Fifth one-on-one with Jonathan Kearney

David Somers bio photo By David Somers Comment

The fifth one-on-one tutorial for my MA with course leader Jonathan Kearney — a look at what I’ve been doing recently, and thoughts for the final show.

What was discussed

Jonathan started by bringing up a tool that I had created to aid my work: The Jig.

prototype jig

He thought I had taken it to a factory… looks like a huge scale thing… no, its a small prototype, and if it works (which it seems to do) the idea is to scale up… but whether results will be the same will have to be seen (sometimes things just don’t work when scaled up, so my practice might then stay as micro physical work which is then scaled up digitally).

Does it help? Yes, it really does!

I’m looking for accuracy, to be more accurate, but not too accurate. A case of “close enough”. Keeping the random element.

Quick idea from Jonathan, regarding my use of Illustrator to make some of the composite work such as m13s0: perhaps InDesign would be better. Good idea, but cropping in InDesign is a nightmare compared to Illustrator… it assumes the files you place are pre-cropped, and I’m finding that I need to be able to tweak and adjust the cropping quite a bit.

Aesthetics: making dozens of images… laying out in a particular order (in the order they are made)… when drying they are laid out and there is a grid. This was purely practical to make efficient use of the space. When I started doing this I liked the pattern — the grid — and decided to keep it like that. It was an accidental find that works. They are filled from bottom left, going across, then up to the next row.

After, imposing a grid in Illustrator, it is very rigid.

Juxtaposition between the rigid (tight and accurate) grid in Illustrator and the slightly more random and grid like placement during drying. I like the random one during drying, and hope to bring a sense of this into the digital version. I’m still experimenting with the layout, and have really only just started to explore it, having been preoccupied making pieces so I would have sufficient material to work with.

When the originals are scanned, the positioning is not perfect. This is due to the substrate warping, and that there is always some minute movement. So the scan is not perfect. There is that element coming through.

There is something quite significant about the sheer numbers of repetition.

This is something that I want to look at in the future (Ph.D?).

a stack of m
m, stacked. Ink on paper and ink on wood.

The picture of all the squares bundled up. Its really good! Its an interesting way of looking at the work. A snapshot. Interestingly Jonathan did something similar — stacked some artworks together to transport and decided that they looked better from the side than displayed.

Not planned, just happened. This is the beauty of practice-based research: unexpected surprises.

The m series started last December, so have been working on it for a few months now. A new technique. Having produced a substantial amount of work how do I feel about it? I like it. Its taking the division and boundary and line in a new direction. I feel like I am moving away from a graphic design approach and into fine art approach.

Distillation 5
d5, a submission of six digital images (viz. m8p23, m12p52, m3p20, m12p9, m12p71, m12p25)

Looking at d5, these were selected because you find something interesting in them? They all have this vertical feel? The division, left to right-ish. Absolutely. If I turn them on their side they look like a landscape, the division becomes the horizon, and that just isn’t what it is about. So I deliberately keep them as a vertical. There are some interesting things happening with these. In m8p23 the colors mix well and is a great example of color theory. Perhaps a cliche but it works so well. The others have boundaries and overlapping. And then in a few the ink did not take and there is that white space — such as in m12p9— alluding to no-mans land, as it were. This was an interesting and random thing that happened and is interesting to pursue. Jonathan pointed out that in Chinese traditional painting/calligraphy the white space is an honored and valuable thing. This can’t be created. Forced. It might happen. It is important. Things like this can’t be planned and predicted. You make 100, and two or three interesting things will happen, and of those sometimes you discover something new.

An untitled doodle [2017-03-05]. Ink on paper
untitled [doodle]. Ink on paper.

doodles 2017-03-05. You’re creating an algorithm? Its complex? It is to Jonathan but not to me. It was to categorise where my work is going… from f for fiber… to l for linear works… to g for generative (sequent series)… to m series… to s sets… and from these they are a corpus distilled down into d (or they can be standalone). Done to help me name my files and keep my assets in order. It also reflects my pathway through this MA… the journey… the pathway… where it it going. It tells a story.

In terms of the final show, what am I thinking of doing?

Obviously going to Ikea to get some frames and have some fun with them… fill a room with them just see CĂ©line’s reaction ;-) Just joking!!!

I’m oscillating between:

  • Presenting a set of works that show my journey — like the above doodle — and the story
  • Concentrating on m and subsequent the sets (mNNsX)

Strengths and weaknesses of these approaches?

The “journey” is nice, but will people get it? You can see there’s a theme running through but it could be too disparate. Strength: its a nice story because you can see the journey.

