Acrylic on Canvas
Acrylic on Canvas
A post-industrial Rococo master, Kris Kuksi obsessively arranges characters and architecture in asymmetric compositions with an exquisite sense of drama.
~Guillermo del Toro
Kris Kuksi’s reinvention of Rococo is brilliant because it’s the kind of clever art which makes you look twice. At a first glance, Kuksi’s sculptures seem to be made of very elegant, organic shapes which from a harmonious whole. On closer inspection, however, Kuksi’s sculptures are constructed out of mechanical components and tortured figures. Kuksi collects debris and other objects before fusing them together in grotesque creations and arranging them into intricate compositions. I’d be interested to know how he makes the surface texture and colour of his sculptures so uniform; you would think that they had been cast from the same material.
OPALKA 1965/ 1-∞
Acrylic on canvas
195 x 135 cm each
Roman Olpaka began to paint his large canvases of numbers in 1965 and spent the rest of his life dedicated to marking the passing of time by painting numbers one to infinity chronologically in neat rows. He always used the same size paintbrush (No. 0) so as to make the lettering consistent and legible, and he would let the paint stretch as far as it could across the canvas before refreshing. This appeals to me because you could count how many times he dipped his brush into the paint if you wanted to; it adds another quantitative layer to his already very logically-driven work. As well as his paintings, of which he created over 200, he also took a self-portrait at the end of everyday and recorded himself saying the numbers in his native Polish as he painted them.
His first paintings were white numbers on a black background, and then in 1972 he began to add 1% of white to the background until it became completely white in 2008. He called his white on white paintings “blanc merité,” or “well-earned white”, which is certainly true after spending 43 years on his project. I like this added measurement of time, it’s another way in which he controlled his work so that the passage of time could be clearly read.
Though I find the tightly controlled process used by Olpaka compelling, I cannot comprehend his single-minded obsession with the paintings. He literally dedicated the latter half of his life to recording his life and the aging process. It takes a very focused mind to commit to something so resolutely and I respect that, but it’s not something I can relate to my own practice as I’m interested by so many things.
However, his repetitive process governed by strict rules is very relatable to my own interest in the passing of time and recording it with repetitive marks. I enjoy having rules in place so that I can feel comfortable in executing the work, though I dob’t think I could focus my entire practice down to repetitive mark-making as I still enjoy creating more complex pieces.
Early One Morning
Wooden matches, wood, steel, paper and foam
Andy Yoder spent over two years constructing this globe using matchsticks which he painted himself. I like this sculpture because it’s like three-dimensional pointillism, yet more time-consuming. I’m definitely attracted by the use of tiny components in a large piece of work as well as the time invested in it by the artist. Two very common themes in the art I’m usually drawn to.
Stephen Turner and the Exbury Egg
At the beginning of the Artsway Collaboration project, which I wrote about here, we were given a talk by the artist Stephen Turner on his practice both in the past and his current project, the Exbury Egg, which floats on the Beaulieu River.
What I find most fascinating about Turner’s practice is his own immersion in the work. He has done many projects in which he responds to a certain environment after isolating himself there for weeks and sometimes months. Turner will usually document his time within a place and any work he produces and publish it online on a blog or livestream. It’s unusual for people nowadays to alienate themselves from human interaction and civilization and this dedication and humbleness of living appeals to me. As a person who often needs to work in my own little bubble away from people, I can empathise to some extent with Turner’s need for solitude and the resulting intimacy with his work. From what I’ve seen of Turner’s work, both in his talk and online, he very much connects with his surroundings and creates work which is very personal to his environment and experiences. And for the Exbury Egg project, he has taken on the character of the Beaulieu Beadle, “a guardian of the foreshore and the ‘herald who makes aware’ in my small personal parish around the egg, I’d like to provide a voice for mute nature, to be amanuensis to the tides, the terns and the turnstones.” (quote taken from Turner’s blog).
