17 June 2017
Part 5, Stages 3 to 5 – Sample-making, recording outcomes, sorting (experimenting with surfaces)
I approached this project by starting with a series of process-led experiments, concentrating on the exploration of surface properties (particularly texture and contrast); the aim/output being to select a single line of enquiry to develop on towards a prototype or maquette.
My experiments were conducted in the context of one the following three structures, as a possible starting point for a constructed 2D/3D surface.
My experiments can be subdivided into the following categories:
See sketchbook pages 3-6, page 7 (in combination with flaps), and page 18 (in combination with punching)
This exercise helped to ease me back into the course after a period of several weeks in which I wasn’t able to work. A library book on paper sculpture by Rouke (Rouke, 1993), made me appreciate that I had not properly realised the potential of this technique in Part 1, Project 4, Exercise 2, having only considered scratching as a series of isolated marks, rather than using them to produce a textured surface.
For these experiments, I used paper (of different types) painted with acrylic paint, which I removed by scratching. I looked at big scratches vs little scratches, pattern vs overall texture, different marks using different tools, and the contrast between areas of high and low density scratching. I lit the samples to see the thinned paper had become transparent or translucent, and used coloured cellophane to see how these effect might be exploited.
I have made comments in my development and sketchbook alongside each of my experiments, noting the qualities of each, what I liked and didn’t like, and technical considerations (such as ease of working).
In particular, I found the experiment top right of page 6 (experiment 1.11, scratching diagonally using a scalpel, Khadi paper) very striking due to it’s texture and contrast of hue (see below):
In a development, I used handmade paper painted with a chalky paint and made rougher more irregular scratches which actually puncture right through the surface. I used these in combination with small regular holes made with a pin (experiment 1.14 – see sketchbook, page 18). This turned out to be my favourite textured paper because of it’s irregularity and rawness which I find more engaging than the cartridge and Khadi paper samples.
I also liked the idea of transitioning the of density of mark across the surface to create tonal graduation (see below, experiment 1.12, sketchbook page 6).
I envisaged that I might use a scratched surface as one side of the Mobius strip or circle, contrasted against a surface of different texture and/or hue on the opposite side. However, this felt rather “safe” with little scope for “pushing the boundaries” or risk-taking.
Flaps (incising and lifting):
See sketchbook page 7 (in combination with scratching), and pages 9-16
The use of flaps in conjunction with shadow and lighting (project 2, exercise 5) was one of the processes which excited me in Part 1, and the reason why I chose to revisit the technique.
I started by exploring a combination of scratching and flaps (sketchbook page 7), but I felt that they made the surface too confused and complicated (in conjunction with a constructed surface, the flaps would detract from the geometry of the repeated shapes by competing with them for visual attention).
I then looked at flaps on their own as a means of creating surface texture. I considered triangles (sketchbook pages 10-12) and semi-circles (sketchbook pages 13-16).
The triangular incisions and flaps created some very interesting textural surfaces and shadows which I explored by photographing my samples in different orientations (page 10-11). I also used sketching to investigate the effect of different sized triangles and changing orientation of the flaps/incisions to make a pattern (sketchbook page 12)
In particular, I liked the effect of painting the reverse of the surface a contrasting colour
(red), which emphasised the flaps and also created subtlety coloured red-tinged shadows (see sketchbook page 11, experiment 2.2). This idea came from a sketchbook sample which I worked for Part 1 (see Part 1 Sketchbook – Theme “The Garden”, pages 21-22), and also from artist Rana Begum’s “work on paper” (2012)
Once again, although I liked the surfaces which I was creating, I didn’t feel that they could be used successfully in conjunction with any of the geometric forms at the start of this blog post (for the same reasons of overcomplexity and competing for visual attention).
Next, I made a small sample of semi-circular flaps, arranged in rows, alternating the orientation of the semi-circle and opening (see the diagram on page 13 sketchbook clarification). The piece can be found as experiment 2.3 on page 13 of the sketchbook. Photographs of it in different orientations are shown below:
What I particularly like about this sample was that fact that it’s appearance changes depending on the direction and angle from which it was viewed. It also cast amazing shadows (see sketchbook page 13).
I used sketching to explore how this surface might appear if made from a thicker material, so that the edges of the incisions became a feature of the surface (page 15), and also how it might look is rolled into a tube or used to make a folded/zig-zag configuration (pages 14-16).
I didn’t feel that the surface worked when configured as zig-zag pleats. I think this is because there is no harmony between the incisions (circular) and the angular form of the zig-zag folds. It also felt too safe as a design idea.
