Hidden Life – Quarantine Project

Since the UK went under quarantine in march I began on a journey, much like all my fellow artists. Prior to quarantine I had been out of touch with making work for far too long, and now I am unable to go to my job I had no creative outlet. I needed to piece myself together a project to work on.

As Spring was blooming and underway by the time I began my daily walks I felt inspired. I was inspired by the sublime colours, arrangements, and textures I came across. From this I began with photography, working my mind to see the hidden beauty around me. Following that I imagined the potential with various natural objects I came across and what I could do them. While on my walks I would collect pieces of wood, branches, feathers, anything that sparked my interest. I had initially imagined trying to create an escape within these objects from this crazy new world I find myself in. I wanted to create scenes of magic and mystery within these objects, but I still didn’t have that spark of inspiration.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

*Snippets of my photography from my walks*

After a few weeks of jumping from idea to idea I felt I simply needed to to get going on something, anything in order to retrieve my inspiration and motivation again.

A big dilemma I stumbled upon was how I didn’t have access to any of the materials I’d usually use. This meant one of two things, I either had to create an innovative way to use these, or try out something new. I decided this was a perfect opportunity for me to learn a new skill. Recently I had been admiring the bold colours and details some artists had  achieved with polymer clay, as well as the imagination and creativity of artist fabricating new creatures.  The only past experience I had with polymer clay was fond memories playing as a child with a specific brand of it, Fimo. Researching into the material I found it was perfect for sculpting and you only need an ordinary oven to set it with, perfect.

I sourced some polymer clay and I just needed it to arrive so I could get stuck in. While I waited for the package I became aware of an activity people were partaking in. The public were collecting stones, decorating them and re-placing them for others to discover on their walks- an initiative to encourage hope and joy within communities.  I loved this idea and also it’s crossover into interventionary art. This lead me to think more about my local environment and the static objects within it. How Could I create accessible artwork for the public to view on their walks? I really feel in love with this idea, it can give me the chance to get my work out to the public, but also give something back to the public for them to enjoy while in this insecure time.

*Photos of our painted stones*

I have considered the contexts of my previous projects and how I could keep that in mind and develop from it. When going out I particularly enjoy the sight of tree stumps and how nature has continued to grow around it despite the decimation of the tree. I relish in how nature has given them a new lease of life with all sorts of plants and insects living among and within it. I would love to highlight and appreciate the skill nature has to give new life to something either we have damaged or simply passed naturally.

As I love to sculpt the delicate aesthetic most flowers have I want to trial sculpting imaginative plumage with a varying kind of life, almost personifying them. I want to do this to put more emphasis on the presence of life amongst nature.

I feel as though this is particularly needed during this lockdown as death has become a much more prominent subject among all of us. We could all do with a reminder of how much life there truly is and how beautiful it can be.

 

When researching for this project I have come across a lot of inspiring art. I discovered how artistic polymer clay could be through artists The Folky Fox , Linda Escaron Lundqvist, Cheryl Leeand Stephanie Kilgast.

 

Other inspiration I have for this project is the work of Tessa Farmerand her use of natural objects and insects to create enchanting scenes. The ceramics of Natalya Seva and Kelsey Stoddard, their inspiring technique when recreating forms and textures from nature. As well as Lauren Marx and Rebecca Stevenson with their delicacy and attention to detail.

Finally during this I am specifically inspired by the life flowers are given in the stories of Alice in Wonderland. I enjoy how these flowers are personified and given and new and creative lease of life. I am interested in not only personifying plants but also re imagining creatures that have a plant or flower like build to them, much like the orchid mantis or leaf insect.

 

Follow my Instagram for regular updates of this project

MelissaMayStudio

New Job : Foundry Worker

unnamed

In June  of 2019, I went in search for work. Within a couple weeks I found myself starting my first day at Milwyn Fine Art Casting Foundry, in West Molesey, Surrey. I was super excites to get stuck into learning new skills in a new environment. I began my work in learning fettling and metalwork. I found this work challenging and physically tough, I had previously done very little work in metal prior this so it was all learning for me. In this area I worked on de-shelling the casts, polishing, reworking textures and learning the basics of welding.  As much as I enjoyed this and learnt a lot, I found metalwork not to be my forte. I did this for approximately three weeks before I was moved into another section of the foundry.

