Contextual influences for Assignment 1: the gap

I am not finding it easy to identify and organise the contextual influences for this first assignment. Mainly so because I didn’t explicitly seek out new sources, artists, works but in some sense went back to earlier encountered art practices and traced these back into the work.

There is a first one, obvious one when I encountered the gap between the two filing cabinets: it’s Gordon Matta Clark‘s architectural, sculptural practice of re-organising (mainly: by removing, cutting, taking away) various empty, disused buildings (often: constructed for habitation). The one piece that strongly resonates is the 1974 Splitting. I write about it in this post here.

I discuss with my course colleague both Matta Clark as well as Francesca Woodman and both their interest of actively transforming into absence, nothing, (Woodman through long exposure photography, where her own body is being absented within the frame).

In terms of mark-making but also in terms of being interested in mundane, day-to-day objects, both Anna Barriball‘s indexical drawings as well as Jim Dine‘s Tool series come to mind.

When I turn towards the production of the prints on photocopy paper and assembling them, there is Noemie Goudal‘s installation work that is a direct influence, which I pick up again after having encountered Goudal early on in Digital Image and Culture (DIC). Les Amants was an early series Goudal produced (I think as her degree show): it is documents here.

At a different scale there sits Alexandra Leykauf’s Spanische Wand which works with spatial illusions by presenting a photograph on a card which folds into space. I had written about her too during DIC.

— Besides these visual works, I hear a reading by Mira Mattar of her recent short story Soft Close [available through this link here], and realise how her writing and my own writing resonate in their concerns of spatial construction, inhabitation, the boundaries that exists between and within indoor and outdoor spaces and a notion of secrecy. It seems a bit far fetched at the moment, but I want to include this as a contextual reference too. My FB note about it reads:

she read it out, only half of it, until the ‘we begin’. i almost perish in anticipation on how it will end, that story of suburbian summer space, teenage desire remembered, anticipation and a locked bathroom door.
b. afterwards looks at me expectantly, did you like it? it reminds me of your stuff.
i did like, a lot. liked the revisioned drafts, the two accompanying texts, and above all being left hanging.
now i took my notes, read the remaining part and still wonder why i thought part of the story was based in Beirut.

During the same event, the Artist Moving Image Festival, where Mira reads, I watch Jacquie Duckworth’ Home-made melodrama (1982, 55mins, 16mm) as well as b.u.c.k.l.e. by Catherine Gund and Julie Tolentino (1994, 11mins, VHS).

— both of the moving image works are highly performative, situated in indoor spaces and in varying degrees educational or didactic while at the same time serious about their protagonists’ desire and the exploration of these.

Duckworth’s film is almost absent from the internet, amif reproduced one of its stills (in b&w while the film is in colour), but it captures well the domestic claustrophobia in which the whole film is situated. And so is b.u.c.k.l.e., but there is a short reference here. The full programme for amif has a little bit more in terms of context and visuals too, here.

[this is experimental to include in here, it’s a working note but I don’t want to lose it]

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before Mira Mattar’s reading of Soft Close, amif 2017, Tramway, Glasgow

contextual focus point: The Prunella Clough archive

The Tate hosts the Prunella Clough’s archive (here), which features besides 29 artworks (mainly in oil), 197 sketches, letters, photographs and other materials. It held a retrospective in 2007, which according to its press release was built around her photographs and other materials  to give ‘insight into her complex and layered working process and … vision’ (Tate, Press release, 26 February 2007).
The oil painting, Wire Tangle II, 1978, which is part of the course notes is one of the outcomes of this work process, where rescaling, reposition but also notably an active and considered attention to almost blank, white, negative space rests at the heart of a composition which seems to consist of repeating shapes, a fairly limited palette (of grey-whites, cool blues, some greens and a little yellow-orange).
The photographs in the archive are mainly from the 1990s, yet most of the oil paintings are from her social realist 40s, 50s, with only two from the 1990s, Stack and False Flower.

