The final critique was important as this would be the only time my tutor would experience my physical work before grading. My final piece was commended on its ambition and the strength of the aesthetic was likened to Bezzola. The most positive aspect of the critique was the way in which my peers interacted with the sculpture. I was initially concerned that the restricted methods of display in the critiques would limit the impact of my work. However, when the class was reflecting on my work, someone was wrapped up in the way I envisioned the work to be exhibited. The tutor was positive about the amount of high quality work which I had produced in the given time, but was expecting more for the final degree show. Other comments included praise on the immersive aspect of the work and how tactile and addictive my work has become.
As the critique was successful, it was crucial to accurately translate the physical sculpture through photography for the final submission. The piece was to be photographed in the university studio, allowing guidance by technicians of lighting and settings. It was necessary to photograph the sculpture on both the body and individually so as the examiner could gain full appreciation of the work. I chose Bezzola’s ‘Inside Out’ project as inspiration for the lighting of my shoot, where there is a dramatic contrast between dark background and light falling on the subject. The model was dressed in black and had a natural look so as not to shift focus from my outcome. The shoot was extremely successful and I felt that the photography does justice and emphasises the experiential nature of the piece.
The out coming process started by purchasing 6 meters of fabric to cut from so as to create the desired length. The outcome shall engulf the viewer and be able to be wrapped around a body, so the finished structure must be well proportioned. To create the narrative of the sculpture, it was necessary to make sense of all the previous drawing work and find distinctive shapes at each interpreted bodily process. The references consisted of the fabric banners, sculpture experiments and original drawing materials. It was crucial to study the original visuals for each section as the image has been abstracted in a number of ways since that point. This allowed for the spontaneity and organic shapes to be replicated in the final work.
The narrative is as follows;
The Mouth and Chewed Food
Sections of Fat (x3)
Shuttles Transporting Fat (x2)
A Tsunami of Neuro-degeneration
The next step was to cut paper patterns for pinning and cutting the fabric to shape. Creating pattern templates allowed for the length of the overall piece to be determined, and also seam allowance and tabs (for joining) to be added. The fabric was folded in half so both sides of the fabric could be cut together, and the template was cut on the right side of the fabric so each piece was facing the correct way. This stage took some time as all the pieces needed to be cut precisely so as when it came to attaching each section, the shapes would fit perfectly. The first thought was to have one long pattern rather than individual patterns for each section, but the technicalities of this meant that the sewn shell would not have been able to turn through the narrow joins. The shapes are also arranged so as the final sculpture will not run in a straight line. I felt that this would enhance flow of my design, and complement the mark makings in my practice.
The next stage was to create the visuals for each shape from coloured felt and painted linear marks. The chosen colours were based on the success of the latest experiment and related back to true bodily colours. This was due to the fact that my work is already extremely abstracted from the visual truth, and therefore the colours can allow for a familiarity to be reformed with the sculpture. The colours (alongside the chosen denim and black) were white, wine red, dark pink and rich yellow to represent the colour of fat. The felt sections of each shape were cut and sewn before the ink was added as I found that the other way round resulted in disjointed lines. The felt shapes were inspired by previous drawing work, where the blocked out black areas turned into colour. Through discussion with tutors it was clear that the curves needed to be reminiscent of those created by a paint brush, they could not be restricted by the thought of technicalities. To achieve this, I used a small pair of scissors to give more detail. Each shape was individually sewn in black thread by sewing machine. The larger pieces of materials were challenging to get through the machine whilst still keeping a neat line. Extra time was spent on the lighter coloured felt such as white and yellow as the black thread was more prominent. To sew tight curves, I moved the fabric slowly and manually stitched with the wheel on the side of the machine.
The line work was painted onto the fabric sections in quink ink as previously experimented with. Once dry the line was also neatened with a fine liner and bero pen to sharpen the edges and get closer to the felt sections. These linear details allowed for flow between each design, interacting and strengthening the overall narrative. The ink was also added over the final joined work so as to guide the audience’s eye. The ink lines also acted as a way of matching shapes across seams.
When constructing the sculpture, the process started with pinning the two pieces of matching fabric together (wrong side facing outward) and sewing together, making sure that there was a gap left to turn through and for the joins. These were then turned through so as the right sides are revealed. To ensure quality seam allowances were approximately 1cm for durability, and in tight curves the seams were cut smaller or snipped to stop puckering. Furthermore, sharp corners (pointing inwards) were rounded off, and the seam allowances of external facing points were cut so as they could be turned through fully. Where gaps were left in the sewn line for filling and joins, the end stitch was reinforced as that area will be stressed when turning through. The most difficult area to construct was the ‘Suffering Brain’ as the rounded tentacle shaped areas were too thick to pull through the narrow openings. To overcome this, I left the seams open to give more space and then joined on the right side by hand.
