Project 4.1 – Ex.4.1: Stretch, stitch, fold, crease, wrap
From my pre-reflection , I got a sense that the ‘stretcher’ in any form or material does act as a holder, ‘container’ for the ‘canvas’, whatever this could be. The opposite would be a ‘canvas’ turning into a container, the holder for the stretcher, like wrapping paper or a table of objects (see combines and Georges Perec’s notes on the work-table), an approach I looked at with my object fragments in part 2. Certainly, one could always consider the canvas as a container, as what appears on the surface is often a perceptual illusion of an image. It seemed, I already ‘made’ some re-imagined canvases. However, those works can be seen only as sketches for something that need deeper investigation.
My motivation in relationship to my parallel project as subject matter (brain, MRI, medical gaze; ‘under the skin’ as transparency – inspired by the Wegenstein’s book) informed my exploration of the re-imagined canvas. Canvas as skin, as tissue – a material concealing though protecting:
skin – fold – incision – fragment – transparency
So far, I have chosen in the previous part plastic sheets or perspex as transparent materials (canvas) and oil paint or acrylic paint washes for transparent images. I am wondering if these are the only materials to be used to explore transparency, especially in context of skin. I can relate to my subject matter also in a way of incision, dissection (more metaphorically) and slicing (into fragments), but also as mapping. Words to play with.
Chosen materials: tissue paper (two different kind of cellulose fibers), plastic sheet, mylar, paper, canvas – an exploration of studio artefacts in my sketchbook (Fig 1):
To get started I played around with the new paint: Lascaux Aquacryl, a very intense liquid watercolor that is supposed to have magnificent performance in washes as well as combined with impasto gel: plastic sheet as flexible surface, and rigid (Fig 2)
=> not very convincing as a re-imagination, more a warming-up; still a framed, contained surface; though a transparency is visible with backlit. Continuing to be more exploratory and to keep surface material visible (to avoid covering it all), trying to install (Fig.3), using a found object:
=> a step towards overcoming the stretcher’s containment; becoming a sculptural surface, containing in itself an object, a holding device. The intermediate ‘final’ stage (Fig 3 right) conveys some features of the material (plastic sheet) as well as implying marking that follow those features. The water flow markings, left in flow direction by gravity, right at right angle view, more intriguing, reminds of writing, code? Here, the canvas is enhanced through paint or, the painted marks enhance the materiality of the canvas. To keep in mind for following explorations.
Moving from plastic to paper, looking at paper feature of fragmenting when very wet (learnings from assignment 1)
=> being inspired by the ‘holding device’: a packaging plastic band; how can it hold a paper? dry and wet? When the surface performs without containment. The dark thin object acts as a line crossing the surface, though spatial independent of the surface. A contrasting element. I liked the markings on the dry paper from the water flow downwards, kind of incisions (mirroring the cut openings), looking like seams. Those markings are absent in the upper, wet part.
To build on this ‘drawing’ element and the folding and en-rolling aspect, I explored it further (Fig, 5):
=> turning paper as flat surface into a folded stick, drawn around to encapsulate, to contain. The canvas turned into a sculptural object, independent of holding or containing.
Through the unconscious rolling, folding of surface materials (Fig. 3 and Fig 4), I felt reminded of a description by N. Holtzmann-Kevles, a book I was reading for my parallel project:
‘physicians gradually pushed back the veil in front of the internal organs, revealing first the living skeleton, then the stomach, intestines, gall bladder, lungs, heart, and brain’ (Holtzmann Kevles, 1997:3 – highlight by me)
resulting in a performative approach with tissue (chemically modified cellulose)
… with a resulting veiled image: :
=> This is not yet sculpture, nor painting. However, the ghost image of the imprint on the background paper (the ‘stretcher’ in this case) could convey a narrative through visual depth. An idea, to explore further? It brought up questions around how the ‘canvas’ can act not only as a surface to paint on (example see FIg. 3-5), but also a skin and a matter concealing, though protecting (like human skin as tissue). The applied adhesive made the soft tissue more rigid, but might be considered also as an act of conservation.
