Last week I presented my confirmation paper at the UNSWAD Post Grad Conference, it was deemed satisfactory so I am now officially a PhD candidate on track to graduate around 2019. The paper outlined the work I’ve been making over the last 8 months, and some of the work was on display in the accompanying conference exhibition. This work serves as propositional pieces for what I will be doing over the next few years, so the ideas presented here will be expanded, experimented with, and refined before being presented as a part of my final thesis.
I’ve been putting a lot of time into the garage, attempting to turn it into a proper workshop-studio. It’s a bit chaotic at the moment but once the walls are finished I should be able to clear it out and set it up nicely. It should give me somewhere to start working on some larger works that I am planning. Once the walls are done I’m planning on doing something about the lighting, the floor, and storage. This is hopefully going to be the space I work in for the rest of my PhD, so I want it to be as practical and comfortable to work in as I can manage.
My vast pile of tools in the centre of the room, and the general chaos of perpetual attempts of planning, structuring, organising, and building my space.
The second room out the back has even more stuff stored in it. It is a nice little room with a lot of light, but it’s going to be a while before I get to it.
All of my benches waiting outside the studio-workshop.
The inside drawing studio with recent works. I will be making a lot of work out in the workshop-studio, however having an inside room with a lot of space will allow me to work on multiple projects concurrently. I am planning on doing a series of large scale drawings at life-size, one of which is on the drawing board at the back. These works will be a continuation and extension of the blind proprioceptive experiments I have been working on.
This is a selection of thinking-drawings from my notebooks. They are a means to very quickly simulate, record, and test ideas for planned works. When planning out works there is a process of imagination and/or simulation; whether designing a chair or proposing an arrangement for a drawing/sculpture experiment I am internally acting out the process of making. The drawing is an active part of the thinking through of the propositions, as well as serving as a record of the process of thinking as well as the idea itself. The pencil and paper become an external memory system.
^I have been drawing this proposed chair repeatedly, I find it easiest to plan and simulate the sitting-in and making-off the chair when I am sitting in a similar chair. So rather than looking at a chair in profile I am drawing myself from an external perspective, relying on my proprioceptive and tactile awareness, my understanding of the chair (and of what chairs are), my learned familiarity with the anatomy of chairs and the body, and my learned and practiced skill in mimetic representation.
In addition to the proposition of the function of the chair there is also the simulation of the making of the chair, what wood I have access to, how the tools will shape the wood, how the wood will respond to the tools, and so on. Before I even pick up a plane it is there as an extension of my body.
Although at first glance this sketching process may align itself more with design practice methods, I am using it as a launching pad for the consideration of drawing and making as extensions of the body. This process will also serve to plan the apparatus that I intend to make to facilitate more complex arrangements of drawing and sculpting projects.
These are some drawings and process shots from my ongoing drawing experiments. I’m beginning to expand the drawings to include a larger network of objects and perceptual information. In the first two images the drawing is a tactile and proprioceptive drawing of myself and the bust. Soon I will be developing the sculptural work further, beginning with blind proprioceptive and tactile representations of my own body, similar to the two vague forms to the left and right of the central bust in this drawing, and to the blind proprioceptive drawing below.
^ This third drawing is done entirely through proprioception, mapping out the body through my awareness of position in space, I do not need to fondle my face or the chair to know where they are or how to draw them. There are two interwoven factors here, one is my awareness and memory of the shape and position of the objects at hand—although i am only touching the chair in a few places (the seat, footrests). The second is my practiced skill at representing these objects with more familiar methods, having drawn countless bodies and chairs.
I am still working on the sculpted wooden bust. I have been going back and forth between drawing on the bust while blindfolded, again relying on my familiarity and awareness of my head and face. I then use these marks as a guide as to what material to remove, which is problematic in that I am influenced by my desire to make the bust mimetically accurate, rather than faithfully follow the marks. Ultimately the work being done ends up as a compromise between these two elements.
I have a few reservations about this work, the process is clunky, labour intensive, and time consuming, and the pine is quite soft and bruises easily. Working with harder timber, and starting with a blank closer to the final proportions of the body may help, but will also require a dramatic overhaul of process, and will require a fair bit of machining and powertooling to achieve.
Finally, I have been considering the role of workshop and studio furniture in my practice. As the drawing and sculptural aspects of the work develop they are beginning to expand to include consideration and depiction of the props and apparatus involved in the process: the ground, benches, plinths, chairs, drawing boards etc. For example, in the blind proprioceptive drawing of myself sitting in the chair (above) a lot of my understanding of the form of the chair comes from designing the chair I have been working on (shown here). As such I have been designing and constructing my own studio and workshop furniture. Initially these are following fairly familiar forms, but as the project progresses I plan on introducing new structures to facilitate different arrangements and relationships between myself, subjects, drawing surfaces, working sculptures, and collaborators.
I’ve spent the last few weeks concentrating on making a few simple pieces of furniture and working on building workbenches. I will be hold a business launch event on the 16th of May, details for the event are here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1606284696253463/
benches on benches: much workbench with two other benches in production— a chairmakers workbench on top of my bench and a shavehorse in the background.
Last weekend I was in Canberra for the You Are Here festival, I presented work at the third overnight event at Canberra Museum and Gallery. This year I did an initial proof of concept of something I’ve wanted to do for a while: extending participatory art making into sculptural work.
The process was built on the participatory drawing exercises: I massages and prodded participants faces and heads as they manipulated the clay bust in direct response to my input.
Hopefully I’ll have an opportunity to present this work in a more complete and sustained context soon, I’d love to do a developing series and display them as completed works.
A big thankyou to the seven people who participated in the project:
Working with Shane Parsons, image credit: Adam Thomas
The bust as it was before work started.
and the completed sculpture:
I’ve turned my exhibition thesis and a lot of the documentation from my masters project into a book! The Exhibition Thesis/Catalog will be available at my upcoming exhibition, I also plan to set up online sales for it soon, along with a free/by donation download of a PDF.