This week I have been looking at compositions and arrangements for my final outcome. I have trialled various groupings and concluded that a full square gives a greater impact than that of separate groups.
I have spent sometime researching and thinking about how to mount my blocks. I toyed with the idea of using plasterboard but concluded that the paper overlay could tear under the weight of the timber (it weighs 10lbs). I found some chipboard and carefully cut this to size.
As the photographs show, the edges of the board with the blocks on top look unfinished and do not fit together well. I contemplated painting the ends of the board white but I felt that this would still look unfinished and clumsy. I managed to make a very early trip to B&Q at 7am and found some thin plastic corner wrap to hook around the board edges and overlap the blocks by a few millimetres. I’ve carefully cut this and filed the corner edges and gave glued the first two down with Gorilla Glue as per instructions. I don’t have any clamps to help bond the materials, and so I’ve improvised with bricks. I will glue the other two edges after the first two have set so as not to move them out of place. After this, I can start to glue and place the blocks onto the board.
I’m constantly thinking about the overall neatness and getting the best professional outcome. I’m a little concerned about the joining edges of the plastic rim but will re-evaluate as I go.
After weeks of experimentation, I want to take the series of wooden blocks further to produce my final outcome. I felt that the collection I made as a prototype gave an interesting outcome that encapsulates the brief of connecting with the weathering of our environment and the rot and decay that is unseen daily.
The blocks give an architectural reference to the suburban environments I have photographed. The variety in length to each block, when grouped, give a push-pull of entice and repel to the viewer by using negative and positive space. I have cut the blocks longer and shorter than in the prototype to do this.
Creating this piece is time consuming due to not having ready access to materials or tools. Luckily I was able to borrow a circular saw to make short work of 9 meters of timber batons. However, just purchasing the timber and collecting the saw took a whole day.
Unfortunately I have had to sand down 206 blocks by hand as I cannot find any other way to do this at home. After painting each block various shades of grey, I have sanded them down again to show the grain underneath as the material is integral to the message of the piece. I have managed to sand around 100 of them but my hands started to blister and my arms were in some pain so I’ve stopped for a couple of days to recover.
Instead, I have been putting the acrylic paint transfers onto those blocks that have been sanded down and so far the outcomes have been as I expected. I’ve also been catching up on my sketchbook work to record my thoughts, research and progress.
I’m not sure how I’m going to display the blocks- I had an idea of glueing them onto a board in a group so that the outcome could be hung on the wall like an intrusive painting, protruding into a room. I’m going to continue to think about how to display them whilst I work on the blocks. It’s time consuming but I feel it’s coming together.
I’ve started considering how multiples of my blocks would look. I placed together several photocopies to gain a rough idea. Looking at the image reminded me of blocks of flats and saw the shadows cast by the differing heights. I wondered about changing the shapes of the blocks to become more geometric. I researched the patterns in nature, the seeming chaotic natural world breaks down into mathematical algorithms and equations. This links with my subject matter of the outside world- and boy, how this has changed! We now look at patterns of infection, patterns in graphs and charts of increasing or decreasing death counts. And the virus itself holds a microscopic physical shape…. there is meaning, instruction and reasoning behind its shape.
There have been many artists who have used geometric shapes in their work but I picked out Mary Martin and a lesser known artist, Louisa Boyd. Mary works with wood and mirror, casting shadows creating patterns within patterns. Louisa is fastidious and technically exact in her creations of folded paper and copper sheeting. I decided to try my own versions. The icosahedron worked especially well with more surfaces and angles. I immediately want to make enormous versions so that they become as intrusive as the microscopic virus we face.
I have been living in limbo for the past 2 weeks- preparing to work for the NHS again as ex-nurses are called back to help fight Coronavirus. It’s been emotional and exhausting wondering if I would be putting my family in danger if I caught the virus and brought it home. It’s left me unable to maintain creative thought and freedom of expression. However, time moves on and slowly, quietly, glimpses of ideas have started to form again.
