Project 2.6 – Ex 2.5: Painting in the round
…on previous work
In my reflective research I looked at what I did so far and how it resonates with contemporary artists. From all the work I would possibly consider the second object-collage What is Below and Beyond as more successful attempt to move into space. Although quite Rauschenbergian. My various sketchbook explorations (see Fig. 1) as well as my cut-out-collages and animated pieces do embrace more the activating aspect of color and paint (e.g. Still-Life #2). The use of brighter colors seem to work better with mundane things, as some works of Richard Tuttle or Jessica Stockholder. Still open the question around my animated time based pieces documenting my visual responses, a creation of a narrative? – with an entertaining value? A proof or a meaning? A side effect or a way to look deeper into?
I worked on objects and partly with objects, objects informed my way of looking through observational sketches and through cut-outs of simple shapes and colors. Cut-outs informed my arrangement and play with shapes in relationship, edges and colors informed my organisation and activation approach. Struggling with a ground that still constrained my visual responses, I went to translucent and to relief and eventually to stand-alone ‘tables’. All works were a whole of parts, the whole as a container in space, the parts making sense of the whole. I liked the way paint can act either as an activating agent and enhancing form perception. Or can flatten out and conceal form, ‘harmonising’ ground and figure. I experimented in my sketchbooks and tried out in my first object-collage Two Sides of Folly.
I worked in parallel on some ideas of spatial engagement and installation, helping to think through visually in the making of.
Now it is time to overthrow the container, placing myself inside and between, making the parts creating a new whole.
What are the main objects from my object-box I would select? Which parts would act a unity for the whole? Or are there interactively subgroups? Does the whole as an assemblage consists of multiple assemblages?
I am eager to place myself into context, i.e. to place myself ‘onto the worktable’. Less operational as Steinberg described the horizontal working place, rather phenomenological in relationship to surrounding objects, closer to the way I do work with structural constellations.
In Exercise 2.2 I went through a process of ‘Assembling – Mapping – Speaking – Exploring – Narrating – Activating’ , I will see how my process develops now, starting with
My start would be not to use the saturated colored objects ( blue tissue, red dog poop bag, black tray) but to take those colors into the painting of other, desaturated objects. An approach I found successful in making my cut-out collage steps, color to activate, as the relief like painting I did in my sketchbook (Fig 1).
A kind of cross over, color as memory, fragment, and artefact. Similar could be the painted board, although with traces by others, it could be the painting of the spatial assembly by me. Possibly opening up ideas of an audience engagement, but who is my audience of the work I am doing – besides my tutor? The plastic container, the thread seem to act as connectors, thus to see how my choice of material can support this notion, e.g. perspex? nylon filament?
My first selection/idea was:
- Objects: pebble, fork, cat fur, foam pieces, white thread
- Materials for surfaces: cardboard (textured), plastic surfaces (transparent, translucent, opaque), thread (light, thin, connecting), tissue (soft, flexible)
Looking at them I became aware that three out of five were roundish /pebble, cat fur pieces, foam pieces) thus quite similar in form. To replace one with a more contrasting shape could be either the tray or the cylindric corrugated cardboard, that I worked with before (see Fig. 1). Another option just looking at shape could be the styrofoam piece (the one with the pebble). A move towards less representational visual thinking?
Scale, size and surface: Do I make large, human scale, life size, or smaller? And how in relation to each other? All similar proportional scale, or unexpected proportions, e.g. large fork, small pebble, vice versa, other way round, foam pieces xxl and all small, all xxl? As I want to engage physically with the objects similar to constellation work, I will make large scale that I can walk around and at the height of my body. I will also make small ones similar to family constellation board, to engage on a table, and especially my own suitcase approach the way I started and with possible notions to Duchamp’s Boîte en valise.
While making my smaller maquette items, it made me wonder how funny it was, to make packaging shapes from other packaging material. Why not just use the original items? It became clear to me that it had to be larger scale. I worked quickly with the materials at hand (took me around 1 hour for all objects), trying to match shape and form, less concerned about size. Some objects, e.g foam pieces hard to make and resulting in bigger pieces than possibly intended. I moved on, embracing the variety in size difference and wondering how it would like as an assembly (Fig. 2 and 3). The foreshortening view from the front exaggerated size perception. I decided to make two ‘extremes’. Composition from the front in Fig. 2 more ‘natural’ than the one in Fig. 3.