The fabric shells were filled with polystyrene beans and fed through a funnel into the space. I used a paper funnel as this could be fitted to each opening with masking tape, and a glass jug as this is not a static material. For most shells the gap for turning through was used as the funnel could be larger, therefore becoming more time effective. Some shells were further topped up through the smaller openings. Soft stuffing was also used in the joining areas as this allowed for hand stitching, and gave a barrier for the beans to stay in the allocated section. Each shape was joined together by over stitching in a blue thread to make the seam invisible and folding the raw edge so as the material will not fray.
The Uncanny by Mike Kelley was described by the artist as a response to art world discourse at the time (Tate Liverpool 20th February- 3rd May). The exhibition was purposely designed to be curated in an old-fashioned way to contrast against the unorthodox curation and placement at the time. The work was based on an essay by Sigmund Freud, “The Uncanny 1919” where Freud describes the phenomenon as ‘a hidden, familiar thing which has undergone repression and then emerged from it’.
Kelley mentioned the importance of traditional curation through the majority of the exhibition, with an end twist of an anomalous room containing a collection of Kelley’s uncanny objects. These were named ‘Harems’ which is defined as ‘a fetish accumulation of objects which are generally alike in character’, Oxford Dictionaries. These were placed for the audience to question the purpose of the exhibition itself. Kelly explains that the presentation at first sight is a collection of organised objects which represents an experience of ‘repetition compulsion’. This term was created by Freud within the original essay to described a psychological encounter where an individual repeats a traumatic event. This combined with a conscious feeling of familiarity constructs an uncanny feeling. Through the exhibition the uncanny was produced through Harems and images related to the human body, resulting in the audience distrusting their own mortality.
I was directed to the work of Kelley to discover how to enhance the sense of surrealism and familiarity within my practice. My current project is also related heavily to the body which are the main influences throughout the uncanny experience. I am hoping to achieve an experiential outcome where the audience is interactive within observation and may not fully comprehend what the object is at first glance. Once the audience begins to understand the concept and message behind the work they may change their opinion of the aesthetics of the piece and begin to wonder which forms represent each body part. Kelly’s work can be rather disturbing and I am aiming for a more motivating response, however the sense of familiarity with both soft objects and body parts.
This week has been a mixture of good mistakes and successes which will drive through to my final outcome.
With my tutor I explained both the issues of texture and inks. Leigh agreed with the roughness of the fabrics and understood that I am looking to achieve a personal design vision where touch and interaction is crucial. Therefore, a change in material is needed, for both the larger black sections and the base fabric. There was a comment on the natural calico fabric as it has been ‘over used’ with products such as tote bags which means that there is already a cliché and personality attached to the aesthetic. The final fabric must be tactile in texture, flexible to be filled and have a colour which doesn’t announce itself to the viewer. Through discussion we arrived at using the wrong side of denim which is a washed blue in colour but both durable and soft to touch. This also runs alongside my concept of bringing the inside outwards and wrapping the body in a type of ‘clothing’. Denim will also provide an interesting base for strong vibrant colours, however if I am to use inks as a colour source they may need to be layered on top of whites to gain the full strength.
From this discussion I purchased a meter of denim and quartered fabrics of green, red and purple. This was to create a further long and sizable experiment to test inks and fabrics on the new surface. Through a swatch test I experimented with the quality of the line created by both quink and Indian inks. The two liquids didn’t blead into the weave and therefore I chose quink to use because of the softer feel once dry. These painted marks were then combined with appliqued black sections of coating material (similar to felt) and coloured appliqued fabric to recreate the previous experiments. A thicker line was added to the coloured shapes so as to connect to the inked lines. This was produced by sewing a running stitch to attach the fabrics, and then a double stitch for decorative purposes. Throughout this process I became clear of a number of improvements which would need to be resolved in the final outcome;
-The appliqued fabric needs to be felt as the original fabrics frayed at the edges as the shell was handled, ruining the quality of the shape and the longevity of the outcome.
-I need to produce each section of the piece separately and attach to create length. Originally I thought that I could cut a pattern from one piece of fabric, however because of the narrow joins the constructed shell is impossible to turn through. Within this experiment I had to cut the joining sections apart and reconstruct when the shells were stuffed. Fortunately, I have a matching thread which can be used to make the overstitching invisible. Stuffing, seams and matching patterns must also be considered here.
-The felt and denim is too thick when turning through a point. The sharpness of shape cannot be maintained even when the seam allowance is cut away.
-borders of quink ink were added (much like the calico experiment) and will need to be made thicker as the seam allowance lost the consistency of design.
-When the opening to fill the shell is small, the funnel and polystyrene balls become static meaning that they will not fall through the opening. The openings will need to be made bigger, and soft stuffing can be added at the ends of each shape to made the stitching easier.
The experiment did come with success. The black coating areas are tactile and are easy to handle through the sewing machine. The blue fabric and vibrant colours are complementary plus the ink matches the black sections appearing as a continuation.
