Project 3.1 – Ex 3.0: Object as a stand in for the body

  • Project 3.1 – Ex 3.0: Object as a stand in for the body
  • Project 3.1 – Ex 3.0: Object as a stand in for the body
  • Project 3.1 – Ex 3.0: Object as a stand in for the body

Clothing as a proxy body, sign for human presence or absence. 

How do I relate to clothing? What kind of clothes would resonate for me as an identifier? I was pondering the exploration of my suitcase aka object-box and my personal project. I decided to work around thoughts for my personal project (‘Medical imaging aka MRI and identity’), wanting to explore my own journey when I did my MRI inspection some months ago, kind of visual memory

The first thing that intrigued me when revisiting this is the ‘dresscode’ in clinics, also required when undergoing MRI: the patient gown (Fig. 1).  

MRI - dressed in a patient gown, image credit: Inselspital Bern

Fig. 1: MRI – dressed in a patient gown, image credit: Inselspital Bern

The skin that covers the body, but the back is open. A simple cloth, anonymous, concealing and also revealing. One had to undress in small booth on the corridor, leaving one own’s dress there (hanging, folded) and returning with the gown. A change – making it clear that from now on the person is a patient, part of the institution, a clear role, a function.

I talked through this with fellow student Alan, who works in a clinic, and he was willing to get hold of a gown, possibly also to make an image. Ideas of sharing across borders – and possibilities of collaborative work might surface.

The Patient Gown – Concealing – or …?

To move on, I looked online at those gowns, and with my own memory of the gown I wore. Moving on to remake, questions of size, scale and material?

Eventually, I turned to mylar and a human scale size with several connotations related to materiality: 

the idea of translucent material, is the body, or person concealed or revealed? Reference to my mental images of how I felt (and others’ possible as well), vulnerable, exposed.

  • the idea of smooth surface: is it a double skin, without external references? Blank, ‘innocent’, and behind could be quite different
  • Mylar is a material one uses for masking (airspray painting) , an material for a purpose, not for its own sake. 
  • Mylar, is not as flexible as fabric or paper, hard to fold, better to roll; when folded a crease is permanently made (not removable or to be flattened out), but easy to cut, and to tape; also easy to paint on with acrylic or oil paint (as checked in my previous explorations)
  • My remake from memory and online visuals is possibly a reference to how the patient gown and its relation in a clinic setting could be considered: anonymous, only half-way personal, replaceable? Makes me wonder how my different placements of the remade gown will work – different context, a double remove from clinic reality (1. remade, 2. context)

 

The remake was quickly done, made outside on a sunny wonderful fall day.

Stefan51353_P3_Ex1_patient gown in mylar

Fig. 2: Patient gown in mylar

Time and context:

After the making and laying it on the ground – ideas popped up of abandoned gown, lost, vulnerable? Not used as a gown – but what if that prop is a person? Reminds me how we connect belongings to a person self. What might the connotation trigger in the viewer’s mind? I haven’t asked.

Fig. 3 – 6:  The abandoned gown – each 42x 30cm (click on thumbnail to open the lightbox view)

To move away from a mere visual depiction in a quick painting and to include some connotated aspects is quite challenging. Do I perceive it the same way as others? Perhaps to upload for peer review and see…

Continuing with taking the made-gown up, putting it somewhere closer, more protected, leaning on a tree, looking from front and backview. Thinking about context (surrounding space, environment) and how shapes and line could work together. A start towards further abstraction (eg Fig. 9)

Fig. 7 – 10: The attached gown  – each 42x 30cm (click on thumbnail to open the lightbox view)

In Fig 8, I added later back in my studio tapes for cropping, giving a different appeal of the painting. On the other hand I find that additional layers, e.g. tapes might give also another layer of meaning. I experimented with more line markings as part of the composition, giving a more abstract appeal but also could be considered as a contained frame (Fig. 9).

With these two ‘scenarios’ or sensibilities, I started to experiment on site further with the idea of loss, abandoned – alongside a sense of fragmentation (displacement and disembodiment). I applied a stencil and partly a monotype technique that I explored in the previous part: abstraction and reduction. My starting point was Fig. 10 – the more abstracted backview, with ‘fleeing’ shapes.