I have reassessed the paving slab paintings and considered how to push this idea further. Placing the slabs together using the separate pieces to form one outcome led me to consider the physical disconnect of society and yet the spiritual togetherness we are experiencing. Life has become fragmented, fragile and uncertain. There are cracks in society like the crack between the slabs yet together the piece is stronger.
My artistic inspiration has come from Victor Pasmore and his suspended wooden blocks that defy gravity and invade the viewers space. It resonated with the intrusion of the virus and the feeling of unease during this time. I wondered how I could incorporate this in my project.
This gave me the idea to cut wooden blocks at different lengths. This is something that would have taken seconds in the 3D room, now took time, patience and much more time and physical effort at home with my handsaw. This is life now- we make do with what we have and more effort and patience is required.
I wanted to keep to my original brief and use the images I have taken but incorporate the disconnect and discourse of this historical event. The blocks are therefore not uniform in length. Each one was painted a shade of grey and after drying, sanded down, showing the grain underneath. I used a black and white print for an acrylic transfer onto the blocks which left the ghost like quality that has been thematic throughout my project.
Placing them together, I can see the beginning of something forming. I’m considering highlighting detail with pencil or maybe varnish. I want to create many more to increase the scale of piece and to give me more scope. I have run out of wood at home and so hope to be able to order some via B&Q.
Today I have worked on my paving slabs. I decided that I would place the slabs together and use them to create one image. I worked from a magnified photograph and built up thin layers using acrylic paint and I added a satin varnish to some of the paint effects. I’ve concentrated on colour palette too- mainly greys and peaches. I’ve also masked out areas to create, follow and extend linear aspects of the image.
I lay in bed last night thinking about how to connect my canvas to the outdoors. I had an idea to remove it from its frame and place the canvas in the garden to be open to the elements and see what happens to it. It is currently on the washing line and I plan to photograph it every day.
I managed to hunt down some spare paving slabs and bricks in the garden this morning. After scrubbing them and letting them dry I sealed them with pva glue and coated with gesso after. This left a lovely cracked like appearance on the concrete. I dampened down the harsh white by washing over with a thin pale burnt umber, wiping off any excess to give a slight tint. I’m going to let this really dry overnight before any further painting. I also worked on a canvas that I primed earlier in the week. This takes time for each layer to dry. I’m focusing on adding and removing paint- scraping back and applying thin layers at the moment to let the piece develop. It can be quite daunting and the process can be disheartening as it takes time to take shape and come together. I went for a walk at lunchtime and I thought about my projects relevance in today’s social distancing measures- we are all dodging each other on footpaths- walking in the gutters or close to walls in amongst the dirt and grime of the street.
Today was the first day that the kids were off school due to the Coronavirus. It’s been odd because all three of us (lily, Andy and myself) have all worked from home together. But it’s worked really well. Lily has been extremely disciplined and worked her school hours at her computer, I’ve had to help with a few tech issues here and there but she’s been amazing. That has allowed me to do some serious hours on my project. I’m feeling a little lost at the moment and a bit overwhelmed with trying to master oil paints and make them do what I want them to do! I’m at the stage where I think all my output is rubbish but I know that I just need to keep plodding and trying and pushing through. It will all come together in the end! (I hope!) I’ve got a lot of pictures today which show my sketchbook work so far. I hope it’s not too boring! I’m just going to make a list of tasks for tomorrow then get some dinner and settle down for the evening. I’ve been working with small scale hardboard and mini canvases so far, the last picture is of some larger canvases I primed with gesso today.
Today I will be continuing with my painting experiments on hardboard and the mini canvases. I’ve just applied the first coat of primer onto a large canvas I already had at home and am stretching and priming another. The acrylic hardboard paintings need to be softened as the paint was too think and I want more translucency to build up the layers…. so I’m off to the hardware shop later to buy some new sandpaper.