All in all the proportions – a set up fitting into a box (Fig. 4). An anthropological view? Possibly, a subconscious relationship to Mark Dion and his work on Tate Thames Dig, 1999. My wooden support seem to support this connotation.
Looking at these made me aware of some anthropomorph aspects, the fork the least ambiguous. For the next step at larger scale, and after having now some experience with making, I decided for an approximate constellation (Sketch, Fig. 5) Considering surface materials, especially painting on and with plastic, I do refer to my earlier experiments and sketchbook works (see post here, and Fig 6)
Re-using – Stuffing, Covering, Binding – Priming
The fork: what if I keep just the outside shape without cutting open the tines? It could be connotated with an oar as well, a step towards more shape and form perception. Materials used: all packaging materials (styrofoam, bubble wrap, honeycomb board, corrugated board, paper, tape, glue – and on old used towel bound with nylon thread. The thread to be added later, just nylon threads. I applied an acrylic primer on the household plastic materials (bags) as I’ve learned it would improve paint adherence. Other plastic materials are less critical.
My objects made sitting on the floor, waiting for arrangement and activation (Fig. 7 – background of studio environment deleted in photoshop). The image shows objects with no context, just between themselves. The ‘fork’ is around 156cm long, the black ‘pebble’ around 53cm longest dimension. It could be a place of trash, waiting for the community’s trash collection.
What made me look at another floor space in my studio: my debris place – a place for spares – and inspiration – a studio space (Fig. 8):
While working on making, I became aware of a few aspects :
- stripping off: the box, perspectives, context, and representations – a process of void’ing
- distance and proximity: a move away from an observer position towards an actor in between the objects
Through visually isolating the objects (surface and surrounding space) I could move on to find the space for the objects to perform (Fig 9). While taken the picture of me in between the things I made (top down view) it was interesting to notice the colors I wear matching partly my original object-box.
My objects are built, objects in themselves, stripped of any representational meaning, no narrative, no context, ready for interaction and activation. Some days after my object-box, charged with meaning, it felt like a relief. There might still be some free flowing associations coming up from a viewer’s perspective, but then it is about the viewer not the objects. Interestingly, it is not abstract work, the objects a real objects, materialised. Abstract art having had for me previously a notion of not-object related art, painting.
Things as physical objects with a variety of materiality and surfaces: cardboard, plastic, fabric; mostly light, stuffed, some hollow; some flat, some dense; some long, some short. A game to play, an assembly to make, relationships to build, painting to make sense and to explore. What is missing: the thread, will see if I still need it and how to connect elements.
I was trying out various arrangements, some more or less exciting. I moved objects, responded to spaces in between, objects laying down onto the floor, leaning to and eventually suspending from some sort of construction above my head. Some points tool longer to find a ‘solution’, e.g. the suspended ‘shelf’ with questions around left or right tilt, forward tilt or not. the white side vertical or horizontal? Also the cylindric item on the floor to the left or the right (under the black suspended item?).
some relationship questions:
Concealing: Or if some are concealing others, an aspect that I could expand with paint, either to enforce concealing or to support differences through edges distinctive colors .I find the suspended items an interesting aspect. So far I didn’t want to attach any thing to the wall in order to be able to move around. The ‘fork’ item leaning to the wall could be an option, not fixed, movable – a notion on non-hanging but movable?
While painting some sketches on flat paper, I discovered a fascinating aspect: painting with same color across different shapes on flat support makes them indistinguishable. Only through the materiality of the used paint and traces e.g. brushstrokes, those shapes can be differentiated. Painting with same color on sculptural objects would make them discernible through their presence in space, a difference and advantage of objects. An aspect that I would like to follow further.
Shadows: how do these play a role? can they be embedded in the work? subject to illumination (side or top lights) but possibly also to be achieved through paint? This brings me once again the apartment painting of Irina Nakhova (1984), the apartment in Soviet Union as a protective space for artists to be. He tonal depiction of edges with the use of grey to bring forward illusion of density, wall, three dimensionality. I do relate to this to shadows as from my prior experiences with teared edges and addition of shadow edges.
