This week was reading week and I have spent most of it researching and writing my Critical and Contextual Studies essay. I have, I think, finished the essay now, which was based on the first lecture we attended on Reading Images and the essay question was ‘Provide one or two examples of contemporary visual advertising (magazine, billboard, internet or TV) and analyse and explain how meaning is constructed through the conjunction of text and image.’ I quite enjoyed writing it, more so than researching it, but found it all pretty stressful, intense and draining. It was hard keeping my opinion and moral judgments (mostly) out of it and I find descriptive writing much more fun. But I enjoyed the challenge as this was the first piece of academic writing that I have written while actually understanding the principles of academic writing. And now Its finished (more than a month early), I am free to focus on my creative practice, which is such a different process, I find it hard to switch back and forth between them. Creative ideas have been flowing for this though, which I have been recording and sketching a little.
I woke up in the night imagining of my fleshy-genital-mutant-symbol-shadow-people, (from my recent painting) as 3D objects – cut out of canvas or board and made into free standing sculptures. Maybe double sided. I pictured them arranged on a route, along the side of an invisible or maybe indicated road or path in a white room. They were bright coloured like Niki de saint phalle sculptures. Some could be hanging from above on strings, like an obscene mobile, maybe there are paintings too…but do they actually need a background, as a painting would give the opportunity for…? They could be on a wall, but cut out of canvas or board still…or cardboard…dipped in plaster…painted…? I pictured also making 3D shapes from painted canvas and stitched and stuffed into creatures, stuffed with our trash – our plastic waste…which bursts or trails out in places as it does in reality both from our characters and our bins.
I discovered paintings by Laura Krifka, on Instagram, which are sort of super real, but plasticized looking people, sometimes naked and very intimate, They seemed mostly nonsexual scenarios, with a real narrative to them. They nearly all had very intricate patterned wallpaper or tiles which were rendered very perfectly. I don’t wish to paint like this, but I was really struck and intrigued by the mystery of the story in each painting and by the expressions and positions of the people, all against these highly patterned domestic surfaces. It got me thinking about wallpaper and tiles and what they are witnesses to.
So, I have gone from thinking about cardboard, wood or canvas structures to thinking about making ceramic tiles.
Tiles are the safe backdrop to our domestic lives. They surround us in our kitchens and bathrooms. Our choice of tiles and patterns give something away about us. But what if they gave away something other than our taste? What if they were patterned with what we didn’t want to be seen? They may be the surface which is most exposed to our animal states – to our base acts. They are witness to and reflector of our nakedness and our bodily examinations and ablutions. They are wipe clean, because they become splashed and dirty with our fluids. They are maybe witness to our darkest thoughts and fantasies – our shadows. What if these hidden shadow states and behaviors and longings were imprinted on these tiles, if they became imbued by them, soaked them up instead of being wiped clean of them?
So maybe I make these ceramic tiles as pictorial records of that which we try to hide and clean away. Permanent imprints of our shadow states of desire which cannot be cleaned off or erased or hidden. Because we need to make the shadow known and seen. They become the illustrated backdrop to our ordinary lives, the underbelly turned inside out.
Clay is a natural material which can become broken down and become once again part of the earth. Even though they need a lot of energy to be hardened and made permanent, maybe I can live with that. I know nothing about the colours/paints/glazes that are used and their environmental impact, but I can find that out.
Also, I like the symbolism of the firing process. They are ‘fired’, exposed to flame, hardened and made solid, birthed/brought into being, galvanised – by the fire – as I and my family were by the house fire – the fire which came about as a result of these shadow states erupting unchecked because we chose to let them control our behavior rather than face up to them.
Each shadow symbol would be fired onto its tile, branded – exposed and revealed to the world. I could try cutting the shadow symbols out of another slab of clay and attaching them to the slab of the tile background. I could possibly use our Coldhome clay for this – though it wouldn’t be strong enough maybe for the tiles, it might be for the figures.
I have also been looking at the work of Sara Anstis, Anna Mond, Alejandro Acosta, Jeff Chung and Kitty Brophy, who seem to exploring similar areas to me.