Sunday, 22 January 2012

Mark Boot - Studio Work Update - January 2012

Last summer turned out to be a busy one, locating and then moving into a new studio on Frog Island. This  pace was maintained on joining the MA Fine Art course at DMU in October 2011 as a Part Time student.

My intention on joining the MA was to re-evaluate my practice with input from a new peer group, and to make new connections between drawing and sculpture. This happened, but in a rather unexpected way.

I started the course with a corner space, and decided to take the notion of 'Corner' as a starting point to distance myself from familiar techniques of working with constructions in suspension. Starting with drawings of interlocking hexagons, I developed a small structure approx. 40 x 30 x 20 cm that I presented in a UV illuminated dark space box. I had also started to produce versions of the basic modular element below for the purpose of unravelling. For more details read through the Artists Statement below.

Statement for Group Criticism 23/11/11

Corners 2011 is an ongoing response to my interest in space and light, and has developed specifically from my relationship to a new MA studio space, and a recent discovery of Murqanas structures in Islamic architecture.

The work consists of an external cuboid, made of light wood, and minimal in design, presented on a wall with its horizontal centre at eye level. Its only feature is a single rectangular aperture in its front face. Inside the cubiod, four fluorescent poly-chromed wire structures form a composition in a blacked out space illuminated by two UV lights that are concealed from the viewer.

When approaching the work the viewer is confronted with an object the size of a small piece of furniture that is presented in a centre of a wall in the same space as a painting or large Television. The aperture performs the same function as the aperture in James Turrell’s Sky Spaces, bringing the ‘view’ behind the opening forward to the surface surrounding the aperture and giving it the appearance of a screen image. It is only as the viewer approaches the work that they realise a three dimensional object is contained within the cuboid. The proportions of the aperture allow this internal structure to be slowly revealed as the viewer approaches - usually stopping at about the same distance as they would from a computer screen.

The external surfaces of the work define a volume and space in a manner with which we are all familiar - we live, sleep, travel and work in a multitude of cuboids ( and minimalist sculptors filled white cube spaces over half a century ago). The viewer has a perception of the scale of Corners 2011, and therefore the space within it, in relation to the space they are within, and the scale of there own physical presence. This spacial familiarity breaks down as Corners 2011 is approached in a similar manner to that experienced when walking between the converging walls of the waist high corridor into Richard Wilson’s 20/50 installation - a sense of changing scale in relation to their environment. As the viewer zooms in to Corners 2011 the internal structure zooms out, and the viewer is diminished in relation to what appears to be a much larger space than anticipated.

This space contains four structures, all of which are a direct response to Islamic Murqarnas. These were constructed in the corners of Mosque ceilings and originally provided a structural solution to the construction of a dome onto a square floor-plan, however, during the 13th century they developed into a complex decorative feature that unified hemispherical and cubic spaces. Having been interested in the point where a corner ends and interior space begins, I was fascinated by the fact that Murqanas became more complex and beautiful as a consequence of aesthetic aspirations than they ever were as a functional device for supporting a dome.

Each structure in Corners 2011 is constructed from a single continuous ‘line’ of aluminium wire.
This ‘line’ is direct translation from two dimensional orthogonal drawings of regular hexagons (representing an illusion of cubes), into a three dimensional crystalline structure. This is not a line that has gone for a walk, it is a line that has flown, and like an electron changing orbit it glows, or to be specific, it fluoresces.  Where incandescent light sources such as neon signs appear flat, the fluorescent structure retains its sense of a physical presence in space, but unlike the work of Judd and Flavin, both of whom created work that was dependent on its relationship to its immediate [gallery] environment, the structures in Corners 2011 appear to be in a void, and the only context that the viewer has to place them is their now distorted memory of their first encounter with Corners 2011.

To make sense of these structures we need to consider the role of colour in Corners 2011. This is colour that Frank Stella referred to “as being as good as it is in the can”, no mixing as this compromises the fluorescent quality of the paint, just five colours and a white. It is also the quality of colour also that epitomises David Batchelor’s explanation of Western Chromaphobia - it’s in your face, and it lacks the sophistication of an experienced ‘colourist’. But this is miss the point. The function of colour here is to code complex visual information in very much the same way that Harry Beck’s iconic London underground map simplified tube travel in the 1930’s. Along with Great Apes and some Monkeys, we are the only animals to possess trichromate vision, a factor that has contributed greatly to our success on this planet.