When rolled into a tube, the sample seemed to come alive; there was the ability to see though the flaps to the reverse side of the tube, and there was harmony between the semi-circular flaps and the curve of the surface. There were shadows created by the flaps both inside the tube and on the outer surface of the cylinder. I started to experiment by placing the tube adjacent to a tube made from scratched and punched handmade paper (experiment 1.14).
This combination appeals to me because of the strong contrast between the chalky, ragged surface of the scratched sample and the smooth sharp form of the semi-circular flaps of the incised sample. It made me consider the possibility of making a tube structure, instead of using one of the geometric forms at the start of this blog post. I conducted a search on Pinterest
and as inspiration for a modular constructed surface composed of tubes (Eastaugh, 2017).
Exploring texture and colour:
I selected a red, white and blue colour scheme, inspired by the colours used in several Oscar Niemeyer buildings, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi (Design Buildings Wiki, 2017). I am drawn to the strong contrast of hue, and I find the combination of red and blue in particular attention-grabbing.
In my development sketchbook, I considered the contrasting texture of fabrics and other materials, thinking about how I might use these alone or in conjunction with textured papers (see pages 17-20). I slashed glossy stretch metallic and matt acrylic felt (experiments 3.2 and 3.4), contrasted red lacy sequin fabric with smooth acrylic-painted blue paper and used feathers, eyelash yarn and sequin waste and zip teeth for texture (experiment 3.3).
Combinations which I particularly liked were sequin waste and cellophane (experiment 3.3 below):
Red lacy or fluffy textures against bright blue acrylic-painted paper (sketchbook page 19, experiments 3.6 – left and 3.5 – right):
and juxta positioned torn and cut edges of paper (experiment 3.1, sketchbook page 17)
I considered using lamination as a means of making fabric samples stiffer (so that they could be used in sculptural strips or shapes joined to create a surface). The results were disappointing (experiments 3.8- 3.10, sketchbook page 22). As well as not being sufficiently stiff, I also felt that the lamination masked the reflective and textural qualities of the materials (in particular the sequins and feathers), so I decided not to continue with this line of enquiry.
In my preliminary research, I identified edge treatments as a possible avenue of research. The torn edges of strips of paper which I had assembled as part of my colour study gave an interesting contrast between the painted surface of the paper and the white interior exposed by the tear (experiment 3.1, sketchbook page 17).
I also thought about using a zipper or charred edge to create an interesting boundary. In the event, I was left feeling underwhelmed, because my sketches and computer modelling suggested that these treatments would detract from the form of a constructed surface rather than enhancing it.
Having completed the assignment and with the benefit of subsequent experiments, I can now envisage that an edge treatment (such as the addition of a zip-teeth), would work really well with a very simple shape, such as rectangles or semi-circles. I know from dressmaking that zip tapes are often stiffer than the fabric they are attached to, in which case the zip teeth become distorted into a wavy edge. This could be an attractive feature, which might be used to make textured surface if a multitude of the rectangles or semi-circles were arranged together. At the time, this idea did not pop into my head because I was focused on the Mobius strip and more complex surfaces. Experience has now taught me that the most effective shapes are the simplest and in hindsight, I’m sure I would have been able to develop an successful constructed surface from this concept.
Because stitching is so time-consuming, I confined myself to one type (simple running stitch) which I selected to expose the colour transition of my thread. I chose a blue hand-spun hand-dyed yarn which was variable in thickness and colour. I sewed strands in staggered rows on curtain pelmet lining (which I selected for it’s stiffness and malleability).
The photo below shows the thin rolled tube of stitched pelmet fabric placed adjacent to the rolled tube of painted and punctured/scratched handmade paper and a flat piece of card painted with acrylic blue paint (experiment 5.1, sketchbook page 27). I like the contrast of texture in this tube configuration with the different pieces. I also like the way that the stitching emphasises the long thin shape of the tube, and gives subtle tonal and textural variation across the surface.
I also configured the sample in the shape of a Mobius strip (see sketchbook page 27), but didn’t feel it would be visually appealing when duplicated due to the stitching detracting from the simple geometry of the shape. Also, the stitching being double-sided meant there was a little contrast between the two surfaces.
A reoccurring theme which fascinates me is the idea of placing holes, or “windows” across a surface so that they reveal only part of what’s behind. Starting with a strip of paper, similar in shape to the one I had used to make my Mobius strip (i.e. in the ratio of 1:6 width to length), I started exploring the possibility of cutting out rectangular shapes along it’s length.