Turner has been living in the egg alone since last June and will continue to do so until this coming June. He documents everything of interest he finds, from foggy sunsets to dead mice to the migration of swallows. He also creates products from the natural materials available to him, for example making pastels from charcoal and ink from oak trees. He has also made berry conserves and dyes, collected and processed his own salt and created a “Mouse Kit” from the bones of a decomposed mouse. These things will be taken on tour with the egg when he has finished living in it and sold as products made by the Beaulieu Beadle. Touring the Egg is a briliant idea not only because it gives Turner’s work more exposure but because the Egg is situated within a protected area and can’t be visited by the general public. Touring it around the country means that people will actually be able to see it in person, touch it and go inside it. And Turner’s range of home-made products will complement this perfectly as it will give people a better sense of the way he’s been living and interacting with his surroundings.
Hours 1-6 of a planned 24 hour series
Having done some circular drawings in which I let a specific amount of time dictate how much I could draw, I found that I was more interested in the hourly progression of the drawings than just the final product. This led me to starting these drawings shown here, arranged chronologically. I sat down for an hour and drew repetitive, separate marks, photocopying the page at the end of each hour and beginning anew on the the copy. I wanted to demonstrate how much time seemingly small segments of a larger drawing, or any art, can take. I myself have been surprised by how little of the page I fill up in an hour.
The only rule I have when drawing is that each mark must be separate as I think that there’s something more engaging in creating hundreds or thousands of individual marks as opposed to fewer, elongated lines. I tend to get a greater sense of achievement when I make things more difficult for myself, and drawing short marks definitely takes more effort than a continuous line.
I have drawn these hours in various places during different times of the day, and if you look closely you can see this reflected in the drawings. I drew the first hour late at night without measuring out the length of the arcs and there is a clear contrast between this slightly messy section and the second, which I drew the next day and measured out meticulously. I wanted my pedantic tendencies to show through in the drawing, so I didn’t shy away from maybe planning it out a bit too painstakingly.
The third and fourth hours are a direct contrast to the second in that I drew them to pass the time on a train and forced myself to carry on drawing as the train jolted my hand. But as I mentioned before, I like that you can interpret some form of unusual turbulence in the drawings. It gives a better sense of time, I think, if there is a lack of uniformity to hint at different circumstances. The deterioration of the drawing as it is photocopied repeatedly is also an interesting hint at the passage of time.
After the messiness of the previous two hours, the fifth and sixth hours were drawn in the library and were measured out so that I could keep the lines tidy. I did not include the planning in pencil in the hour of drawing as it wouldn’t be a visible, tangible element of the drawing, and I want people to see an hour of mark making which they can easily comprehend.
So far I really like the way the sixth hour looks as a drawing in its own right. I like the fact that it changes the further away you stand, and that the details are only apparent from close up. The variation in tone caused by the varying proximity of the marks makes it it seem like a textured surface rather than a flattened, uniform pattern. So maybe I shouldn’t worry about measuring it out too meticulously.
I began drawing the first circle pictured above while in a creative slump to try and get going again. After maybe a couple of hours of drawing I began to wish I’d timed myself so I could know exactly how much progress I was making and how quickly. This sparked the idea to create circular drawings which were dictated by how much time I had to draw them.
In the second drawing pictured, I timed myself for an hour and this was the result. The only rule I had was that each semi-circular mark had to be made individually and not in a continuous chain. Other than this and following circular lines, I could make the marks as big or small as I wanted. This applied to the consequent drawings also.
I drew the 2 hour circle in pen so that the lines would be a consistent thickness because I wanted a stronger sense of uniformity to the lines. I was indulging my pedantic tendencies and centering the drawing around this pedantry.
Because the 2 hour drawing had only just about fit onto A3 paper, I made sure to use A1 paper in anticipation for the size a four hour drawing could grow to. But in the end I made a very tightly packed circle and at the end of the four hours it was smaller than the 2 hour drawing. I quite liked that contrast between the size of the paper and the drawing as it hints at the spontaneity of the drawing. I decided to leave the guidance lines I’d made with a compass which stretch to the edges of the page as another hint that I had expected to create a bigger drawing.