Her photographs are arranged in small sets as this item list shows:

at http://www.tate.org.uk/art/archive/tga-200511/the-archives-of-prunella-clough

The seven colour photographs of plastic merchandise stacked up outside shops along with the 8 of shadows (again in colour) most easily seem to indicate her sourcing of forms and shapes to observe and incorporate in her paintings, yet the paintings of that time seem rather different in construction.

I sourced a few reviews of her work which note her attention to day-to-day objects, matters and processes such as Sue Hubbard’s (2009) review in the New Statesman apropos of an exhibition opening of Clough’s work:

As she told Michael Middleton in an interview nearly 50 years ago, “I like paintings that say a small thing rather edgily.” Clough’s ability to draw our attention to the beauty and pathos in the ordinary is deliciously out of sync with times in which sound and fury often signify so little. Hers is an unobtrusive but unique voice.

https://www.newstatesman.com/art/2009/02/prunella-clough-work-british

In an excerpt of his 2012 publication on Clough, Frances Spalding’s writes in Guardian:

Clough, like Léger, was unusual in her attention to aspects of urban and industrial life that are mostly overlooked – if not deliberately ignored. She looked at things that bear the residue of use, are blighted by time or fallen into desuetude. Long before the term “edgelands” was coined, she was familiar with those areas where housing estates or factories peter out and the borders between urban and rural are renegotiated, infringed or forgotten.

Far from wishing to be nowhere, Clough for many years kept a notebook in which she recorded details of places visited, many of which provided source material for her art. Now in the Tate Archives, this old leather-bound volume betrays a previous owner, because the first four pages have been cut out and their stubs retain evidence of copper-plate handwriting from another age. Clough filled the remaining pages with terse, gazetteer-like descriptions of mostly working environments. It begins with Wapping and Rotherhithe, Greenwich and Gravesend. Then follow notes on Battersea power station, gasworks at Fulham, coke yards at Woolwich, cooling towers at Canning Town, chemical works at Redhill. Here, too, is a record of her fascination with the industrial Midlands and the Black Country, as well as with certain London suburbs – Wandsworth, Pinner, Kensal Green, Willesden and Acton East.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/mar/30/prunella-clough-artist-industrial-life

And, in continuation of this work process of observation, recollection and then studio-based work, this comment (one of her few, seemingly) in a conversation with friend and curator of two of her shows, Bryan Robertson, in 1982 (cited in A Stewart 2004, online at the above):

‘I prefer to be on my feet because the sense of place is crucial for me and involves sensations other than the purely optical ones of observation. Since I do not draw directly in landscape, it is the memory or recollections of a scene, which is also a whole event, that concerns me. A painting is made from many such events, rather than one,; and in fact its sources are many layered and can be quite distant in time, and are rarely if ever direct. I occasionally take rough photos, but often do not refer to them; they are only approximate aids for the memory.

‘There is a vast discrepancy between the rawness of the original experience, walking around in any kind of wasteland, and the relatively tidied up and composed painting that comes from it. The trouble is that I have a lifetime’s preoccupation with construction, layout: the traditional checks and balances. I cannot throw any of that out. It leads to an over elegance, unsuitable to the integrity or real presence of the raw material.

https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Prunella+Clough:+1919-1999:+seeing+the+world+sideways.-a0113563673

 

— I hadn’t heard about her or consciously seen any of her work; the Wire Tangle piece is fascinating, even more fascinating are the insights into her working practice, relationship to urban edgelands, walks and the sourcing of materials for a studio-based practice.

 

 

Rescaling continued (prep work for A1)

This is the third process-focused posts for the preparatory work for Assignment 1.

The other two are

There will be one more preparatory post for A1 to outline some of the contextual influences.

>> this is a new way of trying to separate out preparatory work for the assignment to other more general research that doesn’t neatly tie into the coursework.

So, the menu outline for the assignment header will include

assignment

  • assignment submission
  • preparatory work
  • tutor report and response
  • revision

 

Now: rescaling.

