Report : Sculpture Workshop

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GRADUATE DIPLOMA SCULPTURE 1984

CANBERRA SCHOOL OF ART

M.F. GREY-SMITH

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C O N T E N T S

TEXT

Introduction

Summary of Semester One Summary of Semester Two Conclusion

PHOTOGRAPHS

Semester One Photograph Numbers (l - 17) Number of works (13) 2 sketches not mentiSned in text

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INTRODUCTION

My year's work during the Post-Graduate Diploma course at Canberra School of Art has been a fruitful period for me.

I personally regard the year as a milestone in my artistic development; this has been mainly due to the ability to concentrate solely on sculpt-ure, constructive and encouraging criticism, and the subsequent broad-ening and development of my artistic outlook and aspirations, I think that the work I have completed has signalled an enlargement of my hori-zons, as well as a bringing together of previously disparate and some-times neglected areas of concern.

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I would like the year's output to be viewed as a

develop-mental sequence because each separate piece has been partly a personal

(and outside) reaction extension, of the success and failures contained

in the one before i t . This process has I t h i n k , been the main

develop-ment in my attitude and approach to my working h a b i t s . I would like to

acknowledge Ron Robertson-Swann's specific and general encouragement

and criticism a s a major instigator of this a t t i t u d e .

SUMMARY ; SEMESTER ONE

I will discuss each piece specifically in terms of intention,

realisation and r e a c t i o n .

Photograph (/'). My initial activity was to relate to the work I had

been doing previously, which had evolved around analysis of the c u b e ,

and its internal r e a l i t i e s . After discussion etc it was generally agreed

that this area and m y approach to it was particularly dry and

non-creat-i v e . As Kevnon-creat-in N o r t o n , vnon-creat-isnon-creat-itnon-creat-ing a r t non-creat-i s t , succnon-creat-inctly p u t non-creat-i t , thnon-creat-is was an

idea rather than complete w o r k s . This approach did not enable enough

flexibility and imagination and I think there was more style than c o n t e n t .

Photographs A s a reaction, I broke up my p r n d i ^ c t i o n for the

cube into fragments that actively engaged one another in a more (init.

i a l l y ) random and dynamic w a y . The initial statement being linear with

subsequent definition of p l a n e s . There emerged with these sketches a

large range of possibilities a s well as pointing out some basic

pre-conceptions, automatic reactions which I was previously u n a w a r e .

Harry Nicholson, visiting c r i t i c , also questioned where my psycho-sexual

energy was being dissipated, a s it was not apparent in the w o r k .

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Photograph (6). After completion of this and in reference to the sketch-es, it was pointed out that I was still relating to the solid geometric forms, in this case the tetrahedra. Also there was an associated "core" component around which everything pivoted. This realisation and its ramifications has been one of the main areas of developmental concern. I would like to discuss this area further at this point, even though my understanding of the issue was only beginning at this period in the 1st semester. Succinctly, it is the development and nature of constructivism away from the figure coreoriented classic tradition that is at issue, -the nature of -the constructivist development through Cubism, Futurism, Russian Constructivism and eventually Smith, Caro to the present.

Until Picasso's Cubist constructions stimulated Tatlin et el, sculpture was primarily concerned with the figure in one way or another. The breaking up of mass, the de-emphasis of the figure with more concent-ration on open ended spatial exploconcent-ration, has been a gradual process with many stages. Many sculptors such as Archipenko, Rodchanko, Picasso, Brancusi, Gonzales, Moore, Armitage, Chadwick, Smith etc, have worked with a large figurative element in their work, even if abstracted or reduced or simplified. As it has been pointed out to me, there is a generically figurative element in most "modern abstract" sculpture. Smith's later work and then Caro's, and to some extent Sugarman's, her-alded a consummation of the constructivist ideas where form, space, line, plane and mass, all had equal function and use in the exploration and development of new artistic modes.

