Online Show Final Layout

Now the final assessment is handed in, I can carry on with the online show preparations. Over the weekend, I prepared the images to fit the block ratios and sent Aristotle a sheet with the image order. He did it in an instant. There are just a few adjustments to make: add a soundtrack and enable images to fill the screen. This done, I can look at the WordPress site Jonathan has prepared. It looks good and ready to go. I have some idea of how to use the page but no details yet. Head not quite in the right place yet.

The soundtrack is a difficult question, this presentation is very visible, sound creates a mood. What sound do I use if any and how will that affect the viewing? I have to think about this one, I don’t want to muddle the presentation and in any case, there will be sound on the videos on the WP page. I’ll have to see how that develops and how the Cables interacts with the rest of the page.

Weightless Work

The large components of Logos present a challenge to fit together with connecting parts. The whole will be over three-and-a-half meters long. I will finish the inscriptions as the connectors are made. However, when preparing images for online viewing, the works become weightless, friction disappears and the environment is no longer something to be designed in reality. These are some of the advantages of working with digital images that help mitigate the loss that comes with not being able to complete the work due to lockdown. I am working on a series of images and videos for the online show together with sound recordings of text as a means of telling some sort of story.

Distilling Essences

As I have curated the blog for assessment, the same question has arisen time and time again. Can I say in a sentence what I do? From now on, I will be asked this many times. To be able to answer this is important if I am to engage people with a few words that can be easily understood, remembered and transmitted. It is part of the process of moving on both on a personal and professional level.

The project proposal starts with the aim…

To merge creation myths and evolutionary ideas in layered narratives inflected with a sense of the sacred, exploring the tension between the ancestral animal self and the Anthropocene human self, arising out of their separation and indissoluble connection.

The word myth comes from the Greek mythos, which means anything delivered by word of mouth. This is why I named one of the works Logos, a word with multiple meanings. To create a myth, it first has to be spoken. Being able to say what I do in words is important but it is only part of the process. An artwork speaks in another language.

The above aim can be condensed into a statement…

I work with the idea of the animal self inhabiting the human self, creating a mythology in terms of evolution and drawing from creation myths for inspiration.

…which can be reduced further as…

Sculpture and its extension is a way of bringing a myth into the world.

In those two final sentences lies a whole world of possibilities. It makes me think that…

When I feel the clay, I touch the immemorial past where myths are made.

Work Progressing…

Slowly entering the finishing stages: detailed and painstaking work with so many intricate facets in the round. A continuing process I hope to have done sometime soon. However, with so many ideas keep coming in and the blog curation, which is more or less done, I have not been able to dedicate as much time of late to it as I would have liked. However, I am pleased with how it is photographing.

This photograph marks a point, like so many others along the way. I have principally worked with galleries and museums in mind but with the way the world is going, show spaces will perhaps become less important. This opens up the opportunity, mentioned in some other posts, for creating theatre in images. I may feature this work in the online show page. A sort of video with words: an experiment.


Another antecedent to Enshrinement. At the time, I was ambivalent about this work. It was too rigid, formal, structured without a sense of itself. But as I place it in the same place as I have photographed others, it shows a different character when in the context of the kilns and the studio.

It was in fact, an experiment for the embedding of sound. The idea as I mentioned in a post, was to seal the chamber and give the sound no means of escape other than through its walls. In retrospect, perhaps this was a way of expressing my difficulting in breaking through with what I had in mind at the time. The plant-like, vessel-like allusions are a call to past work. I had not yet unfettered myself of these paradigms. The piece was to be polychromed with glaze, a playful piece. I remember that at the time, I thought this decorative element somewhat superficial to my aims. Its image, in the studio, acts as a symbol of standing on a threshold: formed and unformed. It is an aesthetic reminder of how things have changed.

Experimental Form

I made this piece some time ago as a precursor to the forms for Enshrinement. I am resurrecting it as something for the future. It was a transition piece from those I had originally made as H’s playthings, a project that has been in hiatus since about a year ago. Many new forms are yet to come, presenting possibilities to experiment with different shapes as resonance chambers for the voice and embedded speakers.

I find this toing and froing of ideas and objects exciting. Nothing ever finishes: latency and potential, expectancy and possibility. This image is very different from those in the previous post and yet it is the same material in exactly the same place. The scale is not alluded to. The piece could be small or large. I conceive things on a large scale, the rest is a question of practicality.

It is conceived as theatre, as still life, as interior landscape. It is the drawing together of the sensual and the cerebral. It is an interesting way of rethinking work and in doing so, it becomes something new. The prop beneath the ‘tail’ which is not yet attached, is an improvisation using two stands from two other works, one on top of the other. This borrowing from one project for use in another lends a fractured cohesiveness to the process.

As Will, Danielle and I were discussing in the Zoom breakout meeting on Tuesday, improvisation is a very fertile way of working. I find that using what is around me introduces a granularity to the process that cannot be achieved by slicker means. There is a meaningful tension in the search for perfection in spontaneity requiring focus and abandonment at the same time: a balance between permission and censure, mistake and correction.

Waiting for Enshrinement

These form part of an ongoing series of photographs featuring the component parts of sculptures waiting to be fired or otherwise, during the lockdown. I have worked these particular images to a 9:16 proportion in order for them to fit into the block dimensions in the Cables space.

Group Critique

Today Jonathan held a group crit with the Designer Maker course, where we looked at three symposium presentations from each of the two groups. It was a very interesting and worthwhile exercise and one that I think Jonathan will want to repeat when he begins his new course in September. This sort of discussion is very important, not only for seeing other insights and presentations but to have light thrown on one’s own work.

