Making the components
As the instructions suggested, I started by making a set of initial components. Some of these were quite smooth, others heavily textured. Injecting plaster into a balloon was interesting, and made some good bulbous pieces – almost like fruit. These can be shaped somewhat as they start to harden.
I did have an “interesting” time with some of the pieces, with some of them being quite funny in retrospect. Releasing the pressure on a balloon full of plaster, for example, does end up with a face full of plaster. Filling a plastic bag with plaster and then scrunching it up can make it quite hard to get the bag off. Lastly, over manipulating setting plaster can lead to it never setting at all. All part of the fun of the experimentation.
The project was quite definite in the way it was structured, so as to ensure at least some of the drawings came from contemplation of the components. The following images show drawing of the components, as well of drawing of ideas for the construction of works.
Some of the drawings were created before the project started, when I was thinking about the sorts of things that I should be looking to cast. Others were drawn along the way. A significant proportion of the drawings never went any further, or provided the basis for other ideas. Those that progressed further are discussed in the write up of the works below. The others will need to simply stand alone.
In many ways this idea came partially from contemplating the sort of work which is typified by Barbra Hepworth (Howard, 2020a). As can be seen in some of the construction photographs, the A2 pastel drawing quite definitely came first – and then the work was created to match. In fact, the drawing came in multiple stages. Initially the disks didn’t have any holes in, but this lacked interest and so the holes were introduced in the drawing. This added significant complexity to the construction, but I feel was a useful refinement in the piece overall.
The final form on completion, but within the context of construction:
On consideration I decided to paint the piece a relatively neutral colour in household acrylic paints. To do this I first applied a layer of gesso as a primer and then the paint:
There were some issues in the coating of the paint, which I considered going back to resolve. On consideration, however, I decided that I liked the additional interest crated by it and left it as-is.
I like the final piece in many ways, as the execution followed well from the drawing. The work is on the edge of stability and the rough base contrasts strongly with the much smoother and more ordered upper elements.
The construction process, however, left something to be desired. I didn’t use wooden dowels, as I felt they might be too thick for the work if they were robust enough to hold the weight. That judgement might have been incorrect. The steel pins I used instead turned out to be less stable and harder to fix well than I had expected.
This is a bit of an odd one, as I had an idea whilst looking at the parts available and so decided to do a quick sketch. The cast piece was quite egg shaped in form, as so I started to consider the concept of a golden egg. I decided that this would work well bound around with the wire I had embedded in one of the casts.
I liked the idea and sketch sufficiently that I went ahead and made it:
Following my tutor’s advice (Thompson, 2020) I decided to photograph the piece with a more neutral background:
This presentation brings out the form and colour more strongly. Overall, I like the way that this piece has come out – despite its relative simplicity. The original idea has come out well, with the acrylic gold and blue pedestal showing well.
This piece is based on one of the early sketches in my thinking for the project. The idea is a bit of political commentary on the politics of the moment:
The concept is one of bringing out my negative feelings around the idea of Brexit – and especially the concept of a national party to celebrate “Getting Brexit Done”. In the wake of Covid Brexit is getting a lot less press attention, but I feel that giving up our European identity to celebrate the Red, White and Blue is going to be something that causes our country significant pain. This is the significance of the party balloons bleeding.
The process of making it, however, was always going to be non-trivial. The weight of the plaster balloons is quite significant. At least when compared to the strength of relatively thin steel wire. As such a level of support was needed:
As proposed by my tutor (Thompson, 2020) I photographed the piece on a more neutral background:
The work is clearly link to some of the works I tend not to appreciate – as it is based in fairly strongly negative emotions. (Howard, 2017). The colouring and style of the balloon string wouldn’t seem to out of place with Jenny Saville. In many ways I feel the the piece conveys my feelings on the matter fairly well, and has been a success in terms of its creation. Whether it conveys the message well is yet to be seen.
This turned into one of those “happy accidents”. It started out as a simple idea of cresting a tower of block topped by a sphere. This concept wouldn’t have been too out of place with the work of Jacques Schnier (Howard, 2020b).