At the same time, I wanted to explore colour transition, so I painted a piece of 130gsm paper with acrylic paint, graduating across the surface from red to blue, using different hues.
Next, I cut rectangular holes along the length of three similar sized strips. Some holes were uniform and evenly spaced, others were different sizes and with variable spacing (see sketchbook, page 31 and rear inside cover).
Seeing the samples laid casually on top of each other on my desk made me realise that I was onto something visually exciting (see below):
There is a feeling of depth and movement implied by curling and accentuated by the fact that surfaces in the foreground and background are both visible. The pieces remind coiled springs, taught and ready to “ping” unsprung. There is also a suggestion of balancing; that the pieces might roll towards (or away from) the viewer at any minute.
The strong contrast of hue between each surface of the strips helped to define the negative spaces. I love the fact that new (and different shaped) negative spaces are made where the “ladders” cross.
Because holes allow visibility of the opposite surface, more visual cues are available about curvature and distortion of the strip. This is implied by both the relative position of the ladder-shaped holes, and perspective (although it would be possible to play tricks with the viewer by changing the size of the cut-outs to compensate for perspective or to make the holes to suggest opposite to what might be expected!)
Next, I placed the three different 3D shapes I had made onto what remained of the surface I had cut them from (experiment 6.3, sketchbook page 30). The photographs below show a single set-ups viewed from two different angles:
Firstly I love the fact that such different results can be obtained just by walking around the arrangement and viewing it from different points. This is a feature which I personally find very engaging when I experience it in other practitioners’ work (often sculpture or architecture).
The second feature which works well is the different visual response depending on whether the contrast of hue is strong, or weather the colours are similar. When the contrast of is strong, the shapes (both positive and negative) seem to stand out and jump for attention, whereas where the colours are coincidently similar, the form is barely noticeable, with shapes tending to blend into the background. This adds an extra level of visual depth and excitement.
Emotionally, I find the colours raw and explosive. I feel that there is drama (perhaps anger) in the arrangement. It occurred to me that I had produced this set of experiments on the day after the Grenfell tower fire in London. The cut-out shapes could be reminiscent of architectural blocks, or perhaps a fireman’s ladder and the red and black painted suggestive of fire and charring. Any recreation of the events, however were either unconscious or coincidental, but perhaps this explains why I feel a strong response to the sample?
Finally, I was interested to see what effect could be obtained by placing the pieces onto a mirrored surface (see below):
In a similar arrangement to the tangle of pieces as they laid on my desk, I let the components rest where they fell.
I also like this arrangement very much; the mirror reflects light, so the image is crisp and well defined to the viewer. The mirror allows the underside of pieces to be seen (which would otherwise not necessarily be visible) and there is a symmetry and rhythm created by virtue of the reflection. I was pleased able to take the photograph only reflecting the white ceiling and without the distraction other objects in the room (such as the TV and light fitting)! This was extremely difficult.
Once I started experimenting with this concept, I was quickly sold on the idea that it was the line of enquiry that I want to take forward and develop.I still have still to consider different ways that the pieces can be joined to make a shapes, how these shapes can be joined/interlocked/linked to form a surface. There are also considerations of size, scale and arrangement of components.
I embarked on this phase of experimentation thinking that I could use a textured surface to enhance and enrich a constructed surface (such as one of the three examples given at the start of this post). My conclusion is that in most instances, adding this extra complexity would actually detract from the visual aesthetics of the piece by disrupting the purity of form (geometry).
Although the tubes which I made from my textured surfaces showed promise, my intuition was that this idea was too conventional and safe.
My preferred outcome and future line of enquiry is the twisted and coiled strips with ladder-like cut-outs, for the following reasons:
- Interesting and complex positive shapes and negative spaces are created when shapes are twisted, overlaid or combined.
- A surface made from these units will appear different depending on the vantage point/ angle from which it is observed (experiment 6.3)
- There is potential to design a configurable surface which can be changed depending upon the installation.
- The potential to explore/exploit shadow, light and/or reflection in the final design (experiment 6.5, for example).
- There is the potential use similarity and contrast of hue to respectively emphasis or suppress areas of the sculpture by making them appear to stand out or recede.
I feel that I have spent a lot of time and effort unnecessarily exploring surface texture when I should have been concentrating on shape and form. Resisting the temptation to delete this section, I have included it as a record of my work and so that I can draw on it as a learning experience.
Eastaugh, N. (2017) Tube Sculptures
[Pinterest pin, June 2017] http://pin.it/N3kBSEx
(Accessed 5 July 2017)
Rouke, N. (1993) Sculpture in paper. Massachusetts. Davis publications inc.