I took away two important things from this. The first was a general observation about scale and movement, the second about working with clay and my work in particular. I found the juxtaposition of Yinming and Matt’s presentations interesting in the way touch and the absence of it, features in their work. Rather should I say, in Matt’s work, touch and tactile sensibilities appear to play a role in the work as he elaborates his narratives but then it is lost in the projection onto a virtual world. Again, this chimes with the idea of loss which is a running theme in his thinking. Yinming on the other hand, began with the intimacy of touch, moving outwards towards body movements. Both are ways of spatially and socially mapping the world: touch on the intimate scale of the small and detailed moving along something; movement is on the environmental scale and deals with proximity and its consequences.

In my work, touch is an important modality in navigating space and perceiving qualities or properties of a substance. Clay is soft, smooth, cool. Touch generates an intimate world, internalised in one’s own body on the small scale of hands, fingers and palms. These act as cartographer’s tools, sensing and calculating the imaginative geometry of mass. On a larger scale lies the essence of movement and gesture; radiating and embracing the space around the body. It is with this conceptual shaping of space that the mass of a sculptor is transformed as an imprint of the accumulated movements of limbs, hands and mind. Both touch and movement are in an indissoluble relationship joined by the very same thing that separates them, scale and distance.

This also relates to the question of viewing distance I have spoken about previously. Movement tends to pertain to the further away, context, contours, relationships with other things. Touch relates to the closer intimate domain of texture and surface detail. Both scales contribute the understanding of an object or thing.

The second insight is one that I have often thought about. Does a clay need to be fired? As Maiko (Tsutsumi) said, those that work with clay often fire out of practicality. And, much of the life force of a clay piece exists in its unfired state. I agree: I have often thought about how the raw unfired clay has a life that is extinguished when fired. The two states, fired and unfired, are quite different. I see the former as a fossil of the life contained in the latter. When fired, clay becomes infinitely durable. This creates a tension with the fragility of the form it holds, brittle and vulnerable to contingency.

How can I leave work unfired and hope it will endure? I want something to last but in its raw state, it is likely to break and crumble. This brings back that notion of practicality. However, there are ways of keeping work fresh if not intact. By rubbing, soiling, cleaning and handling a piece, it acquires layers of interaction. It starts to absorb a new life given through touch and intimate contact. This is something that attracts me to archaeological artefacts in museums? They often possess an aura, some call it patina (a word I would rather not use, I need to look for another) that gives depth to inference. That is why I do not glaze. Glaze is practicality driven towards decoration. The glaze of life is far more interesting. I shall look into this more.

There is another idea, to embed the work in resin: the preservation of the state of things, and in that act, destroy the very essence that one attempts to preserve.

Another experiment I intend to carry out is to record with video/timelapse, the dissolving of a piece in a stream of water. The dissolution of form but not substance. The slurry could then be recovered as part of the work/process and presented as an essence.

As I mentioned recently in The Future and the Past in One Place, I have made a ritual of former maquettes, now broken, storing them in caskets made for them as a metaphor for keeping an idea alive and resurrecting that idea that becomes altered in the light of experience. I feel that these ideas are rich in narrative, inference and possibilities.

Jonathan brought up a number of quotes from my video. This is a good point for me to expand on one of them for my sake if nothing else.

And from those parts, I have built element by element a language of sorts by which I might describe a boundless field where before I only saw separate cells.

After Symposium 2: 1. Script and Alternative end of first paragraph of transcript or at 41 seconds of the video Symposium 2 Video.

Here, I describe two distinct states and the process by which I have gone from one to the other. The process is through language in all its forms. The cells refer to my previous state of working with a variety of themes, techniques and methods which were separated conceptually from one another, possibly held together only by the fact that I was the author of each domain. Cells are biological components, bounded by a membrane and bound together to form a body. Each cell an independent unit but dependent on the whole. A cell is also a prison, a space preventing connection and movement outside its walls. The building in which that cell is located, cannot be described from inside it.

The imagery of a field was catalysed by walks along large Lincolnshire fields during the first term of the course. As one approaches the horizon, it recedes and gives way to a new vision. The horizon is boundless and yet it circumscribes the visible world. And so it is with my work, it is now a fertile field without end, where I can move freely, using languages of different sorts to describe what I find.

Online Show Update

On Tuesday we went over a number of things regarding the end of course activities. Amongst them, we discussed the online show. It is at this point that it becomes clear what shape it will take. Jonathan prepared a Four Space site as an example. The crucial point has been, the place of the Cables presentation set up by Aristotle. Until now I have not really known what its role would be, and there were questions as to how the Javascript would be hosted on whichever platform.

It is now clear that the way to go is to use a WordPress site. Jonathan has heroically said he will have a site up and running by next Tuesday, the day when the assessment starts. That would give us about a week to curate a page on the site into which the Cables could be embedded. Until now, I did not know what would happen and felt it was important to concentrate or tying up a few loose ends and prepare the Unit 2 Assessment page, which has been a piece of research in itself.

I know that Aristotle is very busy, Cables can very quickly become complicated and the cables server overloaded with everyone’s files. I have decided to embed videos, sound and images on the WordPress page, keeping it simple, and using the Cables as it is with a few minor alterations. The three blocks will be wrapped with images that would not be shown on the page itself. The simplicity of rotation and moving up and down would have just enough interactivity to foster a degree of curiosity.

This simple solution gives Aristotle time to do his own thing as the wrapping is quickly and easily done and gives another dimension to the work. I shall look into doing something with Cables later on when I have more time.

The preparation of the images themselves is a question of making sure that their composition fits the 9:16 proportions of the blocks. I hope to have them all 12 done by tomorrow. And now that my assessment page is finished, I can start thinking about how I shall curate the online show page, this gives me a week, not long but then that should concentrate my mind.