I allowed myself to experiment a little as I was building it:
When completed I decided that I preferred the following arrangement over the vertical one, and decided that a silvered finish would work well:
I like the final result, as I feel it conveys a dynamic pose of an animal running – such as a small dog. It is something that I wouldn’t have created any other way, and so is very much a “happy accident”. The piece is less stable than I would normally like, but that will be easy to adjust by simply flattening the touchpoints on the base slightly.
The main learning here, therefore, is one of being open to experimentation and changing direction. This plays into my previous discussion on intention vs emergence in my work (Howard,2020). The instructions for this Project push towards intentional delivery (based in drawings) whereas this became much more of an emergent work.
2020 Balls up
This work followed on from reflecting on the issues I was having with vertical construction. I also had a desire to extend some of the concepts from Part 1 (Howard, 2019). Some of the cast elements also had me reflect on the challenges of 2020 – such as the gloves with incomplete sections. It was reflecting on this the gave me a way forward in terms of subject and composition.
The idea of suspending the elements of the work instead appealed. This is partially linked to artists like Cornelia Parker (Howard, 2020c) and Alexander Calder (Howard, 2020d). In both cases, they have used the construction of elements which are then suspended to great effect. This is clearly quite a common approach to contemporary works, and seemed like a strong way forward for a piece in this project.
I went back to the drawing board:
The first step of construction was to create the holes needed to suspend the components – and to split one of the complete disks into parts:
The final image of this set is where the components were coated with acrylic gesso ready to be painted. I didn’t want the piece to be plain white (despite the drawing) and so the next steps were to paint the components and construct the piece:
There was quite a bit of experimentation and rework within the construction process. Most components are best with 3 hanging points, for example, as a fourth point can cause significant issues. Logically this makes sense, as 3 point define a plane. The broken disk also needed to have wire used to hold the pieces in place with respect to each other. Without this adaptation it would have been necessary to have a larger top piece to hang the parts from.
The final work:
I can’t say I like the work as such, but as indicated earlier I don’t tend to like pieces which are embedded in more negative emotions as much as more positive ones. I think it does explore my feelings on the way that 2020 has turned out. The piece’s title refers to a comment by my wife, which has become something of a title for the year as a whole.
The different elements of the work reflect on different aspects of the year. The hand at the bottom, for example, refers to green medical gloves warn by a few people early on to protect themselves from others. In particular we were heading home on a flight just before the first lockdown of 2020 and the passenger next to me was wearing gloves like this and a face mask. Maybe I should have included an old face mask in the work to really push the 2020 message home.
Howard, D. (2017) Developing Artistic Style, part 2. At: https://david515893.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/developing-artistic-style-part-2/ (accessed 22/11/2020)
Howard, D. (2019) Project 2: Open-space Sculpture. At: https://david515893s1.wordpress.com/2019/09/29/project-2-open-space-sculpture/ (accessed 22/11/2020)
Howard, D. (2020) Planned vs Emergent Art. At: https://david515893s1.wordpress.com/2020/05/25/planned-vs-emergent-art/ (accessed 22/10/2020)
Howard, D. (2020a) Barbra Hepworth (1903-1975). At: https://david515893s1.wordpress.com/art-and-artists/barbra-hepworth-1903-1975/ (accessed 22/11/2020)
Howard, D. (2020b) Jacques Schnier (1898-1988). At: https://david515893s1.wordpress.com/art-and-artists/jacques-schnier-1898-1988/ (accessed 22/11/2020)
Howard, D. (2020c) Cornelia Parker (b.1956). At: https://david515893s1.wordpress.com/art-and-artists/cornelia-parker-b-1956/ (accessed 22/11/2020)
Howard, D. (2020) Alexander Calder ( 1898–1976). At: https://david515893s1.wordpress.com/art-and-artists/alexander-calder-1898-1976/ (accessed 22/11/2020)
Thompson, A. (2020) Formative feedback [Attachment to email Assignment 3 feedback sent to Howard, D. 20/07/2020 ]