1. What do you want to explore?
Initially I was keen to create a range of different self-imposed limitations to my work. This included approaching work in a way that would resist the teachings with which I am familiar, and the materials I feel most confident using. I thought that I would try to counter each piece of ‘knowledge’ with the opposite in my exploratory work. For example, working only on the very edge, rather than compositionally balancing the work across the entire canvas. Or working with a very limited palette. However, I realised that this was too open ended and that in attempting to alter my style of work over so many criteria, I may in fact lose a common language which allows the body of work to evolve organically based on the knowledge gained.
I therefore decided to isolate a method of working which would give me an end result over which I have less formal control. In order to do this, I plan to work on multiple boards simultaneously. This will permit drying tie between layers without actually preventing me from making progress. I plan to work on 12 pieces of thick MDF, each representing one week of project time. The series will not necessarily be worked in a chronological order and the sequence for exhibition purposes may change at any point. The plan is that I will work with a range of materials and solutions that will stain, burn, crack and blister the surface paint. I will then work my imagery onto the surface and continue to apply the solutions, using them as paint; to conceal and reveal. This may obliterate the image as much as it may build it up. The surface can be scratched into and holes may be drilled into it. The use of acid will need to be carefully controlled in the environment I will be working in so that it does not damage anything beyond the MDF itself.
I intend to photograph the work as it progresses and to explore the dynamics of how a piece changes throughout the process. The resulting 12 pieces of MDF, in whatever state they exist, will form a series.
I am particularly interested in the idea of using heat and acid and have been looking at the work of a couple of artists including Jeane Meyers ‘It’s All About Risk’ [below left and centre], and textile artists Felicity Hopkins [below right]
2. What is your personal challenge?
I know what I am doing and am usually very much in control when I am working. I know how I want the materials to look and feel and I am aware of how I may be building layers progressing towards an outcome. I can predict a couple of stages into the future, and have a fairly good idea of when I want to complete a work. This method will create hurdles for me, in which I will hopefully discover that certain methods which restrict my physical conscious control, may in fact lead to exciting and dynamic outcomes. By giving away some of the elements of building layers methodically, some of my work may reveal itself to me, rather than being calculated and formulaic. The personal challenge will to a certain extent be ‘letting go’. This is not something which I find easy to do. I like to give the impression of letting go, without actually ever having to do this. Therefore, using methods and materials which will give inconsistent results, or may damage the surface, destroy the previous layer, stain, lacerate, pierce, crack, blister or burn the surface, will give me unexpected results. I will need to work with these results. From time to time this may mean allowing the product which results (from the exposure to chemicals or flame etc) to have it’s own uninterrupted language. With other works I may continue to work into the resulting surface and this may be true of many subsequent layers. I am not committing to a sense that whatever happens is the end result, but that the controlling element of the development of the works will go through stages where I am only partially, or not at all governing the outcome.
3. What methods will you use?
I will order some wood to work onto – or may upcycle shelves from a unit, or the table which I have been considering getting rid of to clear more space in my studio. I will then cut this into twelve identical pieces (these may be square or rectangular). I will then use thick paint on the surface so that there is a ‘ground’ to work on. At this stage, each piece of board can be treated differently. I imagine working on two or three at the same time so that there are methods or materials which are common between the pieces. I intend to use multiple processes on each board but no board will have the same identical processes as any other. They should not look the same, but have a common language and be seen as a series. I intend to use fabric, hot air gun, hot glue, plaster, a drill with various bits, a flame, acids in different consistencies, inks to stain, emulsions, oil paint, found objects, acrylic paint, and varnish. I may introduce other materials as and when I feel they are needed.
4. Plan an outline programme over 12 weeks; build in time for reflection
Weeks 1-5: Arrange materials. Collect collage materials and fabrics. Store stains, inks and tester pots of emulsion. Limit to a palette of only a few colours, mostly those which will work well with scorch marks; warm brown tones etc
Weeks 6-8: Work into these pieces and arrange into a series. Consider making drastic changes. Be bold.
Weeks 8 – 10: Document the work and continue to explore other artists who works with risk-taking procedures in their art, allowing further experimentation in response to growing knowledge of artists work.
Weeks 10 – 12: Complete all work and sequence. Analyse final outcomes and learning process.
* at all stages allow for complete disintegration of individual pieces. This may in itself be a valuable learning process. Better to expect this as a possibility than to worry in case it happens. Equally, the processes may become too dangerous or hard to handle, or work refuses to dry within an appropriate timescale.
5. What challenges do you anticipate?
The entire process will be challenging for me. The abstract quality of the outcomes will be outside my usual comfort zone and the processes involved will be unfamiliar to me, although processes which I have admired in the work of other artists. The physical discomfort of working with dangerous or flammable materials will prove challenging as I am rather a ‘safe’ artist and feel working with paint with a high toxicity ‘challenging’. I may, despite reassuring myself that this is part of the process, find the damaging of pieces I have enjoyed developing difficult. But this is an important evolutionary journey and one which I need to undertake. I will not have absolute control and this will be challenging. My studio is a room in a rented house and I will therefore need to be extremely careful with how and when I apply materials. Some will need to be approached in a designated environment, and the setting light to works will obviously need to be done in a very careful way and with appropriate health and safety at all stages.
6. What would you do when you get stuck?
I intend to use my tutors and MA cohort for feedback and to consider the nature of what is being produced and how successfully it is evolving. I will trust that feedback from the group and from my art colleagues and friends will help me to see which direction I can go in if I feel I have come to a crossroads, or am failing to see the direction in which I should progress.