Monday, 28 February 2011

Gabriel Orozco

Modern sculpture and contemporary installation art aren't my usual cup of tea. I have a particular penchant for craft and art which demonstrates skill and technique and find that a vast amount of modern art lack these detrimental qualities. Having said this, the work of fine artist Gabriel Orozco exceeded all my expectations with thought provoking ideas, unfamiliar materials and concept and strong meaning and message. Orozzco comments on our modern age in which people, images, and commodities are no longer rooted in a single geographical location, but are continually on the move. This idea of constant change relates to my current subject of transition. To demonstrate our uncertain world, Orozco transforms or places familiar items in a new context, often with a keen understanding of the wider associations that they carry. This idea also linked me back to my theory studies of how context in intrinsically linked with perception.

Orozco gives found or discarded objects a new identity by transforming them. His found human skull which he has inscribed in a chequerboard pattern is a prime example of this.

I was particularly struck by his work entitled Lintels, 2001. At first glance, they appear to be a collection of fragile pieces of cloth hanging on washing lines. However, on closer inspection you learn that they are actually made of very familiar household waste, the lint formed of skin cells, hair and fabric that accumulates in domestic dryers. I was struck by their subtle colouring with random flecks of colour and their unusual amalgamation of spontaneous textures. They are more than fabric, they tell a narrative and their collective nature is truly representational of New York's multi-culturalism. The work was apparently first exhibited in New York post the 9/11 attacks. The ashen coloured traces of garments and lives made the work extremely emotive.

This work inspired me into investigating a potential use for this worthless, everyday, domestic leftover, which draws ones attention to the precariousness of human life. I would like to experiment with using lint as a growing medium in my current transition project as the laundry room in my halls of residence is frequently scattered with discarded lint.

The Yielding Stone struck me as an extraordinarily inventive way of documenting and recording a journey. The artist created a plasticine ball of his own weight and rolled it in the streets, allowing it to absorb all the imprints and debris along its journey through the city. The final object was representational of the artist’s self-portrait during that decade- constantly on the move, always receptive to new environments and experiences. During my transition project, I too will undergo a journey- perhaps not in the straightforward, physical way as expressed by the Yielding Stone but over the 8 weeks I will learn and gain several skills in Brockwell Community Gardens. Like Orozco, I will document the marks, lines and textures that I see along my way and these will influence my textile interpretation of this narrative.

Yielding Stone, 1992

‘First was the Spitting’ may have disgusted many viewers, but I thought it was a highly original and innovative way of exploring marks and the creation of spontaneous pattern. The series of graph paper pieces feature spat toothpaste as the starting point of a drawing, which is then expanded with small circles of ink and graphite. The compositions spread and grow, often resembling molecular diagrams or natural forms under a microscope. It is incredible ho w something so beautiful can grow from such a vulgar, non descript mark.

Orozco’s photography is also very striking and thought provoking. Some of his compositions are simply found, e.g. puddles intersecting a circle of wet bicycle tyre tracks, while others stem from the artist’s own modest intervention, e.g. a trace of his breath on the laquered surface of a piano

Pinched ball, 1993

The artist has found beauty in the everyday, unnoticed and drawn our attention to our surroundings through subtle observations. A prime example of this is the beautiful limescale covered shower head.

'Until you find another Yellow Schwalbe', 1995 is a photographic series, which responds to the artist’s time in Berlin. Orozco bought a yellow motorscooter and roamed the city looking for matching scooters, photographing the pair wherever they ‘met’. The different locations give the scooter a new context and allow us to perceive it differently.

Like Lintels, Chicotes is another sculpture created using old, discarded materials. It features scraps of rubber, burst tyre remnants which Orozco has gathered form along Mexican highways for years. Despite effectively being a ‘pile of old rubbish’ Orozco has succeeded in elevating debris to the status of sculpture which once again demands that viewers reassess their aesthetic responses to humble everyday materials and situations.

Chicotes 2010

This exhibition was thought-provoking and challenged excepted convention norms. I know that some of the materials chosen and techniques used will influence my future projects as ways of looking at thing in an unconventional manner.

My Hands Are My Heart 1991

La DS 1993

Life Drawing

This evening was actually quite a successful session. The model created some really interesting poses and actually managed to keep totally still! I chose to work with quite dense amounts of charcoal, building layer upon layer and although it made me really messy, I was pleased with the effects. I prefer adding darker areas then working tone into them by taking charcoal away using a rubber. I find this easier than the other way around. This is my favourite drawing and I hate to admit it but I have always had a bit of a back drawing obsession!

Chinese Art

Ai Weiwei's installation of over a hundred million sunflower seeds in Tate Modern's Turbine Hall certainly leaves one speechless. Extremely though-provoking and embedded with profound meaning, the work exudes beauty but at the same time is rather disquieting.