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This flexibility that Caro has given us all, is a very im-portant liberation and I feel that this realisation is an imim-portant one personally, as it has clarified, even though not by any means resolved, my understanding of my own work, Caro has concentrated on the iation and "syntax" between elements that alone bear no formal assoc-iation. I think he brought intellect into a primarily emotional area of concern, and through that a greater range of possible approaches to sculpture. As I say, this pre-empts my own thinking at this stage early in 1st semester, so I would like to discuss each piece in refer-ence to other Issues that stimulated subsequent work.

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P h o t o g r a p h i l l u s t r a t e s the central core (generically figurative) issue quite clearly as well. In this case, the elements centre around a negative core. In P h o t o g r a p h 1 attempted to avoid pivoting around a centre and also varied the width of the plates to create more tension. The process of making these works is relevant to the issues - problems inherent in (them. I usually start with an intent-ion, a formal one, say to use certain elements - that is, line and plane then attempt to create a valid statement, trying to make each new add-ition work in relationship to each other element, from every possible angle. There are no separate statements as such, and to give a literary analogy they are sentences rather than paragraphs. I feel these state-ments could be extended into paragraphs and given more dissassociated connections in the future.

With Photograph (6-171 extended the forms I was using with the introduction of curved plate and this is an element which I used extensively in the second semester. This piece began breaking new ground especially in its semi-illusionist functions, also in the more unexpected results. I found with the use of flat and curved plate, cut in both straight and curved shapes a very fruitful area of investigation.

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SUMMARY ; SEMESTER TWO

After discussion with my supervisor, a number of possible directions were apparently open to me to pursue in greater depth, foll-owing on from the work in first semester. It was agreed that I should expand the size and scale of my work and attempt a greater boldness. I decided to pursue the curved plate (simple curve) flat plate area, partly because of the more open-ended potential of this area and also because of the availability of material. New steel is prohibitively expensive and usually scrap or found steel is the main source.

I was lucky enough to get hold of a large amount of pipe (4' Dia. x ) for nothing, which enabled me to use the material freely. The ideal situation for someone working with steel is to have every available form, thickness etc, at hand. This would obviously enable a greater flexibility and one could tackle the predictability problem more heartily. This is one of the areas of confinement that makes sculpting difficult as opposed to painting.

Photograph f8i1' I wanted to place the curved plate into interesting associations with itself - by cutting the plate across the direction of the curve. One is able to get so e surprising forms esp-ecially when they are harnessed with other plate, flat or curved. The form that eventually emerged was fluid and organic. The material is capable of many different uses, however in further pieces I attempt-ed to explore different areas.

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Photographl2-2i The ribbon quality of this piece is, I think too dominant and the elements are not sufficiently diverse to sustain interest. It is in that respect a slightly backward step.

Photographi/t-2S This piece began with a specific intention, which was to use a strong vertical element which did not necessarily develop into a core, nor the work become generically figurative. I think it succeeds in that respect because the eye is tak^n across the piece, and the largest vertical element is off-set by the smaller one. It also tackles the organic - inorganic area fairly directly. The diverse widths in the structure also reduce the repetitive element which is at the crux of the predictability issue.

Photograph26-7. This is one of the more successful I feel, due to the surprise which the curved plate gives. It sometimes appears to be both coming and going, and has an inside - out quality. I specif-ically wanted to use the horizontal axis and it can be seen as a foil to the last piece. It is more coherent in its use of balance and semi-weightlessness. Most of the subsequent work has developed in this area and I have found that by counter-balancing one can achieve a stable but airy structure that denies in one sense the strength and weight of the steel, and thereby questioning how we usually perceive and relate to the material and its structural qualities.

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It also stimulated my interest in serai-enclosed spaces, and the merging of flat and curved space.

In Photograph 3o-/f I have given this area greater concent-ration and this is an area of future activity. It uses all of the ment-ioned areas of inquiry and I feel avoids the "core" issue.

As a summary, I would like to mention some of the main stimuli which come quite clearly from the sea, rocks, and man's engin-eering efforts. In reference to the sea, the weightless quality which is apparent under water and the effects of currents movements on organ-ic forms, as well as the organorgan-ic forms themselves. This world has a different structural nature with gravity being weaker and usually neg-ated one way or the other. This is all in connection with the different qualities of light and colour.

