Unit 2: Fine Art – Dérive (pt 4)

On my first walk, I encountered fencing that separated two college car parks in the centre of town, which when layered with the gate of one of these car parks, produced an interesting grid form.

I wanted to explore this structure and so produced several studies, exploring the negative space and outlining of this form. I think the cut paper is particularly effective here with field-ground effect.

I decided it would be most interesting to focus the eye by enlarging one section of this image/simplifying the structure. I chose the mid-right section of the upper grid as this held an interesting combination of the two layers, and a symmetry in the gaps of one to give a uniform kind of pattern.

Section traced in outline using pen and tracing paper

Having done this I was also interested to outline my leaf sketch also – I was concerned that my work was taking me further away from the nature that had interested me so much in the second walk and wanted to see how I could continue with this theme also.

Overlaying the two traced outlines revealed a surprising similarity

I was truly surprised to find that the two forms showed a great similarity when I overlay the tracing paper. Striking especially in the primary diagonal and the bisecting verticals in the top right of the image. This, like the composition repeat that I observed in my photography, suggest that my mind is unconsciously replicating patterns and drawing me to these without my knowledge. I’m still not quite sure what to make of it!!

The Tree A c.1913 Piet Mondrian

Mondrian, in his first forays into abstraction, was seeking to simplify the form of a tree into geometric line. This is a fascinating project that he undertook, where he gradually became more and more abstracted, and one that is now used in machine-learning. He later went into pure abstraction, without recourse to objects in the world.

I’m interested to understand whether the fence-work itself has in any way been inspired by the proportioning/structures witnessed in natural forms – or is it purely coincidental that this should be observed now? Unfortunately St Peters college does not have information on the gate for it’s fellows car park online (!). But from my desk research, it seems that this is not a style of gate that is currently widely available (it would be a bespoke piece) so it is likely these gates are somewhat historic, though the modern design makes me think it is likely 20th century. The rust evident indicates iron or an iron alloy, though whether this is cast, wrought or rod I am unable to really say. Similar styles of design describe the pattern as either chevron or diagonal box section, and claim it to be an especially sturdy design owing to the diagonal supports, with no mention of the aesthetic itself. As such I think it may be more coincidental that it resembles the natural leaf form, though it is hard to conclude!

Below I experimented with masking tape, to gain a clean line for my grid system. I originally intended to cut away the edge so that the ends would not be visible, but in removing the tape, I found it tore away some of the edging of the lines, and that the ends of the tape produced an interesting tear, which juxtaposed with the uniformity of the lines and the strong black squares. I like the stark contrast of the monochrome here making the grid jump out. I am interested in exploring other masking approaches.

Acrylic on paper.

I decided to experiment with the form in the way I had done previously with crayon/wax resist (i.e. sectioning a piece of paper and completing several instances at once). I explored different marks and organic forms here, though I found the bottom right the most satisfying (where I quickly made expressive marks to form the grid). I continued this expressive form in various colour palettes using soft pastels, experimenting with the layering of the grid systems in different colours.

Unit 2: Fine Art – Dérive (pt 3)

On one of my walks, I was interested in drawing, and drawing with, natural forms and materials. This began with an interest in the trace I was leaving through my action of walking, the impact I was leaving – my footprint.

I then proceeded to print my muddy footprint on pieces of paper that I had brought with me, using different types of mud that I found around me (varying in their viscosity). Here I prefer the clearest print – the one from the path itself – and I feel this most clearly represents the impact of my walk. I enjoyed using the surface on which I was walking as a material in itself and transposing this onto another surface. It felt a fitting way of capturing the moment. I chose then to experiment with drawing one of the leaves I had been stepping on in the mud, using the mud itself. I used a dipstick to achieve a linear sketch, and printed the leaf itself. I found it interesting how similar the linear structure of the leaf came out in the print and my sketch.

Top: Dipstick drawing with mud of leaf, Bottom: Mud print of leaf
I repeated this exercise using drawing ink back in the studio
I repeated this once more with the remains of a pine cone that I found at the base of a tree, which had been gnawed and deconstructed by a squirrel. To the left, I experimented using ink wash as well as drawing, and on the right I also used pencil to sketch the pine cone, to gain a more in-depth study of tonality and shade.

This exploration of structural forms in nature, and their linear form, is interesting to me. Most interesting for me in the printing is how it reveals hidden forms that might otherwise be missed by the eye – particularly in the pine cone above. It was also interesting to see the transition of the printed image from when saturated with ink to after several prints – the big contrast and interesting silhouetted shapes created in the saturated images are very abstracted and intriguing I think.

Unit 2: Fine Art – Dérive (pt 2)

Following on from my previous post, where I noticed I had repeated a certain composition across some of my photos of the walk, I sought to research a little more about this.

