The Spatial Box
In this second attempt I will try to work out a sculptural painting as a reflection or better documentation of my object-box experience. A sense of displacement and spatial expansion. One main point that I am going to tackle here is my obsession of holding onto the box and the objects. Staying aside of me, unfolded, and being uncertain what to make with them, as throwing away would be not ‘fair’, my obsession seeking a painterly ending. I would need to take it out and to incorporate into a new work, a work that can release itself into space.
Inspired by my travel life and initial object-box performance of opening the box and a step by step removal of objects, a spatial and temporal displacement.
Question on how to paint, paint in order to make each object ‘exciting’ or to paint over and across to disguise? Or to pour over with paint, to disguise in an archeological sense making the collection as such useless, another dysfunction? Taken some references to Candice Lin A Hard White Body from the project Performing Objects (Enough Room for Space, 2017), where she ‘invokes histories of exoticism, virology and global trade’.
Idea #1: The Flexible Wall-Box
Initially, I started with a suitcase, I replaced it by a ready-made packaging box, and eventually found it a good idea to make also a replacement item for the box (Fig 1), cardboard replaced by canvas – bringing it back to origin of painting. The incremental dysfunctional appeal makes the box quite ‘useless’.(how to fold and keep it stable?).
The left one moved into my ‘Collage Combine‘ and the right one led me inspired for a more wall-based painting sculpture (Fig. 2), kind of merging the flat canvas and the spatial box together in a new work.
Fabric Wall Box #1
=> a quite loose and rather intuitive approach to placing rather than arranging. Objects that intrigued me, and items still left on my work-table, in my object-box (as many already moved into other works). Things seeking a home, establishing new relationships. Reminding me of my own relocation experience, more than once, moving to another place, new relationships.
Derived ideas and questions:
- Possibly some reference to John Latham, especially Belief System, 1959 or Great Noit, 1963. He expressed that for him all artworks are ‘events’ (Lisson Gallery). In that sense my sculptural painting could be considered as an ‘event’, probably as a memorial event of past actions.
- A question of frame and boundaries. The item at the bottom as a spatial expansion.
- A question of how to see the canvas: a painted canvas as object, or as a painted object. Overall, a still-life that only makes deferred reference to process and actions.
- A question wether this work could related to ‘useful’ or ‘useless’, or just a work speaking for itself?
- A very random assemblage that most likely would trigger all sorts of imaginations. But also a reduction of context. How far to reduce? Or how far to condense, i.e. bringing multiple objects, fragments into one place?
The box in transition from an objects, the canvas overthrowing its existence as a mere support. The assemblage of objects as an indexical memory, but also as an iconic work in context of fetishism. And about how we establish relationships, objects as subjects?
As Marx stated once:
“Could commodities themselves speak, they would say: Our use value may be a thing that interests men. It is no part of us as objects.” – Karl Marx, 1867
Objects do have a reason to be, a life in itself. We as humans just need to build a relationship with them, our attention to them is driven by desire and fascination for its own sake. I hope that my some of my works can address the process of raising awareness. Objects will speak for themselves – the more dysfunctional the better.
Trying to appropriate the fabric wall installation with a cardboard, painted, collaged with objects, folding and stepping on it, unfolding, installing (Fig. 3). An ‘event’ and happening, my physical engagement being present, what is left are traces and indexical signs of my actions, a visual result of action painting with objects, letting them speak.
Action Wall Box
Eventually, I revisited my ‘fabric wall box’ once again (Fig. 4). Re-arranging, objects moving inside the frame, a difference in expression and sense making.
Fabric Wall Box #2
I decided to leave the two ideas or concepts Fabric Wall Box #2 and Action Wall Box aside and as they are in their own expression and existence and to move on with my thoughts of archive and display, a thought that bothered my already in my other approach of Object-Box.
Idea #2: The Preservation Box
From my previous approaches the question came up whether the objects and the box are a reflection or action of conservation or preservation in an archaeological sense? Looking up the difference (Museum of Ontario Archeology): conservation = hands-on, preservation = non-invasive. My approach might be seen more in the sense of preservation, keeping human impact away from destruction, what in the case of packaging materials seems quite contradictive, With some inspiration from Candice Lin’s A Hard White Body, 2017 I worked on various assemblages to protect, to preserve or rather to encapsulate the objects as relics. What disguises them as well and resulting in a different, very textured work (Fig. 5)
I used the ready-mades packaging things that I used for my initial object-box (those still left) plus some spare items I collected aside. The arrangement was rather randomly, and I responded to what I could see was happening in front of me. Working on a table with a primed, still wet, paper.
