So the idea of the collection begins! Like I said I’m really excited about this idea. I hope to make a multitude of plinths, their décor style will each be different; some may be very minimal, some over exaggerated and some will show the traces left behind after my decoration. The plinths will range in height. Some will host my grandmas figurines, or casts of these figures and I may even include some of the magnolia figures I made earlier this year. I hope to leave some plinths without figurines- establishing the idea that the plinths resemble architectural walls.
I also want to mention here the work of Matthew Darbyshire. A big influence in terms of the collection that I’m intending! After being recommended his work I instantly saw the potential of my work being seen as a collection. In the piece above titled- “Exhibition for Modern Living.” Darbyshire accumulates a multitude of modern objects, The audience is allowed to explore each object, taking in their purpose or lack off it and discover their ultimate tackiness; all the while they are being made aware of consumer capitalism and our taste choices as individuals and collectively. I’ve also noticed in this image the layout of the piece; the viewer is allowed to step into the space, weave through and come out at the other end. This is the affect I hope to achieve in the layout of my plinths- enough room for my viewer to walk around the figurines and explore their secrets.
I had a breakthrough 121 tutorial with my tutor Ben Judd this week, we began by discussing my disappointment and my struggle to continue forward since the Show and Expose. I explained how I felt that the title was too explicit and was forcing an opinion of the British class system upon my viewer. As I spoke Ben informed me that it wasn’t just the title he could sense I had a problem with being too explicit, it was the work itself too- Ben confirming that- “The work itself felt too literal.”
The discussion lead to where I am now with the work- casting some of these figurines, I explained I wasn’t completely sure why I was developing the work in this way but felt it had some relevance to the work of Jeff Koons and his casts of “proletarian luxury” objects. We then began discussing the strengths of previous work- the way in which I transform the objects. This is a key aspect of the work, the way I have transformed the objects in the past using magnolia paint and transforming them by re-contextualising them in an art space is a real strength of the work. Ben felt that casting could be another element where I can transform the objects. Suggesting matching resin dyes to colour choices of plinths.
This is when Ben had a sudden realisation towards the work. Explaining that it is the process of my making, the transformation of the object, that’s interesting to the viewer. Previous works where I have included the processes of my work- when I left traces of wallpaper on the plinths for example, they were a huge success. Why then can I not combine these different approaches to make one collection? A collection of my making. A lot of different elements and concepts have evolved from different works, so by compiling all my making methods I hope this will encourage the audience to talk about all the notions of my work not just directing them to think about one aspect. I don’t need to push ideas of nostalgia, class, and traces of time, explicitly to my viewer. By touching on all aspects of these through my making, the viewer can make their own opinions of the work.
I am really intrigued and excited about this new idea! It seems this could be the missing link- a collection, or humorously as Ben referred to it as “a greatest hits”, of my making. This idea of the collection also fits in with the notion of the home as a space to collect. Through time we accumulate things. Through my making process I have made a collection. The Show and Expose piece was focused, but it was limiting my thinking- transferring only one element of the works content.
The mould is coming along slowly but surely! Been going into the studio each day I can to add more layers, wait for that silicone to dry (a thicker silicone this time with thixotropic added to it) and then adding another layer. The next layer being the plaster jacket which is used to hold the mould firmly in place made whilst making casts later on. Yesterday after the plaster had dried, I then flipped the mould, removed the clay, cleaned the excess clay and began preparation for the 2nd half of the mould. Vaseline was applied to the silicone to avoid the moulds sticking to each other and then the first thin layer of silcone I mixed was poured onto the mould. So I’m getting there! And the good news is that I’ve got the go head for the big idea, the degree show big idea, including these casts so more motivation to crack on!
As my casting work continues in the studio I’ve also been doing some more research into the work of Jeff Koons. In particular his collective work: Luxury and Degradation. In the book I took out the library; Jeff Koons handbook, I found the quote below which talks about my work so closely, particularly my transformation of the object itself. Jeff Koons remakes these kitsch objects in luxury materials transforming their value and worth. I hope to transform my grandmas figurines into the materials of the art world, transforming their value for an art audience.
- “In ‘Luxury and Degradation’ the objects are given an artificial luxury, an artificial value, which transforms them completely, changing there function, and, to a certain extent, decriticalizing them.”
Robert Rosenblum’s notes, at the beginning of the book, sums the work up for me; “I recall the shock of my initial confrontation with Koon’s lovingly hideous and accurate reconstructions the lowest levels of three-dimensional kitsch…” “We all, of course, have been seeing this kind of stuff for years in every shopping centre and tourist trap, but never before have we been forced, as one is in a gallery setting, to look head on and up close at it’s mind boggling ugliness and deliriously vapid expressions.” Won’t lie, had to look up the word vapid; it means bland. Bland and ugly objects being forced into the eye of the viewer.