My next stop was the wax room – here I found I not only enjoyed it but really shone through the skill. Due to having previously worked with wax  I had a  good understanding of the material and was able to adapt my skills to working with green casting wax.  Within the wax room my tasks consisted of painting hot wax into moulds, chasing seem lines, and reshaping anything that came out of it’s mould incorrectly. I later learned the swilling process, in which to thicken the waxes. This process also had me re-do any lost texture and finishing waxes for shelling. I truly got stuck into this job, and I feel it is the area I excel at the most.

After a few weeks I took a break from wax work while they tought me their mould making process. This was a fascinating process that I was so happy to learn, especially as I am now able to apply this knowledge into my own practice when mould making.

Now I have been working here for neearly a year I work almost solely on wax’s with some mould making on the side. It is always a pleasure coming into work, being trusted and guided in a professional buissness. I particularly enjoy having the pleasure to meet artists and contribute to the vast variety of works that come in the door at Milwyn.

93644586_669526783590848_6230178030845689856_n

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

No Fit State

On May 7th we all installed our end of year show at Asylum Chapel, London. The show was on from 8th-10th May with the private view on the evening of the 10th. I was super happy with how this show turned out. Not just for myself but for everyone involved. The curation worked really well with a collection of very successful pieces.

For this I was using my sculpture about Mother Nature I had made. It was very precarious and tricky to transport. I couldn’t put it in the van with everyone else’s, it simply wouldn’t survive.  So I had to provide my own transport for it. I found I wasn’t able to package it as anything touching the wax would rick breakages. So I simply had to have it sit level on a board and carry it on that. This was scary to do as any moment if it wasn’t level it could topple over; however, thankfully we were good at carrying it and this didn’t happen.

When it came to installation it was a bit on the spot. I had an idea of what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to achieve this. I wanted to have the work seem like it was emerging from the ground. I had brought some rock and gravel with me but I wasn’t keen on using it as I didn’t think the kind of gravel I had would look good. When I arrived in the space I had a wonderful surprise. The building itself was beautiful and fascinating. A chapel that is a few hundred or so years old, so many stories to tell. Because of the age of the building parts of it were crumbling; this was perfect for me as it meant there was lots of bits of broken stone and crumbly rock lying around. I got straight on collecting pieces from around the room and arranging them as a location installation. this worked beautifully for me and gave me the desired effect I was hoping for.

60219502_673828259718034_5484056561292673024_n

looking back on the exhibition I am super happy with what I achieved with it. The abandoned style location fit  perfectly for my work and the themes I was exploring. It triggered me to think about location in the future for my work and how abandoned style location marry very well with my themes of death, nature the relationship between humans and nature. abandoned building and how they are decaying, falling apart and being taken over by nature is almost like an architectural approach to my ideas and would back up the work and help give it the feel and experience for the viewer that I am looking for.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mother Nature Sculpture

After making the silicone skin torso cast I went further to turn this into a larger scale sculpture. Being based around the idea of Mother Nature and what I have written about in the previous post. The cast began as simply an experiment, but when I dove further into my research I saw what I really could make it into.

I wanted this cast to be stood up straight, however, this was trickier than I had imagined. But still doable! I made a wooden base for it to stand on and drilled in some wooden dowels to go through the wood and into the thickest park of the plaster at the bottom. To steady I used a wooden plant holding it up at the back. This was an extremely nerve wracking process, I was so sure the plaster would crack and crumble and the whole thing would fall at any moment. Thankfully it did not! I quickly got to work with securing it at the base with plaster. I wanted the cast to be coming our of a bed of rocks, emerging from the ground. So I used clumps of dried plaster to create a replica of rock formation and texture, then simply painted it. this covered the whole base board and most of the back support board.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As the context of this work is Mother Nature, I wanted the body form to be overcome by flowers and foliage. The female form to be creating new life from her existence. I decided to use this as a development from my most recent wax works. Taking on the form of delicate hand sculpted wax foliage. Within this I made a mixture of mushrooms, flowers, buds and vines. This was all really fun, tricky and exhausting to make. A first major challenge I came across was that the sculpted wax pieces didn’t tick directly to the plaster. The two materials just didn’t like each other. to tackle this I found pressing on a warm mush layer of wax onto the plaster first did stick and meant the sculpted pieces would stick to the piece, as wax sticks to wax, but clearly not plaster.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The next stage of this was the final stage. I had designed the plaster so it had a couple cavities in it where I’d planned to make more resin crystals and put these in so they ‘grew’ out of the rock. I reused the silicone moulds I had used before and these fit into the rock really nicely.. I had planned on trying to make it look like crystal was growing inside the rock, this worked perfectly in my head. However when I tried to do it, it didn’t turn out at all how I imagined. To the extent I decided to leave out some of the idea I had as it simply wasn’t working. I did pour some resin into the cavities I had made in the plaster but it simply wasn’t visible. I’m not sure whether this was because I was adding the wrong colours to the resin and made it too dark or the rock itself was painted too dark and it would never work on this piece. I think it is something I could experiment with to see if I really can make it successful.