The artist champions the idea that: "What you see is not what you see, and what you see is not what it means." The infinite landscape of sunflower seed husks appear apparently identical but are in fact each hand crafted in porcelain and each unique. Porcelain is one of China's most prized exports and despite the sheer quantity of seeds, Weiwei chose to have each one individually hand-sculpted and hand-painted by Chinese specialists working in small-scale workshops. He purposefully wants to draw our attention to the 'Made in China' phenomenon by presenting us with the notion of traditional craftsmanship and mass production. 100 million appears to be an astoundingly large quantity and interestingly it equates to 5 times Beijing's population or a 1/4 of China's internet users.

The particular choice of sunflower seeds holds significant meaning. These seeds are a common Chinese street snack often shared by friends. Weiwei associates them with Mao Zedang's brutal Culltural Revolution (1966-76) which saw individuals stripped of their freedom. Propaganda depicted chairman Mao as the sun and the masses of Chinese citizens as sunflowers turning obediently towards him. The gesture of seed sharing is seen as a strong demonstration of human compassion, friendship and kindness during a time of extreme poverty, repression and uncertainty. It is without doubt a profound comment on the relationship between an individual and the masses. Equally, Weiwei hopes it will question us in the following ways-

What does it mean to be an individual in today's society?

Are we insignificant or powerless unless we act together?

What do our increasing desires, materialism and number mean for society, the environment and the future?

The final question is definitely apt to me as I believe it is up to my generation of designers to offer solutions to combat the consumer driven society we live in and its destructive effects on our planet.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Austin Reed Internship

The last couple of weeks I have been interning at Austin Reed's head office on Regent Street. I was helping out in the design section for their womens' brand Country Casuals. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. They are currently designing their Christmas range so it was my job to help research possible garment shapes, fabrics, colours and embellishments through studying the shows of New York and London fashion week. I also did a lot of CAD in order to experiment with colour palettes and stripe engineering. It was good to get some hands on experience and i actually felt really useful. They have invited me back to help out again in April so I must have done something right!

A few of the shows caught my eye, mostly for their use of vivid colour and striking print-

Matthew Williamson


Johnathan Saunders


Mary Katranzou

Holly Fulton

I love the playful, eclectic quality of Central St Martin's student Jenny Postle's collection. The different elements were like fragmented influences coming together to form an exciting garment with diverse colours, shapes and textures-

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Macrame workshop

When macrame is mentioned, you are undeniably whisked back to the 70s when this knotting craft was quite the craze, with macrame wall hangings, articles of clothing, bedspreads, small jean shorts, tablecloths, draperies, plant hangers and other furnishings. It was however most popular in the Victorian era with most homes adorned with this craft. Fascinatingly, it is believed that macrame originated with 13th Century Arab weavers. I had no idea whether macrame was difficult to grasp but was pleased to learn that it only really consists of 2 main knots- the square and the hitch. The main challenge is to concentrate on your repetition and rhythm so as to not mix up your knotting order. Although there are not a huge amount of different knotted patterns you can create, the choice of yarn/cord/rope can add a vast amount of variety (as seen in some of Cassi's samples below). I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop and am looking to incorporate macrame into my current uni project.

Attempting a 70s beaded skirt!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Quick life drawings

I only had the time to stay for a few 10 minute poses at life drawing tonight. Sometimes I find having the challenge of such a short time allows you to really embrace the subject and immerse yourself in the lines and flow of the body without having the time to ponder or worry. Though probably totally proportionally incorrect, they embody energy due to their rough, unpolished appearance.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Warp & Weft Exhibition

Although extremely small, the Warp & Weft exhibition at Craft in the Bay, Cardiff is incredible. I left feeling so inspired and enthused about specializing in weave. It totally dispelled all preconceptions that weave is the art of ‘making scarves’ only. Warp & Weft is a traveling exhibition from Oriel Myrddin, a gallery appropriately located in the heart of the Welsh weave and wool country. It is interesting to note that nationally there has been a dearth of specialist contemporary woven textiles exhibitions in recent years and as I was explaining to my friends who I had dragged along, Knitting has definitely become a ‘in’ thing to do, whilst weave is still waiting for its moment to shine! The exhibition celebrates contemporary practice and innovative new work and is sure to inspire and surprise- the seemingly restrictive process of weaving is opened to infinite possibilities in the hands of this extraordinary selection of accomplished weave specialists.

The work displayed can be categorized into 2 approaches-

The first group can be defined as being experiments with the very structure of weaving, e.g. Ann Sutton, Lucy Mc Mullen and Peter Collingwood.

The second approach questions what the woven structure might hold, e.g. Ainsley Hillard’s graphic printed figures, Ptolemy Mann’s colour studies, Priti Veja’s woven structures containing fibre-optic yarn and NUNO’s Feather Flurries (which require that the loom is stopped and feathers inserted by hand into double weave pockets). I found this approach particularly interesting in that it explores what the woven structure and contain or record. This linked me into my current uni work, recording my ‘journey’ in the transition town of Brixton. I am keen to explore how many ways a weave can document a process, a task, a memory.