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This r e l g t e s to the a c t u a l work process a s w e l l . I have found t h a t the

u n i n t e n t i o n a l , more s p o n t a n e o u s response to a sculptural s i t u a t i o n , even

if it doesn't produce a s u b s t a n t i a l resolution i t s e l f , has a v e r y

bene-f i c i a l ebene-fbene-fect on the t o t a l long-term e bene-f bene-f o r t .

Another area of concern is d r a w i n g . I have drawn during the

y e a r , however I have n o t been able to make a n y significant p r o g r e s s .

I have devoted ray entire creative e f f o r t to the 3 D work and very little

has been left o v e r f o r 2 0 w o r k . The drawing has actually gone into the

sculpture w o r k , in that I usually draw on the steel to achieve the

des-ired f o r m . This is in a true sense drawing in s p a c e , a n d is a p p a r e n t

when considering the importance of line in a l l my w o r k . A l s o , I would

have to illude to 3 D space with 2 D d r a w i n g , as I am not sufficiently

interested in pattern m a k i n g . I haven't drawn in relation to my 3 D work

a s a g a i n , it is an insufficient method of r e a l i s a t i o n , a s w e l l a s

dict-ating too much the a c t u a l 3 D f o r m . In p r e v i o u s y e a r s , I have drawn and

s c u l p t e d , either one or the o t h e r . I can now see that the drawing

-(except for the landscape-information w o r k ) , w a s a release valve for

the overly restricted 3 D w o r k .

From a long term p o i n t of v i e w , I would like to develop ray

sculptural a p p r o a c h e s to the p o i n t where the spontaniety a n d freedom of

drawing could be a c h i e v e d . This w i l l mean greater exploration of other

materials and t e c h n i q u e s . I can see the p o s s i b i l i t i e s in c a s t and c o n

-structed c o m p o s i t i o n s , not for any m a t e r i a l q u a l i t y , but to enable the

use of every form p o s s i b l e . F o r e x a m p l e , it i s impossible or very

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Colour and Surface Treatment. A problematic area.

With the 1st semester work, I finished them all with satin enamel, with pastel colours which I hoped would relate to the content of the piece. Retrospectively, the colours in most cases didn't enhance the work, and further thought needs to be applied. With the larger 2nd semester pieces, I decided to attempt to use a finish, that apart from preventing rust, (primary aim), enhanced the nature of the material. Each piece needs a different solution, and I found in many cases when I wanted a flat, int-eresting surface, polish over clear anti-rust paint after sandblasting the steel, was the most effective.

The large vertical piece was painted a vivid blue, apart from this piece most of the year's work is in tonal colours, with the later work being a darker matt hue, which is more appropiate for the forms.

Apart from its other qualities, steel is a fairly impermin-ent material, and almost any treatmimpermin-ent needs maintenance. This brings together two of the more difficult artistic areas, colour on form. Largely I try to approach the finish to enhance the form, rather than distract from it. Of major importance is the function of light - cast shadow on the sculpture. Tonal colours tend to enhance this, with a number of different tones emerging with the one finish. It is diffi-cult to use colour to push back or forward different areas, as it might either be redundant or contrary.

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depth or shape becomes redundant when viewed from the opposite angle. The other important factor with colour on form is its inter-action with the colours surrounding it, often in an outside environment. This means that an organic- tonal colour, - leaf green, earth ochres showing light and dark effects etc, will blend the form into the envir-onment. Conversely, with a vibrant saturated hue, one tends to displace the form away from its surrounds. The natural colour of materials -bronze, steel (rusted), stone, wood etc, obviously blend with the envir-onment. A brightly painted sculpture resembles a flower or colourful bud in this sense. Here again, this depends upon the nature of the form and the purpose of the artist. I feel that both approaches are valid.