After many hours and weeks of work it was finally done and ready for install. It became an extremely delicate and heavy piece of work, two things which shouldn’t go together. But wheres the fun in making things easy for yourself? I was really chuffed with the piece, not all of it went to plan but I was happy with it nonetheless.

Mother Nature and Us

After looking at my research I have been particularly inspired within the subject of mother nature and her being a living spirit within our natural world. From it I have thought about particular ideas, theories and beliefs. I have thought about themes of regeneration, Gods within religions and, our economy and how we treat and respond to nature, feminism and spirituality. Exploring these has come to a collection of thoughts.

The idea of there being one mother of our planet derives from many things. Despite how different the cultures are around the world there usually seems to be a common theme of us connecting nature with femininity. In his book, The Rebirth of Nature, Rupert Sheldrake states that…

“The very words for nature in European languages are feminine – for example phusis in Greek, natura in Latin, la nature in French, die Natur in German. The Latin word for natura literally meant ‘birth’. The Greek word phusis came from the root phu – whose primary meaning also connected with birth. Thus, our words ‘physics’ and ‘physical, like ‘nature’ and ‘natural’, have their origins in the mothering process.”

This says a lot about our thinking towards nature and how we naturally view it as feminine; how the words are also connected to birth and mothering is an example of why we behave toward nature as not only feminine but also as a birth giver of the earth. In history some of the oldest and iconic cultures that worshiped gods, there was always a female mother and life giver within nature. She has been referred to with many names, some being Gaia, Maria Lionza and Terra Mater. These gods being the ultimate mother of the earth, Goddess of the sun, earth and the heavens, nature, time, love and birth. Usually, Gods of nature are shown as female, however, within several religions there is a sculpture of a god called the Green Man which crops up on churches. The Green Man is the god of death and rebirth. Personally, I do not see this as fitting as it is a female that gives birth, so, birth should be associated with a female. However, maybe that is because I have been brought up with that stereotype and I have grown to believe this. Despite that it is unusual for a male to be a symbol of it when in so many other religions it iis always female.

gaia relief
Greek carving of Gaia

 

Various carvings of The Green Man

Thinking about this, it interests me how and why there is such a strong connection between nature and femininity. For example, flowers are usually seen as feminine, stereo typically a gift for a female partner or mother, and sometimes even a symbol of the vagina, like how the paintings of Georgia O’Keefe are viewed. The use of female genitalia and reproductive systems being represented within nature isn’t uncommon. As mother nature is often referred to as the birth giver of life. The womb is used as a symbol, seen not only as a life giver but a place to which we return to at death. We respond to this idea at the very beginning of life and right at the end. In some parts of the world when a baby is born it is placed on the ground for a short time to represent its birth from the earth’s womb. In death many people prefer to be buried in the land which they were born so they can return to their earthly womb. Many people and some religions believe a cave is a perfect symbol for the womb of the earth; some felt so strongly of this that they would build their own caves to bury the dead. In the book The Rebirth of Nature, Rupert Sheldrake speaks of when Erasmus Darwin ventured into the Blu John caves in Derbyshire, England, and saying this about them,

‘I have seen the goddess of minerals naked as she lay in her inmost bower’, ‘I have been into the bowels of old Mother Earth, and seen wonders’.

This interests me as he compares the caves to mother nature, almost in a seductive way. I feel speaking about mother nature in this way and viewing nature as female emphasizes gender roles and stereotypes. Embedding the idea into our beliefs and culture that a woman’s role in society and life is to create life and be a mother. This is a problem in modern society as women have more rights and opportunities than ever before and less women want for children. When women are expected to bear children there creates an expectation and pressure of women that want other things from life. This can then coincide with the mistreatment of the earth and how humans try to control the earth. Throughout history women have been overpowered and controlled by men. As Nature is viewed as female this same concept of overpowerment can be reflected onto the earth and how we treat it. Humans believe they are the most powerful living thing on earth; due to this we feel we own the earth and have control over it. We do as we please with it, regardless of the consequences. This is a very damaging and toxic way of living. Just like it was for women it is no better for our earth.