I recalled seeing something similar in Van Gogh’s landscapes that I had seen in the summer, at the Van Gogh in Britain exhibition, and looking into more of these confirmed my theory that this could have been something I picked up on there. Here he has also made effective use of yellow and blue to make even greater emphasis of this composition – dividing the canvas by its horizon near the middle, but off-centre focal point (though his tending to the right where mine was to the left). I find it interesting that he would be returning to a similar strategy for two very different scenes – the rural and the urban, with comparably similar palettes also. The small red tree on the path in the left painting is positioned almost in the same place as the figure in red on the streets in the right one.

I wonder if there was intention for Van Gogh behind this or if, like in the case of my photos, it was accidental or perhaps even just a result of him having honed his style and preferred colour palette? Were it to be intentional though, it could be seeking to draw comparisons between these different locations – or perhaps serve as a reminder that though they might seem opposing locations, that they share the same viewer (or that we are seeing it through the eyes of the same artist) they have a unity of experience? That no matter where we might find ourselves at a given moment we still experience the same ‘what it’s like to be me’ in that moment? It might be interesting to create a shared colour palette for my three compositions to explore this further.

I used google image search to find out if the algorithm could find further instances of this composition. However, I found that the image recognition software was more apt to see the subject than compositional comparison – this suggests to me a more sophisticated programme than where it might first have looked at blocks of light/shade/colour (and so composition) but now is identifying objects within those blocks. It was interesting to me to see that the software was distinguishing 3 different subjects in these images: Tree, Apartment and Street, reflecting the change of environment along my walk. The images it saw as being visually similar all fell within these 3 categories, and some do replicate my composition.

I sought to further abstract this composition, and this deconstruction of three complex images was interesting. I think the cut paper works are more successful – the precision of the shapes achieved and the flattening of the colour fields I think work well to focus the eye on the shapes and their relationships together. A more simplified colour palette also helps here I think, and I like the use of a contrast for the ‘horizon’ line. I wonder if a casual observer would still get a sense of the perspective in the original composition, or if these flattened fields would disrupt that sense of your eyes being drawn in.

These recall for me geometric abstractions like those of Malevich and Moholy-Nagy. It might be interesting to explore further whether some of my fields are overlapping of other shapes and to explore more tonal colour palettes.

Colour in the Everyday – my work

For this workshop, we were to bring in a photo demonstrating an interesting combination of colour, texture and pattern, based on the everyday that might otherwise be missed. I chose to bring in this photo I had taken of different surfaces in a car park.

We then had to mix 8 or so colours from this photo using gouache and paint A5 samples to create a palette – here they are ordered by tone.

I enjoyed engaging with the paint in this way, though did find it tricky to mix the darker tones (we were not allowed to use black in our mixing).

We experimented with identical colour swatches on different coloured backgrounds, to see how the interaction changes the perception of the swatch colour (after Josef Albers).

The dark blue swatch in the top configuration appears somewhat greyer and flatter than in the bottom configuration, where it appears sharper and brighter (in fact seeming closer to the background of the top configuration rather than the swatch to which it was identical).

We then had to fill an A1 sheet with palettes experimenting with these different samples that we had produced. Below my work – I enjoyed playing with composition here as well as colour, and since my I had some colours that were near enough primary I produced works that seemed quite modernist and almost Mondrian. That said I think the variety achieved in the palettes that repeated one composition at the bottom of the sheet were perhaps the more successful in exploring the colour combinations, since you can more clearly compare between them.

I enjoyed this exercise and think it could be something I would repeat to help isolate a palette for further work, or that I could develop further in e.g. graphic design.

Typography: my work

In this workshop, we were introduced to the Adobe InDesign app, taught several basic functions within the app, completing various exercises to put these to practice, and then finally asked to create several typographical representations of a word given to us from a hat.

I found this brief especially interesting to read and so think I would like to explore typography in greater depth.

We were instructed to use Helvetica as a neutral font type, and asked to choose a letter to experiment with. I chose a capital R as I thought it had an interesting variety of form to play round with (straight, curved and wiggly).

First we experimented with duplicating and transforming the letter in dimension and orientation. Then too with opacity and layering. What’s interesting here (which I have only just noticed) is that unintentionally I arranged the page in the shape of the R I was using..!

Then, we experimented with colour fills, as well as gradients, and outlines with varying thickness and pattern.

Here, by masking certain elements of the letter by drawing a shape over it, we experimented with deconstructing the letters and marrying them to create new letters or abstractions. I enjoyed this especially, and testing how far the letter could be pushed and still recognised.

I was given the word ‘error’ to portray through type. This word for me has connotations of machinery and computing, as it’s synonymous with ‘error messaging’ in applications and computer systems. As such I knew I wanted my typograms to play on this.

