Sunday, 22 November 2009

Review; Silver Wedding Dress with Bridal Bouquet by Victor & Rolf.

Ideas around this piece are currently feeding into my project proposal. Initially because of the materials and techniques that have been used, and the gender associations that relate to them. I need to research electro-plating and find out if/how I can organise/generate some samples. I think that it could be a way of preserving the detail and distressed qualities of my fabric pieces whilst turning them into metal. watch this space!

Review/Critical Presentation:
Strapless wedding dress and bridal bouquet, silver-plated;
‘Silver’ Autumn/Winter collection 2006/07.

Designed by Victor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren; Dutch fashion designers who have collaborated together as ‘Victor and Rolf’ since 1993. It featured in a retrospective of their work: The House of Viktor and Rolf’ presented at the Barbican Art Gallery in 2008.
‘For Viktor and Rolf, Couture is an artistic medium, a commodity, and a laboratory of ideas.’ (P6; Merrell) Renowned for collections that straddle the boundaries between ‘Art’ and ‘Design’ they critique the fashion industry while working within it, challenging preconceptions of what clothing can be, using materials in suprising and innovative ways and presenting their work through performance and site specific installation.

 Essentially nostalgic, the dress references a period in the 1940’s /50’s when fashion and femininity was being totally redefined following the launch of Christian Dior’s ‘New Look’.
The piece was presented in a number of ways; as a full size garment on a mannequin, in miniature on ‘Caroline,’ a doll within a doll’s house, and through footage of the catwalk show.
 To categorise this piece as a garment at all is questionable! Clearly it can be worn, but the movement of the wearer is restricted, the process of electroplating subverts the function of the garment transforming it into an object. Inspired by the Dutch custom of preserving a baby’s first shoe for posterity by electroplating it in silver, the dress is an exploration of ideas around the preservation of a memory or event through transformation of a perishable artefact into a resistant, durable momento. It has been described as ‘a metaphor for a desire to give permanence to fashion and still its fleeting nature.’ (P178; Merrell 2008) but also has other connotations.

 The wedding dress with it’s associations; a rite of passage into adult life, the fulfilment of romantic aspiration and social norms, is loaded with significance. Other garments within the collection have individual components that are plated with silver; a cuff, a bow, the hem of a skirt, but the wedding dress is totally covered in precious metal! It is therefore possible to interpret this as a commentary on the value given to marriage culturally and/or the extravagance and consumerism that now dominate the marriage industry.

 Presented as installation in the Greek Revival ‘pillar hall’ (Belsay Hall, Northumberland 2007) the dress becomes classical sculpture; elevated goddess like on a plinth, it alludes to antiquity and the representation of idealised beauty. It is both ‘an ode fashion’ (P178 Merrell 2008) and an indication of Viktor and Rolf’s aspirations.
When viewed closely at the Barbican, the intricate edges of its lace skirt imply the delicate qualities of the fabrics used. The preservation of construction detail and form indicate the level of craftsmanship required in realising this piece, a technical triumph! However, metal surfaces strongly lit from above in a darkened space made the dress look vulgar, like a massive silver charm that will inevitably tarnish as time passes. A critique of the ephemeral nature fashion industry or a comment on the state of matrimony? One thing is clear, heralded as the climax to the 2006/07 Autumn/Winter collection the cultural importance of the wedding dress is maintained and reinforced, both as the ultimate aspirational garment and a pinnacle of the creative process.

The House of Viktor & Rolf: Merrell; 2008. 25/19/2009.
Inside the House of Viktor & Rolf – Symposium; Viktor & Rolf in conversation with Penny Martin (Barbican Centre, 13 Sept 2008) 25/10/2009.
The Golden Age of Couture; Paris and London 1947-57.
Edited by Claire Wilcox. V&A 2007.

Picture sources:
Christian Dior ‘New Look’ 1947.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Lawrence Krauss: Exchanges At The Frontier Wellcome Collection 17/9/2009

It was a privilege to attend this discussion. Lawrence Krauss is such an inspiring speaker; cutting edge thinking and concepts in theoretical physics and the origins of the universe communicated with clarity, energy and humour. I didn't make many notes at the time as was concentrating on following the thread of his ideas. Now these pages have been set up, with links to the BBC World Service broadcasts which is fantastic as it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the content again.
Thinking in terms of my own work... the nature of matter and perceptions of the material world. Experience of objects, their solidity, notions of physical presence and of reality are challenged by quantum mechanics.
What effect does this uncertainty (in contrast to the predictability of Newtonian Physics), have on the collective and individual psyche? How does this influence physical engagement with objects and the perception of touch?
 'Seeing's believing, but feelings the truth' ?!

Gillian Lowndes; mixed media pieces.

Richard Slee showed one of Gillians pieces in his lecture 'Discovering the Found Object'.
Glad to have tracked this down and on the lookout for more. I am interested in the combination of materials that she uses and the 'fused' effect achieved through firing.

Richard used the word 'apocalyptic'!

Paul Astbury; Ceramic pieces

Ceramics informed by scientific theory. Could be interesting, need to find out more.

Julia Lohman; Ruminant Bloom.

Had another look at these today and thought I'd better make a link. I know that biological structures are beautiful, and I shouldn't be suprised that a sheeps intestine can be used in such an engaging way.

They are strange, familiar, exquisite and disconcerting!  

Monday, 9 November 2009

Essay; Ceramics without the ceramics. Jane Webb 2006.

This seems relevant; need to re-read and digest properly!
Couldn't make a link, not sure why, so have printed it out instead.