Conclusion

As a family, we have decided to move permanently to Canberra environs, as the need for an artist to work within a context, peer

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Photograph I Q - f J "Crown" Steel, painted 850 x 1100 x 600mm

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Photograph "Centre Fold" Steel, painted 2200 x 1530 x 2250nitn

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

The Language of Sculpture William Tucker Thames and Hudson London 1975 Brancusi - a Study of the Sculpture Sidney Geist

Grossman New York 1968

Documentary Monographs in Modern Art. David Smith

Ed. B.Garnett - McCoy Praeger New York 1973 Gaston LaChaiae. The Man and his Work Gerald Nordlamp

George Braziller N.Y. 1974 The Sculptures of Picasso Roland Penrose Museum of Modern Art

New York 1967

Herbert Ferber E.C.Goossen Abbeville Press New York 1981 Terminal Iron Works Rosalind E. Kraus M.I.T. Press 1979 Anthony Caro William Rubin Museum of Modern Art

New York 1974

Theories Of Modern Art Herschel B. Chipp University of California Press 1968

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APPENDIX

Report on Sculpture Symposium. Canberra School of Art. February 1984 Participants Marcus Shanahan Peter Powditch Michael Snaps Michael Buzacott Ian McKay Paul Hopmeier Jan King Kevin Norton Paul Selviraod Ante Dabro Michael Le Grand Ron Robertson-Swann Herry Nicolson Michel Sourgnes Graeme Sturgeon

Victoria

New South Wales

Great Britain Queensland

Australian Capital Territory

I was fortunate to be able to participate as an observer and assistant in this unique group sculpture workshop, organised by Hon Robertson-Swann. The idea as I see it, was to enable sculptors to engage in a dialogue through observing others work and working habits, as well as to engage in an Intellectual dialogue on issues raised by the intentions and realisations of the artists.

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All of the sculptors work in the construct!vist mode,

(with the exception of Ante Dabro) and all also largely work with steel.

What has been of primary importance, is the obvious divergence of

atti-tudes and practice within the group. Steel is a very flexible material,

with every sculptor showing a different use and approach to the medium

and its qualities. The essential part of the equation is the artist's

Intent and motivation, and even though I am writing this a t an early

stage of the Symposium, this has already become apparent.

Paul Selwood's and Peter Powditch's work are in approach

closer to my own I feel, than any o t h e M . Selwood, with his tackling

of the fluidity dynamic issue - Powditch's use of the bas-relief form,

and the interplay between structure and articulated mass with a

figur-ative stimulus, which I find very encouraging and points to an area

I intend to tackle. They are seemingly stimulated by similar concerns

to my own work, that i s , the observation of the forces in nature.

Michael Snape is the most different, BS he is attempting

a literary associative-psychological interplay, with continuous

cross-referencing to every-day objects and feelings. The placing of their

art within a context that stretches from Picasso to Caro is also

appar-ent. I see Marcus Shanahan's relating strongly to the nature of

Picasso's work and Kevin Norton's referring constantly to Anthony C a r o .

There is also an attempt via Michael Buzacott to take sculpture to a

non-referential (to other sculptors) position. In fact, I feel he is

leaning more towards painting and poetry in his displacement of formal

devices.

One only has to compare Jan King's linear, flexible spaces

to Michael Le Grand's solid, tight planes and volumes to appreciate

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One can appreciate the difference between Ron Robertson-Swann's, with his emphasis on balance, precise definition of forces and generally classic approach, with Ian McKay's (assemblage with spontaneous free-association). I have been fascinated by the diverse work methods which range from a sensuous approach like Kevin Norton and Paul Hopraeier to the more contemplative, as with Peter Powditch and Jan King. This does not necessarily correlate to the effect or Intention of the particular work, but rather the approach to the material. I have included photographs of each sculptor's work to illustrate these and other issues.

I have been able to appreciate the particular direction my own work has taken by contrast to the other sculptors. As Ian McKay pointed out, I am not an assemblage constructor, but rather a modeller-modulator. The efficacy of steel and its plastic qualities are evident when one can construct, model and even carve it!