I began by writing this as one word, and sought to experiment with one of the outlining functions which makes the edges angular/squared – to increase it’s artificiality. I arbitrarily drastically increased the size of this outline and it created an unforeseen interesting result, whereby it was obliterating the word itself. I liked the effect it gives, a bit like someone has viciously markered a piece of paper. Over the top of this, I included a small ‘error’ in a typeface that evokes typewriter or mechanical writing as a footnote of sorts. I chose a contrasting yellow to have this stand out, but also give a sense of alarm. Interestingly, when printed the strength of the black ink behind this yellow note means the type is almost imperceptible.

For my next page, I wanted to experiment instead with each letter in isolation. I chose to continue with the yellow/black palette for this piece as well. I knew I wanted to mix up the sizing, typeface and capitalisation of the letters to disrupt the reading of the word. I deconstructed my capital E which I find interesting since it remains identifiable despite the middle and bottom horizontal lines being disjointed.

The fact I had three rs in my word was interesting, since I had been working with this earlier. I chose to still have one capital R here but I enjoyed exploring the lower case r in this instance – particularly when duplicating and varying the opacity and making this overlap. This reminded me of an error that used to happen with Windows OS and that was featured in the opening credits of the IT Crowd tv show (which again reinforced this connotation of error).

For the O, I wanted to again play with the outlining feature, and again using an oversized one, I achieved an interesting effect which effectively multiplied the letter itself. By scaling this up and tilting it I realised it looked a little like the iconic Vertigo poster, and I liked the additional meaning this could convey, alongside the repeating r, of you falling into an endless error. I backgrounded this to highlight that sense of falling into it. [Here again, the vortex is appearing as a motif!]

I further subverted this work by ‘accidentally’ leaving one of the InDesign function windows on top of the design and screengrabbing it to create a further page – in a postmodern sort of way.

I also enjoyed seeing this message at the bottom of the application window and thought it could in itself ironically imply a paradox of both being and not being an error.

I enjoyed this 1/2 day workshop greatly, and would like to work to extend it as suggested at the end of the brief.

Gained in Translation part 2 – my work

Following on from the cardboard structure I had created in the previous weeks (as a translation of the drawing I had made from my partner’s description of a plastic severed foot prop), we were tasked with further translating this into different materials – wood, and then clay moulding for a plaster cast.

My finished wooden piece

I enjoyed finding an even more generalised form for the wooden interpretation – I utilised some very strong timber (previously used as a wooden fencepost) as I wanted to evoke the solid and supportive role this object could take. Cutting and sanding this to smooth out a more organic form was hard going but I am pleased with the end result on the arch of the foot. The graining on this part also is very interesting, and unique to the material used – I think it adds a suggestion of movement and dynamism as well as materiality.

The most difficult was the concave jointing space that I cut out from the foot piece, to slot the cylinder within it. This was to replicate the joining mechanic I had used in cardboard, but it was too sharp a curve for the saw to do, so I had to cut straight towards the curve line and break off as many pieces as I could with the saw, before chiselling down by hand. This proved very hard work, and I did not quite achieve the finish I had wanted. I might find a different solution to this if I were to repeat this/look to produce a finished piece.

The cast plaster

I took quite a different approach with the clay/plaster sculpting – here rather than simplifying/generalising I explored detail that had featured in my cardboard structure, and some abstract forms. I first was interested in exploring the effect of depth and relief when carving the clay, though it was difficult to fully envisage what the finished result would be in the plaster reverse. I knew that I wanted to attempt a full standing foot like I had achieved in the other materials, so I doubled the depth of my clay to ensure I could achieve the height required. I’m not sure the generalised shape that I reproduced here is as effective with this material as the detail I captured, e.g. of the severed top of the foot in the bottom corner.

We were given instruction to prevent undercuts in our mould, which I tried to follow, but I think some of the finer detail in my design still meant clay was not easily removed from some of the crevices.

It’s interesting I think that here again we can see I am repeating the concentric circles/vortex motif that I have been exploring in survival!

Approaches to Drawing: Research/my work

I was keen to try out the single line approach with drawing for myself having looked into Calder.

First I had a go with doing a figurative piece based on my cat, Jasmine.

My first attempt (top left) I had started with a gel pen and I like the design of this work but the line quality was not as satisfying, so I moved into brush pen for the remainder. This also gave a little more freedom to my stroke, where I perhaps had been a little more focused on ensuring the pen did not lose contact with the paper with the gel, giving a more precise and static feeling.

I explored the depiction of the distinctive markings she has – a black stripe down her back and into her tail. I think this perhaps over-complicated the picture though, and I find the more simplified line drawings more satisfying. I enjoyed adding a suggestion of texture with the outline though, and developed this in several test runs. The final work I think has the best expression of this, and I am especially pleased by the impression of the right haunch – here the line is not so literally portraying her outline but highlighting the form in another way.

It was relatively quick for me to run this exercise, so could be easily repeated, though it did require several iterations for me to explore it. Perhaps this iteration gets streamlined with practice, but I am interested that this helps process the visual into something more essential.