbook work and experimentation with materials inspires with ideas of what is possible, but the real work is done in my dreams and in prototypes.

In Art Textiles of the World - Great Britain 2 (Harris 1999) Shelly Goldsmith describes something I have noticed about myself, that she does not find it satisfying to make a complete and final design which she then transcribes literally into textile, but prefers to work using a 'sketch' which she works on as she makes it.

Working directly with materials
For me decay and neglect brings in the organic nature of the world, and therefore it's beauty. Rust, lichen, nature, the cycle of birth and death.

The next few chapters are about the use of particular types of material for sculpture - not just techniques (including safety tips) for using them, but relevant information about deterioration, suitability for outdoor use, and discussion of their metaphorical and cultural meanings.

Transparent plastics - casting resins, acrylic sheets and monomers.
Sonja Flavin fibre optics.

Jac Scott 'ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY?' (detail) 2001
Materials: coiled carrier bags in the seat of the sculputre, melted with a hot air gun. Photographer Andrew Morris.
This reminds me of some very mundane pleasures - things packed into shop shelves - at the same time as grating slightly because of the contrast between the softness of rolled plastic bags and the hard sharpness or these ones no doubt. Sitting on them would be like sitting on a rock full of barnacles.

Anniken Amundsen '1-01 PARASITE' (detail) 2001. Materials: woven fishing line. Photographer: Jan Ahlander.
This is fantastically organic looking, with the arteries and semi-transparent weaving and the apparently intentional but very irregular shape. I find it fascinating and want to try out using fishing line for myself.
I want to try out impregnating fabric with catalysed polyester resin to make if firm, and also try putting sand or other things into it as it dries to see what it does to the texture.

I love the way it looks so organic and slightly obscene. It does sound as though it decays rather quickly, which I remember from hot water bottles as a child. It can easily 'pick up fine detail from other objects and surfaces'.
Carole Andrews 'SENTINELS' 2000.
All her sculptures in this book look as if they grew there - like termite mounds or huge mushrooms. I love the scale, and the fact they were folded out of roofing felt. I want to feel them.

Look up Eva Hesse who worked with different materials including latex rubber, 'I want to be surprised.'

See 'Office Block' Jan Scott  2002 on the front cover.
Fine casting plaster, can be reinforced with jute, scrim, burlap, hemp or gauze.
Can be coloured, but this affects the qualities of the material.
This seems to express something I am familiar with - the false self, the difference between the simplicity we present (or try to present) to the world, and the complexity beneath. Texture difference is a good way to express this. 

Alexander Calder spatial diagrams
Barbara Hepworth stitched and tensioned strings
For strength and rigidity, and the combination of this and delicacy and flexibility in wire. Wire as weft.
Look up basket weaving techniques of twinning wave, randing, 3 rod wale, and coiling.

Caroline Murphy, untitled, 2001. Photographer: James Forbes Smith
Made of folded copper sheets. Surface altered to give it even more of an organic feel. Beautiful.

Susan Cutts, ASHES OF ROSES 2002
These boxes of roses and shoes are made of paper. It gives such a fragile look to them.
I feel awe at the amount of work and meticulousness that has gone into this.

photo Bob Curtis
Fiona Gray 'FUSION' 2002
photo David Lawson

Gemma Smith' HEADLESS WOMAN' 2001

Finally, it seems to me that I have included particular works of art here for two separate reasons. Some are included because they express something profound that I identify with, and some because they give me pleasure for some other, aesthetic reason. The first group include Gemma Smith's uncomfortable expression of femaleness, and Maggie Henton's confusion under the surface. The second group are more calming to experience - Fiona Gray, Susan Cutts, Carole Andrews.

When I have made things in the past in my untrained way they have generally been of the first more visceral type (although much less successful than these).

I am hoping that the things I am learning on this course will help me to express my personal versions of these more powerfully.

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