We reviewed my work and plans for this term and Jonathan made some useful observations and suggestions for what I should focus on next. I am really enjoying this course and said so.
My last One-to-One tutorial was on 7 Oct and I am pleasantly surprised by just how much I have done since then. I am pretty much on-track with my work plan as set out in my Study Proposal of 3 Nov 2015. Jonathan asked whether my work plan involving ‘5 MA’s’ had narrowed down or widened. You can judge. Since then I have:
- Exhibited in the Fine Art Digital pop up show at the end of last term. A one metre tall sculpture from life of Vanessa, a classical dancer, made up of 244 pieces of laser cut MDF. Jonathan liked the art work and so did 87 other people who have complemented me on it. I have been bowled over by this response to my first ever sculpture. Perhaps this will be revisited as part of my exhibition for my MA next year – after a period of experimentation possibly to finally end up back where I began.
- Had several one-to-one meetings with artists exploring their attitude towards work involving digital processes (the subject of my next blog). Jonathan was particularly impressed by the fact that this included Prof Stephen Farthing, who has also invited me to meet up with him again this term. Prof Farthing thought my ideas were “very strong” (relief!!!). Particularly because my non art related background meant that my concepts were original and not coming from research of other artists’ work in order to find my own voice and style. Again his words. He was very enthusiastic about the idea of giving the object of an artwork a voice. He was surprised that others had not already done this in the way we discussed. He suggested doing this with sculpture rather than a painting, and whilst impressed with my sliced sculpture in my first term thought that this was now passé. He made several original suggestions to enhance my idea, and could envisage a very successful professional exhibition with many different pieces (not just life sculpture). Perhaps they were all sad and one was happy. What would a Kalashnikov say? Or a pineapple? He suggested I promote such an exhibition on the equivalent to ‘Blue Peter’. He attributed that programme to the resounding success of the Leonardo exhibition as it encouraged children to get their parents to take them to see the drawing machines he used. He thought my work would also stimulate the interest of children as well as the blind. I am just relieved that he did not think my concept gimmicky. I was also very surprised to get an email from Bridgette Mongeon, a master sculpture with a practice in Houston, Texas who had picked up from my bibliography that I had included her recently published book ‘3D Technology in Fine Art and Craft; Exploring 3D printing, Scanning, Sculpting and Milling’ and that I was interviewing artists. She said that I could interview her on Skype which I will do this term. I showed Jonathon and he asked the library to stock it. I can thoroughly recommend it for anyone wanting to use technology to produce physical artwork as many artists explain exactly how they did their work. Not something you usually discover as most artists are unwilling to do this.
- Started work on my second project in the Vanessa series, an interactive life size painting ‘Giving the Model a Voice’. I have about three hours recording of Vanessa’s thoughts during and around our studio modelling sessions, which I have begun editing with the help of Tim, one of the Digital Media technicians, and have acquired all the materials necessary to produce the work. I am about to test a small canvas with conductive paint connected to the Bare Conductive Arduino microprocessor to play a couple of clips of Vanessa’s voice. A huge learning curve fore me as I have never used a microprocessor in my artwork or painted on the proposed scale, let alone with conductive paint. My objective is to produce another piece of work for any potential pop up show at the end of this second term.
- Presented my work and some of my further proposals – physical pieces involving digital processes – for a Crit with visiting lecturer Jonny Briggs (see earlier blog). Future work included a life size sculpture in laser cut card of a male which I would then use as the canvas for video mapping using Alex May’s software ‘Painting with Light’. This effectively involved ‘MA number 6’ as I could not use my existing sculpture of Vanessa as planned because cut MDF had produced a surface that was far too dark for video mapping. This should ideally be light grey, and not dark brown. Hence the need for another sculpture that would lend itself to this treatment. I found a piece of software from Japan that could help me make this. I am hoping that Jonathan invites Alex May to give a Video Mapping workshop at our Low residency at the end of February, as this will help me produce this part of the installation. Jonathan said a date has now opened up if he is available and will try.
- Investigated the possibility of producing a bronze version of my Vanessa sculpture using the same 3D scan (I am now losing count of the number of ‘MA’s’ I am considering undertaking!!). I discussed this with a 3D digital designer friend who has a 3-axis CNC machine in his garage. I have also discussed this project with Becky in the Camberwell 3D studio, specifically the possibility of making a mold using the ‘Lost Wax’ method, which I can do if I provide a version of the sculpture in dense foam. I discovered that my scan is not detailed or complete enough (200,000 polygons), and that I need a 5-axis CNC to get into the crevices of my sculpture (under the arms for example). Jonathan thought that there is not one in UAL and he has subsequently proved to be right. My friend spent some time cleaning up and sharpening my scan using photos I sent him. He did a great job and I now have a version with 2 million polygons which is complete and much sharper. I also spent ages looking for the right equipment in UAL, Makerspaces, commercial businesses, and other Universities. I have had a quote from one of the London Universities for a 40-50 cm tall version in the densest foam for over a grand!!! I think I can only afford something much smaller. I was hoping to get to grips with making the bronze piece during our low residency (or after). But I ask myself by the time I add the cost of the bronze material – is it worth it?