 “..a visual system that can identify and catagorise surfaces according to the relative distribution of power in light, as well as according to the overall intensity of the spectral return, will be more effective in generating successful behaviour than a visual system that can’t ” (Lotto R.B)

The consequence of this was to return to the installation of work directly into a space to encourage a greater level of interaction and engagement, with the corner of a room as a starting point the use of UV lights to define a notional corner, and four larger sculptures at  various stages of being 'unravelled'.

Statement for Assessment 03/01/2012

The work presented for assessment consists of two distinct elements. Firstly Corners I, a wall mounted box with internal lighting containing a poly-chromed sculpture, and secondly Corners II, an installation of UV lights and four sculptures occupying the far left corner of this room.

Corners I enabled me to present a light based work without it needing to be in a dark room, however, the means that facilitated this – the boxed environment, also created a barrier between the sculpture and the viewer and I felt that this notion of a barrier could only be resolved in two distinct ways. Firstly, the box could be designed to encourage the viewer to interact with the work (by changing the size of the aperture, and position of the box in relation to the viewer) who would then have to move around and discover viewing holes. This is however moving towards the voyeurism of Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés, and as I had had to acknowledge following a recent tutorial, it also involved maintaining the ‘compromise’ of using a box to contain the work. The second resolution was to release the sculptures and loose the box.

As I was more interested in the physicality of the work than creating a sense of mystery, I made a series of structures (similar to the initial structure in Corners I ) with the sole intention if deconstructing them. Using Richard Serra’s notion of acting out verbs on materials, I twisted, pulled, stretched and pushed them into larger corner spaces. This gave the maquettes a sense of implied movement that also related visually to the use of fluorescence, as both the memory of a previous structure and the radiation of light are evidence of a transfer of energy. To ‘animate’ these maquettes they also needed to undergo a change of scale and be large enough for people to walk around them. People also needed to be ‘drawn in’, but instead of constructing a box to engage them, I decided to use the cuboidal room space that they were are already inside.

Taking the basic element of six lines defining a cube from my initial drawings, I defined a notional ‘corner’ in the room using six 48 inch fluorescent UV strip lights. This would be a corner that would be large enough for people to enter and move through - but one without the physical routes like those leading you as if in Mike Nelson’s Coral Reef. Corners II will have more of the sense of ambiguous boundaries and play-full discovery that Pipilotti Rist instilled in her in her Eyeball Massage exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.

There were several aspects of the assessment presentation that interested me. 

Firstly, by installing the sculptures into a white space, rather than a blacked out space as I had previously, the walls acted as a screen and reflected the light produced by the fluorescent sculptures creating a strong relationship between the sculptures and the limits of the space that they were installed into. 

Secondly the variation in distance of sculptures to a light source resulted in a graduation of intensity of fluorescence which also enhanced the sense of space.

Thirdly the light in the installation emphasised the physical form of the tubing that the sculptures were constructed with, in the boxed structures the viewer is behind the light source so the structures tend to flatten out and look like digital images. 

Finally, the installation was animated by the interaction of the viewer as distinct from the Kinetic Chromophilia installation that was first shown at the Pedestrian Gallery last year.

I'll draw this to a conclusion with the most recent MA assignment that we given, which is basically how I move my work forwards.

Fine Art Research Methodology

January 11th 2012

I feel it would be of benefit to analyse and understand the methods and processes that I use to keep my practice moving forwards in the context of a “journey”. At any point of this journey I have the skills and knowledge that I have previously acquired, and the purpose of the journey is to increase the range and depth of understanding and experience. The point of the exercise is the journey itself, not its completion, and although it is not important to know exactly where you are going, it is necessary to have a full understanding and awareness of where you have been. Fundamental to this journey is a definition of art that I have developed from Aristotle, that art is a process of “coming into being” (and not the object created) and the best single piece of advice I have ever been given by a teacher, “only connect”.

There are distinct phases in the smallest unit of the “Journey”,

  • Finding the Question
What am I looking for? This involves narrowing the field and defining, it can involve chance and fate and is invariably related to issues raised by completing previous work. It is about realising what the problem is and establishing the parameters that I have to work within.