Fig. 11 – 14: The fragmented gown – each 42x 30cm (click on thumbnail to open the lightbox view):

=> the repetitive placing and re-placing of a ‘gown-stencil’ allowed me to leave painted traces on the paper, to overcome a too representational and literal depiction of the scene in front of me, and to abstract connotated thoughts of fragmentation, memory and ‘fleeing’ shapes. What if the idea of vulnerability and stability are reversed? Fig. 13 (photo doesn’t show it) was an exploration of a movable paper, the support as ‘fleeing’, the shape of the gown static. Just abstract explorations. From these quickly done series, I find Fig. 12 the more interesting one, as it plays more with shapes, fragments, edges and (in-)stability.

Next scenery was placing the gown in my car. Having the car with me allowed me to take more stuff with, what allowed me to do above experiments.

Fig. 15 &16: The protected or cared for gown – each 42x 30cm (click on thumbnail to open the lightbox view):

=> Instead of my gouache, acrylic approach, I used oil paint sticks for the first one (Fig. 15). A more gestural and searching approach to the scene and the connotations of protected as well as vulnerable. The second one more a ‘protected’ perspective, relaxed and stable in the backseat of the car.I considered in the composition the interesting interplay between the gown and the head protection of the car. I am not so convinced by the contained central compositions. 

After the longer session outdoors I looked the other day at the domestic scenes.

Fig. 17 – 20:  The domestic gown as actor – each 42x 30cm (click on thumbnail to open the lightbox view):

=> quite different appeal. It seemed the gown took more presence. Lost at the front door outside, being a staged actor on the toilette, a narrative in itself between Fig. 18 & Fig, 19. After a long day, I out the gown mockup in the hallway, I was fascinated be the strong presence of it (Fig. 20). With a deeper viewpoint, making it more solid and dominant actor in the composition, more refined versus a rather sketchy background. I find the two last ones (Fig. 19, 20) more appealing for the bolder contrast. However, contrast in itself would give a different indication of a message.

With my explorations of the mockup ‘patient gown’ I was interested in exploring further ideas of fragmentation, memory, and instability. I decided to work in my A4 sketchbook rather gestural with a similar stencil and moving approach as I did in preparation for my large scale sculptural painting. and inspired by my on-site experiments (see Fig. 9, 11, and 12)

Fig. 21 – 24: slider images sketchbook – A4 (acrylic, gouache,  charcoal)

Stefan513593 - Part 3 - Ex1 - object for body - sketchbook 2
Fragmented prop #1 - sketchbook
Stefan513593 - Part 3 - Ex1 - object for body - sketchbook 3
Fragmented prop #2 - sketchbook
Stefan513593 - Part 3 - Ex1 - object for body - sketchbook 4
Fragmented prop #3 - sketchbook
Stefan513593 - Part 3 - Ex1 - object for body - sketchbook 5
Fragmented prop #4 - sketchbook

=> I was intrigued by the multiplicity of the shape. Reflecting back on my initial thoughts of the patient gown in a clinical setting, with the rather anonymous, at times displacing sensation of wearing it, I do feel that this might be developed further, possible ideas for my personal project.

Reflection:

  • A mockup clothing can have strong connotations of human presence. On the other hand it could be merely seen as an obsolete thing trashed or thrown away. Nevertheless, through learned patterns and beliefs the simple mockup has a certain power that reminds me of my research in fetishism in part two.
  • My chosen material (mylar) provided a rigid material that could stand. Partly flexible, it was at times more responsive, falling back to more stable structures, kind of memory not lost, not completely yet. 
  • The juxtaposition or assembly of multiple paintings (see slider on top of this post) does convey a sense of narrative, a time-based movement of the mockup as ‘actor’ – a journey.
  • Painting in a sketchy, loose way, strongly allows the visual exploration of ideas, resulting partly in some further experimental works (see Fig. 9, or Fig. 11-14)
  • Digging deeper into the relationship of the mockup and its placement in space allows to convey narratives (e.g. Fig. 18 & 19) and to convey a sense of emotional response. 

