Project 4.4 – Ex. 4.4: Exploring unconventional painting materials
Building up the surface of a painting using unconventional art materials. Creating and extending a material surface of texture, tone and/or colour, to transform the canvas. – Course material
Selection of materials
I feel that I should stay focus and not to browse wide openly in an experimental manner all sort of things around me:
This is visual mapping of materials (Fig. 1)
Form my mapping, I looked for commonalities Eventually I decided to go for three varieties:
- mud / clay: with much water to paint with, the final work will dry on its own
- cardboard chips: with less and more water, the final work will dry but separate; possibly to use with addition of paste to solidify
- plaster / latex: as I felt inspired by the moment of failure / chance from project2 -both resisting each other, the final work will dry on its own; possibly to use with (baby-)powder (talc*)
My aim would be to see how those materials can build up a skin, and how opaque, transparent, permeable these will get.
For the sake of simplicity, I used for this exercise a surrogate for mud: clay (would still love to work with the mud from the coast). Mud aka clay has an earthy connotation. It relates to the sense of touch, and I use it in my art therapy as a low barrier material to stay connected and to raise awareness of one’s body sensation., also it provides resistance to touch.
My aim was to see whether clay can be more than a modelling material, i.e. how clay can be used to flatten out. Typical features of clay (aka mud)
- clay: solid mass for modelling, though flat squares.
- mud: rather associated with flat areas, e.g. river beds, sea coast (like the Waddensee at North sea coast)
- already ‘painted’ brown
- transformative through wetting and building up, usually without much water (what would makes it brittle during drying in the oven)
- openness for new ideas….
Flattening out clay aka mud. Some beginnings – (Slider view: click on the image to open in lightbox view – Fig. 2-4)
How could mud be seen in context? Certainly, it reminds me of Richard Long’s mud paintings, the Avon River mud paintings, 2011. Also of my own mud drawing Mud Falls, 2016 for Drawing 1 unit. The materials resonates for it very tactile character. I decided to stop here with this material and to see whether another material could have a similar tactility and potentiality to build up.
b) Paper chips
I chose Kraft-paper chips, used as filling materials for shipping boxes, as they are made from paper, typically a support for painting, and they are structured, with extension into 3D (see Fig. 5). Paper is made from natural fibers or cellulose with chemical modifications, and it is considered as a ‘natural’ material. Paper chips are a more environmental alternative to styrofoam chips or bubble wrap as filler.
I was wondering, considering the previous coursework, how not only paint, stripped of the support, can transform itself into a sculptural painting, but whether equally also paper, a typical flat ‘canvas’ support, could turn into a painting. Considering my works with paper-mache in part 1 for the ‘combines’ – What is Below and Beyond), I wanted to explore the unique features of that material:
- spatial, though flat squares.
- multiple pieces
- already ‘painted’ brown
- transformative through wetting and mixing with wallpaper paste.
- openness for new ideas….
(slider view: click on the image to open in lightbox view – Fig. 5-11)
Fig. 5: painting with paper chips 1
Considering the idea of slides from my visit to Environment as well as to the exhibition on artist cards in the British Museum, I felt intrigued by smaller scale works, and decided to work on card size scale (10 x 15 cm). A more intimated approach to work, more closer view, and I felt I put more attention to graphic and line (Fig. 9 & 10)
Overall, I was positively impressed about the potentiality of this material. It cultural use as packaging material, and as a more environmental one compared to plastic fillers, could possibly be used to inform works using this material. Packing, filling, discarding – a useful, though dysfunctional material at its final destination.
c) Plaster / Latex
My third material, I was eager to explore happened by chance: finding out what doesn’t work, and what doesn’t work well together. How to make a good solid mass in an instant, made from semi-liquid plaster and liquid latex (Fig. 12). A resistance, and yet, not separable. Could this be developed into something else? Could I explore those resisting and cohesive forces?
I continued with the smaller scale approach, as I found it might even work better with those ‘precious’ painting-constructions (slider, click on the image to open in lightbox view – Fig. 13 – 17)
Overall, considering my initial enthusiasm, I found the subsequent result less convincing. The separate approach (Fig. 16) more informative for further work. Latex can be easily textured, and to use fragments of it alongside other materials might be the better move forward.
- Do the resulting ‘painting objects’ suggest particular ideas or subject matter?
– Mud: scratch marks, reminding me of the sea-coast, the wetlands
– Chips: no1 (Fig 7): a spatial map, like Bruce Nauman’s studio mapping (Two Messes on the Studio Floor, 1967), extraterrestrial mapping no 2 (Fig 8): – rose (intentionally done), rough construction
– Plaster / Latex: like pebbles, gems, found objects; or trash
- Do they operate more like sculpture now than painting?
=> a good question of what is difference between painting and sculpture. Karla Black considers her spatial works as sculptures, less a painting. I tend to see them in between, the mud and the chips wall pieces rather a painting with sculptural material, the plaster/latex attempts rather sculptures. How would I differentiate for myself? Sculptures when it comes to relationship between the object and the viewer, painting when it focuses more on relationships between surfaces and color inside the work. Although, the latter also take the viewer’s relationship with the work into account.
- How would I present them in an exhibition?
– Mud: Site-specific, on location installation; a frieze across the wall?
– Chips: I could envision an entire gallery room filled with the paper chips as packaging filler material, with paint partly covering it and the material itself as spatial paint (Fig. 5). Site-specific, on location installation. Alternatively, covering partly all room surfaces, an extension of surfaces in space, an interior view (or also exterior?) . This could build on the idea of interior-exterior / inside-outside dichotomy and a postmodern notion of multiple intensities (Wegenstein explores this in her book at more extend (2006, chapter 4)
– Plaster / Latex: Besides exciting ‘gems’ through a quick transformative process, I don’t consider the results as something to move forward. Having said, the quick transformative process might be an idea for on-site installation, though I don’t know whether this will work on larger scale as well.
- How could I develop them further, larger scale?
Two key aspects seem to be important for me at this stage: skin and stretching.
– I like the spatial expansion approach with the paper chips and could envision to use them for larger works, possibly more to paint with and onto. Pieces that make a whole, like body parts that constitute the body.
– I very much enjoyed working with latex and to discover its unique properties through modulation with addition of acrylic paint, thickener, applying texture and patterns. It seems to be the skin material par excellence (for what I found out so far): it peels off easily, is flexible, can be cut, can be colored, can be stretched and works with other materials when well chosen. I do think there is more potential (my project 2 work, see there Fig. 11 & 12). I don’t think that the chosen combination with plaster works best the way I worked with. Better to see both as two materials in dialogue.
- I didn’t looked at two materials specifically in this exercise: peat and mud. I felt those would need much more attention and could be a parallel project in itself. Secondly, I felt it would divert me from my focus on my current parallel project as the coursework is to some extend closely informing it. Both projects would be quite site-specific.
– Peat – for its cultural heritage and environmental impact
– Mud – or as called in German ‘Schlick’ – relates to the natural reserve at the Northsea cost, a material full of life.
I am wondering whether these materials are more to draw upon, or to paint around with.