Tread Lightly

Tread Lightly

Felting method of needling the wadding into place, around soft cotton rope to form the shape of the foot. The trailing rope was serendipitous but carried a presence and grew the sculpture quickly.

Soft sculpture is something new for me as I've so far made objects with durable hard materials...

Below is an image of what it would look like if the cotton rope starts taking up much larger area and bursting out the body. All of a sudden it becomes quite a greedy sculpture as far as space is concerned. It is, however, sensible to curb the enthusiasm for the sake of available space.

This iteration is interesting in that unmistakably carries the meaning and a representation of a figure is instant.

It asks of the viewer to build the image in their head and compels them to try to fit what's visible into a body, working out which bit is sinew, what is skin, how the brain is represented, is there a nervous system, bone, veins and skeleton. Twisting the rope at the ankle suggests physical strain, the open hand gesture is non threatening and welcomes the viewer in. The soft surface texture is understood and 'available' even before touching and the ephemeral lightness allows to see through the surface into the internal structure of the piece, just glimpsing the rope and willing the onlooker to interpret the string and rope as bone and artery.

The positioning of the foot is deliberate and the proportions of the space between the hand and foot are carefully worked out so as not to spoil the reading of the composition. A looser arrangement would do all of the above but would also disrupt the reading of volume and space the body ought to be taking up. Scrunching it up into a small space has a feeling of containment, spreading the string to reach across the room explodes the figure to unrealistic proportions even though the parts remain the same size.

Both of these options, could be viewed as legitimate and perfectly plausible, but can be viewed as a bit lazy. I am always cautious of doing something like this. I like to make an effort, and not everyone is so well versed at reading a sculpture to be able to build all of the options in their mind's eye..

The resolution:

One thing that I can do to reach a resolution is to space out the rope in such a way that it would appear random, and not really describe the full body, but occupy it by describing the volume of a person.

Employing the fragmentation of a figure is a well known trope for sculptors, especially since breaking off Venus's arms, but more recently with a convention of representing the whole by using a fragment. The choice of the fragment is also a significant one: the hand, denotes so much more than a fragmented representation of a person. It means so much to us as humans. The risk in using it is in it's proportions and realism, because we are so familiar with the hand - seeing it every day, right in front of your face. Even the slightest thing being wrong with the representation makes it so distracting, unless this is done on purpose and is made obvious. It's a hard decision to make: which way to go, exaggeration, distortion, realism, hyperbole, hyper-realism, symbolism... so: MAKER BEWARE!

Similarly so with the foot, but there is also the consideration of using it as a fetish. it can cause revulsion as so many people really don't like their own feet and it can bring unintended cultural connotations, for example: showing the sole of your foot to someone is rude and an insult in some cultures For me the sole is more about vulnerability and instability. If the foot was firmly planted, as if standing, it would have an entirely different interpretation.

Introduction of a chair to exhibit/support the piece seemed like an option and throws up a different view: elevation, animation, evisceration... The office chair has a very large piece of baggage with it! I decided not to go down this route even though it seemed very attractive, purely because the same idea is already presented in the exhibition - no need to repeat the idea at this point. I'm not averse to working with multiples but it's entirely different to take the same idea and re-enact it in some way. If you've seen one, you've seen them all. I am very aware of having attended art exhibition where solo artists show lots of pieces that only vary in size and maybe colour (and price) with essentially just the one idea repeated for commercial gain. This is always so disappointing unless you are looking to fill a gap on your wall and need options in order to select the right size.

My aversion to using a plinth is the reason why I've discarded the option on the right, despite the fact that it offers an easier access and a means of a closer inspection. There is a time and a place for using plinths but I feel it ought to be avoided if at all possible, especially in the 'gallery set-up'.

The final consideration is how to combine it with other pieces in the show. This won't be resolved until the opening night but will most likely take this form of an arrangement. The sculpture is strong enough to stand on its own but it also contributed, considerably, to the body of work I was building for the graduation show of the MA in Fine Art at University of Chichester.