Although as I mentioned before, the exhibition was positively tiny, it was of such interest and relevance to me, I could literally talk about it for hours! Instead I will just give a summary of each artist’s work as this will enable me to refer back to their work at a future date. Despite all beholding a unique and individual approach the work of all 13 artists hold a reverence for tradition deftly interwoven with an enthusiasm for new technology. It was really nice taking my non-textiley friends to the exhibition as I think they were quite surprised having conjured up the thought that a weave exhibition would be full of crafty looking 2-D scarves and wall-hangings.


Fluff, 2006
Lambswool, mohair and cotton.

This is possibly one of the most simple approaches as the artist is particularly interested in the behaviour of fabric as a result of careful selection of yarns and structures. Her weaves are therefore careful and highly skilled documentation of her considered investigation. Probably one of the least technology influenced work, the simple approach of the artist epitomizes the Japanese spirit. I like the pod-like structures which appear to be matted natural fibres- lambswool, mohair and cotton they remind me of seeds or natural cocoons and my planting work at the Brockwell Community gardens for my current Transition project.


Extended Cube, 1968
Nylon monofilament.

Informed by mathematical systems, specifically geometry and numerical formulae and an obsession with the fundamental ‘square’ in both its two-dimensional and three-dimensional state. I particularly like the nylon monofilament 3-D structures void of colour. Being able to manipulate flat cloth simply by the yarns fascinates me.


X Ray Dress 1, 2004

A photographic Jaquard woven panel exploring the concepts of home, family and memory. I am really keen on drawing and am pleased that the Jaquard allows for this to be translated into weave. This extends the possibilities presented by this craft.


Pop Out, test sample 2010
Nylon monofilament and cotton.

Maelstrom, 2005
Shetland wool and wire.

Formation of origami like structures, which are of particular interest to me since visiting Japan. Her approach opens up exciting architectural and engineering applications.


Feather Flurries, 1994
Silk and feathers.

NUNO is one of the world’s leading companies creating innovative, cutting-edge fabrics borne out of a respectful reverence for Japanese artisan heritage- “We weave new ideas”. Sudo has an intellectual curiosity and an unparalleled passion for experimenting with new yarns, inventive manufacturing technologies and unexpected finishing processes in tandem with questioning what new twist on tradition can be explored.


A scientific approach in creating woven, 3-D adornments for the body inspired by the natural world and the tactile experience of cloth. These also reminded me of origami in their constructed forms.


to and fro, 2010
Viscose weft, monofilament warp and acrylic.

Unique way of incorporating image onto cloth combining fields of print and weave which is certainly something I would be eager to explore in my future work. The delicate, fragile quality of the technique succeeds in creating ghoustly imagery.


Arc, 2010
Cotton, linen and nylon monofilament cast in acrylic.

Hand manipulated leno weave which presents many thought-provoking juxtapostions- hard vs soft, permanence vs impermanence and questions the viewer as to what weave can be. She says “To weave is to explore control and unpredictability, alchemy and transformation, narrative and myth, maths and emotion, cause and effect. The possibilities are endless…” I find it rather difficult to engage with these works as they are so cold and harsh to the touch unlike the fluid, tactile nature of woven cloth.


Neckpieces, 2010
Nine-carat gold, copper and silk.

Tactile neckpieces using crushed gold, silver or copper yarns juxtaposed with lustrous silk. Inspiration derived from the tale of 'Rumpelstiltskin' spinning straw into gold.


Macrogauze 3DZ, 1980
Linen and steel rods.

An engineering aptitude made him renowned for adapting his loom to create seemingly impossible structures where warp threads traverse the width of the cloth.


Eighteen Faces, Three Spaces, 2010
Paper yarn, indigo dyed.

Woven pleated and cocoon sculptural forms encompassing the study of fine art, a fascination with geometry, an abiding interest in science, a deep understanding of yarn and the practice of weaving. Once again I am reminded of origami!


Monolith 1&3, 2009
Ikat-dyed cotton.

I have already seen her work (and that of Laura Thomas) at Ruthin Craft Centre. A passionate and innate sensitivity for colour that is absolutely absorbing. Using Ikat dying.


White Sac, 2006
Cellophane, polyester, wire, reflective yarn and polyurethane coated cotton.

Work from her Royal College graduate collection. Preoccupied with the principle of transformation through movement, light and mechanisation, Electroluminescent lighting technology and shape-malleable yarns are used to hypnotic effect.

Light Flow, 2006
Cellophane, phosphorescent lurex, polyester and electroluminescent light cable with power supply.

ISIMINI SAMANIDOU in collaboration with Gary Allson

Typically her work is characterised by complex Jaquard weave structures using multiple wefts to create captivating surfaces reminiscent of decaying walls, peeling paint or natural forms (useful for Transition project?). This work however, reveals an interest in creating a dialogue between weaving and other disciplines. CNC-milled wood surfaces have been created from magnified weave structures. Likewise digital 'drawings' and hand woven fabrics of extraordinary delicacy present a conversation between different making methodologies- all inspired by a handmade 'fan reed' Samanidou made on a recent British Council residency in Bangladesh. I really like the morse code intrigue of the work.