  • What do I already know about this?
What are the contextual links to the question? Are there links to other disciplines? This is not just about providing immediate answers to questions, it is more about priming oneself to make relevant connections in the future and being able to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. ( i.e. Starting the investigation into ‘Corners’ led me to consider, among others, James Turrell’s Early Projected Works,  David Batchelor’s Idiot Sticks, Dan Flavin’s installations of light in corners, Richard Serra pouring lead, Yayoi Kusama’s Mirrored installations, 

  • What can I do?
Deciding which materials and processes are appropriate. This often involves considering how many permutations and combinations are possible within the parameters set by myself, (i.e. Sol LeWitt) and an understanding of why I tend to work in a particular way. (i.e. construction and my childhood preoccupation with Lego.) At this point I will usually remind myself of Richard Serra’s lists of verbs.

  • Play
It is very important to play with materials, processes and techniques. Find out how they behave. You can never fully predict the outcome of play. Use ones strengths to take chances and create opportunities, this is where I am seeking my equivalent of Tony Cragg’s ‘ Piggyphant”

  • Evaluate creative output
This is about understanding what I have really done, as distinct from what I wanted to do or think I’ve done. On a personal level this means stepping back from work, spending time with work, playing with it, living with it, drawing it and photographing it. It is also important to have evaluation from peers - people whose intelligence and integrity I trust - artists, students, tutors, and work colleagues.

  • Crystallisation
This is not about drawing an enquiry to a full conclusion. It may result in the completion of a piece of work, but the process of crystallisation invariable brings up new questions, which take me forward to a new start, and a fresh line of enquiry.
Between Finding the Question and Crystallisation, progress is never linear. Stages may overlap, and it may be necessary to jump between them to find a way forwards. This is where I need to be alert to new opportunities, i.e. seeing new exhibitions (Pipillotti Rist), attending lectures        (Adam Gillam), the chance comments people make and connections they make with your work, and the chance encounter with a visual phenomenon or situation that makes a connection for me.
If I’m not sure what to do, I probably need to ‘do’ something rather than think about it. It is usually best to stop and think when I have a reason to contemplate, and this could be at any time or place. You just have to be prepared to run with it when it happens.

When starting my MA, I was aware that my interests were light, space and structure, that I worked empirically, and that regardless of the media used to resolve an enquiry, a creative investigation had always begun by playing with three dimensional materials and processes. My primary MA objective was to develop a stronger relationship between my empirical processes and drawing to facilitate a faster pace of development. To prevent me from relaxing into my comfort zone, I took advantage of the fact that starting the MA coincided with a number of changes, like moving to a new studio, and decided to make a fresh start. I was given a space with a corner, and decided to work with this as a starting point as I had previously been making with a lot of structures in suspension. I also decided to start with drawing to encourage myself to avoid treading old ground and using familiar processes.

Since starting the MA last October, my working process has developed and in particular the pace I work at has increased. There are a number of reasons for this;

  • Using drawing as a starting point – drawing becomes a means to understanding the “question” rather than as a means of recording what I see and experience around me. Having to move the line into three dimensions enabled me to make a physical link between understanding the parameters that I had established, and playing within them.
  • Writing. I have always seen writing as my weak point, and have tended to avoid it where possible. However, the use of a journal – keeping an ongoing written evaluation, having to articulate observations; realisations and reflections, and then consolidating this into artist statements has enabled me to slow down and think with a greater degree of clarity. I do feel that the journal is helping me to pin things down, and prime me for situations when these realisations will be useful, rather than acting as a written record to be constantly referred back to.
  • The Wednesday morning ‘Crit’ sessions. Discussing work has, like writing, forced me to articulate and communicate my thoughts and observations.
  • Tutorial feedback has provided a wide range of questions to consider.
  • The opportunity to use a new space to develop work (the January 2012 Assessment) and spending time with it, and writing about it.
  • Regular deadlines - keep me on my toes and force me to make decisions where I might normally procrastinate. This is quite important for me because I am a good holistic thinker, in that I can propose many permutations and combinations of opportunities to develop, but I also I know that I am quite indecisive.


1 comment:

  1. Well i went to the opening and was not disappointed - really loved the work, here is a blog post saying so -