Objects: I had to add a stool to raise the height of an item, pondering the inclusion of readymades or not, and what bring this closer to some works of Jessica Stockholder, John Armleder or Richard Tuttle. A readymade that would bring up all sorts of connotations, something that I would like to ‘keep out’ of this attempt – perhaps coming back in my assignment work.
Perspectives: My raising awareness that any sketches or images taken with a camera would result in a ‘distorted one point view perspective’, not capable to reflect on my in-between’ness experience. At times felt constrained because of that, and possibly some of my arrangements were informed by this constraint. An aspect that paint could overcome in forcing changing positions? The complexity of Fig. 10 showing the multiplicity of viewpoints, something my paint application could follow?
I continued with a more phenomenological approach, not too far away how I experience my constellation work with either items (piece of papers) on the ground or figures (people) in the room at different positions, reacting to what I sense as difference from one place to the other.
Space: unclear yet, what is inside or outside the work, if this really matters, multiple entry points inside the work and not at the boundaries. What could be different to sculpture is to be able to moving only partly around the work, paint allowing or stopping to ‘enter’? And how is sight and how is touch involved? How much do I work from a phenomenological perspective? What appears in the moment is there? My space and tools where partly informing what I could achieve, e.g. the black items suspended was restricted to the way I could install a bar from where to suspend it. All had to go without spending too much time, all an attempt, not a final work.
Going through the experience of arranging, organizing, moving, and re-arranging, I feel intrigued by a few aspects:
- Suspension: a sense of holding and impact of gravity
- Tension: between different objects, space in-between, appearance of nearly ‘falling down’ items, stability versus fragility
- Connecting: objects leaning on or reaching out to other objects
- Shadows: casted as connecting areas to be painted out?
- Opening: Looking through, hollow items or through arranged items into another space, multiple entry points (at least I tested three ‘extremes’ at right angles)
- Reversal: reversal of senses of gravity and use (still my initial ‘real’ objects in my mind)
- Concealing: to move to see, not everything visible from one viewpoint only, something that can’t be achieved through painting on flat support
My most inspirational arrangements are built around these are (slider Fig. 11 – 14; for simplicity reasons just one side view):
My final assemblage objects – a walking through experience
I eventually decided for this arrangement. Kind of three groups (the wall items, the black suspended item, and the floor items to the left). I can’t tell why I came up with that , it made sense, it felt right when walking through and looking at it. Still unpainted, perhaps I would be less certain after paint is there.
… some walking through details views
… and a walking through time-based experience:
What I’ve learned from my previous attempts – a cycle from objects in space through flat painting and sketching: paint could be used to connect, to uniform, to flatten-out shape perception, and to activate areas and relationships. How could I use it here? I wanted to explore boundaries and supporting connecting relationship between the three groups. One key question for me: Would the paint go only onto the objects or also on the floor and wall (taking the ceiling out of the equation)?
And what sort of color, how to apply, how to start? I felt a certain barrier coming up due that massive amount of questions. I decided to glue the items belonging to each other (the ‘fork’ keeping still separate from the shelf for practical reasons, pondering dismantling and storage, or just moving into trash bin).
I do relate partly to my previous sketchbook work (Fig. 1) and from other artists (Stockholder, Armleder, Tuttle) I learned to paint in rather simple way with a focus to relate to, to activate, and to explore boundaries. Starting with a spray can of acrylic unbleached white I sprayed my way through, getting connected with the space. Spraying the black item resulted partly in dropping down of paint under the impact of gravity. Something to explore further?
The making of objects was one thing, the assemblage arrangement was intriguing, but painting it out is quite a different task . Didn’t thought of it as being such a big task to do. Massive areas to paint – what is the best way to cover? My first attempts with spray paint not that convincing (Fig. 16). Thinking of household wall paint or just big pots of acrylic paint to splash around, certainly not being eager to use a small paintbrush.
I explored in my sketchbook possible variations with color, facing the challenge on how to understand space in three dimensions with a walk-through experience through flat sketches . Nevertheless, I made some cut outs of different view images to use as masks for painting aka spray painting (Fig. 17, top left my initial exploration – top right the final idea – bottom steps in between). Eventually, I felt connected with my assignment work ‘folding and unfolding’ with the layers concealing and revealing edges and shapes. I worked into revealed shapes bright colors – exploring boundaries and forms. Still being aware that flat painting has the disadvantage of concealing shapes when painting with one color, an aspect my spatial arrangement would be able to overcome.