Following on from Project 1.3: rescaling I realised that I was really interested in reprinting (and thus upscaling) the image of the filing cabinet which I took several weeks ago and which has featured in some of the sketchbook work already (I am still intending to draw the cabinet in situ, but at the moment it is not easily accessible, so that work will have to wait a little).

I had printed and glued cut out versions of the cabinet in the sketchbook before; so this work continues this enquiry.

It also continues an enquiry into office workday implements and materials (the sketchbook being a Moleskine thin papered notebook; the mechanical pencil; photocopy paper etc).

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sketchbook page with cut up photograph and graphite marks

I sourced information of the height of the filing cabinet (a four-drawer vertical filing cabinet is generally 52″ or 132 cm heigh), resized (while reducing ppi to about 180) the digital file and proceeded to print it out on my home inkjet printer and a4 pages. The slightly cropped image (of a later session to the above one, i.e. no paper basket, different key ring, removed shelf) was printed on 7 sheets across and 6 rows, a total of 42 images.

I used tape on the back to attach them to each other; most prints being clear as to where they join the next one.

Yes: the middle section of the gap itself is indeterminate: without a ruler I cannot for certain ascertain the edges of either cabinet. So, initially, for practical reasons I left these out, only constructing the three left and three right columns. Reflecting on this, I realise the significance that the gap is not certain and decide to leave it out entirely.

Over the course of an afternoon, the constructions takes shape on the spare wall in my flat, above my bed. I attached the sheets below row 1 only to paper, not the wall itself to allow for repositioning. I also attach the tape only to the back (as I want to keep the surface intact for potential further work). These two factors contribute to the thin 80gsm paper started to curl up very early.

And, in fact, it is the wall construction of a previous, smaller scale print of the cabinet that also inspired my printing out of these on the inkjet printer.

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wall construction of prints of the cabine, cut up, retaped, A4, nested

These are a series of images of the construction process plus close ups of the installation:

The final installation looks like this:

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Installation of filing cabinet, size approx 170x150cm

I proceed to photograph this with tripod and low ISO (ISO 160, f9, approx 4s exposure) in both daylight and a bedside lamp.

Further experimentation (results dismissed):

I also proceed to explore how placing a small drawing to its side looks, along with adding a thin graphite line in place of the shadow gap. Neither of these are successful and I choose to omit them.

Rather than the digital layering I explore previously, this process is mainly analogue: the layering is achieved with scalpel and tape; my interest in exploring the edges and the negative space between different drawings finds an expression with the paper edges (within the picture plane but also to the edge of it) and centrally in the blank middle space, where the shadow of the papers of the left hand side create a new shadow shape.

Notes:

  • the materials are basic, deliberately so; the hues printed on the inkjet printer are soft, the definition is really soft too; reattaching the tape scores the paper, so does the carpet underneath when I press down on the paper while assembling it on the floor.
  • I have reservations about designating the scalpel cuts as lines akin to drawn lines, and yet: the edges of the interior sheets as well as those to the actual edges function very much like drawn lines.
  • The lighting constitutes an element of tone through the shadow casts of the outer edges but also inside the paper itself.

Digital layering (prep for A1: the gap)

Following on from the earlier post of working in sets for this first assignment and after the initial work on rescaling, I import a series of photographs of recent drawings into Photoshop and experiment with layering and rescaling them. Initially, I am in particular interested in moving some of the sketchbook sketches into proximity to the larger drawings, to gauge the interaction between mechanical pencil marks and the larger pieces.

Over the course of a couple of hours I develop these two (the first one presenting an earlier outcome, the second one a more careful reworking).

D2_A1_wip1_multiply_blend_small size@0,25x

First outcome (one sketchbook drawing, photograph and Project 1.2 drawing), sketchbook page very visible (note: small filesize, limited detail in file)

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Second outcome, reworking, largely by removing colour cast of sketchbook page, lightening first sketchbook marks to show the second sketch marks more clearly  (including two sketchbook drawings, one photograph and Project 1.2 drawing)

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Reflection of the two images in sketchbook

Notes:

  • layering in Ps is really simple, there is now also a background eraser which makes partial removal much easier
  • rescaling the small sketchbook marks is interesting; the initial one (the large dark shape) was far less successful than I had hoped
  • changing the darkness and removing the first large shape in the second iteration is good: I effectively limit the shape to the filing cabinet
  • My initial idea of placing images next to each other was one of working with the space between them – making their edge, their negative space the means by which they relate to each other – this is of course not happening here.

