Summative Assessment (Artist Statement)

Documentation:

Larger Outcome: Bleached Canvas Strips

Knotted Fabric Outcome

Exhibition – Jacobs Market

Planning Final Outcome

Final Outcome: Construction & Display

 

Contextual:

Minimalism and ‘Beauty’

Robert Ryman & Angus Martin

Robert Morris & Eva Hesse

Exhibition: Disobedient Bodies – JW Anderson

Final Outcome: Ideas

 

 

Artist Statement:

Inspired by the aesthetic qualities of 1960’s New York Minimalism, I have been exploring non-representational repetitive pattern. Unlike Abstraction, Minimalism does not attempt to represent an outside reality, but instead focuses on medium and form, evoking an appreciation for the object itself, not what it represents. Within Minimalism I refined my interests to ‘non-industrial’ materials, choosing to work primarily in textiles. I have endeavoured to utilize the qualities of fabric, exaggerating, creases, textures and fraying. More recently I have made sculptural forms, choosing to cut, rip, drape, fold, and knot the fabric, to create objects rather than surfaces.

Scale and orientation significantly affects the perception of objects; it brings authority to the otherwise mundane. I wanted to occupy the space with a form that was accessible, but with repetitive construction, making use of the effect of gravity on the hanging to enhance the sense of scale. The purpose is to trigger a mental response in the viewer.

This final outcome blends together aspects from four key artists. Robert Ryman, known for his purely white paintings, influenced my colour choice. Agnus Martin’s delicately precise grids, inspired my use of fine muslin. I have imagined my grid as a kind of three dimensional, textile version of one of Martin’s works, bringing order to a pliable material. Robert Morris and his draping felt works informed the hanging of my work. Eva Hesse’s relationship between ugliness and beauty prompted my decision to combine the order of the grid, with the raw edges of the ripped fabric.  The grid was a prominent form within Minimalism, by employing it, within the context of these four artists, I intend that my outcome will be perceived as fitting comfortably alongside the work by which it was inspired.

 

Field:

Field: Final Reflection

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Final Outcome: Construction & Display

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Construction:

I wanted to be as precise as possible in the construction of this final outcome, in order to produce a pleasing uniform grid.

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I had already determined that the length of my net, in comparison to the length of the three conjoined walls, should be 6 meters. Furthermore, when testing knots, I decided that each square of the grid should be 10x10cm. In order to calculate the necessary length of each strip, to produce a 10cm square, I simply tested and found it needed to be 40cm.

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The white muslin I found had a width of 150 cm, excluding the selvedge. I could get 15 strips across the width of the muslin, with each strip being 10cm wide.

I needed 760 strips of muslin to construct a 60cm x 6m grid, therefore requiring 22 meters of fabric.

I gave myself a budget of roughly £60 for fabric, to get the 22 meters of white muslin (£2.99 per metre), however the sales woman must have been generous, because I was able to knot three more rows than expected, coming to a total 63×6 squares or 630x60cm; meaning I was given 23 meters of  muslin.

It took me roughly three days to rip and knot all the fabric, constantly measuring and and checking it was uniform.

 

Display:

In order to create shadows on the wall behind, I chose to display the grid using 30cm long brackets. Originally I planned to use four brackets, two on either end, to stretch the muslin making the grid more prominent, however this was not necessary. Only two brackets allows easer observation behind the work, creating an object rather than a two dimentional textile.

I am glad I was able to allow the end of the grid to dangle, it further accentuates the softness of the muslin, while making the whole display more balanced.

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Final Outcome: Ideas

Throughout the year, I have constantly focused on pattern, however my work before and after Christmas was quite different. Having been inspired by a more abstract experimental way of working during my second Field group ‘Athletes of the Heart’, I chose to abandon pictorial pattern, for non-representational pattern and repetition.

My final outcome consists of roughly 23 meters of white muslin, ripped into strips and knotted together to form a net-like grid. This grid harks back to the aesthetic qualities of 1960’s minimalism, focusing on process, materials, form, viewer interpretation and integration with the space. I hope that this work might be regarded as fitting comfortably alongside the minimalist works by which it was inspired.

funnelI would describe the development and refinement of ideas towards my final outcome in the form of a funnel. Starting with Abstraction, I refined my interests to Minimalism, them more specifically ‘pliable’/non-industrial materials, which led me to four key artists which have directly influenced and inspired my final outcome: Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, Robert Morris and Eva Hesse.