 

A selection of paintings by Georgia O’Keefe

Many artists reflect this damaging way of living within their work. Lauren Fenterstock and Roxy Paine both discuss the subject of control within their practice. Lauren Fenterstock talks about the concept of a garden and its relationship with humans. How gardening can be a manipulation of nature, creating it into our own image. Getting rid of plants we don’t want and forcing things to grow, purely for aesthetic. Roxy Pain talks further of this when saying that control is an illusion, it ‘is a humanly constructed concept’. We as humans think we are the higher power, we think we can control life and the earth around us; in reality it has its own cycle and way of working that we can never comprehend or control. Then within the work of Kate MacDowell she talks about the relationship between people and the earth. It is romanticized that we can be spiritually connected with the earth in such a way as we currently live, our society is so destructive and toxic towards the earth. We destroy our home and threaten our species.

 

Work by Lauren Fenterstock

 

Work by Roxy Paine

 

Work by Kate MacDowell

Over many centuries, there has been an ongoing battle between nature and humans. Humans trying to overpower and control everything. Science genetically changing the genetics of plants and animals; destroying our ecosystem for our own benefit and gain. We over populate which causes us to need to manipulate how much the earth provides. We create life in a way that over complicates the circle of life and how it functions. However, if we flipped our ideals and societal way of living to a more natural one it would benefit both us and our home. If we worked in harmony with the earth connecting our souls and our being with the Earth, we can live more peacefully. we could use our minds and bodies to connect with nature and its energies, and have stronger, happier souls and healthier bodies. We wouldn’t be contaminated with constant diseases and mutations. We would be more at one with ourselves, our earth and the spirits that live among us.

In a statement written by Tyler Thrasher he talks about his relationship to nature. He says…

‘Most of my time is spent exploring, reacting to and prodding nature. Taking any chance I can get to hike, look for caves, find rare plants, dance alongside the fundamental principles of molecular chemistry and following every single itch.’

 

Work by Tyler Thrasher

This bodily and spiritual connectivity to the earth fascinates me and could be a goal for us all to have a similar down to earth connection to our home. Despite that, within his practice he still holds a sense of control over nature. Bending nature, creating and using it for things it wouldn’t necessarily naturally do. However, all of this does lead me to question is it wrong or not to bend nature to create something for our own gain? Is it wrong to have a control over nature when we are creating and nurturing life within plants?

 

 

Work Experience In Spain

Arrival…

On 21st April I flew into Seville Aiport in Spain. Aisling’s house is in a village in the Spanish mountains called, Jubrique, this village is very remote. Just like everywhere in these mountains just getting there is an adventure in itself. From the car rental place it took two and half hours to get to our apartment in the village. Stopping at a supermarket in the village just before it; the only supermarket in approximately a one-hour radius of where we were staying. After arriving Aisling showed us around the village and took us to a bar there telling us about the village and discussing life, her practice, my work and what we might be doing throughout the week.

Day One…

Aisling met us at the hotel after breakfast and drove up the dirt track to her family’s house on the mountain side. She showed us around her house, specifically her studio and workshop. In her workshop she had a selection of wax pieces to be cast into bronze and some sculptures she had made. She talked about how she used to use a lot of polystyrene balls in her work. But as they’re not environmentally friendly she found that in the mountains she has a lot of natural cork from the trees readily available that gives a similar effect to the polystyrene. She showed us her experiments and sculptures she had made using the more natural material which gave a beautiful structure and texture in the plaster.  In her studio she talked me through her large-scale drawings she’d done on plaster board. She had observed the geometric but natural textures and shapes within plants in her environment there and used bright colours to create these drawings. She spoke about how in the past she had combined drawing and sculpture within her practice and wanted to return to this in a new way using these drawings. This is where our first task and experiment came in.