Derived ideas and questions:
- Kind of archeological preservation, past memories of my interrogation with my initial object-box. How can this add meaning to the subject?
- Through the encapsulation and concealing of certain features of the items with paint, the entire work becomes a new object. A new skin, something to collect, preserved for the future, and possibly to move around as such. Before, I was wondering how fragile my works would be and that those were rather temporal works, e.g. the cut-out collages. Here, I fond possible way to keep them.
- The paint is layering and embedding the items, it also can be seen as contaminating action. Kind of covering with dust, e.g. reminiscence to ancient places as Pompei, buried after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. One could see the ‘burial’ also as the impact of bad biodegredablity of plastic packaging materials I used.
- As I used paper I am wondering how it would change if I use perspex as background. Inspired by my earlier experiments with installation of objects in space and the multiple perspectives, this might add a new dimension of looking at or partly looking through. Not completely covering and concealing but a space of visible and invisible information.
Concealing and covering of objects in a sense of anthropological study of human relationship with mundane, neglected objects. Also as the metamorphosis and transformation of things into new objects. The viewer could try to discern individual features or items. The aesthetic appeal of the new ‘artworks’ could be seen as items in an archive, to store and to revisit after some time. Objects void of initial function or use. We use them as our memories.
Development of varieties (slider):
The items no.4 and no.5 are made with air filled plastic box stuffing, adding an appeal of ‘please touch’ (some reminiscence to Duchamp’s ‘Prière de toucher‘ , 1947)
I liked the concealing effect of paint, uniforming objects that seem to be rather isolated. Paint defers meaning, makes objects into an archive of found items. Each piece could be possibly seen as an imprint of an action or event. Possibly as a topology and anthropological investigations, reminding me once more of Mark Dion and his work Tate Thames Dig, 1999 – a drawer cabinet build and organised with each drawer a presentation of collected objects, placed in order and system. My works are mostly less ordered though.
I tried one more sculptural painting with different layers of paint, only a few but more repetitive items (styrofoam) and using the effect that spray paint melts styrofoam.
=> This ‘preservation box’ completely transformed now in a plastic box, a pure artefact and preservation of packaging materials. I do feel that I lost here the sense of my object box. And compared with my previous one a bit to regular in composition. Possibly to re-make it with brown and/or white paint, to get closer to #1 or #2.
I feel that the brown hue relates the work more to anthropological and archeological studies, the brown for earth color, kind of digging out from the ground. A trace of human culture.
Side learnings with working aka painting with styrofoam: not only spray paint melts it but also hot air blower (what I used to speed up drying process). Means I can sculpt with a material that otherwise has a very bad biodegradability.
The most successful works from this series:
Idea #3: The Two Side Box
The idea of preservation and archive or drawer spaces let me revisiting my earlier experiments of multiple viewpoints and installation of translucent support structures by adding my items on perspex. Responding and envisioning the backside of things, looking and playing, arranging and painting ‘activators’ and ‘uniformers’ on the assemblies created.
Painting with objects on perspex is a twofold exploration. What I am doing on the one side, is not known on the other side and vice versa. Making the invisible visible. As a paper or canvas support conceals the backside, perspex makes it visible. An archive drawer is always one top view perspective. The objects being looked at. I was wondering whether a perspex, two side approach might bring the objects more ‘alive’ and giving them more space to perform its visual presentations.
Development of varieties, photographed from two sides of the work on a lightbox (slider):
Not all are very successful, to make a convincing composition for both sides was challenging. The more successful ones were # 1, 3, and 2 – as a combination of traces of human culture and painterly activation alongside an ambiguity of making sense of both side visual information. I am wondering how much space inside the perspex frame would be needed, or whether the paint should be the translucent plane.
With some rather incidental installations I found that backgrounds other than light could have a different effect, as if the background would belong to the work, uniforming or combining to a whole (Fig. 8)
I feel the more successful works are those that play with both sides with a sense of ambiguity, of edges and shapes. Where one wants to look once again on the other side of it to understand, to make sense. It is this sense of uncertainty of looking and bringing parts and pieces together alongside an entry point to engage the spectator. The artefacts as ‘fetishes’ might work as part of a whole series, as a comprehensive collection or survey, but in itself they are less successful. More thoughts coming up – more work to develop further.