With this exploration I found my way forward in painting around me as a reference to flat paintings, e.g. Matisse ‘Red Interior’ but with a real walking-through experience. I am going to use the smaller items as ‘activators’ in red and the suspended item as activator in blue. The question now how to choose the right colors for the ‘background’ areas and the other items.
I did some further color studies in order to find an appropriated color for the ‘background’ space (Fig. 18). I wasn’t sure whether my initial yellow would be the best option, just to be more certain. The orange had some appeal. Eventually, I settled for a more orange yellow, a cadmium yellow as better harmony with the red and blue activators.
From my list of key aspects I can see the following way to approach them:
- Suspension: two items suspended, one close to the wall the other into open space
- Tension: through the chosen activators
- Connecting: through paint application across items and ‘background’ space
- Concealing: through paint application across boundaries
- Shadows: partly painted, some others as a viewer’s perception
- Opening: three entry points to ‘walk into’ the painting
- Reversal: shadows, painted and casted from illumination as contradiction
I used spray paint for some further exploration of painted space (blue and red) and discovered that spray paint is not compatible with styrofoam, it melts. However, resulting in an effect that I liked on the ‘shelf’, kind of deterioration.
With that set, and the chose color of a darker, orange hue cadmium yellow, I decided to leave my sketchbook exploration away, first copying my sketches made into space around me – using a paint runner (reminding of painting interior walls, decoration) – and to continue painting in direct response to my painting-in-space progress (Fig 19).
I was facing the challenge that my studio space was merging into the painting, either disrupting or distorting it. Possibly a wide open space or a separate room would be good for upscaling and to realize this work in public.
A key question that came up are boundaries and activation. Questions around whether I see the objects as the boundaries or not, whether I see the objects as the activating agents in space or not. I got a feeling that paint could be applied as a kind of mediator, but also to connect, and eventually to make sense, at least in a different way.
I choose to use bright colors, derived from unique colors on my initial object-box, to act as ‘activators’: blue and red. The other colors would complement, contrast, or balance the composition as a whole – making my sculptural painting a integrative piece of work with various viewpoints.
Painting around in progress:
After paint application, am I satisfied? Does there need to a re-arrangement? When starting to outline my path through this ‘painting in the round’, I thought that re-arrangement would be needed, similar to my cut-out collages.
I didn’t expect that the objects are not any longer movable, or the painted surface would result into disruptive experience when arranging differently. But it will not stay there, perhaps it will be re-installed in a different place and space. Then it need to be properly arranged. If not – a glitch, what could be an interesting theme in itself.
My continuation of painting in space was a quest for making sense: composition, relationship, shapes, colors. Considering the light main shapes I wasn’t satisfied with the white background, especially I felt the black shape in the center looked like a hole. I changed to black and it felt more uniform for me, though keeping the white on the floor area (Fig. 20). The wall as a wall felt more solid, and raising the question how to move on and how to merge wall and floor space. Possibly to make the black running down to the spectator’s entry point, and to leave some white areas (or light yellow) as disruptive shape and guide for eye movement. To explore this further I used the tablet app PhotoshopFix (frontal view) that I found for this interrogation very helpful to discern visually differences (Fig. 21).
I found the blue suspended item too separate from the rest and added in the last image some blue drippings. That idea to either paint, or better to paint plastic sheet in stripes and attached under the blue item. By that the items as such would be more integrated in space and not only on a flat picture plane …. and the resulting spatial painting (without blue stripes, yet), The last step before the final touch.
The final spatial painting, painting in a round, a walking through painting, a painting interrogating real and illusive objects (Fig. 22)
Walking Through Painting
approx (H x W x D): 200 x 200 x135 cm (acrylic paint, objects)
.. with various viewpoints:
… and some close up views, in-between, walking through:
.. and as my walk through experience:
This exercise took over not only space but also time. The largest scale work ever done. And the most challenging when moving from flat surfaces to three dimensional space the includes objects as well as flat areas as wall and floor. Finally, I moved completely away from my object-box and representational objects. The objects truly performed for me, they activated the surrounding space, and the whole painting moved towards a new direction of a walking-through painting.