Project 1.3: changing the scale

Aim: “to explode (!) notions of scale and experiment with an extreme change of scale… before you start work, spend some time thinking about the implications of manipulating scale in drawing composition…” (Coursebook, p. 22)

Following on from the exercise previous and the discovery of photocopied templates, I juxtaposed two differently scaled photographs (one of the wall installation, one of a single A4 image) together. Once I posted it, I realised that I had rescaled these two by placing them in close relationship to each other — the scale of networked images is generally device-dependent, so it very much depends on the viewer at what scale they will encounter an image. Yet: by placing them next to each I was making a statement of their scale being equal, effectively equating a 20x12cm sketchbook page with a ca 90x120cm wallspace:

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digital collage of wall installation and single drawing (rescaled by juxtaposition)

As next item I decided to redraw the brief sketch of the distribution of darks between the two filing cabinets on A2 paper. For this, I decided to work with the same drawing implement (mechanical pencil) — I had started to become interested in the different of scale for different drawing tool (see the marks of the coloured pencil on the squared blanked in the larger drawing on the left above and then redrawn on A2 paper with the blanket much larger; for the latter, the c/pencil marks are not nearly as effective as on the smaller scale within the initial drawing).

I worked on a flat board and off a small photograph at relatively low lighting. I reworked the drawing a bit further in daylight (but it still remains sketch-like as to the definitions within the shadow itself).

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Shadow gap, A2, mechanical pencil (B2), photographed to include paper shadow on left edge
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Detail of Shadow gap, optical zoom.

This drawing can further be reworked and upscaled: e.g., to focus entirely on the detail crop and redraw in A2, again possibly with mechanical pencil? Would I focus on the actual marks of the source drawings or the actual shape of the shadow?

— these iterations thus remove the drawing further from the initial object/ observation. Just as the photograph of the whole sheet adds another shadow layer (of the sheet of paper) to the drawing, a further zooming into the detail poses questions as to whether the drawing marks become the focus or the initial object.

I continued this project focus considerably and it informs to a large extent my assignment piece and submission, see the post here [update link].

 

Notes:

  • my focus of investigation has become twofold:
    • the distancing or even removal from source object/observation through iteration (and I don’t mean merely working in series as this but a more systematic zooming in, peeling away)
    • change in scale by defining the relationship between different objects/ drawings; this is crucial when considering digital circulation and engagement with the material as actual viewing size is almost entirely audience dependent (by means of their viewing device, browser, browser zoom etc.).
  • downscaling is the most common practice in drawing: often the sketchbook operates on a smaller scale than the observed setting; working bigger thus generally presents a strategy of ‘moving closer to the subject’; yet, my inclination is to say that moving beyond life size is not that common for most settings. In terms of the shadow gap drawing the gap is possibly life size at its base in the A2 drawing (but the dimensions of the cubes are altered, i.e. made more square than in actuality).
    AP: check actual dimensions of gap and cabinet.

 

Working in series/ as set (Prep for A1: the gap)

Across a few conversations this week:

— Your photos are in sets, in albums, Gesa. You don’t tend to make individual images, do you?

— I think I may want to present this assignment as a set of images.

— Yes, I love working in series.

 

The middle statement is mine; the last one one of a friend who is a painter. She made it sound as if my decision was commonplace. And, yes, she is right: I also used to work in series, around a theme, of pushing and developing a means, a perspective, a theme across a series of media and artworks. And, yet, still, I have the sense that what I am attempting is different nonetheless.

So, what does working with a set of drawings mean for me?