Furthermore, my final outcome has been inspired by the grid, a prominent form in New York Minimalism.

‘…Agnes Martin was bringing back the grid with a vengeance […] the grid was one of the principal formats of Minimalist painting and sculpture alike, utilized in very different ways by, among numerous others, Robert Ryman, Eva Hesse, Carl Andre, and Sol LeWitt. […] Martin and others were attracted to the grid for its rigid, all-over regularizing…’ (p.92)

Strickland, E. (1993). Minimalism:Origins. American University Press.

The grid is a form of repetitive pattern, a network of lines crossing each other to create a uniform mesh. As you can see in the above quote, three of my four artists have been described as utilizing the grid – only Robert Ryman is not mentioned, but he has in fact incorporated them into his works. By employing a grid, in the context of these four artists, I hope to further hark back to works which were created in New York at that time. This creates a dialogue between these artists within my final outcome.

Agnes Martin’s work displays delicacy, lightness, and precision. I have endeavoured to emulate these qualities. Her grids have been described as, ‘half-way between a rectangular system of coordinates and a veil…’ I have imagined my grid as a kind of three dimensional, textile version of one of Martin’s works, bringing order to a pliable material. My choice of muslin as the medium of my piece was due to its delicacy. Muslin is finely open-woven, making it almost sheer. The beauty in this fabric is its lightness and fluidity, collapsing under its own weight in soft folds and creases.

Robert Ryman’s choice and use of colour, alongside his fixation to explore the qualities of his materials, has also informed my final fabric choice. White allows for more discernable tones and shadows on its surface, but will also make the muslin appear at one with its gallery surrounding, casting shadows on the wall behind.

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Robert Morris inspired my use of textiles, and the way I have hung my final outcome, allowing the fabric to drape, emphasizing the natural weight of the knotted muslin to form a soft gentle curve. The scale of Morris’s felt works is significant to how it is perceived. Scale and orientation, brings authority to the otherwise mundane.

Eva Hesse, has influenced the display of my outcome, considering the integration of my work with the space. In addition, I wanted to play with the relationship between precision and imperfection. Inspired by Hesse I have not overworked the muslin, retaining its raw ripped edges and loose threads.

A common feature of all four artists is repetition; the repeating of shapes, processes and materials. I wanted the construction of my final outcome to involve a repetitive process, a process which would be discernable by the viewer. I chose to continue my use of knots established in my previous outcome. Knots are a form of fastening, a method of joining the fabric without any additional, external materials. The knots form the corners of each square, their rounded shape and natural contortion of the material create pleasing shapes and folds throughout the piece.

Planning Final Outcome

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How do I construct a knotted grid out of fabric?

What kind of knot will be the most aesthetically pleasing and functional?

What kind of fabric shall I use?

What dimensions will the grid be?

How will it be hung?

 

Testing knots, fabric & constriction:

Continuing on from the knotting I introduced in my previous outcome, I am combining them with the form of a grid, which was prominently featured, in 1960’s Minimalism.

 

IMG_9150First, I tried a macramé style of knotting, to produce a net like form. Although the macramé is the more traditional route for knotted textiles, the craft connotations, alongside the need for very long lengths of material, is not practical. Plus, this style creates a diamond grid, which is not as pleasing or what I’m seeking.

This sample was made out of thick canvas. Despite being strong, with lots of texture, the stiffness of the material gives an almost angular finish, and loses its draping qualities.

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Second, I used the same type of knot as my previous outcome; a reef knot, where the ends go in opposite directions. I found the the ends interrupted and camouflaged the shape of the grid.

This was made in white cotton. Although much softer than the canvas, the creases are still too angular. I am looking for a more delicate aesthetic, inspired by Angus Martin. However I do like the use of white, echoing the work of Robert Ryman.

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Third, I used simple overhand knots to create this more delicate square grid. The thinner strips make far more discernible squares, plus the overhand knots, protrude directly outward, creating texture, while not interfering with the grid.

