Part 1, Stages 2&3, Project 2, Exercise 4 – Cutting holes

20 September 2016

Project 2, Exercise 4 – Cutting holes

Although a seemingly simple exercise, after consideration, I realised that there are the many variations which could be explored such as:

  1. Varying the shape of the holes
  2. Varying the number of holes (i.e. The ratio of holes (negative space) to background left uncut)
  3. Exploring differences in hole placement
  4. The effect of two or more layers of offset holes 
  5. The effect of using different materials
  6. The effect of using different colour materials
  7. The effect of lighting and shadow
  8. Placement of an image underneath the cutting holes to be partially revealed.
  9. Printing of an image onto the material to be cut out, so that the cutting holes partially obscure the image.
For inspiration, I referred to “Folding architecture” (Vyzoviti, 2012, 44-47), and the work of architect Oscar Nieymeyer (Hess, 2009) including a themed sketchbook which I had produced for Textiles 1: Exploring ideas, project 2.
Whilst looking for artists and designers who used ‘holes’ in their work, I found many examples of complex, sometimes figurative cut-out shapes in “Slash: Paper under the knife” (Revere McFadden, 2009). Looking specifically for the use of simple holes, there is the example of Ariana Broussard-Reifel’s piece “Between the lines” (2007), in which she has cut all the words from a paperback whose contents she finds obnoxious (Revere McFadden, 2009: 68-69). An example tending towards design rather than art is the “Sawdust screen”, a pre-fabricated interior surface designed by Emerging Objects (a subsidiary of Rael San Fratello). This screen is an example of the 3-D printing which the group are pioneering with unconventional materials such as wood, concrete, rubber, glass and even salt (Schneiderman, 2016:100, 118). In my blog post specifically covering research for this assignment, I also discuss the work of Danish artist Thea Bjerg who uses laser cutting techniques to make fabrics for fashion, interiors and art exhibits.
Basic sample set:
I wanted to be systematic about my experimentation, so I decided to make my first sample very simple, with the intention of it being a reference against which I could compare changes.
SAMPLE 1: Printer paper, rectangular holes, all the same size
Using a sheet of  A4 inkjet printer paper, I cut a series of eight 3cmx5cm rectangles. The intention was to arbitrarily space the shapes fairly evenly across the paper. 

SAMPLE 2: Sample 1 with different hole placement
Again using just 8 rectangles of the same size as sample 1, I intentionally spaced them clustered at the top right corner.
The shapes were not numerous enough or small enough to make the rule obvious.

SAMPLE 3: Sample 1 with lots more holes 
This sample has the same shape holes as sample 1, but 19 instead of 8. Although the holes are distributed in a similar way, because there are so many more, the relationship and balance between negative and positive space is changed.
Because I have not allowed “incomplete” rectangle cut-outs at the edge of the page, there is an impression of the holes being clustered in the centre of the paper. Of course the same rule applies in sample 1, but because there are less rectangles, it is not so obvious. The minimum space between rectangles is also governed by their size and whether they are vertically aligned! (See sample 4)
SAMPLE 4: The same number of holes as sample 3 aligned in a grid
A natural extension of sample 3 seemed to be to order the placement of the holes by aligning them horizontally as well as vertically to made a grid pattern. I wanted to use the same number of holes as sample 3 to understand how placement affected perception of the ratio of negative and positive space. However because there are 19 holes, that meant there was an odd one in a column on it’s own!
Despite the odd column of 1 rectangle, there generally appears to be less positive space in this sample compared to sample 4 (which of course is not true).

SAMPLE 5: The same number of holes as sample 3 with no alignment
Although this sample was intended to have no alignment, the eye is drawn to the top right hand corner where there are two rectangles which seem to ‘sit’ in the corner aligned with the top and right edges, whilst the others seem to be floating in the space of the page. This example just goes to illustrate how difficult it is to produce spacings which appear even and uncontrived. 
SAMPLE 6: Sample 2 with different sized holes (larger)
For the best comparison, I wanted to make the ratio of rectangle width:height the same as for sample 1 – i.e. 3:5. I cut 8 rectangles, size 4.2cmx 7cm and distributed them as evenly as possible over the page. 
SAMPLE 7: Sample 2 with different sized holes (smaller)
For the best comparison, I wanted to make the ratio of rectangle width:height the same as for samples 1 and 6 – i.e. 3:5. I cut 8 rectangles, size 1.5cmx 2.5cm and distributed them as evenly as possible over the page. 

