Productive afternoon

Yesterday was really productive (amazing what a bit of sunshine can do!). We were back to school for INSET in the morning, and we discussed a new project for Year 10 Applied Arts – they will be working with an archaeological team who are digging up some Ice Age sites near to school. The students will have to make a pop up museum (in a container) and lots of signs for bus stops and the dig. This is great timing for resources – the British Museum currently have an exhibition on called ‘Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind’ and we also started to watch an amazing programme called ‘Cave of Forgotten Dreams’ about the Chauvet caves in France – completely blew us away and left us very excited about the project!

Two sculptures made from air-drying clay. Left outside to weather.

Two sculptures made from air-drying clay. Left outside to weather.

I went home thinking about the sculptures again and made a couple out of some different air drying clays. They have a Hessian base and have been lovingly left outside – surprise surprise its raining today – to “weather”. So far, not much to report – hoping for something amazing to happen over night, but expecting to find some slightly slumped bits in the morning!

I also got busy with some printing ink too, just using a drawing from my sketchbook and a photograph of one of the figures from Pompeii.

Thanks for reading! (and Hi to Daphne Gertrude, Frankie and Dave if you have stopped by!)

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Ideas of a Modern and Postmodern Art Education

I am writing an assignment about art education at two different schools that I teach at, and I’ve suddenly found myself in a pitfall of an argument about modernism and postmodernism in art education. Currently reading a fantastic book called ‘Teaching Art in a Postmodern World’ by Lee Emery photo which has been very interesting in discussing the pro’s and cons of both. However, I’m in a quandary – I am not sure who is going to asses my assignment, so I’ve had to put a little footnote describing both terms and I’ve found myself trapped in a CFAP (Critical Fine Art Practice – my degree) footnote argument (anyone who did the course will understand the fun of footnote arguments, in themselves their own essays!). Here is my first attempt:

4 Please note that references to modern and postmodern art education are based on periods of art. Modern art can generally be seen as late 1800’s to potentially 1970s (this is open to debate which is not necessarily important in this essay), and encompasses movements and artists such as Cubism (Picasso), Manet, Monet, Degas, Gauguin – those artists particularly interested in painting an idea of realism, many which focus on the qualities of light, colour and human interaction (Minimalism of the 60s indicates the shift from human interaction with the environment to ideas revolving around the purity of colour and shape – Rothko, Serra and Stella to name but a few). Postmodernism arrived after WW2, when artist began to use their work to question and comment on the world around them. It was a reaction to the horrors of WW2 and quickly developed into the highly conceptual work of the 1980s where the idea was to shock the establishment. Artists include Joseph Beuys, Warhol, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. This is a highly debatable summary of the two movements – if anything, modernism and postmodernism are umbrella terms for a whole host of other movements. However, their ideals are a theme throughout these movements and each has its own merits and negatives – one only has to stand in front of a canvas painted white in a gallery and wonder which leg is being pulled.

I think I might have to revise it – it makes me laugh, and I’m tempted to throw in a bit of Clement Greenberg for good measure, but I don’t want to be too postmodern about it…

Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time

I watched a programme on BBC yesterday called ‘Pompeii: The Mystery of the People Frozen in Time’ which was an investigation into why in Pompeii the victims were quite literally frozen in time, but in nearby Herculaneum, all that was left of the inhabitants was skeletons. I won’t go into the scientific detail (there are clips on the link above), but it struck me incredible that an event that was so destructive could also hold the power to preserve. It also struck a chord with my project and gave me some ideas about how bring a new visual element to the sculptures. So far, they have been relatively based on my own experiences and imagination, but I am going to start doing some studies of the casts from Pompeii to give me some new ideas.

Further work in Ceramics Workshop

The Ceramics Workshop has been great – I’ve made some coil pots, a slab pot, pinch pots…they are just not very refined! The students have, as usual, out-shone me. Its been interesting to see what they have made – the idea of the workshop was that we would all make basic pots and then diversify into individual projects. My students are working on the title Small Worlds or their exam title, so one has been making fruit (apples and strawberries, except his strawberries remind me of baby owls), another has been making a bird skeleton, one has just made a series of ice-cream dishes. We had a go at glazing the other day, very difficult to envisage how the end result will look as all of the glazes are varying shades of grey before they are fired. We just have to hope the label on the tub was right and the colour is how we imagined it! Frosted Jade could be…well…hopefully a dusty green! Will try and get pics of them out of the kiln, with any luck they won’t be too embarrassing…

I have also been working on my stone man ideas, made this rather dashing looking gentleman – yes, before anyone else says it, he does look like a slightly gormless, toothless BFG. Made using the same processes (which I remembered to document this time) as my previous figure, I might try casting his face once he has been fired. I don’t think I am going to have a chance to glaze him, but he’s still rather a funny little thing. I find him quite endearing.

