Playing With Space

I visited the Venice Biennale last month and loved it.   Of course, Venice is beautiful: the canals, bridges, crumbling textured walls, astonishing architectural details.. and so much art.  The Arsenale is an awesome building.  Originally a naval dockyard, it is now filled with international contemporary installations, some more impressive than others.  My favourites are Yee Sookyung’s huge ceramic sculpture and Ernesto Neto’s woven tent with hanging pods, both filling vast spaces.  At the Giardini, Phyllida Barlow’s ‘Folly’ for the UK Pavilion greets you with huge bauble/lollipops, monumental towers jostle inside like gigantic elephant legs stretching upwards and pushing out of the building confines. ‘Folly’ is a playful maze challenging our perceptions of art.  I also loved Geoffrey Farmer’s water piece.  The Canadian Pavilion is unfinished, so his work utilises the space with a refreshing outdoor piece.  Steel structures camouflaged as wood planks with holes spray water into the air, playfully catching sunlight and casting rainbows.  In the Japanese Pavilion Takahiro Iwasaki has created incredible tiny 3d thread architectural constructions in unexpected places within the room.

I have been making my own glass tendrils with Sonja Klinger’s help.  I hope to use them within an ongoing installation (see bottom – work in progress).  My new interest in glass led me to the Glasstress Exhibition, also in Venice.  Ai Weiwei’s ‘Blossom Chandelier’ dominates one room with white glass swirling forms, a fusion of exotic flowers and his anti-authoritarian motifs.  In contrast, Josepha Gasch-Muche’s ‘T.30/12/07’ comprises fine slivers of transparent glass packed into a box-like structure.  Jagged but delicate, the edges become abstract drawings.

I’ve been inspired by Judy Pfaff’s work, which ‘seems to zoom into the organic then zoom out to the planetary.’ (Tim Higgins).  She creates installations and assemblages that fuse collage, drawing, painting and sculpture, a flamboyant mix of glass, tree branches, fluorescent lights, tar, melted plastic, expanded foam, plexiglas, steel, styrofoam, plaster and resin.  A recent TV series ‘The Art of Japanese Life‘ touched on the use of Ma in Japan: the spaces and lulls between things are as important as positives, often suggesting peace, silence.

Now in a temporary new massive studio at Sion Hill, Bath Spa Uni, as part of my MFA, I am enjoying the liberating space and opportunity to really go for it in my quest to explore line as form on a larger scale, drawing in space, treating line as object, taking lines ‘for a walk’ (Klee).  While still referring to the connection between line, growth and energy, I am trying to allow the work to unfold, working in a more immediate way and introducing unfamiliar materials to see what happens…

Letting materials dictate

I’ve been having fun with a new piece.  It started as a clear idea, based on a dying spiky pod form I came across, which mesmerised me.  A familiar yet unfamiliar form.  I photographed and drew it.  Gnarled creases, mould growths and thin spikes on red skin; an hourglass shape ending in dried, dripping leaves held a history of growth and decay.  Ugly elegance.   I needed to explore this form by making it.  I gathered together a selection of my reclaimed copper and steel components, and one by one, they told me where they should go.  It’s been a collaboration between us, a journey with risks, but whether it succeeds or not, I’m enjoying myself!

I owe a huge thank you to John Shepherd Feeders in Doulting, who, over the years, have given me steel bits.  For this piece, John gave me a steel plate for the base.

When finished, the piece – which will stand tall with a large, delicate, woven wire butterfly perched on it – will be installed in Lanhydrock National Trust Estate, Cornwall from March – November.  You might like to visit it there!

 

Liking Lichen

It’s always great when things tie up, strands of ideas link and what seems random fits into place.  Pondering on where to go next in my work and exploring ideas, I picked up a vividly coloured twig during a dog-walk and was captivated by the microcosmic yellow, orange and green world of lichen growing on it.  Strangely, I’d recently considered using lichen as a backdrop to my website pages.  The colours and textures seem so fitting.  But I hadn’t looked closely enough at the amazingly sculptural formations of their growth.  Researching lichen back at home, I discovered it is a prime example of a symbiotic union between fungi and algae.  I love the whole concept of symbiosis in the animal and plant kingdoms.  Equal collaboration.  Wish we humans could do it more successfully.

Lichen occurs in extreme environments and illustrates life’s cycle and persistence.  It is also useful in our assessment of environmental pollution (as with diatoms – another fascinating subject I’ve looked at recently).  Zooming in on lichen formations, it struck me how closely the bulbous ‘cushion xanthoria’ relate in shape to weavers’ nests, coral and other forms I gravitate towards.  Nitrate coloured dome-like heads on tentacles enclose a cavity of rich orange.  And I’ve just returned from Rome where domes are huge and plentiful and the walls burn orange.  New work on lichen begins…