SAMPLE 8: Printer paper, rectangular mixed sized holes, vertically and horizontally aligned
The exercise of making this sample illustrate just how difficult it is to place shapes evenly. Inevitably there will be a “pattern” emerging as it is human nature to attain an assemblance or order. I can’t get away from the chevron pattern made by the four blocks in the to right hand corner, nor the fact that more horizontal blocks are to the right, and all the vertical ones are to the left. There is tension in areas where the block appear close together and nearly touching. I find the irregularity and unbalance of the overall arrangement  both interesting and slightly disturbing.
Review of samples 1-8
So far my sampling has been based entirely on rectangles (which are regular quadrilaterals). I feel that this has contributed to a feeling of restraint in all the samples. The more the rectangles are aligned in a sample, the more apparent the feeling of restraint and solidity. 
Comparing samples 3, 4 and 5 which have the same number of same sized rectangles:
  • Sample 4 is very “solid” like guards standing in a line at a parade. It gives the illusion of having less positive space than samples 3 or 5.
  • Sample 3 reminds me of a sinusoid – there is a feeling of ripples or waves and gentle movement
  • Sample 5 is very energetic, like bacteria moving I all directions in a petri-dish and constantly bumping into each other.
Comparing samples 1, 2 and 7, which have the same number of rectangles in the same ratio of 3:5 width:length:
This comparison looks at the effect of the negative space between the cut-outs. 
  • In sample 1, I find myself concentrating pretty much equally on the rectangles and the background. 
  • In sample 2, the rectangle holes definitely dominate. Because they are so large there on constrains pin where they can be placed in the paper, resulting in a diagonal arrangement. This further reinforces the sense that it is the cut outs which are most important.
  • Sample 3 is about looking at the spaces between the cut-outs and this focuses attention on how they are arranged on the paper. The paper feels large and over-bearing and the rectangles like tiny slits. There is a feeling of being blocked from any imagery which might lie on the black page, and we cannot be sure that it is completely blank.  
When their edges are parallel (either vertically, horizontally, or in the case of sample 4, aligned), there is a sense of solidity and stability.
Layering samples
I looked at the effect of layering each of the pairs of samples and holding them up against the window.
SAMPLE 9: Sample 6 and sample 7 combined
I first overlaid sample 6 on top of sample 7:
Held up against a bright window it looked as follows:
Then the other way round, sample 7 on top of sample 6:
Held up against a bright window it looked as follows:
By comparing the two samples viewed against the window it is possible to note that the sample which is underneath gives soft outlines, whereas the sample on top my gives brighter outlines. Where both cut holes coincide there is an uninterrupted view through the glass window. My preference is sample 6 on top of sample 7, which gives sharp edges to the large rectangles.
I thought it would be interesting to make a sketch/collage of the overlaid samples (see below). 
First, I used an XL charcoal block to make dark and light areas to represent the cut holes. I then looked at the edges. Some are sharp and some are soft and diffuse. For the soft ones, I blended the areas using a cotton bud. Finally, I used magazine cut-outs to make a collage, reflecting the areas were there were holes through both layers and around the edges.
I like the effect of the collage, and I really feel that it gives the impression of being in the background (as I intended). However, the charcoal is maybe too much of a contrast (being a very textured mark) compared with the sharp crisp shapes of the magazine print. Black paper and grey paper would have worked better visually, although I didn’t use them because I was trying to represent the outcome of the sample using different media to the original.
SAMPLE 10: Sample 2 and sample 3 combined
Using the same method as sample 9, I first looked at sample 2 overlaid with sample 3:
Held up to the window it looked as follows:
And the other way around, with sample 3 overlaying sample 2:
The same observation applies as for sample 9, with the crispest image coming from the sample on the top. I prefer sample 2 overlaying sample 3, although it might depend on the application.