My start made me aware of how much I was still locked in a representational thinking. Objects, made or not, as meaningful things in context. I moved ahead, seeing now my ‘new’ objects stripped of meaning and context. Not an abstraction of things as tje objects are real. Whereas, my observational sketches are figurative and representational. I have the feeling I am shifting my view on things.
The work done is surely not at a stage I would consider it as finished. The materials used, especially the paper on the wall and on the floor is by far not adequate for a stable work to show. In reality I would possibly paint directly on the surrounding space, i.e. the floor and wall of the gallery room or any other room. The edge between wall and floor (I made a smooth edge through the bending of the paper) would need further consideration in a real space.
My overall experience of this exercise was immense. Making objects, arranging objects, responding to connections, painting and re-painting out a new pictorial reality was challenging. But I think I learned a lot, and any new painting I will do – either sculptural or even on a flat surface – will benefit from this experience.
I explored sculptural painting with placing myself in between selected objects. The painting took over space, and I ended in painting the flat surfaces. At the end, it reminds me of a stage play. Kind of painted scenery for an act to happen. This reminds me that not only Rauschenberg but also Hockney did some stage play paintings. Rauschenberg more as props for action (as his early ‘Combines’) and bringing himself into a performative role on stage, Hockney as painting a the stage through various acts for ‘Rake’s Progress‘, painting for a narrative. In my case I consider is as still, only the spectator to be engaged.
Some questions in detail:
Where does the edge of my piece lie?
I didn’t know where the edges of my work would be during my sketchbook studies and even not at the beginning of the painting in space. During the painting process and being in that space, I felt connected with the surfaces, shapes and possibly forms. Eventually, I found it intriguing to develop the illusion further (besides crossing boundaries) and started to paint edges of a wall thickness in a slightly lighter tone than the main yellow one. I felt reminded by the apartment work of Irina Nakhova (see above) .
How does my use of paint help to define these boundaries?
I started to use spray paint as an attempt to establish connection with the space and the objects. However, spray paint is not only developing a toxic mist, also not good to use with styrofoam as it melts. Though, spray paint leaves some good fading boundaries, not achievable either with brush, paint runner, or hands. Eventually, I moved towards harder edges alongside some dripping marks. Only, my ‘activators’ in red and blue stayed in its sprayed appearance as it made them softer and for me more ‘natural’ looking.
I found it extremely useful to paint and explore and to find options for connection, relationships, and shapes through painting in space. My sketchbook studies were limited in finding ways out – only through making the painting happening I felt it went much easier to move forward without knowing where it will lead me to.
How does my work claim space?
My studio surrounding was merging into the painting, disrupting and distorting depending on view point. To develop it further, and for public view, a separate room, or wide open space with blank background would be advisable. The other option to have a disruptive background of a reality could be worked into this painting, letting the spectator feel that experience. But most likely the ‘external’ boundaries of the painting need to be negotiated depending on environment.
My sculptural painting is space demanding. Not only wall but also floor space was taking over.The floor is integral part of the work. I was thinking whether it came out like that because I prepared a floor-wall space with white paper, or whether it was part of what mattered to me and reference to my constellation works (a combination of floor and eye height The painting as such added a different layer to the objects as such and the surfaces of the floor and wall. Only the paint helped to make connections meaningful and to explore deeply the various spaces: surface, three dimensional objects, and illusionary space. Through, the suspended blue item in free space, the work claims the complete space.
What was guiding me to make decisions and take action?
Making it, putting myself into relationship with the objects, moving around, trial and error, responding, adjusting, changing illumination (from top only to side only), partly sketching through, at the beginning to reflect on the different steps I did and to discern common aspects, e.g. stripping off. At times referring back to how I approach constellation work from a phenomenological perspective.
As I move around and through the work how does my physical experience of being among these objects affects my decision-making, process and approach to using paint?
Very much, making flat sketchbook experiments quite contrived. Feeling with time that the experience I have is not something I need to work into the painting, but rather opening it up (literally the space) for the spectator to experience itself. I am in a dialogue with the objects and the ‘void’ space in between. questioning where paint need to go or not. Which areas I want to activate and which areas could benefit from uniforming, ‘flattening out’ through painting across boundaries. The use of a tablet app to explore some layers aka retouching of painting helped to discern rather quickly and on the spot possible options.