Rather than working successively around a theme and thus ending with a series of drawings, I am interested in altering the presentation of the drawings, of actually editing the drawings as if they were photographs: to exist, in this instance, on the same wall, in the same space and to be organised along a relationship between them.

Part of the purpose then is to consider how each drawing serves a role, a function, plays a part in it (rather than being an expression of successive development).

My painting friend who also works in series called it, once I showed her my idea, a collage. I objected: but they are not stuck together, they remain separate, the space between them is crucial, their respective edges are crucial.

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The current set of images (of Project 1.2) + a digital rescaling/collaging

Another colleague asked if I was thinking of linking, connecting the images, perhaps through graphite marks, through string, through other means, if it was the relationship between them that interested me. I am not too sure, perhaps the respective edges and the space between will be sufficient?

But I also made this accidental mark which points towards a further connection:

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Project 1.2 : Using space

This project begins with a short clip about Elizabeth Blackadder’s working practice, emphasising how empty space becomes crucial in her composition: how the space around her still life objects informs and energises the objects and thus the whole composition.

It instructs me to set up a space – I choose my bed, its cover, a blanket, a cushion, a knitted jumper, a scarf and the wall behind it which features a drawing that I amend by adding a scarf. The sun how it casts a shadow of the window across the wall becomes part of it too.

The space in this is extensive; the objects are textured, the light is strong, direct.

I draw with various graphite implements, coloured pencil and oil pastel. I add another sheet on the lower left edge to expand, extend. The drawing is largely additive, I erase relatively little. The shadow cast changes over the time. The next day I rework the bedspread’s left side, numerous times, during which the drawing acquires a few more pieces of paper to cover pastel marks.

Over the next few days I redraw the blanket on a larger scale. I also produce a line drawing, which I in turn photocopy to create a template on which I add ink, oil pastel and use cooking oil to experiment with staining.

I crop all drawings rather strongly to remodel the edges.

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Main drawing of project 2; graphite, oil pastel, colourd pencil on paper (approx 70x65cm)

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Various sketchbook and other images; also: series of drawings on top of photocopied line drawing

Reflection:

  • this is the first colour drawing I did in several years; I let it be and became curious in the marks that I was using after such long time; the marks are strong, varied, expressive and able to signify the energy of the objects, their arrangement in space
  • I remember how strong a drawing is effectively modelling space: the window shadow angles forward, the right hand side of the bedspread downwards, the cushion is softly rounded and the blanket acts like a soft rive, not quite shapeless but rather fluid.
    << this is in strong contrast of course to working with lens-based media where my role is to deduct, re-arrange, alter the lighting to re-order the image in front of the lens.
  • Focussing on the blanket alone on a larger scale isn’t successful: the c/pencil marks depend on the earlier scale, here they become too laboured
  • The line drawing is so-so, largely due to its uniformity of shade, but once photocopied acts as a very good base layer to draw on top: the oil marks are good, varied, even on the recycled A3 paper;
  • knocking back the right-hand side of the line drawing with Indian ink is good: it removes that space but on the photocopies becomes an element to interact with, restate and attend in terms of cropping.
  • Quite a bit of the project involves a testing of materials: photocopy paper and toner ink; Indian ink and oil pastel interaction; the effect of cooking oil on the papers and surfaces.
  • I am becoming interested in assembling various images relating to this as the assignment submission, see thoughts on this post: Working in series/ as set

 

My drawings bear little resemblance to Blackadder’s, which doesn’t surprise: I feel fairly confident in my approach to negative space and the edge of the drawing; being invited to restate the edge in this early exercise was great and appreciated. My marks are more scrawly, nervous, energetic (but then again: I use line and drawing media rather than w/colour.

I looked at Matisse’s cut-outs quite a lot during Drawing 1, as well as his construction of the picture plane. I realised back then how incredibly accomplished his late work was in terms of use of scissor as drawing tool: of attending to the edge only, His arbitrary and complex use of space in interior scenes, e.g. The Painter’s Family 1911, and still life continues to amaze me and I find it resonates with my own interests more strongly than Blackadder’s who in my mind veers too much to the decorative, or perhaps: it is too contemplative, still for me.