What I like most about the overlaid samples is that as a technique, it increases the feeling of dynamics.
SAMPLE 11: Sample 4 and sample 5 combined 
Sample 4 over sample 5:
What I particularly like about this sample is the way the viewers’ brain has to imagine the black rectangles behind the grid and fill in the missing information. This is an attention grabber!
I also found it interesting because the overlay (sample 4) looks like a series of viewing frames (this did not happen when sample 5 was used as a overlay to sample 4). There are some really interesting compositions, and groups of compositions. For example, individual rectangles which I like: 
Groups of rectangles which I like:
I have not included photos of this sample held up to the window, as it was a rather muddled and didn’t add any knowledge over samples 9 and 10.
SAMPLE 12: Irregular quadrilaterals or various sizes
This sample was perhaps more interesting than the regular quadrilaterals, and reminded me of broken shards of glass. What I like about it is that it has a 3-dimensional quality (in my mind I imagine the black shapes being silhouettes of 3-D solids). There is an element of tension created by the points, although the even spacing of the shapes counters this partially.
SAMPLE 13: Irregular polygons, various sizes and shapes 
Following on from sample 12 (which resembled shards of glass) I thought about recreating the feeling of an explosion, with small, irregular shapes close together radiating out to progressively larger shapes further away from an imagined “epicentre”.
I can see that as idea, this would work, although I feel that to make it more dramatic, I would need a much larger piece of paper (the one I used was A4), and many more shapes, to emphasise the pattern that I am striving to create.
Interestingly, this sample could be read a different way. It reminded my somewhat of the paper cut moth installation of Carlos Amorales, “Black Cloud” (2007) which was part of the exhibition “Slash: Paper under the knife”  (Revere McFadden, 2009: 56-58). 
My sample could be imagined as the silhouette of a flock of birds flying away from the viewer, with the closest being bottom left corner and the furthest away being top right.
SAMPLE 14: Triangles to create tension
Pointed shapes had worked well for me in samples 12 and 13, so I thought about introducing some order in the form of triangles. My mind also went back to Project 1, Exercise 3, sample 2 “Simple knife pleat and triangular paper”. In particular, the arrangement with two triangles and their points almost touching had been very effective at introducing tension (see below)
I interpreted a simplified silhouette of the paper sculpture and made an A4-sized cut out (see below)
Although there is undoubtably tension where the points nearly meet, I feel that being just two shapes it lacks interest. I thought about repressing the exercise with multiple smaller shapes, but decided that the result would be too complex.
SAMPLE 15: Scattered triangles
I cut out holes in the shape of scalene triangles. Although they were spread fairly evenly around the page, I intentionally let some of the points nearly touch other triangles, or the side of the pepper to create tension. I was aware which direction the long points were facing, those being near the page boundary facing intentionally outwards to simulate “trying to escape”.
Once again, I feel that possibly a bigger piece of paper than A4 would have made a more interesting sample. I also feel that there is too much aggregation of the shapes around the central area to add any real dynamics – I should have paid more attention to shape distribution.
SAMPLE 16: Triangles from order into chaos
In this sample, I tried to address the issues of sample 15, by making obvious and contrasting areas, the top left of the page being rather well aligned, with triangles facing and pointing the same way. Towards the bottom left the pattern disintegrates with some triangles facing in different directions and the spacings changing. To the right of the page it’s completely barmy with triangles hosteling each other for position at the top right and falling away gently to the bottom right.
The idea of disruption of pattern (order) is something which has fascinated me for the last two years. I am also interested in the patterns and shapes which occur as a result of clustering of animals (such a murmuration of starlings or shoaling behaviour in fish).
A pause to look at all the samples so far (1-16):

