Vibrant Matter of Skin
‘Vibrant Matter -Touching my Skin – Stretching my limits.’
Latex: a material full of cultural connotations, derived a rubber from the rubber tree, used as latex-skin in erotica, as medium for latex paint, as material for medical gloves (what mostly are replaced now by nitrile gloves due to latex allergy). A material, only thinking of it at a later stage, I had explored on a molecular level during my master thesis in chemistry (my first academic degree ages ago).
This part of the course was asking question around canvas and stretcher, mostly I did look at it from a surface versus body conception. All paintings at perceived through their surface and all sculpture through their physical body, was this the way I would differentiate both disciplines? I started to think of paint as body, and of object like the stretcher as pictorial objects. Paint with multiplied sides, as a skin with double faces, and paint as a material that can be modeled with. I found in latex a material that has some similarities with acrylic paint. I could apply it with brushes, I could pour it, I could use various colors. It also has similarities with e.g. plaster in the form of plaster bandage used for sculptures, to build form with it, to cast.
I eventually closed in the idea of skin, and was informed by the books of Lisa Cartwright (Cartwright, 1995) and Jose van Dijk (van Dijck, 2005) as well as Bernadette Wegenstein (Wegenstein and Hansen, 2006). However, I didn’t looked at it from a conceptual viewpoint rather as a possibility of reading material. I found skin as good metaphor for how I perceived the material of latex, body and surface. Paint only as surface is what I would relate to the spray painted works of Katharina Grosse (Art21, 2015). Paint as body is what I see in the work of Lynda Benglis (Tate Shots, 2012). I was curious to see how one material could move along those two poles: surface and body. Some other artists, I loosely do refer to are Angela de la Cruz, for her use of paint as folding materials (though still with a supporting canvas) especially in relationship with the stretcher (Wetterling Gallery, 2016), Simon Callery, for his drappery like suspended canvas sculptures (Fold Gallery, s.D.), Dana Molzan, for some relevance to hangings (Kaufmann Repetto, s.D. ), and Karla Black, for her fragile hanging ephemeral works (National Galleries Scotland, 2019) .
Informed by my parallel project on medical imaging, the transparent clinical body, and the medical intrusive gaze through the skin, informed my exploration of the vulnerability, the fragmented paint, and options of negative space making the opaque latex ‘transparent’.
To look at it from a different angle, I do wonder whether aspect of Minimal Art or mono-ha do not also play a role here, especially considering the perception of the work in space. It is just a fade sensation. Although, the works are rather small scale, I could envision to make them human scale, room scale, These are the dimensions that the works of both art movements (western and eastern) do embrace. I do can imagine it, but I can’t experience it with small scale works only. Possibly, a digital simulation could give a better idea.
Just as a afterthought, I read recently an article about extended MRI techniques that allows to measure brain elasticity by ‘sending vibrations through ..They move faster through stiffer material, producing … maps of tissue rigidity, that may correspond to brain activity.’(Makin, 2019) This might be just too far ‘stretched’, but I found a certain resonance in how I worked with the latex paint material through sensing, feeling, stretching, responding to tensions – a vibrant matter.
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I visited the mono-ha exhibition at Cardi Gallery, London, and was intrigued by some works that embrace with tension: inside the work between two materials and in relationship to the viewer in the physical space of the room (e.g. Lee Ufan’s Relatum, 1969/2015). After our performance event in London where I showed my parallel project (a collaborative work with music student Vicki Downey) I was more convinced that the right perception of certain works can only be bodily experienced in a physical space as an encounter. It resonated with a quote from Nobuo Sekine (Fig. 1).
“My act is intended to open up the state of transparent world …
What we are doing is finding ways to have encounters today.” – Nobuo Sekine
But this might be just the biggest challenge as a distant art student. And what eventually would result in make actual exhibitions of my work and to have that experience being conveyed as part of my work. I possibly have to put this aside till level 3.
- Art21 (2015) Katharina Grosse: Painting with Color | Art21 “Extended Play”, [online], At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBfPMGS7XPo (Accessed on 29 Aug 2018).
- Cartwright, L. (1995) Screening the Body : Tracing Medicines Visual Culture. Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press.
- Fold Gallery (s.D.) Simon Callery, At: http://www.foldgallery.com/artist/simon-callery-2/ (Accessed 02 May 2019).
- Kaufmann Repetto (s.D. ) Diana Molzan, At: http://www.kaufmannrepetto.com/?h=a.4884.3—Dianna-Molzan#a.4884.3%20-%20Dianna%20Molzan (Accessed 02 May 2019).
- Makin, S. (2019) ‘Magnetic Vibes – A new technique relies on measuring changes in tissue stiffness resulting from neural activity’, In: Scientific American, 321 (2).
- National Galleries Scotland (2019) Karla Black, At: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/features/karla-black (Accessed 09 May 2019).
- Tate Shots (2012) Lynda Benglis: ‘Form and texture create the magic’, At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/lynda-benglis-7290/lynda-benglis-form-and-texture-create-magic (Accessed 26 April 2019). London: Tate.
- van Dijck, J. (2005) Transparent Body : A Cultural Analysis of Medical Imaging. Seattle, WA; London: University of Washington Press.
- Wegenstein, B. and Hansen, M. B. N. (2006) Getting under the Skin : The Body and Media Theory. Cambridge, MA; London: MIT Press.
- Wetterling Gallery (2016) Angela de la Cruz, At: https://www.wetterlinggallery.com/artists/angela-de-la-cruz#artist-description (Accessed 02 May 2019).