Parallel project: body as drawing tool (first thoughts)

 

A fair part of my current drawing in fact has begun to revolve my idea for the personal project (I like calling it parallel project), so I want to spell out some thoughts on this:
my body as drawing tool (and possibly also as site of drawing)
>> how can I activate that?
>> what does it imply?

>> what is the point for accessing an interior emotional register in such a way (am I not just re-hashing a rather romantic true self/voice debate of being an artist?)
>> what processes of translation/meditation take place in this? E.g. from body movement to mark; from sound to mark; from drawn mark to moving image; from moving image to performance?

The means by which I have begun to do so are a number:

  • short video sketches of myself (my feet, a bit of my dress) hovering just to the inside of a doorframe. (see post on project 1.1 observational drawing)
  • exploring the attendant sensations and feelings that come from this, on the face of it, innocuous practice

Also:

  • the role of hearing in drawing: see the post on sound as part of drawing; for this I produced an initial (not very successful) drawing in which I transpose sound into drawing marks and gestures. Following on from that, I have spent some more time listening out to the sounds of the corridor, the room beneath ‘my office’ as well as to listening and attending to what I say and talk about in different spaces across the department.
  • myself in a performative role: i started to draw and photograph in front of others: casually so in front of my new office colleague, then, without announcement in front of my newer still office colleague; then in the new office of a friend of mine (who ended up not leaving the office but being present in the space during an hour or so).
  • I have also started to talk a little to a couple of people who I don’t know well about some of the interventions that I have placed across the department. These interventions will get a separate post but I want to let it fold onwards a little before doing so (but see my IG account for some of the images resulting from this, blog sidebar for link to it).

 

These initial sketches are not in fact about movement or even ‘commute’ as I had initially mentioned as my parallel project interest. In fact, they draw out the notion of body as drawing tool further still.

Next plans:

  • a first survey of contextual sources, artists, practices (Ana Mendieta, Nancy Spero, Kiki Smith, Franscesca Woodman, also Gordon Matta Clark comes to mind for reasons not entirely certain)
  • a bit more on affective register in the transgression as well as the link between sound and mark (in particular: what are the limits of these transformations)
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Installation shot of placement #3, 12 October

 

Project 1.1 : alterations/layering

I am away from the office space for a week but took my sketchbook with me, wanting to redraw the earlier drawing and reposition it further.

Over the past couple of days I made this small series, moving between the sketchbook and the camera:

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isolating the left arm element on paper, the rephotographing with more of the dress and my right elbow
black arm .jpg
re-drawing the photograph from above on the next sketchbook page, rephotographing to take in a bit of the sofa as context
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the redrawing above has rubbed off/ transferred some of the graphite on the earlier drawing (later I will rub out the trace above the shape)

I find this process offers a series of possibilities:

  • to keep adding and infusing my own hand in this and thereby creating a series of meta-narratives on top of the initial observation
  • this process can be pushed much further (just now, on upload, I realise that that the WP processing of the initial photograph adds some yellow shapes on the top of the sketchbook page, this would be a way to move into colour)
  • I am getting more familiar with the mechanical pencil and the thin-papered notebook, the third drawing (the middle drawing above) has a range of different marks not employed before and starts to feel a bit more fluid
  • the paper rubs through/ transfers easily through pressure: I had noticed this earlier but in this one observed and included it in the process explicitly.

In terms of the coursework project I realise how keen I am on the edge of the paper: the drawings are rather centrifugal in weighting: the edges more carefully worked, the objects deliberately cut off. I hadn’t noticed this interest before but want to develop it more fully over the next projects.

[Part of me thinks that this concludes the first project, but I will stick with it a little longer or perhaps return to it; in some ways it merely feels as a starting point (and I still haven’t drawn all that much!), but perhaps a loop is in order > I still think I would like to use the site for the assignment work and will need to explore it further still and will try and see how that can happen throughout the next projects also]