Some of my ideas developed through making above works: conservation (reminding me of my works for assignment 2, e.g Preservation Box, inspired by Candice Lin), folding (see Fig.2, 4, 5, 6), incision (cutting open or writing marks, a scalpel approach related to the medical gaze, seeing and touching). Another trial, still on a ‘stretcher’ background paper to hold (Fig. 8), veiling becomes sculptural (not yet):
=> the canvas as sculptural expression of gesture (weaving, folding), not yet released from its ‘stretcher’ (background paper), a different view on veiling, and using of shellac as preservation technique. Interesting that manual labor, weaving, reduced the outer shape. The added yellowish shellac solution added kind of tainted appeal. Although quite obvious, it also means that the accumulation of mass through weaving, turns a flat surface into a sculptural surface. This led me to think about more rigid materials, materials that solidify, and are also used in a medical environment: plaster bandage. A material applied to skin, acting as a second skin, malleable when dry and wetted, rigid when hardened. Incision can be done through tearing (initial stage) or with scalpel (knife) when hard.
Appropriating a postmodern theme, the stretcher as painting, the blank and monochrome canvas, the empty canvas. I wrote an essay on it (assignment 2 UVC), looking at Plaster Surrogates (1982-84) of Allan McCollum (Fig. 9)
=> a plaster cast from of an empty stretcher, reverse view: a container becoming the surface. Reminding me not only of Allan McCollum but also of Rachel Whiteread’s House (1993): the cast as a skin transfer process revealing traces of the interior walls. I find two aspects intriguing: the porosity, slight transparency, openness of the plaster fabric (reminding me of the permeable skin) and the single threads at the bottom. Both giving the rather minimalistic work a sense of intimacy. And the single threads reminded me also of line drawing. Single threads are playing an important role in Simon Callery’s works, e.g. Symmetrical Aluminium Wallspine, 2017. And the cast shadow at the top could be seen as a linguistic word play: to cast an object, to cast shadows.
Nevertheless, one idea sparked during this exploration (Fig. 3) and embedded in above cast: the container. Typically, the stretcher acting as the containing part, I was wondering whether the surface can not contain as well (Fig. 10).
=> turning the canvas into a container, a gifting, a sweet. An idea for uncanny moments when filled with unfamiliar things, e.g. organs, brain matter? This brings me once again in relationship with Helen Chadwick and her exploration of aesthetics of medical matters, e.g. Self-Portrait, 1991 or Monstrance, 1996 (Chadwick, 2004:114, 142-3).
My aim: to overcome the stretcher’s containment (even the holding background paper as in Fig. 7 and Fig. 8)
Key element to explore further:
The first thing, to release the woven, now solidified, tissue (Fig. 8 left) from it’s ‘stretcher’:
=> I photographed this suspended in front of my studio wall (with white paper backing) and coincidentally a black line mark came onto the photo (right). I felt intrigued by it without knowing why, and decided to leave it in the reproduction in this blog. Perhaps, it reminded me of the ‘line-drawings’ above (see Fig. 4)? The shadows casted, a notion I reflected on my plaster cast (Fig. 9), gives depth, and the line to the right adds context, a dialogue, a direction.
Second thing, to see how opaqueness and transparency could work with tissue and plastic sheet, can it be done without plastic sheet? Trying to start with a combination of Fig. 3 and Fig. 11:
=> perhaps not very successful execution of interwoven plastic-plaster stripes, as if both do not like each other. The touch of it felt also awkward, kind of opposing elements
I was wondering whether I could combine this in a more interwoven surface as I did before (see Fig.11). Also, to see whether I could ‘re-construct’ the canvas inspired by the casted stretchers (see Fig. 9).