Aisling had made a maquette of the idea she had but didn’t know if it would work with the plaster board. Using paper, she had made a twisted cuboid shape and poured plaster in and wanted to replicate this on a larger scale with a drawing. As she was unsure of the success we would have she didn’t want to cut up a drawing she was happy with and put a lot of effort into. So, we went ahead with a rough, unfinished and unset drawing that she wasn’t so precious about. We did some calculation and cut it into eight triangles, each with a base length of thirty centimeters. Once these were cut, we spent some time figuring out how to fix them all together while getting the angles correct. This turned out to be much trickier than originally anticipated. We decided to just roughly fix them in place just to see if the shape and structure would actually work. So, we screwed them together using metal angle beading, used for cornering walls during plastering. This meant the structure was very precarious until we added in strengthening materials and the screws could be pulled out without too much pull or pressure. Despite that, we decided to leave it at that for the day as it was getting into the evening. We hoped it didn’t collapse on itself over night!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day Two…

We first joined Aishling at her yoga class then after lunch got back to work. Before we continued with the sculpture from the previous day we talked about theory within our work, how the body is prevalent in mine and how it used to be in hers. She talked to me about the Alexander Method. An old way of teaching posture and a positive way to stand and lie down which benefits your body. This was interesting to hear about, especially when it comes to your body and your posture whilst creating sculpture. We then continued on the plaster board structure we had made the previous day. Working today on strengthening the structure. We had to move it outside as we were going to use plaster on it and Aisling doesn’t like doing this is the studio. We were very nervous to move it even the slightest as too much movement, especially in the joins would pull the screws out of place and potentially dislodge the whole shape of the structure. After repairing it a little in the studio we successfully moved it outside without any breakages. From here we needed to make it a strong structure. We planned to fill the inside with plaster and scrim but there were wide gaps along the top and bottom. To fix this I filled it with expanding foam, just as a filler to make the next step easier. Aisling wasn’t best pleased about having to use it because of the environmental impact of using this material, but she struggled to find something that would work better, quicker and that she had easy access to. This is especially a big deal out in the mountains as getting materials and resources isn’t easy in the slightest. Shops for more specific materials are in the bigger towns and cities and the closest ones can be one and a half hour to two hour drive away. So, you have to plan ahead and make sure you’ve always got the right materials for the jobs you will potentially want to do.

Once the expanding foam was set, we got on with the plaster work inside the structure. For this Aisling uses a different kind of scrim than here in England. It is made from local grass simply dried out and bound together in a roll. I fell in love with this material as it was so much easier and quicker to use than the wide mesh scrim sold in England. You simply pull it apart, soak it in the plaster and slap it on wherever needed. I would choose this over the artificial manufactured scrim here any day. Laying the sculpture down we  worked from each end, meeting in the middle and turning it to get every angle. When we got every angle, we left it to set and called it a day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Day Three…

for today we had made specific plans to do wax work in the morning then drive out into the mountains to do drawing and then visit a cave that we’d booked. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t good enough to sit outside and draw so it gave us extra time on the wax before heading out to Cueva de la Pileta. Before I had arrived in Spain Aisling had been working on experimenting in various techniques with green winter wax, creating different shapes to be later turned into bronze. She had picked up a small extrusion pen initially designed for clay. However, she’d repurposed it for wax, trying out the different shapes it came with. We began with a tear drop shape. This was a fun experiment as throughout it we learned how to create the perfect temperature in the wax for it to come of smooth and straight; just before it completely cools. When the wax is still fairly warm it comes out grainy and mushy, not picking up the shape or being straight. We tried this a few times with this shape and another. Making straight tear drop and twisted ribbon.

We then got ourselves together to take the drive further into the mountains to the cave. This was incredibly fascinating. Being discovered in 1905 by a farmer, now still owned by the same family. Inside it had cave paintings dating back as far as thirty-two thousand BC. It was also filled with stunning stalagmites and stalactites, some being chipped or broken open you were able to see beautiful crystal inside the rock.  We were on the tour for nearly two hours and it was an overwhelmingly powerful experience. The spectacular rock having been formed for hundreds of thousands of years and a sublime spiritual energy and awe you feel inside the cave. I felt very lucky to experience it. Visiting this cave, I realized that not only inside but also the stunning rock formations outside, surrounding the cave was a great source of visual research and inspiration for me within my practice. To be able to see the varying ground among the land in person gave my mind a wealth of ideas and knowledge for the reality of the geology of the land.

I was limited with taking pictures inside the cave due to cameras and the use of phones negatively affecting the bats that lived inside.