Through a further tutorial today, questions of form and fluidity have arisen. The issue with the current experiment is that it could become an oversized cushion and take away from the seriousness of the subject. Therefore, I need to choose my colours wisely so as to promote the message rather than distract. A way to overcome this is to choose colours which represent the original image, for example flesh colours and yellows for fat, this will then lead the viewer to truth as my shapes may become too abstract to interpret. Also I need to rediscover the looseness of my brush marks to give a fluidity to the final outcome. This can be done through tracing the exact shapes on paper and transferring to fabrics.
Artist references to consider
Since the last experiment I have made valuable mistakes through testing a range of materials so as to find the optimum methods of combining ink patterns and colour within one outcome.
The first experiment was to use black quink ink and then add coloured Indian ink in the same manner as I have done previously. The quink ink was successful in the softness of the liquid once dry and didn’t blead out into the bare fabric. The issue occured when the colour was applied afterwards as when the black was wet the two colours would bleed together, ultimately affecting the quality of finish. To salvage the experiment, I painted black Indian ink over the damaged areas but this caused a change in the consistency of black colouring. The next experiment was to firstly paint the coloured Indian ink and then add the quink ink after the first layer had dried. This still led to a bleed in the edge and therefore was unsuitable.
As the coloured inks are proving difficult to use, I began to applique the coloured sections with fabrics. I used the same illustration as the previous experiment so as to make a direct comparison and to be time effective. This was a successful experiment as it added another layer of texture to the product whilst still keeping a tactile feel. The only issue is whether the fabric sections compliment the thick bold lines that the ink provides. I used a black stitch to attach the colours which has tied the aesthetic together, but could be improved by a thicker line. Also the image where coloured sections interact with the inked areas are more endearing as the image is not disconnected. These are technicalities to consider through the next stage of development as a stronger colour may be welcomed and framing of the more delicate in style.
This experiment was a complete learning curve which consisted of both successful and unsuccessful elements.
Firstly, the inks have produced a creative dilemma surrounding the stiffness of the fabric once the liquid has dried. When in banner form this was unnoticeable as the purpose of the outcome was to be looked at. However, this experiment is to be interacted with and therefore needs to be tactile and soft to the touch. Also due to the hard fabrics this gave an issue with stuffing the constructed shells as there was no movement meaning that intricate sections (which were also covered in ink) were creased and puckered. Initially I was filling the shapes with soft toy stuffing, but quickly moved to polystyrene beads found within bean bags. This allowed for more movement in the connecting shapes and ergonomic ease when being placed around the body. It was also more time effective as the beans could be poured into the shapes with a funnel. The beads are also in line with my concept, strengthening the idea of flow and constant change, but still inviting the audience to hug and feel the shapes. This is an element which is crucial to the success of the outcome as I want to build a comfort and close relationship between body and my abstract design.
When considering the ink issues it is clear that either I need to change the medium or the material so as to create the perfect match. The first change that I will make is to change the black Indian ink sections to quink ink which dries softer and within the fabric rather than sitting on top. Quink ink is only sold with the traditional black, blue, red and green colours so the colour sections will still need to be in Indian ink so as not to compromise my pallet choices. I could also explore silk painting, knitting or screen printing the patterns onto the fabric. This will all require testing and new skills to master to achieve my vision. Furthermore, I could also applique fabrics to create new textures alongside the ink mark makings.
Clarina Bezzola is a key reference for this exploration, in particular the project Inside Out Galerie Antie Wachs, Berlin, November 2005.
We are vessels filled with thoughts and feelings. Most of them we never become aware of because there’s no place for them in our rational minds. They seem childish, inappropriate and too strange. As years go by, we lose track of all those little voices. We shove them into the dark chambers of our unconscious and succumb to our social responsibilities.
In Inside-Out, I illustrate the tragedy of an individual losing connection with herself. The multitude of unacknowledged emotions has accumulated and grown into an unbearable burden. When the drama becomes intensified to the extent that even breathing becomes difficult, the protagonist gives up control and lets all seams burst. Songs of longing and sadness slip out along with fantastic creatures of all shapes and colors. Once all aspects of herself have been acknowledged and welcomed, any protective shield becomes unnecessary.
This performance is of visual interest as the artist has an intimate relationship with the concept and produces a dramatized performance. What is equally admirable is the individually created ‘insides’ which are sculpted through fabric and are all abstracted in a way which are recognizable as body parts even though the audience cannot name specifics. I am inspired by the intricacy of each body part and the quantity of production which contributed to the overwhelming and disturbing effect on the viewers. Although performance art is not the outcome I am looking to produce, I could replicate the still images in a campaign format to communicate the bodily interaction. I feel that the purpose of my sculptural work is not within fine art context, but something which could become more commercial and be a safe realization rather than a disturbing one. This is something to closely consider through the experimental stage.
Video link, still shots and blog of production