w/e 25.01.13 – The Prtlnd Vase
The Research Fellowship at MIRIAD moves on, with a certain amount of juggling, which I guess is very much the normal state of affairs when practice and research overlap so seamlessly.
My version of the Portland Vase, made a couple of months ago by SLS has given me much to think about, particularly around the relationship between traditional and digital making. The piece is a response to the way we increasingly experience the real world through a screen. Regardless of the clarity of our devices, it is still a 2 dimensional image that we are engaging with. Even Augmented Reality doesn’t hold a candle to the real thing. And though the Google Art Project sets the taste buds tingling, and may save you queuing in line to visit the Uffizi, can it be compared to the real thing. I’m sure Google would say that it’s not designed to replace, but to enhance the real thing, and that’s fair enough, but we are increasingly replacing the actual with the virtual visual experience.
My concern, as I’m sure you are aware if you have read any of my other ramblings, is that for a true understanding of the material world you need to get dirty and uncomfortable sometimes.
But back to the Portland Vase. It was chosen because it is a much revered, iconic object that has been copied in the past, most famously by Josiah Wedgwood, who borrowed the original Roman glass vase from the Duke of Portland in the late 18th century and after many trials successfully created a version in his famous jasper ware.
My Prtlnd Vase is another interpretation of the original, but in my case I didn’t borrow the original from the British Museum. I based my designs on images gleaned from search engines. There were lots of identical images taken from one face or the other, but nothing from the side. The images were generally of a low resolution, so the information available for me to use was somewhat limited. But that was the point, an image is a pale substitute if information is required.
w/e 01.02.13 – Foster and Partners
This week starts with a trip to London, combining a visit to my dealer, Adrian Sassoon to discuss new work and forthcoming exhibitions. On Tuesday I will be visiting Foster and Partners with my colleague Toby Heys in order to see the work of Xavier de Kestelier and his Specialist Modelling group. It should be very interesting as they have a focus on 3D printing, including an exploration in conjunction with Enrico Dini of D-Shape to print buildings on the Moon from moon dust!
The visit went well, it’s a busy place overlooking the Thames, with hundreds of people beavering away on various projects. Xavier is responsible for Special projects and leads a problem-solving group who address a myriad of technical solutions.
My instinct is that our proposal needs to be at a much more advanced stage; really we need to have successfully completed a feasibility study and be at the proof of concept stage before Fosters would come on board. So we’re a little way off.
Whilst there I caught up with Gregor Anderson, who was a great help to me, both at the RCA and sorting out my data whilst he worked at the Digital Manufacturing Centre at the Bartlett. He runs the superbly equipped 3D modeling facilities at Fosters and appears to be very happy in his new role.
Vicky and I just spent 4 days in Venice, our first trip to the city. What a great place, lovely to get away from cars and enjoy the more leisurely pace of boats and walking. It wasn’t as busy as it can be and the weather, though perishing cold when we arrived better than forecast. So we explored and ate and explored and ate. And slept really well. We saw some of the famous sights, but also got off the beaten track exploring the Fondamenti and Calle of Canneregio, the quitter, northern sesterei of Venice. And I have my first experience of a Tadao Ando building, or rather a warehouse converted into an Art Gallery by him for Francois Pinault. The Punta della Dogana is right down on the tip of Dorsoduro and well worth the vaporetto fare. And the walk back to our hotel in Santa Croce was well worth it.
Vicky was keen to search the churches for painting by Titian, as she is giving a talk on the subject soon, but in terms of generating ideas for my own work the strongest impression was of hands, particularly their use in reliquaries. There were a good number of them, places like the Basilica dei Frari had a collection of them. The hand gestures vary, sometimes the fingers are bending forward and sometimes the hand is exaggeratedly elongated. Most have glass windows in the ‘wrists’ allowing a view of the supposed relic. In the paintings adorning the walls of museums and churches the painters appear to have given a lot of significance to hands. They are always expressive, stretching, reaching, imploring, rarely at rest. As they were always painted by the master, I suppose they were a statement of his skill, but they help to create a dynamic composition, a moment frozen in time.
Since our return, I have spent some time thinking about using hands as a starting point for a new piece of work. Hands are full of symbolic meaning and would make an engaging vehicle to explore.
Alongside finishing the Vncnns piece for Adrian Sassoon, which will be shown at TEFAF in Maastricht shortly, my focus at MIRIAD has been on continuing to struggle with the Mcor Matrix 3D printer and help put together a grant application for the Graphene project.
Things moved forward in both areas, as Mcor have offered to print my Prtlnd vase parts and we had a promising meeting with Craig Banks, an MMU electro-chemist whose research focuses on Graphene applications. We think that we have the makings of a strong application (or two), so watch this space.
And talking of grants, my internal MMU large bid was successful, so I have about £6000 to spend on the restoration of the ZCorp printer.
On Tuesday, I had a scenic train ride to Sheffield where the architect, Sarah Wigglesworth had invited me to speak alongside the ceramic artist, Natasha Daintry on the theme of The Thinking Craftsperson. We both gave 15-minute presentations that led to a prolonged discussion and Q & A session. Sarah realizes that architecture students have little opportunity to engage in making and understand the thinking that underpins craft. Judging by the reaction, there is a strong case for the introduction of some sort of making sessions for architecture students and not just in Sheffield.
And then on Wednesday, I spent the day at the lovely Liverpool Hope University Creative Campus as a mentor on a Crafts Council Hothouse day. I was one of 3 mentors working with 10 emerging makers who have been selected to take part in the scheme to support them through the early stages of their careers, providing guidance on all aspects of their practice.
We used Edward de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats method to engage in a thorough analysis of their work. The technique is very effective in maintaining the focus of a discussion and making sure it doesn’t stray off the subject.