Following my own advice, and the encouragement of Pil Kollectiv, I began work in the casting room today! I wasn’t feeling very productive at all this morning, I knew I needed to start casting but I didn’t have a clear purpose as to why and what I wanted to make. I decided to just go for it and see what comes out of the process. So far the experience has already meant that I’ve learnt some of the manufacturing methods that are used to make these figurines in factories; they are mass produced in a mould made just like the one I began making today. The technician Richard explained that you could see the outline of the two part mould they used on the shape; that’s the orange line we marked out and then I began moulding around with clay. The figure was then effectively in a bed of clay ready to pour on the first skin of silicone; the green stuff. The clay needed to be at a direct right angle to the line made on the figure; this required a lot of my patience as I scraped around the figure to level out the correct alignment of the clay. Once this task was done I poured a mix of silicone onto the figure leaving this to dry overnight to see what happens tomorrow!
Following last weeks live lecture; I decided to get my very first tutorial with one of the guest speakers. The pair; Pil and Galia Kollectiv gave an enchanting talk about the capitalist world which we live; reiterating the comment: “We find it easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”- A rather interesting quote regarding my practice. I had a tutorial with Pil the following day. I found the experience really rewarding getting an outside perspective on my practice; which meant new references and new research.
Pil’s reactions to the piece; Aspiration Between the Classes, lead to an immediate discussion regarding the earlier work of Jeff Koons. I’d seen his work previously, even seeing his famous Puppy outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao (shown in the photo), but I’d never made the connection to my current practice. Pil showed me the particular works he was thinking of- Louis XIV and a really relevant article which he sourced for me: http://www.flashartonline.com/interno.php?pagina=articolo_det&id_art=348&det=ok&title=JEFF-KOONS In the article, Koons has a fascinating way of describing the objects which he casts as: “proletarian luxury?” A term which I feel really complements my practice! Pil explained that Koons casts these forms of kitsch objects with luxury materials. Therefore there is an element of transformation towards the objects. Since my experimentation with the figurines in magnolia paint, this is something I feel my practice has been missing. It seems this could be the right time to get back into casting! – Something which I really enjoy.
Pil was encouraging of the work, but felt I needed to be bolder with it. I’m on to something but there is something missing. I need to emphasize the irony I’m putting forward that these figurines are now involved in the art world. Make more fun of the art world and its customs. Pil mentioned that what I was touching on here was something that the pop art movement was suggesting- bringing popular culture into the art world. But like them the work is starting that discussion but then it is closing up to quickly for the audience. Pil encouraged me to find a way to critique not just the working class taste- but also critique the art world.
Whilst at my Grandma’s over the weekend I took photographs of the figurines in the previous blog post but we also dug out some old photographs together of her childhood in Glasgow. In an earlier blog post: https://rachelfenwick.co.uk/2014/02/24/grandma-kathleen/ I talk about grandma growing up there as she explained it to me over the phone; retelling interesting tales of harsh conditions but happy times spent in Glasgow. Having never seen most of these photographs before I felt happy that my grandma could share them with me. The sulky little girl featured, is grandma herself maybe looking not so happy about her surroundings! The coloured images also show the many many ornaments grandma’s had in her previous homes!
In an attempt to do my own research into the taste choices of the middles classes, I have photographed here, with permission may I add, Louis’ aunt and uncles family home. With Grayson Perry’s idealisms of the middle classes firmly in my mind already, it wasn’t hard to see the same taste choices he’d suggested cropping up here within this home. The heart shaped emblem in the window for example, the Cath Kidson accessories and the Jamie Oliver cook books. These were all signs that Grayson Perry picked up on himself and were included in his portrayal of the middle classes.
In my essay I wrote: Perry, referring the taste decisions of our homes, suggests; “We often only become aware of these unconscious choices when we move between social classes.” I had my first transitional experience of this when visiting my boyfriend’s family for the first time; their home was very different to mine, filled with books, artworks, and collectables from their well travelled places, not to mention the fancy food I’d little heard of. It certainly didn’t look anything like my Grandmas’. It’s this experience that first placed me in Perry’s 3rd tapestry: Expulsion from Number 8 Eden Close. These photographs now become my own photographic essay of moving between the classes.
A couple of Thursday’s ago now on the 27th of February I had the great pleasure of hearing artist: Jo Addison, talk about her art practice. She spoke with remarkable truth about the obstacles she faces daily with the pressures that come with being a practising artist and the upset which this often causes her. Using the surprising quotation to begin her talk: “I don’t want to be an artist, I want to be happy.” A statement which I found so appealing! She reflected upon her practice saying: “I have a crazy love of things.” Jo Addison is big into her objects and it’s the way she spoke about her use of objects that I really wanted to note here.
- “Approximating a narrative through the role of an object.”
- “Things speaking with a different language.”
- “A language of objects.” (This could be an interesting title?)
- Objects being communicated by a language.
After hearing Addison talk about her work in this way I began thinking about my work as a language of objects. The figurines transferring a language of working class taste and the plinths a language of cultural middle class.