This is off-white muslin. The softness of the muslin is very appealing, and contrasts well against the ‘rigidity’ of the grid. However, imagining this against the white gallery walls, I feel white muslin will be better suited.

I have decided that I am going to tie together strips of white muslin using overhand knots. The white muslin will become one with the white gallery walls, casting beautiful shadows, while harking back to Robert Ryman’s colour palette. Plus the lightness of the fabric, means it is still fluid and draping even when knotted. I imagine this grid to be a kind of three dimensional, textile version of one of Angus Martin’s works, bringing order to a pliable material.

 

Dimensions & hanging:

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I want to incorporate the hanging and draping utilized by both Robert Morris and Eva Hesse. I am planning to produce a very long, soft grid, displayed in such as to almost create an installation. Each square of the grid will be 10x10cm, and the entire length will be roughly 6 meters.

I originally planed to present in a corner space, hanging the two ends from ether wall, and allow the middle to drape onto the floor. However, I have now discovered that I am able to have three walls attached together to form one long space. This will make for a far more dynamic, elongated effect, allowing the viewer to walk the length of the work.

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The above sketches imagine the way in which the muslin grid will drape when hung in slightly different ways. It is likely that twisted orientations, will cause the muslin to almost collapse in on itself, losing the structure of the grid, therefore not being the best use of the fabric. I want to exaggerate the scale of the grid as much as possible, while also retaining its natural soft drape; creating a relationship between order and fragility.

For the final display I am planning an even more draping display. In order to enhance the main drape of the work, I have chosen to move the hooks inwards, leaving the ends of the grid to dangle. Deliberately this allows gravity to exert its effect on the muslin.(Below is my final display plan)

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Robert Morris & Eva Hesse

Robert Morris:

Morris coined the term ‘anti-form’, inspired by Jackson Pollock’s dripping technique. ‘Anti-form’ refers to the process in which art work is made, where you relinquish control and exploit chance. In 1967 Morris became interested in the sculptural possibilities of softer materials and began a series of Untitled works which have been informally referred to as ‘Tangle(s)’. Relinquishing control, he allowed strips of randomly cut, heavy industrial felt to drop and fall into a pile, exaggerating the subtle pliability of his chosen material.

Morris has also created many other works using felt where he has strategically cut and placed the felt in such a way as to form beautifully symmetrical sculptures, allowing the felt to sag and drape under its natural weight. Again utilizing ‘anti-form’, he allows gravity to contort the felt, which in turn demonstrates its weight and flexibility, producing soft undulating forms.Fg100781

 

Eva Hesse:

Known for her pioneering use of materials such as latex, fiberglass, and plastics, Hesse is one of the artists who ushered in the post-minimal art movement in the late 1960s. Hesse preferred her sculptures to lie somewhere between ugliness and beauty. She stayed true to the raw nature of her materials, not manipulating them too much, and allowing the process of construction to be visible. Unlike traditional minimalism Hesse’s work can be described using words such as: strangled, clumsy, knotted, choked, sagging, distended, puckered, and creased. All words that can be used to describe the body, which is a common theme throughout her work. There is also a fragility to Hesse’s work; the rubber and other materials she used just don’t last, therefore evoking the fragility of the human body but also the human psyche.

‘Right After’ (1969) was one of the last pieces Hesse made before she died. Inspired by Jackson Pollock’s drip works, this work was formed utilizing gravity, allowing the fiberglass to dry while suspended. This work is also an example of her using the gallery space in order to structure the work, tethered to the ceiling, in an almost primitive way.tumblr_mn7ajnfN9C1s60wu6o1_1280

 

Reflection:

Although Morris and Hesse use ‘industrial’ materials, they are not rigid, but instead pliable, and fluid. The hanging of their works and focus on materials are the primary qualities which create a dialogue between these artists, yet one is clean and symmetrical while the other embraces process and imperfection. I intend to merge these two characteristics, experimenting with the process and manipulation of textiles, to create pleasing uniform shapes, whilst not losing the textural qualities of the raw material.

Robert Ryman & Agnes Martin

Robert Ryman:

Interested in the nature of painting itself, Ryman is known for his monochromatic, white-on-white works, exploring surface, support, medium, placement before the viewer, and colour. He chooses each aspect of his works carefully; he considers the size and shape of each brush and the mark it will make, the thickness of a stretcher, and each fixture used to hang the work.