 

Day Four…

On my final day working with Aisling we had originally discussed making a fiberglass mould she’d been wanting to make. However, when I arrived, she had realized not only that it would be more than a one-day job but also she wasn’t sure she had all the materials to hand that we would need for it. Instead of this we played around with mould making and using pigment in plaster. Aisling had wanted to try making a plaster two-piece mould of a hand-blown glass droplet she had and two glass beads. While making the mould I learned how to measure and cut out a moulding box and also a little trick with creating the key locator within the mould; to simply scrape it out using the edge of a coin and slowly twisting it into the damp plaster. Unfortunately, we thought we had finished the mould perfectly, but found the beads had come dislodged in the wet plaster while  making the second half which meant the plaster seeped underneath them and damaged the surface of the first part. Luckily the beads were stuck in the second half of the mould so to remake the first half we knew this problem wouldn’t happen again. When we had successfully made the two-piece mould, we went ahead with melting the green winter wax to pour inside the mould. This is where it became even trickier. The space in which we were pouring the wax into was very thin. Very little wax went into the space at one time which meant it cooled very quickly, especially being surrounded by cold plaster. We did several attempts, the beads eventually worked but the droplet would not. So, we decided to scrape out the top half of the droplet so the wax would have a wider space to fall down and wouldn’t cool so quickly and hopefully would fill it out. On the first attempt after editing the mould it worked perfectly. The droplet filled nicely. Unfortunately, it was at the sacrifice of the length of the droplet. But we were just glad we got it to work.

When It came to the beads though, we found that on one side of the  mould it had been contaminated and didn’t pick up the faceted shape smoothly enough and had an odd texture. This meant the mould for this was permanently damaged and unusable. Aisling did say she ideally would have liked to have done the mould in silicone, but she didn’t have any to hand and getting some would take several hours of driving. So, we had to make do with experimenting with plaster.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As well as experimenting with wax aisling had a 3D map of the mountains she wanted to pour plaster in, playing with pigments in the plaster. This was an entertaining experiment. First boxing in the map upside down so the plaster wouldn’t spill out. We added pigments such as ochre and red ochre, this was because they were the pigments used in the cave paintings we saw the day before; we saw this as prominent not just because we had just seen these historic paintings but also because we were casting the map of the area which these pigments are sourced. There was no specific plan for the composition or colours within this experiment, this was half the fun. Just adding pigment and pouring it in, deciding in the moment. Not mixing it by hand just letting it go wherever it naturally would, just having fun with it. It was great fun and exciting watching the colours marble among each other. Once we were happy with the colour, we added plaster on the back to thicken and strengthen it. In this we also used the scrim we had used earlier in the week.  When taking this out it was really exciting, seeing the swirling and marbled colour, the shape and contours of the mountains. A fun representation of where we were and final piece to show off my experience there.

This experience felt like a once in a life time. It didn’t even feel like work, I learned so much, about sculpture, selling yourself and your work. The experience really fed my mind. I got a wealth of inspiration on what I can potentially make and how. The land was incredibly inspiring and felt beautiful being there. A refreshing experience where both me and Aishling learnt so much and I am incredibly grateful to her to have been able to make the experience possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Silicone Skin

During a research trip around London we visited the the exhibition Hyper Mesh at Assembly point. This was a really interesting mix of artists, materials and composition. One particular piece by Fleuryfontaine brought up a conversation point about use of materials, specifically silicone. Ban, 2018; made from silicone tinted with pigments, got me thinking about how I could potentially use this material in my own work. Talking initially how silicone can be a good replication of skin. Later on, back at home I thought of using silicone with paint and putting it into a body cast to create the perfectly textured skin cast. On a whim I experiment with this idea to see if and how well it would work mixing paint and silicone then pushing it into a cast.

fleuryfontaine Ban

Fleuryfontaine, Ban, 2018.  -Hyper Mesh, 2019

After making a quick alginate hand cast of just my palm I went ahead with mixing up the colour and adding it to the silicone. The mixing went smoothly and nothing abnormal happened, except maybe a thickening of the silicone. When applying it to the cast it became a lot trickier. As alginate is wet when you use it the silicone didn’t like this and wouldn’t stick to the surface. It very quickly became a battle between me, the alginate and the silicone. After persistence, patience and being very careful with the application it did all stick down and stay down on the cast. now it was just a matter of how well it would cure and pick up the texture in the cast. It didn’t take long to find this out. It cured very quickly ans taking it out showed how well it picked up all the details. This gave me the say so that future, more ambitious work with this method would also work.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A little while after doing this experiment I dove straight in with a full torso body cast. Managing to keep the alginate wet enough to keep its shape throughout the week; I spent the next few days painting in the silicone to the cast. This was a very slow process as I was using clear silicone from a tube and I could only mix up a small amount at a time and I had to carefully wipe it onto the surface of the alginate. An issue which made this process a little more complicated was being able to get the colours right and match up and blend with each other each time I applied. I had to mix up the skin colour I wanted, then mixing it with the silicone turned it more orange than I would have liked but once applying it I couldn’t drastically change the colour so I had to flow with it. Despite that, I feel it worked out well, it just means the body is quite tanned. To make sure this was more than just a floppy piece of silicone skin I stuck in some wooden planks along the inside of the cast and filled it with plaster so it is a strong structure.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Artist Assistant for the Day