- Attended at Camberwell (despite being an On-Line student) almost every week for one or two days during term time usually including the Wednesday tutorial and actively participated in most concluding Q&A sessions. During the last On-Line tutorial I presented on Antony Gormley as an artist who informed my work (see earlier blog). Jonathan thought that this artist was a good choice for me as the connection could clearly be seen in the broadly similar scanning, and CAD to sculpture processes that I have adopted to date.
- Attended several art exhibitions. My favourites included the Lumen Prize runners up exhibition at Canary Wharf, Digital Design at the V&A, and William Kentridge at the Marian Goodman Gallery. One of the artists I met, Richard Colson, is on the Lumen Prize panel and has seen my Vanessa sculpture. He suggested that I submit it for the next Lumen Prize. That was unexpected! I introduced the other Camberwell MA students at the V&A Digital Design exhibition to Alex May who talked us through his amazing Oculus Rift installation ‘Sequence’. Kate MccGuire, MA RCA (who is now exhibiting internationally including recently at the Venice Biennale) spent a morning taking me around a few exhibitions including introducing me to William Kentridge’s work ‘More Sweetly Play the Dance’ at the Marian Goodman Gallery. A privilege, as she told me that she normally does not do interviews. I was really taken by that and would absolutely love to try to make a similar installation – but as Jonathan has said I need to focus. Clearly I need to shortlist my projects not keep adding to them.
- Completed 25 substantial blogs, about two a week, and in all approaching 20,000 words. You can read the others on my WordPress blog if you want. I have not tagged them yet as I need to remove the pictures of my life models in pose. I do not think that is something they would like published on the Internet for all to see. I slipped up not realising that my audience was wider than my MA colleagues. Something else to do this term.
- My reading list has expanded and I am slightly behind the pace I need to cover 50 books as per my proposed bibliography. I now think that I can reduce this to about 30-40 without compromising the ground I need to cover, and by sharpening the focus of the material I need to read to meet my research objectives. Here are some of the ones I have got stuck into to date. Mostly understanding the life model, the history of the human body in art from cave drawings to the present day, and the practical aspects of producing the work that I am interested in making.
As I have been writing this blog I have been reflecting very deeply on my discussion with Jonathan, and have reached some important conclusions. I will not change what I have said in this blog about projects I am working on, but perhaps now is the time to cull some of them.
During our one-to-one I also raised a concern I had about my work arising from some of the points Jonathan made in our on-line tutorials. I want to produce artworks with meaning and depth to them and not get seduced by the technology – which after all is a means to an end and not an end in itself. If I had not raised this then Jonathan said that he would have. He said that he was very encouraged by the fact that I had. It gave him confidence that I can balance being very strong on experimenting with process and raising the depth behind my work to the same level. We were both amused about the idea of raising the depth.
My MA Project
I must attempt less projects or reduce the scope and complexity of some. I have not even mentioned in this blog the projects I am considering that will remain in the digital space rather than producing a physical artwork (see my Study Proposal blog). I have already spent a considerable amount of effort researching and acquiring resources for them (a holographic display, and various CAD programs). It is obvious to me that it is an impossibility to attempt them all in the timescale of my MA. I have agreed with Jonathan that I should spend this year researching, experimenting and making, and next year focusing on perfecting a chosen project.
I have been very influenced by Stephen Farthing’s comments, so I am now thinking of using the MDF sculpture and interactive painting of Vanessa as a stepping stone to producing an interactive sculpture rather than one painted with light. Because of the cost of producing a mold from the scans I have already made and of the expensive materials such as bronze, and of the positive reaction I have had to my MDF life sculpture I believe that I should stick to that format. Perhaps I will make a hollow sculpture of Vanessa (to encase the wiring needed to connect the Arduino and play the narratives that Vanessa has made), acquire a ready made scan of a Kalashnikov and make a scan of a Pineapple! That will be my first alternative for my MA project of physical objects made using digital processes.
For my other alternative MA project I definitely want to make an artwork that remains in the digital space. So in May when I receive my Digital Art Projector, I will experiment with animating a version of the refined scan of Vanessa, and make her dance (as she is a classical dancer), so that she can be viewed in 3D holographically and projected large on a wall in 2D at the same time.
I will then have to choose between the two, and focus on perfecting my chosen project next year.
Jonathan made a very helpful suggestion to help me raise the level of reflection and depth underpinning my work. This was to study the work of another artist – to understand the philosophy behind their work – as I had begun to do in my presentation on Antony Gormley. He suggested that I also look at the work of Anish Kapoor. Look at his own words on the philosophy that drives his work, at professional reviews of his exhibitions, and blogs of other people who have seen them. To get a rounded viewpoint.
This has to be as strong an emphasis this term as my focus on making. It will be good preparation for two upcoming assignments this term:
A 5 minute presentation of my work and then a 5 minutes crit while I must remain silent.
A written piece where you talk about two artists who inform your work – when you are not allowed to talk about your own work.
Both will be interested in the philosophy behind my own work.
I have a lot to think about and a lot to do. I love it!