In the beginning was the Word, And the Word was with Chaos And from Chaos came Night and Day.
The Word became Flesh and walked with Chaos, And from the war of Nature, from Famine and Death, The most exalted Objects were produced and followed.
And the most exalted were breathed into new Forms. The new Forms breathed from few or one, And from so simple a beginning Endless Forms most beautiful and wonderful were made.
Flesh became Stone and remained among Us. And Stone became the Word. And from the Word all things that are named were named.
And from the manifold Names comes the Word. No one thing is without name And no one thing that was made was made without its name.
The incorporation of text into the body of the sculpture has been a point of hiatus in its physical making. I have returned to the name Logos, it encompasses many of the ideas that underly my work, many of the contexts that have fed and informed what I do.
Logos has so many meanings, from simply subjective reasoning as in ‘speak’, ‘I say’ to logic which is nonetheless subject to our senses. It invokes the divine and the natural, the language of words and of numbers. I have triangulated the writings of St John, Darwin and Hesiod into a text that offers the possibility for different readings and conversations.
I have always been drawn to the archaeological departments of museums. Shaped, inscribed stone fascinate me. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is a communion with past peoples, perhaps the immortality of words written in stone, or maybe it is that I imagine myself engaged in some similar activity. I feel an urge to make, to fashion, carve mould, shape. It is a fundamental need, to change the physical world, to alter it in some way, to make art. Carving is a direct link to nature. Working with natural material and limited means is something that is within reach of anyone. It is a human thing to do. It is both earthly and divine, the extension of a transient thought, moment, place.
I see words encircling Logos. I see them appearing and disappearing, emerging as an accumulation of reading of repeated passages of text.
Finished prepping the studio for continuing work on the various pieces. Clearing surfaces and reorganising work is always refreshing and a necessary part of embarking on new ideas. Not exactly that this is a new idea, the work continues, but I need the space as the work will become quite physical. Not strenuous, rather a question of doing, experimenting and redoing. I used the term tabula rasa for a post at the beginning of the MA. Now that things are nearing the end, the new tabula is set for this and future work. What is more, I did it one day before schedule. This in itself is not important but it does confirm my estimated deadlines as realistic.
I wanted a stable turntable able to carry heavy loads and works with a wide base. A normal turntable and stand would be too narrow. This is what I came up with and it works a treat. Just one thing, note that there are clamped runners on the edge of the table to avoid the turntable rolling off the edge.
Yesterday I worked on the idea of creating a porcelain sculpture that lets light pass through. On a small scale the above form worked well and looks elegant, but on a large scale I felt that it may present as impressive but boring. I would be reproducing, more or less, the form on a larger scale which would be more of an engineering problem than artistic one. It is the sort of thing one would pass on to technicians.
The conversation I have been having with Taiyo comes to mind, in which I made a distinction between interest, meaning and significance. On a large scale I feel the skeletal form, shown beneath, may be more interesting. By this I mean that it may engender a greater curiosity, catalyse more questions. This would be more in keeping with the idea of layered interpretations I have talked about in the project proposal: to open out rather than enclose the narrative.
Both approaches are valid. This is yet another example of my dialectic between the rational and the emotional. If I were to go with the more recent idea, it would present different technical problems and perhaps lead to new discoveries. I have never worked like this. In the end, on a large scale, the degree of detail possible offers a perhaps more interesting making experience. One in which I learn new things. After all, I could also show the sleek model as an idealisation in contrast to the reality; much in the way that religions work and can give rise to ambitious and magnificent sacred art. Distant from every day life.
I also feel that the ‘skeletal’ piece, apart from being potentially lighter and easier to display, is more visceral, closer to the ethnographic artefacts that so engage me. Made using simple technology that challenges the skill base of the maker to bring together the spiritual and the everyday, the imagination and the earthy, the touchable essence of material.
I could argue that the earlier approach transcends the everyday into a different plane of existence, belief and imagination, but is the narrative I am building not based on the immediacy of a world that is beyond my grasp and yet I feel is ever present? Should this immediacy not be reflected in the process; a directness of making that the earlier approach would occlude by virtue of its aesthetic form and finish? However, if I am to keep the sense of preciousness of a sacred object, making the piece in porcelain would be enough to transcend the conceptual content. I am stepping into both domains, is that not how belief works, constantly moving between reality and the ideal? What is the relationship between reality and the ideal, are they entangled or separate, joined only in our minds?
The entanglement of sound and material I propose is better served by the skeletal form in relation to low frequencies: more permeable, affected, conjoined.
If I am to go with my current inclination, does the final form need to be what it is now? Does this form of making not invite an exploration of new dispositions of parts and indeed change the whole character of the work. This brings me in conflict with time. I have only so many months to draw the form, make, fire, finish and mount. Do I have the time to do this with everything else I need to do?
Over the next few days I shall experiment with some ideas and see where that takes me. What I want to avoid is indecision during making, that would slow the whole process. In the meantime I can continue with other works and keep an open mind. I hope to have something more definitive before December which would give me realistically, six months in which to complete the work.
I first came across this latin phrase while living in Montespertoli as the title for Renato Guttuso’s largely autobiographical triptych painted towards the end of the artist’s life after being diagnosed with lung cancer.
