Third one-on-one with Jonathan Kearney

David Somers bio photo By David Somers Comment

The third one-on-one tutorial for my MA with course leader Jonathan Kearney.

What was discussed

We started by, how could we not, discussing some of the contemporaneous events in the world: the forthcoming referendum in the UK whether to remain or leave the EU; the forthcoming presidential election in the USA; they say history repeats itself, and it does feel scarily like the 1920s.

And then we talked about exciting things: art!

The research paper. I have some ideas for it. Everything I’ve written so far looks interesting, but is it perhaps too much and may need some focusing, given the length constraints. It might be interesting to look at it through a lens: through the work of an artist, or a philosophical aspect, for just this bit of writing. Three areas — hybridity, mimicry, third space — are important, but also vast! Of the three I’m veering towards hybridity, particularly as that’s where my practice has been of late.

We started discussing the work that I had produced since our last one-on-one back in January.

The broken LCD screen, fractured. Yes, it looks great. There’s an element of sadness (that was my Mac Book Air!), but it does also make great art.

Sequent 8, Sequent 9, Sequent 10. Currently created in Illustrator but I’m running into limits (“file is too complicated”), so will need to make then generatively if I continue down this road… I can then ensure that each side is exactly 50%, and explore models for how they mix.

[Fiber Sculpture 15]/practice/object-57526-fiber-proof-fifteen/, [Fiber Sculpture 16]/practice/object-57528-fiber-proof-sixteen/, [Fiber Sculpture 17]/practice/object-57529-fiber-proof-seventeen/. Having more of the canvas exposed puts the emphasis of the fiber, and the shadows emphasize the dimensionality. Jonathan really liked the “cocoon” in #15, an element that was deliberately incorporated into this bespoke handspun yarn.

My thought was if was to go big, I could use this concept and scale it up… and unlike my other pieces here the bill of materials would not be exorbitant. There is still the element of tension, formal shapes, the two halves. Done with minimal material. Less but can go bigger.

Comparing these with Fiber Sculpture 10, which has lots of material, and takes a long time to execute.

Some of Jonathan’s observations:

In the bisection, the two halves are “competing” for space.

In FS#16, the angle suggests tension even more.

In FS#17, tension comes from the way the raffia is curved across the edge (there is no angle; the fibers are congruent).

And then an “idea” from Jonathan:

What happens if you take the canvas away and its just a wooden frame, with the thread?

Certainly food for thought.

As Jonathan says:

You’re removing elements (for practical reasons because it takes a long time to make these at scale), but still able to maintain elements: tension; competing colours; the nature of two materials, raffia and fiber.

By taking things away you are still revealing what you are looking at. How far could you go with that?

My response is to ask what do you have behind? Paint it mid-grey, paint it white, or use whatever is there?

Talking of backgrounds, we then discussed wall color for the interim display or final show., as, perhaps I would like a non-white wall. Yes, in theory, possible, but afterwards any non-white walls must be repainted white. Consider time. For the interim I may cheat and supply some paper to be used as a temporary background. I have visited some galleries and museums where the wall is not white (e.g. the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht), and it makes a difference. Jonathan pointed out the Royal Academy has some rather brightly coloured walls, and if using projection a mid-grey background works really well instead of white.

We then discussed the scale of my work, and how it would work in the interim show.

If showing Sequent 8, 9, 10. Very digital. They scream digital. I might blow a small section up. They have hard edges. We discussed some of the technicalities of making these in Illustrator.

Jonathan then asked the difficult question: in terms of “hybridity”, which of my techniques captures it most: the fiber sculpture or the digital sequent series? Here I hedge because they both do it in different ways: analogue or digital. Different sides of the same coin. Are they separate? No. They explore the same concept but in different ways, and will possibly appeal to different spectators. Would it be possible to merge the two: analogue and digital?

A bit of insight from me: The digital pieces were inspired by the analogue (fiber) pieces. An attempt to simulate one in the other. The digital pieces would never have existed without the analog.

How do the digital (Sequent) one re-inform back into the analogue (fiber sculptures)?

A suggestion from Jonathan: Take Sequent 8, print on canvas, and stretch threads over it.

With Sequent 8, 9, and 10, the underlying construction is the same, but the “distortion” varies. 8 appears, to Jonathan, more formal than 9 (less detail, more effect). Same origins, but looks more random as they progress. Perlin noise?

We then discussed Generative Bisection and the technique I used to generate it. Not Perlin noise but a random-walker algorithm I wrote. It looks random, but is in control, and exactly 50/50 bisection. Jonathan observed that it has “tension”, and that is something that seems to underly all my work: physically between fibers in fiber sculpture; between two spaces with Generative Bisection. Tension but also equality. A bit of nuance.

For Generative Bisection consider making it with opposite colours on each side (e.g. purple and yellow).

Jonathan commented that all the steps I’m doing in these are informing each other. That was the idea. Iterative development.

Fiber Sculpture 12 digitally retextured. Its FS10, digital retextured. Looks like oil. But it is digital, achieved by a texture filter in PhotoShop.

We discussed the nature of taking work from analogue to digital, an digital to analogue. Clearly, analogue to digital is easier (scan, photograph, etc.), but digital to analogue is one more of generative design and simulation, and of simulation this is “early effort in a new medium or space”, and in my language “mimic” what went before. The space has its own rules and structures. Doesn’t need to follow exactly what has gone before.

And then Jonathan ask another deep question:

Is mimicry a positive or negative thing?

Positive. And, also negative. It depend the point. To blend. Or being subversive. The context. I think blend. It becomes something else, a “third space”.

  • systems theory: sum is greater than the parts.
  • post-colonial theory: from two cultures what emerges from their mixing is something else.

And then we discussed the Interim Show. Will I send something? Will I be there. I will send stuff. I would love to help with the preparation, but can’t make it, and I hope to attend for a few days. When sending something, please keep it simple (because Jonathan will be putting it up).

We looked through the possible pieces that I would send over and their potential configuration. Ideally a combination of techniques: fiber sculpture, digital, and generative bisection.

We then discussed what the rest of the cohort would be sending over, and how the space could be used. Hopefully everybody will exhibit, but this also means space is at a premium.

Thoughts about the next steps

Work out what I am going to exhibit, then get the item(s) shipped to Camberwell.

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