I found that I actually enjoyed setting a definitive amount of time in which to draw as it gave me focus and I liked the qualitative element of my process. I find comfort in being able to measure my work, and I often associate value with the time invested in a piece. By making drawings which were completely controlled by a defined set of rules, I knew exactly how much the end results were worth to me. The more time spent on a drawing, the more valuable it is. However, I do think that if I were to make two drawings in the same amount of time, I would still value the more intricate or elaborate design more, rather than seeing them both as equal drawings.
Process aside, I’m also quite pleased with the drawings themselves. They’re intricate with delicate lines, which is right up my street.
Motoi Yamamoto’s work is absolutely beautiful in its process and execution. Yamamoto uses salt to create both sculptures and drawings with delicate precision and finesse. His designs are always entrancingly intricate and on a scale which makes the viewer feel tiny in comparison.
I am absolutely enchanted by the artist’s tortuous process of drawing on the ground with a bottle of salt to create vast seas of lines and patterns. I like the fact that it’s all done by hand by the artist himself. The time and skill involved in making pieces such as Floating Garden (above) and Labyrinth (below) paired with the ephemerality of the pieces makes them seem very spiritual and ritualistic. And indeed, Yamamoto’s use of salt is a deliberate nod to its use in Japanese purifying rituals and funeral ceremonies. I think that the use of salt and the raised lines it creates, as opposed to painting on a floor, gives the pieces a much stronger physicality and subsequent presence. Having the patterns drawn with salt makes it a much more tangible piece of art with textures and shadows which can engage people better than a two dimensional piece of the same nature.
Hide - Artsway Collaboration with Architecture Students Mon 28th April to Thu 1st MayWe were given four days to respond to the New Forest surrounding Sway in anticipation of an exhibition at the end of the week. We had to work in groups containing at least two people from both Fine Art and Architecture, and any materials we took from the forest had to be returned and no permanent harm done to the flora or fauna. We were introduced to the project by Mark Drury from SPUD and Stephen Turner of the Exbury Egg Project who were both very helpful in setting the tone for the collaborative works. I wrote a separate entry about Stephen Turner’s practice, particularly within the Egg, here.
After a fairly quick group brainstorm we all agreed on the fairly simple idea of framing the landscape from certain vantage points using branches taken from the forest floor. Here is the proposal we put forward at the first group presentation:
Natural Viewfinder is a project which aims to engage people with their surroundings and encourages them to actively seek out the best views possible by providing focal points. Our “picture frames”, made from the logs and branches found on the forest floor in the New Forest, are subtly hidden within their environments, only revealing themselves when viewed from a particular point. As you can see from our diagrams and trial frames, each edge of the frames is a separate component not attached to the others, but suspended individually and away from the others. We hope that by creating frames which only assemble when viewed from a single spot we will open people’s eyes to how rewarding exploring and discovering parts of the new forest can be, as opposed to just passively accepting what’s immediately apparent.
We first began our research by finding the natural frames within nature and making simple frames both suspended and on the ground. We found that while these frames looked quite quaint, they weren’t very engaging, so we began to experiment with suspending the individual edges separately, at different heights and distances apart. These were much more rewarding to create and forced the viewer to stand exactly where we wanted them to so that they saw the exact view we wanted them to see. The only problem we weren’t able to solve in the three days of practical work available to us was how to make the frames more permanent. We made them as easily as we could, mostly by hanging the sticks off branches using natural hooks in their anatomy or by laying them on the ground. These could be moved out of place quite easily and wouldn’t last very long, so ideally we would need to fix them in place using eco-friendly materials such as cotton thread/rope.
If we were to develop this idea further, we would create dozens of frames in multiple locations within the New Forest around the Sway area. We would also play around with scale to create various feelings of both intimacy and grandeur. We would use stronger materials and acquire the necessary equipment needed to install large-scale frames.