I explored three varieties of re-applying my objects from the table, my object-box. Through a space aka wall installation with collaged objects by painting through mechanical treatment of a ground (ie. the canvas and the cardboard were stepped onto, embedding traces from my direct environment), a preservation approach by pouring paint over objects to encapsulate them, and by playing with the transparent feature of perspex to reveal invisible sides of objects placed and arranged.
Those approaches are not finished works, still spatial sketches, a way forward to new idea of painting in space?
- Preservation as transformation of objects, paint as medium to conceal and to defer meaning
- Wall or installation in space as an object for contemplation, to look at in a perhaps conventional sense.
- Creation of new objects from things, painting as an exploration of relationship between those items and as ‘activators’ or ‘uniformers’.
- Sense of simplicity, and revealing new meaning through disguise.
- Sense of ambiguity through displacement of visual information on two sides (see perspex ‘Two Side Box’)
- Painting as embedding traces, indexical sign for artist’s presence, leaving artefacts to collect, to show.
- I like the idea of painting as ‘event’, as expressed by John Latham. A place as happening for new creations of things.
- In all works the viewer can rest at a fix point. Question how to incorporate movement? And how to engage with the spectator at a ‘human scale’, i.e. a real time entry and connection. The first idea of Wall Box the most human scale, facing the spectator at eye level. The second Preservation Box could be placed either on a table or hanging on a wall. the third Two Side Box as an archive inviting the spectator to take out and to look
- Overall, all three approaches tackle different aspects of Object-Box and mundane things. Certainly, all are studies and not fully developed works. A funnelling down still to be required.
My pre-selection for assignment:
=> I find these the more successful ones for its sense of ambuity, space, composition, and using paint as activator or uniformer.
Movement and various viewpoints – a future continuation & development
The works on perspex need a moving spectator to look at both sides. To push this further I could envision to place them in a box, like an archive, a way as I’ve seen at Theaster Gates in Basel and his massive ‘Black Madonna’ Facsimile Cabinet of Women Origin Stories (2018), 2695 images from the John Johnson Archive, all framed the same size and placed in a large cabinet. The viewer was requested to put on white gloves and to take one by one out and to look at.
For me the notion of archive, collection, new space in the context of mundane objects preserved for future contemplation makes it quite intriguing. Placing those cultural artefacts in a cabinet would make them precious, a notion of cultural appropriated fetishism.
Some sketched ideas of archive installations of the ‘perspex’ artefacts. A two side view of one perspex turns into a multiplicity of views through the cabinet approach.
what resulted in a functional maquette:
Intentionally made from a found cardboard box, covered with canvas, raw and instead of being painted on it (though I added some paint blots), it is covering, concealing or storing the painted objects (each one in itself an object of painted items). Not all items fit in well, the edges of the perspex support dictating the fit-ness, parts hanging over are a barrier. Wondering if to make it completely out of perspex would be more successful, less concealing, more revealing and exposing. For an exhibition it would need a more accurate made. More thoughts and time possibly to spend on the outer surface, painted or not.
The other question relates to working more in a three dimensional space, a work that builds on above explorations, embracing an moving spectator and expanding the features of the objects beyond its initial meaning. Although my archive idea brought the relief style painting-collages into a wider space, I would have still the other idea of bringing the painting as sculpture into space for the spectator to engage with with full body presence.
I will not have enough time to explore this deeper, I sketched out some ideas, for future reference and possibly to come back to it. Based on the idea of getting rid of the box – the Object-Box, to let it explode in space, suspended from the ceiling, artefacts, relicts to walk through. Combined with suspended objects. An approach inspired by Cornelia Parker’s Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) . It would resonate somehow with what I did for my human scale Walking Through Painting in project 2.6.
I will postpone these ideas for part 3 – to consider the human scale and performative body as integrative part of the work.
- Enough Room for Space (2017) Project – Performing Objects, [online], At: http://www.enoughroomforspace.org/?project=performing-objects(Accessed 14 Feb 2018).
- Marx, K. (1867) ‘The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Theory of ‘, in: Capital. At: https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S4 (Accessed on 10 Sep 2018).