=> here, I was facing a ‘stubbornness’ of plaster bondage, cut into stripes, woven and sprayed with water . but apparently not sufficient to get the woven pieces stuck together (Fig, 15. left top). While looking for alternative ‘wetting’ devices, I filled a bucket with water added some drops of blue and red watercolor to it, and placed the strands completely under water (Fig, 15. left bottom). Drying made to color fade (Fig, 15. center), and resulting in a interwoven, combined fragmented plaster canvas (Fig. 15, right).
I decided to move away from the plastic and to look at
skin – line – veiling – incision
While thinking of skin, I wanted to test latex as my tutor suggested, as well as seen in some of the works of Lynda Benglis.
=> a similar shape as Fig 13, surprisingly unconsciously. I felt inspired to add some line markings. Perhaps too much too illustrate skin incisions as one can experience during surgery? The marks left behind, closing the opening with thread – also kind of stretcher, a pull together. The combined texture, tissues and latex felt strange, quite elastic and rubbery. Compared to plaster bandage and tissue, this one is not porous any longer, quite opaque surface.
I wanted to make line markings with a similar way as before (see Fig. 4) and decided to work with tissue and the found plastic band alone – embracing more the porosity and permeability of the surface. To make it more robust, I decided to go for adhesive (not rubbery as latex, and not as solid as shellac solution).
=> This resulted in a more expressive canvas with embedded stretchers. I found it more successful, as the band (‘stretcher’) works in a dialogue with the tissue (‘canvas’). The ‘line’ extends the surface and all together it became a sculptural surface.
- This exercise allowed me to look more into the materiality of a surface, that traditionally acts as a mere flat support for a painting to become. Here, the surface tuns sculptural and the materiality tells what lines or shapes are possible. The imagination is not painted onto , it is woven in the materiality itself.
- I was facing the question of three aspect, the canvas, the stretcher, and the context. E.g. in Fig 8. the works are built on a holding surface, a working table. Is this ‘table’ part of the work or not? Is this another kind of stretcher, similar to what one is doing when stretching wetted watercolor paper on a board, to tape the edges? My ambition let this work be ‘un-stretched’ from this context (see Fig. 11), only to realize that the background of the suspended piece also adds context, illustrated clearly by the black mark on the right side of the reproduction (Fig. 11 right hand)
- Throughout this execise, I developed new ideas derived from visual cues discovers in a previous steps. I found as if the ‘canvas’ through its materiality and response to actions, e.g. the ‘stubborness’ of plaster bondage stripes to stick together (see Fig. 15) does ‘tell’ me what could be done next.
- The canvas can be enhanced through paint or: painted marks enhance the materiality of the canvas (see Fig 3). Building on features of the canvas’ materiality with markings responding to it.
- Using a found objects, e.g. the plastic wrapper, to draw in space. The line becomes independent of the surface, though in dialogue with it (see Fig. 4)
- I do feel that I possibly could have looked even deeper in one material only. Certainly, an aspect to consider more in my following works (deeper not wider, not the first time I reflect on this).
- I do think that the more successful pieces are those that I interacted closer with, with more intimacy to the material orders, partly Fig. 3 right, Fig. 4 and Fig, 11, more Fig, 5 right, and even more FIg. 13 and Fig. 14 The least successful ones: Fig. 2, Fig 7, Fig, 8 right, and Fig. 9.
- Overall, I find plaster bandage and tissue do have some quality of canvas, a porosity and permeability. Bandage as long it is not completely plastered into a solid mass, tissue and canvas similarly, to have a certain openness exposed. Something to work deeper with.
- An overall question would be whether this ‘canvas-stretcher’ interaction is a mere experimental approach or whether t could be seen in a wider context (see Fig. 13.)
- Chadwick, H. (2004) Helen Chadwick / edited by Mark Sladen ; with a preface by Marina Warner and essays by Mark Sladen, Mary Horlock and Eva Martischnig. Edited by Sladen, M. and Barbican Art, G. London : Ostfildern-Ruit: Barbican Art Gallery ; Hatje Cantz.
- Holtzmann Kevles, B. (1997) Naked to the Bone : Medical Imaging in the Twentieth Century. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University 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).