In february of this year I spent the day working with artsist Liane Lang.  Her most recent project is preparing an installation to go in a gallery in Paris. For this she is responding to a painting famous for being in that specific gallery. To do this she has made an arrangement of face casts, feet and hand casts. Each one completely original and showing a character of that person. It was really interesting talking to her about the different people she had cast. Each one had a little story about the person to go behind it. There was the couple that had been together for years and are still the happiest and so in love. There was the father and three children, here she learned she’d never want to cast such young children again as she couldn’t feel comfortable with knowing how safe the child felt.

While spending the day with her I began with helping her touch up the backs of casts shed done as some of them had unsightly fixings and bits of filler. While doing this we talked a lot about art, artists, my own art and her art and practice. She gave me a lot of advice and helped me with queries about my own processes and going forward as an artist. We talked about how I can go about creating a bronze brain and altering the size of it creating it accurately. We also talked about routes I could take for work. Recommending places like prop making businesses and resound.

After Liane was happy with her casts, we went on to do some body casting. She wanted to cast my face and my feet. While chatting I talked about my methods when it comes to casting. Specifically, I talked about when I mix alginate, I found that using a whisk is much easier as it gets all the lumps and creates a smoother consistency of the alginate which is much better for getting all the details and no lumps when casting. Liane really liked this idea and was excited to try it out when casting me.  We first cast my feet which was pretty straight forward, and she only wanted the soles of my feet. Afterwards we prepared for casting my face. We discussed how I would hold my face for it. We decided I would scrunch my face with my mouth sticking out; based on the fact it would be completely different to all the others as no one else had their face scrunched in that way. This went really well and having my face cast taught me a lot about the best way to cast someone else. Normally when I’m casting a face it gets tricky around the nose. Everyone does it completely different. However, to get all the details Liane used a trick. She purposefully puts some alginate up the nose them holds the other nostril and I had to blow out my nose and it removes all the alginate from where I need to breathe without loosing any detail from the mould. This I would definitely use in future casting.

Overall it was a brilliant day where I learnt a lot, tought her something and had interesting and helpful conversation, I am very grateful for being able to work with her for even just a day.

The Mind in Bronze

This term we had booked in to do a bronze casting workshop. To learn the process, do it ourselves and have final work to show for it. This was so exciting for me as I have been wanting to do it for so long, wanting to get stuck into the process and make my ideas a reality. However, it seems this might not pan out the way we all would have liked as it has been postponed for a undefined amount of time due to technicians no longer being available. So I will hold tight and hold onto my idea and plan. Despite this I thought I would still write about my ideas, research behind it and the prep I began.

Through research, personal experience and thinking about how to develop my work, where to go next with it I got my perfect idea and got excited to follow through. I decided I wanted to make an brain with ‘beautiful’ plants growing out of it on one side and the other side looking tainted and toxic.

I first began thinking of the early stages of this idea when reflecting on my own personal experience. Thinking about overcoming past trauma and toxicity. Creating a new state of mind and growing new beauty from past negativity. Choosing to represent this growth with beauty growing from the brain while killing of old ways of thinking about the past. For researching this work I looked at numerous things. I began by looking at artists, particularly, Aisling Hedgecock for her bronze pieces and how she creates natural delicate forms out of such a strong and durable material, I also really liked how the strength of bronze can represent the resilience of our minds and strength to over come things that may taint it. Looking at Aisling’s work and other artists works made from bronze made me realize how much I wanted to make with this material. For this I also looked at the work of Kate Macdowell, how she creates delicate sculptures of organs and body parts with nature living and growing around them; to represent how we live in unity with the living world around us but how our day to day lives contradict this ideal. When learning about the process of lost wax bronze casting I have been keeping up to date with the Instagram page of Mckinney Fine Art foundry. This turned out to be a plethora of information about this subject as they document each and every stage of the casting process. Here is also where I got the idea of how to go ahead with my own bronze cast.