Plaster Workshop; Mould Making. 29/10/2009

A really productive session; spent all day in the plaster workshop; demonstrations from Rosa on press moulds for creating shallow relief surfaces, and 2 piece moulds for slip casting and press moulding 3D forms in clay. Had done some mould making before but it was great to refresh my memory and consider how these techniques could relate to my project. I think that there is much more scope here to achieve the sort of detail and qualities of finish that I am after. Although I do still want to investigate casting in metal, developing my ideas in plaster and porcelain will give me more control and allow me to work with greater precision.
 I do find the whiteness of the plaster very beautiful. I'm also starting to think about reflected colour (this relates to Robert Rauchenburg; white paintings shown at Eleanor Wards Stable Gallery in 1953. Need to talk about this in more detail) How could reflected colour be used to temporarily change the appearance of an object/sculpture An interplay between existing colour/ textural qualities and reflected light. Need to look into this further.

Anyway, have made my own press moulds and need to find something suitable for the two piece mould.

Rosa suggested some ceramacists/shows to look at:

Steve Dixon

Grayson Perry

Carol  McNicoll

The Shape of Things; Bristol

Ceramics Biennial Stoke on Trent

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Foundry Workshop; 15/10/2009

Fantastic session in the foundry with Phil and Bill. We covered two types of sand casting; made individual casts from 'patterns' using closed 'flasks' and then worked together to produce a large 'open cast' piece.

Great to get my hands dirty and start learning new techniques.
Something very primordial about the process. The colour of the crucible when it came out of the furnace at 800 degrees, an incredible pink! Seeing molten metal in the looked like mercury and had an unreal quality to it, like something out of terminator 2 when first poured, then quicky took on a leaden grey appearence as it cooled and contracted. 
The sounds, smells and phsical nature of the processes were really exciting. I felt privileged to be there, to witness the pouring and to see the qualities of the metal in different states. 

Took some images but will document the process more methodically when I have another go. 

Transition; passage from one place or state into another. 
Transmutation; a changing into a different form, nature or substance. (chem) the conversion  of one element into another, either spontaneously or artificially.
Transform; to change the shape, appearance, character, or disposition of.  

Sarah Sze; Tilting Planet at the Baltic Gateshead

Visited this exhibition on 26/8/2009 whilst visiting friends in Newcastle. My first experience of a Sarah Sze installation was at the Victoria Miro Gallery in 2007; I felt an immediate affinity with her work because of the obssesive precision of her arrangements, the familiarity of the objects that she was using, her beautiful use tonal use of colour and her extraordinary handling of material qualities. Everything just felt right; It was one of those 'I wish I had made these pieces myself' moments! So I was really looking forward to seeing her response to baltic space.
Some of the work was familar from Vicoria Miro while other parts of the installation were site specific. All components were linked in some way leading me through the gallery space via different paths and connections. I did have to think quite carefully about the best way to negotiate the work as some routes were more difficult than others. Her work is like a three dimensional map inviting you to explore the space in any number of ways.
Without the usual barriers and restrictions associated with viewing work within a gallery, I was free to investigate the scultures on an intimate level. I enjoyed the pysicality of crouching down, bending, peering and tip-toeing around the pieces, conscious all the time that I could be in danger of putting my feet in the wrong place or stepping back into the work while concentrating on another section. I found myself seeking out particular view points, experimenting with perspectives and trying to look at the objects within the space from as many positions as possible. This intraction on both a visual and physical level made the experience even more satisfying and enjoyable. 
Sze suprises you by using a familiar objects in an unfamiliar way, inviting you to look at them afresh and to re-evaluate their value and aesthetics. I enjoy the decorative relationships within her pieces; the use of multiples, repetition and layering all result in beautiful patterns and rythmns. Her practical dexterity and handling of material characteristics is exquiste.    
Reading the pamphlet that accompanies the installation there were two quotes that seemed  to capture the nature of her work for me;

'Size determinds an object, but scale determinds the art. If viewed in terms of scale, not size, a room could be made to take on the immensity of a solar system.'
Robert Smithson, quoted by Sarah Sze in Sarah Sze 

[By making her art in the margins we are drawn to it, searching for it behind pillars, and under cornices. The rewarding discoveries create an intimacy with the details formed in a quiet corner by her tinkering hands]
Robert Blackson, Sarah Sze Tilting Planet, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art.  

More information on Sarah Sze; see past exhibitions at the Baltic and Victoria Miro links below

 SARAH SZE 10 April - 31 August 2009 Tilting Planet
BALTIC presents American Artist, Sarah Sze’s largest UK solo exhibition to date. Tilting Planet is a cluster of sculptural installations each cobbled together out of common disposable items such as water bottles, drawing pins, paper, salt, string, lamps, matchsticks and wire. Sze’s expansive sculptural vocabulary uses these items constructively to precisely build structures that defamiliarise our preconceived ideas of these objects, lending them a new found use and vitality. These cumulative sculptures mould themselves into spaces – spreading ivy-like throughout the gallery. Sze’s architecturally inspired works are extremely delicate and tower precariously in gravity-defying structures. These spectacular and tactile constructions can be large, complex, and beguiling in scale and composition. Operating almost as an independent ecosystem, the sculptures that comprise Tilting Planet will become a singular topographical terrain, a unique landscape emerging from components of the everyday.
Quoted from Baltic Website

Jeff Koons; 'Popeye Series' Serpentine Gallery.

The sculptures in this show were of most interest to me. Playful and surprising they confounded my expectations, defied common sense and challenged my understansding of the material properties of the objects being represented. A number of these works were physically impossible!
The urge to touch was, for me, almost overwhelming! I'm sure I wasn't alone in this, hence the many eagle eyed gallery attendants. Perfect facsimiles of the real objects, I knew that the inflatable toys were made of metal, but they were utterly convincing in their mimickery of plastic!
Would the experience of touching these pieces have diminished the illusion?
Visited exhibition 21/7/209