More responses to Rosso

Both figures started in the same way, balls of newspaper held together with brown gum tape and poured molten wax over. The full length figure worked best as the wax was hotter and soaked into the gum tape and allowed subsequent layers to bind and it is surprisingly solid. The wax I used on the head was not hot enough so it’s just a bit flaky and squishy (those are technical terms).

Medarrdo Rosso – a new favourite

I was showing another art teacher at Hautlieu, Rob Allen, my little carved man, we were talking about covering it in wax to give it more texture and a weathered look and about Renaissance statues that have been partly carved out of their rock but never finished. Rob suggested looking at Medarrdo Rosso – fell in love with his work immediately! Italian artist, 1858-1928 (the rest I am sure you can glean from wiki, or see here www.medardorosso.org) his work was made of bronze and wax. I was amazed by the textural qualities, the differences between rough material and perfect detail (there is one of mother and child which is particularly moving) which made his figures come to life out of the material they were made from. I think that is what inspired me most, not that they were perfect, clean sculpture, but that the there was a great honesty shown by the artist with regards to the material.

One of the things I am trying to do is to keep a sketch book of all of this in a similar way as to how my students are expected to keep theirs (it’s interesting, they love seeing what is in my sketchbook and are always surprised I keep one…story for another day). As part of their assessment, they are required to respond to their artist references, so here is my first response to Rosso: Medarrdo Rosso Sketch

I am also going to make some objects using wax and paper.

Making bound figure in Ceramics…

I wanted to use the clay to make some figures for my project – I thought that the process of making it and then firing it was quite reflective of the Canto, setting the figure in stone as it were. Here is my first attempt:  First Ceramic Sculpture
I started by sketching roughly what I wanted to achieve and then the tutor suggested the best way to create it was to make a base out of screwed up newspaper and build the clay up around it. The clay has to be hollow to allow for it to fire properly. This created a few difficulties as making a model out of newspaper and masking tape is pretty basic and difficult to get the features accurate. Working the clay around it made my initial design change – it fits into my hand quite neatly and I wanted to utilise the idea that it was created by hand (thinking back to the ideas of judgement in Inferno). As a result of this idea, I didn’t use any carving tools, just my finger nails and hands.
This photo is taken at the green stage, before firing. It should come out in a pale terracotta. The newspaper will completely turn to ashes and leave the figure hollow (there is a little hole in the bottom to shake the ash out).

Giant Towers…

I’ve been working on a new project which started when I read Dante’s Inferno. One Canto struck a cord with me and I’ve been trying to visualise it for a while – that of Canto XXXI, where Dante is taken to the last circle of Hell by Virgil. It is here that he meets the giants…

Short while my head turned thitherward I held
When many lofty towers I seemed to see,
Whereat I: “Master, say, what town is this?”
And he to me: “Because thou peerest forth
Athwart the darkness at too great a distance,
It happens that thou errest in thy fancy.
Well shalt thou see, if thou arrivest there,
How much the sense deceives itself by distance;
Therefore a little faster spur thee on.”
Then tenderly he took me by the hand,
And said: “Before we farther have advanced,
That the reality may seem to thee
Less strange, know that these are not towers, but giants,
And they are in the well, around the bank,
From navel downward, one and all of them.”

(for full text, click here)

In my mind, I see it as a though they form part of the rock and are slowly absorbed by the surrounding cliff – almost as if those who had been there the longest were more rock than human and the new comers legs had seized to the rocks with their hands wrapped to their sides and were constantly trying to wriggle away.

Gustave Dore and Botticelli have both illustrated Inferno, but for me, neither illustration was physical enough – they lack the texture and animation which I can see. I am going to try and work this up with some sculpture and illustration to try and communicate what I am thinking…

Gustave Doré: Illustration of Canto XXXI

Gustave Doré: Illustration of Canto XXXI

Gustave Doré: Illustration of Canto XXXI

Botticelli: Illustration of Canto XXXI

Excited by Ceramics Workshop!!!

Very excited about a Ceramics Workshop I attended tonight. The Island’s schools have been given a grant by Ogier’s to set up a series of workshops for the Gifted and Talented students at Highlands. We have set up 6 different workshops (Graphics, Fashion Illustration, Textiles and Print, Animation, Alternative Photography and Ceramics) that are going to run over 6 weeks. I am “supervising” the Ceramics, but actually I just want to learn how to use clay properly! We don’t have a kiln at Hautlieu, but the students use a lot of the air drying stuff, so it will be good to learn more about technical aspects. Today we have been making basic pinch pots – literally get a blob of clay, stick your thumb in the middle and pinch the walls up. Mine are…wobbly to say the least. The certainly look handmade! Pics to follow. But the students really enjoyed themselves – there are 6 from Hautlieu, one each from De La Salle, Haute Valle and two from Le Rocquier. Next week we are making slab pots and I think we are getting a demonstration on throwing.