Working with color quickly:

  • I tend to mix the main local color beforehand on a palette. Being outdoors I prefer to use either tear-off palettes from coated paper or just milk-boxes, cut open as a rectangular shape (re-using trash). Mixing those local color beforehand allows me to loosen up in the following painting and to ensure that colors are not totally off. Painting and mixing no the go and on the support directly feels more direct and responsive.
    Overall, some preparation is quite useful, e.g. having my tools ready to go, knowing what is where. However, I do not like the meticulous preparation of each color as some suggest in instructional books. In the studio with more refined rendering of tone this might be more useful. Working quickly means for me to be present in the moment, be responsive to my embodied sensations, what I see, feel, hear, think. Not all elements that go into a quickly made sketch visible through the naked eye. Often, associations and connotations turn into painted strokes. And for that I prefer to mix directly on my support. 
  • Advantages:
    pre mixing: accuracy, more fluid painting without thinking about matching colors
    mixing directly on support: more gestural, expressive, responsive to the scene and my imagination, at times less constraining

 

Further reflection on other artists:

How paint can support meaning and interpretation:

  • Vincent van Gogh‘s A Pair of Shoes , 1886 one of his paintings of his time in Paris was and is often a trigger for wide psychological and symbolic interpretations. Apparently he stated once that ‘he bought old work shoes at a flea market. Then he walked through the mud in them until they were filthy. Only then did he feel they were interesting enough to paint’ (Van Gogh Museum). Here ‘worn-out’ would mean be exposed to a person, with an ordinary usage as a functional object. The gestural application of paint supports the sense of ‘crudeness’, of heavily used shoes, no precious objects to wear only a few times. I can see that he painted from life, just whatever captured his attention, a contextual and gestural expression of sight and sensations.
  • Philip Guston The Coat, 1977 is one of the works in series he made after his rather abstract painting and often called  “urban primitive.” (MoMA) The rather graphic, comic-style depiction with flat appearance could be seen on various levels, as a depiction of his coat and shoes, and as metaphor for his stance and personal position in the world around him.  Here the graphic, flat application of paint could possibly relate back to the identity of the artist himself and how he perceived the world. I can relate to this approach in the way I work, as part of my paintings are not visible elements but also a reflection on sensations and thoughts. 
  • Lisa Milroy’Shoes, 1985: repetition of similar shoes with a sense of difference in sameness. She painte them ‘neatly’ and in order, but a closer look reveals more disorder. They remind me of bugs or mussels. The overall picture seems like an encoded message, with some pairs conveying a sense of alphabet, words, language, e.g. the V shaoe appearing twice, but with some adjustments. For me a visual reflection on Deleuze’s conception of ‘Difference and Repetition’ (1968). The refined and repetitively and orderly application of paint could relate to the sense of collection and alienation (as missing context). Objects are becoming part of an assemblage, a different wholeness. Quite contrasting to van Gogh’s shoes as showing the individuality, Milroy’s shoes are missing nearly any individuality though the seem each to be different in appearance. I find that Milroy’s work are more of studio paintings, with prior reflection on composition and key aspects of how it might come across.

 


Reference:

Related Posts
Project 2.1 – Ex 2.0: Collect / Make / Arrange
Project 4.1 – Ex.4.1: Stretch, stitch, fold, crease, wrap
4 Comments
  • Nov 7,2018 at 12:31 PM

    Hi Stefan, Sorry to hear about your health issues, I hope you are ok now. Just reading this post resonates. I came across this artist recently, when researching something personal to myself. Slightly different context but she may be of interest:

    http://blog.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/2014/10/tabitha-moses-artist-guest-blog/

    • Stefan
      Nov 7,2018 at 3:31 PM

      thanks, Sue – not much of a big deal re my own health issues, really nothing came out of it. Though it made me ponder deeply. Thanks for the article: patient gowns embroidered with fertility symbols? Did they allow them to wear these in the clinic? Or afterwards? …bridging the gap between fetishes, objects, things, and adding personal meaning and spirit to it.. more to look at 🙂

  • Nov 6,2018 at 2:57 PM

    Stefan. I enjoyed your thorough and interesting exploration of this subject. Great ideas and some lovely drawings/paintings too. I am very impressed. Janet.

    • Stefan
      Nov 6,2018 at 8:26 PM

      Thanks, Janet – glad it get something across – wondering how you or others would respond to the individual paintings? Is one triggering a deeper sensation? If yes , what kind of?

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