Aisling Hedgecock, bronze sculptures

 

Kate Mcdowell, porcelain sculptures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When it came to how I would go about this technically I thought about maybe casting a real brain rather than making one, however, this seemed complicated as not only getting hold of one would be difficult but thinking about the consistency of a brain I would come across a major problem as it wouldn’t keep it’s shape for a mould. So I thought about actually making my own. I found a good way to do this could be to get it 3D printed. While looking this up I found a pre-made template on the website Thingiverse, for a print that is from an MRI scan of someones brain turned into a model to be 3D printed. I was lucky enough to have someone print this model for me as they work at E3D-Online, a 3D printing company that specialize in manufacturing printer parts. We figured out that due to the complex shape of the brain, when it comes to 3D printing it would be best to print in two halves and stick them together. I was very lucky to be able to have this printed on an upmarket printer which meant the print quality is very accurate. After three failed prints and about four days of printing It was ready to move onto the next stage.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Once I’d glued the two pieces together and brought it into the workshop I wanted to make a silicone mould of it so I could turn it into wax for the bronze as well as other materials. however, if i made a mould straight from the print the silicone would pick up all the layer lines within the print which would correspond into any further material. To avert this I simply coated the brain in a thin layer of wax. This, unfortunately is where my work came to a halt. I had done all the prep for the silicone mould  when the technician was no longer available and this whole process has been paused. When I can, I still want to continue this process and produce this in bronze. In the mean time though I have to crack on with other work and will pick this up at a later date.

Final Wax Pieces – Crit Show

Now that Id made the main casts and the crystals were ready I now had to work on how I would fit the two together. I puzzled over this for a while, what material to use, how to use it, how to arrange the crystals. I puzzled over this right up until I took everything into the workshop. Despite this, once I got in I thought to simply just use wax. Keep it simple and if i just used wax I wouldn’t have to worry about blending in the material.

After smoothing down the sharper edges of the crystals I thought through how to arrange them. Rather than splitting up the sets of colour I thought each piece could have a colour scheme. Without intention I realized the colours I had put into the wax coordinated with the colours in the crystals. This made creating them together a lot easier.

 

 

52890289_868106743359812_8380666811628126208_n

I was very happy to have finished these pieces, right in time for set up of the crit show. I ended up not using all of the crystals I had made as I didn’t want to use them just for the sake of it. I wanted the composition of them to be original for each piece so each one wasn’t just a  copy of the last. Using wax to join the crystals on worked really well for me I could get a clean strong join as well as creating more of a rough texture in the wax to make a rock like feel in between crystal and body.

How to install these pieces proved tricky. As they don’t have a base, they are a full all around 3D sculpture they either had to be hung or laid on top of something. I was able to source a glass cabinet which I thought would be good as they could sit inside and be viewed from every angle as intended. When thinking about how to install them inside the cabinet I had the idea to use needles. I thought of this because of the medical representation of them. How they are used in illnesses, death and healing. As the wax pieces themselves are about death into new life I thought about illness in relation to death. how needles are used and my own personal experiences with having to have many an injection, cannula, blood draw and even a lumbar puncture due to various illnesses. This made me think of the discomfort, pain and distress they all put me under; particularly as I used to be needle-phobic. Because of this I thought having my wax pieces balanced on needles would bring an interesting topic to the work. Especially as seeing the needles poking into the body parts would bring a certain amount of unease for the viewer. Exploring the idea that as much as the context of death into new life and regeneration can be a beautiful topic; death however in reality is not visually or emotionally beautiful. The needles attempting to touch on the harsher realities of life and death.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was pleased with how the crit show went, I got some interesting feedback to work on next. One particular thing people picked up on and I agreed on was the needles. I had in fact used hat pins and sewing pins for the work as I wasn’t able to source any kind of surgical needles for it. This was picked up on and took away from the medical aspect I was trying to achieve. If I use needles again in my work I will definitely make sure to get surgical needles for it. Another important aspect about the installation of the work that was picked up on was the glass cabinet. Having it displayed in a glass cabinet like this makes it look scientific, as though it is in a museum. This i am undecided whether it is a negative or a positive for the work. As well as this the back panel of the cabinet is frosted glass, because of this I had it pushed up against the wall. I feel this lets the work down as it needs to be viewed from every angle but having frosted glass limits the angles you can see it from. If it wasn’t frosted I would have had it away from the wall in the middle of the room.

Throughout the crit It was very interesting hearing people’s interpretations of the work. The needles definitely made people uncomfortable and anxious with them poking into the body parts. A strong sense of beauty and that beauty is inside and out was discussed and the pins bringing in a harsh reality of life. My exact intentions were not realized straight away so it was fascinating listening to how the work made people feel and think about.