The “sets”… the repetition… I need to distill them down to see how they work before I can evaluate. I have 500 pieces to work with now, so I’m in a good position.

If going down the “sets” route, what would I show? The originals or the digital version?

For the originals, probably as a configuration within an 80 x 80 cm space, digitally cut passepartout. And next to that an digital print of one enlarged to the same size, as a Diasec.

And possibly something new. Placing with shadow and light. This is something I have been thinking about but haven’t started yet. Sculptural. Playing on the canvas and the frame. Vibrating boundaries. Heavy conceptual art.

A good place to be at the end of the MA is to have things to do. It is not the end. Options to explore is good. There are things from when I stated the MA that I have not pursued — things from the initial doodles I made that I never went back too — that are paths open to explore.

For the final show in July, a suggestion from Jonathan: I don’t need to tell the story of the MA in the show. Its something I voiced above: its an interesting story but would people get the story? Yes, its a good backstory, great for the website, but perhaps not for the show. The final show can be just a small curated element. Tough and brave to do. But most effective. Its something that Jonathan has been through: for his own MA final show his oeuvre was drastically cut down to just three items.

The curation side is hard. To take every from the oeuvre and distill it down to just a few pieces. This is something I’ve started with my “distillations” — the d series — to choose down from my existing selection for specific purposes (such as entry to competitions). I will also continue to make artworks… can never have too many artworks… so an expanding choice… more discoveries to be made.

Having seen the spaces last year, that helps a lot. I have a good sense of the space, the light, the acoustics, the atmosphere. The walls are higher than normal (almost 3m high).

A suggestion from Jonathan: there is an opportunity to do something with scale, given the hight and the number of originals, sho how about a wall with 500 originals on it? That would have an impact on the space and the spectator. Overwhelmed by small details in the originals and also the vastness of the quantity of them.

Perhaps: either the originals pinned to the wall… or something digitally: an advertising canvas with them digitally printed on it. Taking something intended for industrial use and using it for fine art. Perhaps something lower quality? There are some subtle details in my work… so need to keep the quality…. so can’t use a low-quality method (e.g. Blue Back Billboard Paper).

Hybridness of small individual things — with incredible detail — and yet vastness of 100s of images overwhelming the spectator.

Is that another third space? Yes. The first one is in the individual pieces where the color fields combine. The second one would be between the artwork and the spectator — another area of hybridity!

A wall of 500! That would be “mega”. The logistics are daunting. There will be a sense of scale. Instead of a set of 9 or 30, or 36, what happens when its scaled up into the 100s. This is an opportunity to think and curate in this way. Need to think about ensuring some repetitiveness to the way that they are hung, and they have a familiar feel throughout. Something to consider.

Even if doing a “mega” wall of 500+ pieces, I really want to do one or two blown up. They do look really nice blown up. Space is tight, but could perhaps do a split display… the wall of 500, and somewhere else say three large digital prints (as these seem to work well as tryptics). I don’t think they would work well together — on the same wall — but would work apart — “separate but together”.

Its a bit like the watching a movie. Scale matters. Its different in the Movie Theatre and the TV. Think of viewing 2001 in those because it is different. More immerse in one. More intimate in the other. The same movie, but a different experience.

A discussion on potential mounting systems to put up 500+ pieces. A pin or tack seems the easiest and most efficient. Even so, this will take a day or three to do!

Or, as Jonathan put it, I can just ignore his idea for a mega display of 500+ pieces on a wall, but it is an opportunity, and these don’t come up that often. So something very much to think about.

In terms of practice, I would still like to make some of the originals bigger, and as I have asked myself elsewhere in my research blog, would it still work at scale? Certainly digitally enlargement works — they do look gorgeous at scale, and the colors are quite saturated and have a presence — but can they be made large to start with? Will the aesthetic result be similar, better, or worse? Perhaps my practise can scale, if so that would interesting, or will it continue to be small pieces that are combined into sets or are digitally enlarged.

Thoughts about the next steps

I hadn’t really considered a “mega” display… I was thinking along the lines of 3 or 5 or 7 large pieces (one or two being configurations of the originals works in m , the remainder being digital enlargements).

500+ originals on a wall… a logistical nightmare… days of work to install… but, certainly, a unique take… the juxtaposition of the small details in the originals against the vastness and quantity… micro against meta… an opportunity to display in this manner… and also something that is on the periphery of where

Next steps: Keep making more artworks in m so I have more source material on hand; distill m down into sets (mNs); think about the “mega” display and how to curate it (or rather the logistics of it)… produce some mockups for the final show (in terms of potential configurations in the space).

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