For the exhibition itself within the ArtSway gallery, we were able to use a projector and install a frame within the room for people to view and interact with (see images above). The projection showed a slide show of photographs of our trial frames, both simple and complex, as well as a brief summary of our proposal with an explanation of how we would develop the work. We also included a small map of the locations in which we had created frames. We suggested that the frame locations could form a trail which people would follow, making the frames easier to find. I think that, compared to some of the other pieces exhibited by other groups, our exhibit could have been a bit more coherent. I can imagine that people viewing our projection might not immediately associate the suspended frame and maps on the wall with it and vice-versa. But perhaps the fact that the link between the three parts isn’t immediately apparent complements the project quite well.
What I enjoyed most about this project was the collaborative aspect and getting to work with students from a more practically-minded course. I was very fortunate with the group I was in as everyone was happy to focus on working together on a relatively simple idea rather than risk conflict over a more complex project. As someone who rarely collaborates with other artists on a project, I was surprised to find that I actually enjoyed being able to task-share with others and rely on their support in order to complete the project. Luckily we had a solid body of people who turned up every day, but the problem with holding a workshop so far out of town is that a lot of people, mostly in other groups, didn’t bother coming in. So luckily I had reliable team members who committed to the four days and made valuable contributions.
I’m not sure that the project will have an impact on my practice beyond my new appreciation of the pros of collaborative work, though exhibiting in a gallery was good experience. However, learning about Stephen Turner’s practice and the way he welcomes solitude and complete immersion in his work has maybe inspired me to be less afraid of completely throwing myself into projects. I’m quite attracted to the idea of responding to an environment in which you are isolated and unaffected by any human interactions which might have otherwise swayed you to think or act a certain way. For example, when I was in Rome by myself, I was free to enjoy the art available to me without any thought to how I might have to behave with my friends and family there. It made the experience a lot more personal and precious to me.
I wanna go to BIDAI ![Diskophoros half-length statue]
pen on charcoal paper
collection of the atist
I found Sagaki Keita’s work appealing because it’s like a complex jigsaw puzzle of initially illegible characters which slowly make themselves known. I was initially drawn to Keita’s work, particularly drawings such as the one above, because of the classical subject matter. I think that the contrast between Keita’s cartoonish characters and the classicism of his subjects is an interesting reflection on the way art has changed. Also I’m a sucker for anything made of tiny inconspicuous components which make a misleading whole.
Today it bucketed down and since the community rooms are quite far out from Bournemouth, only about 8 people turned up. We had a quick discussion about yesterday’s activities, then we were given an hour to create a piece of work or an exhibition within the room using what we had brought in from the beach the previous day. As a group we decided on making an obstacle course from the tables, chairs and other objects which would force anyone who entered to take a particular path around the room and isolate them in small spaces. There’s a slight chance the miserable weather had had an effect on our moods and work.
We wanted to make the room hostile, so we turned chairs and tables upside down and sideways so that their legs would act as thorns, mimicking prickly bramble bushes which block your path. We used coats and string and paper to create a forest of overhanging obstacles which you had to duck under or push through. When Jenny and Graham returned to the pavilion we all stood facing a wall and didn’t respond to anything they said, opting instead to let them make their own minds up about how to proceed through the room.
While I think that the “maze” was a good effort on our part with the resources we had, I don’t think it was a resolved piece of work, it was more a trial for something bigger. It would have been better had we been able to stack up the walls of the pathway higher so that you could be fully enclosed by the barricades, but we didn’t have enough materials for that. All in all, it was a good team-building exercise and I feel I got to know the people in my group a bit better.
Mapping Workshop 24.04.2014
The first activity planned was a walk across the beach from Branksome Dean Chine to Bournemouth Pier in a long line stretching from the walkway to the water line. This took about an hour. We were then told that the next activity wouldn’t take place until three hours later back in Branksome. We were not told what we’d been doing, and after a tiring morning and a long stretch of free time ahead of us, most of the group would have left were it not for the fact that Jenny and Graham had encouraged us to leave our bags back at the community rooms. The afternoon’s activities included sharing what we had found and experienced on the walk back to Branksome and walking in a large circle down on the beach in order to leave an imprint as well as provide a spectacle for the nearby public.
