This is the final incarnation for the group of small figures made from flashing.
I feel they have finally settled on a formation that is intriguing and open to interpretation. Naming the piece may steer you in a direction you might not want to go but needs must...
The tubes are mixed media: clay, paper, drywall plaster, cement, molochite, slate powder and sand - basically anything I could find and that would give the right consistency to the material to be extruded.
This piece was one of the first ones made in a series of 10 or so small figures (averaging 30cm tall), that arouse quite early on in the course as a response to the investigations around masculinity. The finish is an interesting one and for a while seems to have been a signature for quite a number of pieces. Feedback was always positive and the material is sufficiently unfamiliar to make people engage and ask the obvious question of how it's made. Being a small piece, proportions and realism faded into a less significant realm - making the hands and feet that were oversized - but the sculptures were well informed and plausible. My urge to make things that are saleable won over and I was fully enjoying the making.
Then the dreaded question of: 'so what?' reared it's head and the series of figures started to develop a narrative around them by changing the configuration of the individuals. All of a sudden they started taking on readings on the lines of: a football match, fighters, lovers, bullies, defensiveness, circles and cliques, conversations and all of this was achievable with small movements. Photographic evidence of all of these didn't seem enough for me to show. I am an object maker and the configuration would eventually have to take a defined and final position thus making a very specific statement. Apparently this is a no-no, so the work carried on: here are some of the arrangements:
This is all well and good but there was a distinct lack of appreciation and enthusiasm from enough people to make me rethink how they are presented and used. I don't quite understand this myself but I thought let's work with it. They are still going to stay as usable individual and marketable pieces no matter how they end up for the show, so I now treat them as units of material, components and modules to create something else. I'd hate to lose them from the show despite the sudden change in scale of the figure. Everything else is full scale, relatable, floor pieces and the figurines could be seen more like models and drawings.
At moment I am standing firmly by the decision that they the small crowd of them is staying.!
Now, the next stage of development comes from the habit of working with modules and segments whilst using cheap and thrifty materials. Working in Arte Povera style is a necessity for quite a number of artists but clearly that is not all that is involved... Readily available materials that provide bulk and yet do what you want them to do are not always easily found. I have had a fascination with this for a while now and like to use everyday matter to make objects. Making something from nothing is a worthy approach for me. Hence using leftovers, mud, sand and newspaper to make the tubules seemed like an attractive thing to do. The making of them is labour intensive: pulp the paper, reconstitute dry clay, use up expired drywall powder, mix in leftover sand, slate and marble dusts, all to provide bulk to be extruded through the clay extruder - a glorified playdough toy. This is akin to the work of lots of artists who are incredibly faithful to their matter and methods but for me it ended up being a very different result for every batch, making the colouring change from grey to pink depending on how much terracotta clay I used in the mix. Additional pain was the quick setting time for the drywall adhesive - the older it gets the faster it sets so the window of opportunity to work with it was about 20 minutes so the batches had to be small otherwise the mix would set in the extruder and make it impossible to work with. This struggle with the material has ended up being a part of the work and the snagging and the dragged surface texture is happening because of what's in the mix. Pure clay flows better and doesn't fur up the surface but the hand-made look and randomness is what I was aiming for so it all made sense to carry on using it the same way regardless of the mud composition.
bird's eye cityscape?
too 'behind the door' or in this case- chair
early arrangement that made everything look overcrowded
favoured set-up but not quite right
Latest and probably the final positioning:
This arrangement is keeping the pieces knitted but not to much referencing going on between them. The javelin man standing any closer would border on banal and tubes positioned any closer to the kindling mound are overly intrusive.
This is not a compromise but a composition.