Literally meaning hope against hope, this phrase is not only intriguing for its ambivalent meaning but the word spes is transformed into spem by its context. The nominative ‘against’ the accusative, subject vs object. I love the way words are transformed by where they sit in the sentence, it is like a game.
But what does hope against hope actually mean? Is it to hope against all hope, hope despite hope, or the need for hoping becoming hope itself? There have been many interpretations and this kind of phrase appears repeatedly in the Bible.
The preposition contra, meaning against can also be taken to mean towards. It could be taken to imply that it is not enough to hope, but that one needs to become hope. This is mentioned in Paul, Romans 4:18, where Abraham becomes the hope of his people. An alternative reading is that he hopes against hope that he becomes the leader of his people despite being childless.
Contra here acts as allative case, a form not found in Latin but has been used in other languages such as old Finnish and Latvian. Denoting movement towards, in Latin something similar is used to mean towards a place. The place here would be hope itself, in which case one could interpret the meaning as, moving towards hope as a place in which one might inhabit.
Hope: an act and a place, verb and locus
Hieronymus Bosch had the motto, “contra spem spero . . . Et rideo” – “against all hope I hope… And I laugh”. This could be interpreted as Bosch laughing in the face of despair aided by hope. The ever optimistic pessimist, or perhaps the optimistic cynic.
But what does all this have to do with my work? During a tutorial with Jonathan my feelings towards existence and humanity came up in relation to the maquette What is the Difference I had just completed. Am I angry, despairing, curious, regarding the human condition? I think the Latin phrase partly sums how I feel, and I have some kind of kinship with the idea of the optimist cynic. This does not mean I think people are bad, on the contrary, I think that our nature, often self interested in many ways, is such that bad things happen; that individual dynamics are very different to group dynamics and it is for the individual to act in a way that enhances, rather than diminishes the world. This approach may not change the world radically, but it can halt negative cycles of behaviour and start new positive ones. Mahatma Gandhi expressed this as, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.
My work is a personal response to the idea of humanity: one of connected continuity with things that might appear alien or separate but with which we share common elements that become manifest in a multitude of ways.
Two small models to accompany the recumbent copy of the larger conversant piece. I feel I can now continue with making the larger work. These models will help me in deciding its size in relation to the already finished work which as it dries will shrink. This is why I made the measurements yesterday.
It differs in many aspects but the two emerge from the same formal stable of ideas but with different psychological aspects. The idea of spes contra spem, a phrase with many interpretations I have been fascinated with for years, seems to fit the works. I think I have found the title for these works which brings together belief and science, myth and theory. With this I can now move forward with sounds and words… It reminds me of what Picasso said, ‘I do not seek, I find’. Although this can be understood in many ways, Picasso was a great appropriator, I prefer to think that ideas often emerge after a time of subliminal thought when the conditions are right. As much was variously described by Henri Poincaré.
I have been back two full days and restarting making as always is hard. The excitement of returning to work is tempered by the reality of settling in and organising a workflow. Having spent half the day on Blender tutorials I said to my self, making is so much more satisfying. Mid-afternoon I made a sketch of the conversant piece while still not dry, and took measurements to keep its companion piece on the same scale. Then I made a tiny model for which I shall make tomorrow its companion maquette before starting on the large scale piece.
Over the Summer I looked at Blender and how to use it to create 3D renderings. However, some time has passed and I have forgotten a lot of it as I had never worked with it before. So, I am restarting my learning from the top with videos on the fundamentals. I feel much more at home with the user interface which means I can get on quickly.
The plan is to go through several videos every day, in between making and writing. By December I should be able to do pretty much what I want for the final show if needed. This seems late in the day to be starting this in earnest but my aims with respect to 3D rendering are relatively modest for now.
See links to videos in Resources with the aim of building a library of tutorials.
This piece sets the tone for subsequent works. The large suspended piece will follow that felt sense that this has. I have resolved many aspects of making so when I return to the studio I will be able to immerse myself in the making rather than problem solving.
I was originally thinking of having a large number of pieces on a raised surface near the ground. I have changed my mind. This is going to be one of two pieces, placed on surfaces so that they can be looked at and listened to closely: waist height most probably. I had thought of plinths but I think that two flat surfaces, interlocking, held up with very thin metal legs might work better. I don’t want the sense of space to be blocked by solid plinths but rather have the porcelain pieces almost hovering off the ground. One recumbent like this one and the other vertical, more active. The horizontal extension of this one against the verticality of the other will form an L shape seen from above and the side. But this depends on the exhibition space.
Making a porcelain stand for first conversant piece.
This piece was the first of three I made during the Summer before going away in September. I was highly disappointed with the outcome but it indicated the way for the next piece. I learnt a great deal along the way. How to break away from preconceptions. I played with the surface but found that all the details added simply made the work neither one thing nor the other.
It was a good way of finding out how to embed the sound apparatus and making procedure but not the artistic content. I consider this a failure well worth making as it has led to more interesting ideas.
An idea I worked with was the imprisoning of sound, not allowing it to escape but making it audibly entrapped in the ceramic body. The protuberances making the whole fragile, the brittle pieces creating a further barrier to the sounds from inside.
I have moved on from this idea. I feel that at times, ideas that appear to work when described in words do not necessarily come together as a work in another medium. The Project Proposal now reflects this as I pare it down.