Harry Nicolson believes more duality (struggle) Is nec-essary in my efforts, and I have appreciated his Intellectual efforts in making a philosophical, historical framework. X am not sure how-ever, that his approach to art is one that I can fully engage with. This is not to say that his comments lack reference, but his persp-ective is eclectic and belongs to a different field of study.

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There are a number of issues that have come up from spec-ific discussions with Ian McKay and Paul Hopmeier. I questioned Paul on why he made sculpture, or rather what he thought it was ultimately about, and he said it was "basically communication between humans a -bout being a human, and on relations with others and the exterior world".

I think a valid art activity is one in which the artists have successfully communicated their individual understanding, and where their understanding is of a profound and revelatory nature. Seeing as there are many avenues for expression and sculpture is only one, with I feel, specific limitations in nature (as every other avenue has), the most valid sculptural statements are those that use the in-herent inalienable qualities of the mode. I think the main source is the experience of being human within the physical world. This relates to our own physicality and our mental perception of the physicality beyond our own.

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Sculptors are

gatherings to

get materials

^to speak^

t f X "

J . H E first symposium was a gathering which ate and d r a n k and discussed the meaning of love. This is a gathering at which the p a r t i c i p a n U eat and drinli and discuss t h e meaning of s c u l p t u r e . "

T h e c o m m e n t is m a d e knowing that the quote is a good one and reflects t h e consideration for the good line, for the comfort of the interviewer, shown by Ron Robertson-Swann, head of t h e C a n b e r r a School of A r ts S c u l p t u r e Workshop and originator and con-vener of t h e school's first sculpture seminar.

The seminar opened on J a n u a r y 31 and concludes on Tuesday.

Thirteen sculptors a r e taking part. They a r e M a r c u s S h a n a h a n (Vic-toria), Michael Snape, Paul Hop-meier, J a n King, Michael Buzacott, P e t e r P o w d i t c h , I a n M c K a y , Gabrielle Phillipini ( N S W ) , Paul Selwood (Queensland), A n t e D a b r o , Michael Le G r a n d and t h e convener ( A C T ) . H a r r y Nicolson ( N S W ) is resident during the symposium a n d is co-ordinating talks and discussions.

R o b e r t s o n - S w a n n , s w e a t b a n d round his head, overalled and heavily booted, takes refuge behind a cigar d u r i n g the conversation, explaining that " t h e muses are not being k i n d " at t h e time.

His enthusiasm obviously is un-d i m m e un-d as he explains how t h e iun-dea for the symposium arose when he attended something similar in Vic-toria, developed when he floated t h e idea through t h e bush radio which serves every field of interest, and gained i m m e d i a t e and enthusiastic re-sponse f r o m people " w h o share a mutual respect".

S o m e could not a t t e n d b e c a u s e of teaching c o m m i t m e n t s , " a n d most sculptors need t h e i r t e a c h i n g " . T h o s e who have a t t e n d e d a r e a m o n g the best and the interplay has been valuable to everyone. T h e concept of involving and bringing together people in re-lated fields from the Australian National University and the Aus-tralian National Gallery has also worked most satisfactorily, probably even b e t t e r t h a n had been hoped.

Ron Robertson-Swann

C a n b e r r a sculptor A n t e D a b r o is working on a huge and heavy block of W o m b e y a n m a r b l e , which in si* months or so will pay t r i b u t e to t h e h u m a n form; t h e o t h e r s seem mostly to be working in steel, which p r o m p t s a dissertation on how malleable, how flexible it is as a m e d i u m . T h e con-versation gives a philistine t h e begin-nings of a n u n d e r s t a n d i n g of w h a t t h e sculptor is seeking in steel, t h e e f f o r t s " t o get t h e material to speak, to say what you w a n t it to s a y " .

Distractions to t h e l a y m a n a r e t h e distance t h e m a r b l e chips a n d sparks fly and t h e incongruity of overalls, safety goggles and boots w h e n con-sidered with one's u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h e b e a u t y of art.

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References

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