While the activities themselves were fairly interesting, they were ruined by the organisation of the day itself. Fortunately it was sunny, or the three hour wait would have caused a riot. As it was a lot of people were very disgruntled to have so much free time in which they were unable to work on their own practice. As this is a very short term, time is even more valuable. Another point of contention was the poor organisation of the morning walk. While the line of fifty odd people walking down the beach must have been interesting to the people we passed by, it was a very messy line with no pacemaker or sense of purpose. We were given very little time to prepare and didn’t establish a walking pace or a way to keep everyone in line. As it was, many people made a game of walking as fast as they could while others struggled to keep up. Had we discussed the walk beforehand we could have given some people the role of pace maker or agreed to let everyone catch up before moving beyond every groyne we walked over. Jenny and Graham also failed to make clear the purpose of the piece. Some people argued that it would be seen as more of a stunt than an artistic performance, and I kind of agree. Had we been more in time as a group and moved at a slower pace, the visual would have been a lot more effective than the disjointed line we had. However, despite these criticisms, I do think it was an interesting piece and I like the thought of people going home or sitting down for dinner with their family and musing over the line of youths marching over the beach in a long line.
In contrast to the morning performance, our circular walk in the afternoon was also sculptural in that it left behind a mark which people would see after we finished walking and left. I’m not sure which performance I prefer, though I might lean towards the circle as it was simpler to execute. I also like the concept of drawing large shapes on the sand which might look like crop circles to other people. I definitely like the common theme of placing an unusual thing or event in a public place and the reaction it might provoke in those who see it. Mostly I’d want people to not have a clue as this is usually more engaging and exciting. It gives the pieces a false sense of purpose.
Linocut Workshop 23.04.2014
I decided to attend this workshop because my interest in woodcut-related printing techniques had been piqued by the Renaissance Impressions exhibition I’d seen at the RA last month. The ad for the workshop had also originally included woodcut as well as linocut, but we were only able to work with the latter.
I had attended a workshop on lino cutting at my previous school, so the technique and tools weren’t completely alien to me, but it still gave me a fresh appreciation of how fine an art it is to accurately translate an image into a linocut relief. I kept to a relatively simple design because of this and I’m fairly pleased with the results. There’s enough room for improvement that the mild perfectionist in me wants to conquer the technique and be able to make larger designs, perhaps repeatable patterns. It would definitely relate to my work as I could create vast patterned drawings with relative ease without using photoshop. Not that I have anything against editing software or digital manipulation of art, it’s just that I want to focus my practice on physical labour and hand-crafting.
As I said before, I’m fairly happy with my prints from the day, though I would have liked to make more using more colours. The pattern is clear, though there’s a lot of shrapnel surrounding it, but I don’t mind it too much as it makes the printing technique more evident. I like the fact that it’s quite obviously a hand printed image as it relate to my interest in craft and manual, skilled work. As well as the strong ink of most of these prints, I also like the fainter, grey print I pressed onto some scrap newsprint. It’s interesting that it’s given the ink an aged look, as if the pattern were part of an old faded mural or textile. It reflects the age of my inspiration, which was the relief on a frame from 1600s.
Photo: Tate Photography
© Ai Weiwei
I love the sheer scale of Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds as the volume of work involved in the making of it is astounding. It took 1600 villagers in Jingdezhen, a Chinese town which used to be famous for making all the imperial porcelain, two and a half years to hand sculpt and paint 150 tonnes of porcelain sunflower seeds. It was a monumental project which produced 100,000,000 individual sculptures. Truly mind-blowing.
Liza Lou's work with beads is astounding for the microscopic attention paid to details within large scale sculptures. I love art made of almost unnoticeable components which make a coherent whole.