 

Although considered a painter, could Ryman’s attention to the fixtures used to hang his works, turn them from being painted surfaces, into sculptural forms, therefore becoming objects?

Each alteration he makes is an exploration, believing that painting constantly needs to be changed and experimented with. This has resulted in almost a fixation with exploring ‘whiteness’; he has repeated a very similar set of aesthetics many, many times.

 

Agnes Martin:

Martin became known for her square canvasses, meticulously rendered grids and repeat stripes. Martin thought of her works as studies in the pursuit of perfection. She believed that spiritual inspiration and not intellect created great work. She said, ‘Without awareness of beauty, innocence and happiness one cannot make works of art’. Her works are all about experience, on the part of both the artist and the observer.

 

Martin’s works have a kind of fragility: the tough fragility of an eggshell. Although made with strict precision, usually of parallel lines or short dashes, perfectly spaced to form a regular pattern, each work is unique and distinct. Martin’s Lines often come together to form delicate grids. English art critic Lawrence Alloway found Martin’s grids,

half-way between a rectangular system of coordinates and a veil… Martin’s seamless surface signifies, for all its linear precision, an image dissolving. The uninflected radiant fields are without the formal priorities of figure and field or hierarchic ranking of forms, and the skinny grids are set in monochrome colours that make visible the shifting gradients of real light across the painting. The effect is of precision and elusiveness at once.” (pp.94-95)

Strickland, E. (1993). Minimalism: Origins. American University Press.

The repetitive lines and square form of these works remind me of my final pieces from last year. I focused on the lines/creases made by scrunching paper. I scrunched 100 pieces of paper and drew over one of the creases which crossed the paper from top to bottom. Then transferred and enlarged those lines, layering them to create another drawing showing the relationship between random creases. The scrunching was a way for me to separate myself from the drawing process.

 

 

 Reflection:

I have linked Ryman and Martin together due to their similar aesthetic qualities. But although both Ryman and Martin’s works can be simply identified as pale two-dimensional squares, their intentions are quite different. I can recognise within my longing to explore textiles, Ryman’s obsession with his chosen material. Ryman’s use of white allows for more discernable tones and shadows on his textured surfaces. Moving forward, I will explore Ryman’s choice of colour. It is Martin’s precision and delicacy, in the constructs her grids, which I find beautiful. They are exquisitely formed repetitive patterns – could such precision be achieved, in the construction of a textile object?

 

Minimalism and ‘Beauty’

My primary influence, throughout Subject, has been the works of minimalist artists during the 1960’s. Minimalism is an extreme form of abstraction. However, unlike traditional abstract art which usually represents an aspect of the real world (a physical thing) or an experience (emotion or feeling), Minimalism does not attempt to represent an outside reality. Often focus is placed on the work itself, and how the viewer responds to what is directly in front of them: the medium and form of the work.

Minimalist Painter Frank Stella once said:

My painting is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. It really is an object.’ […] When the surface of the painting is looked at. It is just that: a surface. Not a metaphor of a body or a space within the picture, but an object within a world of other objects. ‘What you see is what you see.’  (p.16)

Batchelor, D. (1997) Minimalism (movements in modern art). Millbank, London: Tate Gallery Pub.

It was the aesthetic qualities of Minimalism which interested me. Minimalism is often defined by its use of industrial materials, such as Donald Judd’s ‘stack’ works, but this is not to what I am referring. Although these works are pleasing to the eye, I am more greatly drawn to works which are formed from more pliable materials, such as textiles and paint, due to their textural qualities and interaction with external forces (gravity), resulting in subtle marks and patterns which are unique to the piece.

‘Beauty’ or ‘visual appeal’ has played a large part in why I began researching Minimalism. Author James Kirwan wrote in his book ‘Beauty’,

“For what I am concerned with is not the objective qualities of the beautiful, but rather the dynamics of the event of beauty, the perception of beauty, that is, the mental state which issues in the feeling that a thing is beautiful.” (p.4) 

When I regard Minimalist works beautiful, I am not implying that others should also think it beautiful. I merely hope that beauty as a sensation is understood, that the beauty I have seen can be recognised and appreciated.