I have found it interesting that as I have progressed through this exercise, I have had several changes of opinion. It was particularly worthwhile for me to put al of my samples together and examine them as a set (something I was able to do with a screenshot of my photo album – see below)
Certain samples had definitely become more appealing over time, in particular some of the simple samples which I made at the beginning of the exercise, such as samples 3, which I am now particularly fond of. Samples 5, 8, 10 and 12 have also increased in appeal. In contrast, sample 11 now seems over complex. This illustrates just how important it is to revisit work and for me to allow myself time take stock and reconsider work, rather than making hasty judgements.

The effect of inverting samples:
Samples can easily be inverted on the computer using Photoshop Express. Here are some comparisons:
Sample 3 inverted:

Sample 7 inverted:
Sample 10 inverted:
Sample 11 inverted:

Sample 13 inverted:

Novel materials:
SAMPLE 17: Large bubble wrap
I wanted to keep as many intact bubbles as I could (i.e. filled with air). This meant I had to cut around the profile of the bubbles which limited my choice of shapes and tended to regulate spacings. However, I chose an interesting rounded diamond shape. The photos below show the sample viewed against different backgrounds:
In this photo the flat side of the bubble wrap is against the black card. I have to admit that I quite like this effect. There are reflections of light from the bubble wrap surface, whereas in contrast the cut-out holes are matt. However, the sample is not very dynamic.
This second photo shows the sample flat side down against some newspaper which I patterned for my sketchbook. I had hoped that the bubble wrap would distort the image underneath, but that it would still be visible. This photo was taken under an angle poise lamp (daylight bulb). There is too much reflection off the plastic to be able to discern the pattern of the paper underneath.
The only difference with this third photo (below) is that the bubble wrap has been placed on the paper “bubble-side” down, resulting in the cut surface being lifted off the paper generating a small shadow. The difference is hardly noticeable.
SAMPLE 18: Glassine paper
I made some cut-outs in glassine paper which were either quadrilaterals, triangles or larger-sided shapes which were derived from them. I attempted to include variety of shapes and to make sure they were placed unevenly, to add interest.
The sample is unremarkable when placed on black paper (see below). I feel that the reflections to the right of the image distract from the purity of the shapes. I would have preferred a matt paper instead of using glassine.
The reason that I wanted to make a sample out of glassine paper was because I hoped it would partially obscure an image placed underneath it. 
There is an effect of being able to see some of the patterning underneath, but I find the reflection of light off the glassine paper distracting. 
SAMPLE 19: Profiled cut-outs using 1″ thick foam
I wanted to make a sample which was cut from a 3-D shape, with the aim of forming shadows around the edges of the cut holes, and to have the ability to “profile” the cut outs. Rather like a garden fish-pond, the intention was to shape the sides to form “sloping ledges” to contrast with vertical edges.
The only foam available for me to buy at short notice was blue and 1″ thick. I have a strong dislike for the colour (although I expect the foam could be painted with out loosing too much of it’s surface texture (cell structure).
I had intended to cut straight-sided shapes, although it became apparent that this would not be possible. I ended up with a mixture of shapes (see below).
As I cut, I felt that some of the shapes looked like female genital openings. I tried to change them so that they did not! It made me think of FGM – something most unpleasant.
In general I am not keen on his sample. I think this is mainly because of the colour. I am trying to imagine it fashioned out of white foam instead….. I do actually like the profiles of the cut holes and the shadows they create. The unevenness and ragged cutting (although unintentional), I actually find quite appealing. 
I also looked at the sample with patterned paper underneath (see below)
Hardly any of the pattern is visible and I don’t like the colour combinations, so for me it doesn’t work at all.
SAMPLE 20: Layers of corrugated card, profiled cut outs

Using the idea of profiles cut outs from sample 19 and the similar shapes, I first made a tracing of the cut outs on 4 separate pieces of tracing paper, which I overlaid to give me an idea what the finished sample would look like (see below):

Below is the corrugated card sample:

I was rather disappointed with this one. Firstly, because of it’s internal construction, the cardboard was difficult to cut cleanly to give a good edge (in some directions more than others).

The photographs were taken in my photography box, lit by an angle-poise lamp with a daylight bulb. The shadows generated by the layers of profiled cut-outs are much less dramatic than I was hoping. I feel that the matt, textured (ribbed) surface of the corrugated card and it’s colour are part of the problem. 

I wondered whether I could gain anything by sketching this sample. I used a gel ink pen for the outline and darkest shadows and water-soluble graphite of different hardnesses for the softer shadows.

Drawing the outlines in gel pen to start with was probably not the best idea. The edges which did not have shadows against them were soft and poorly defined. They should have been depicted using subtle tonal variations but having already drawn them as a dotted black lines, they were difficult to correct. I tried to use water to soften and partially dissolve the pen, but the effect wasn’t the same. A tonal drawing would have been better.

SAMPLE 21: The tracings from sample 20

I realised that the templates I had used as guides to cut sample 20 actually made an interesting sample in their own right.

The effect of layering thin tracing paper, is to progressively reduce the amount of light filtering through, thereby having the effect of a darker tone. This is illustrated below, with the sample pinned up against the patio door (with natural light shining behind it)

I actually think that this is much more interesting than sample 20. However, it is spoilt by some tearing of the paper (the material was difficult to cut), and the visible pencil lines. It would be interesting to repeat this sample with coloured material (maybe coloured tissue paper or acetate), and perhaps using overlaid different colours might result in a stained glass effect?
Hess, A. (2009) Oscar Niemeyer buildings. New York. Rizzoli.
Revere McFadden, D. (2009) Slash: Paper under the knife. New York:Museum of Arts and Design.
Schneiderman, D. (2016) ‘Bespoke: Tailoring the Mass-produced Prefabricated Interior’ In: Schneiderman, D. and Griffith Winton, A. Textile Technology and Design: From Interior Space to Outer Space.  London. Bloomsbury. pp.95-107
Vyzoviti, S. (2012) Folding architecture: Spatial, structural and organisational diagrams. Amsterdam. BIS publishers.

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