Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Sketchbook - 3rd part

In the last section of the sketchbook course the challenge is to think about the work of an artist chosen from a list of various artists who work in textiles or in sculpture, including Caroline Broadhead, Eva Hesse and Suzumi Noda. I chose to look at the latter two.

Noda is a director of an art school in Osaka, but is also an artist practitioner with a keen sense of the changing ecology of the world, hence her interest in recycling materials.

There was not a great deal to find on Suzumi Noda, although I thought her work was interesting - using knitting and integrating discarded materials into it, including old bottle tops. She contributed some works to the Lost in Lace exhibition with a work made up of old cardboard jacquard cards and fine wire. She knits garments in an open structure. Although she states she used to use wool in the 1980s, her material now looks like a monofilament or wire. So, her language is about open work and lacy-ness with an awareness of contemporary environmental changes - I am not sure how she works her design process as I can't find any sketchbook images of her work, however you get a sense that she has a very good handle on the craft of textiles, whether knitting or knotting or some other method of assembly (I found an image of a chair she had covered in a very three-dimensional way with tags and a bright yellow monofilament, which she had also used in knitted installations).

Eva Hesse, on the other hand, has been well examined by art historians and crafts theorists. A sculptor who worked in the 1960s using new materials in her work such as latex painted on rope or canvas, and the structure then left to slum or hang, Hesse let gravity pull the work into/out of shape, or let ropes get tangled and knotted over which she then painted these in resin.

Hesse’s work has been described by some as post-minimalist, or Process Art (Adamson, 2007), which considered the process of making, in materials and letting the work do its own work, such as letting the works slump, hang, fold, balance. She also made drawings in the early 1960s, which were simple abstracts, using elemental forms such as the circle and the rectangle to absorb her marks.
Instead of choosing just a single artist I thought I might combine these two - Noda from the knitting perspective, as I have several yarns cut in short bits left over from the tapestry sample in assignment 4 I need to use up, as well as yarns I dug out from my stash, and Hesse because of her attention to process. I am less enamoured by Hesse's final art objects - if her work really was about process then these objects demonstrate that it was not the final thing that was important to her in itself, but a way to show the making of it within the object. There is a suggestion that she had said she was working to create 'nothing' (Sussman, 2006), which is probably suggestive. That nothing might be the liminal space between an art object that traditionally communicates something and the space and activities of the making of it.
In any case, the sketchbook course asks us to consider these artists and materials we may have collected that could be used. I have collected tissue papers from wrapped parcels and shoe boxes, and I also have a small bundle of other paper that could be usefully dyed. So I went on to dunk and dip some of the tissue paper in a solution of water-soaked onion peel, which gave a yellow colour, and applied these papers to the heavier sheets and also dyed a small piece of silk. I also knitted some small samples into which I knitted bits of warp yarn.

I sat for a few evenings just knitting small square samples in linen, wool and cotton, sometimes handspun, sometimes commercial. Amazingly, I found myself knitting pretty monochrome samples, unusual for me, as I usually work with colour. These samples at times incorporated some of the off-cut warp yarns I mentioned earlier. Also unusually, I knitted samples, just made up smallish pieces to see how the material worked. Normally I would plan a knitting project, skip the bit where you are meant to make a swatch or sample and just get on with the final thing. This means many failed trials and re-trials or projects left unfinished.  In this instance, as this sketchbook work is a way to understand how a work book can almost be its own thing, stand as a record of the process, there was no compelling reason for working towards a final object.
Here are some of the pieces of paper onto which I have mounted some of the knitting. The dark brown sheet of paper on the left was saturated in tea, whilst on the right the sheet was jabbed and 'painted' with the tea bag. In the middle is a sheet saturated with the onion skin water, which on this paper went a strange pink, whilst on the white tissue paper the stains was bright yellow:

I also had a white paper bag which I have opened out and started to dismantle. The rolled paper handles where platted together into a sort of 3D cord, and I tied short linen pieces to the final sample to make it hairy:

Also being shown here (above) is a knitted sample made with a wool-silk plied homespun yarn, where I unravelled two stitches in the centre and sewed it onto a tea stained paper. 

I also prepared more paper using paint (mainly gesso with glue and a bit of paint added), sticking yarns and onion-dyed paper to some. Some sheets of paper I had folded with quite hard folds and then opened out, and onto the peaks from the folds I poured a very strong dark tea solution onto the peak and let the tea pour down into the valleys. This left some fainter brown stains and some very dark stains on the paper, I was very pleased with the result and will try a few more.
Here are some more of the papers I worked using gesso, glue, water colour and yarn bits.
You can see some of the knitted samples using the remnants of the warp yarn from a previous assignment, another two samples knitted in hemp - the one on the left a single which I bought from a woman who imports these yarns from women's collectives in India, and the one on the bottom is a plied rough linen yarn which I knitted in a twisted stitch that has created a quite dense and less flexible fabric than a normal straight stitch knit.
Also in the box are some paper craft balls I wrapped in yarn with stitching or sisal knotted over it. I have also put in the braids and plaits so they won't get lost and I am putting in the three green yarn wraps I have made for the final tapestry sample, again to prevent them from being lost. I hope it all gets to the tutor without being too damaged in the post when I submit it.
 You see here the three wraps and two large, two small balls covered in yarn and stitched.

This piece of paper is the one mentioned using tea poured over the folds and letting it pool and left to air dry. The marks are denser and very loose, discontinuous yet create a whole on the paper, I liked this first sample for its simplicity - very unlike other things I have done before.
As I quite like the various papers I have prepared as they are, with or without knitted samples attached, and as the back of the papers deserve equal attention as the front I decided that joining the sheets together would not be helpful. So I made a box, currently without a lid, with a core of card and covered in a recycled postal bag from Japan (see the post on Japanese tapestry). I am satisfied the box works. Somehow the size of the card I had left was exactly the right size, and in folding over the paper it has been possible to make a good fit, it just needed four diagonal cuts in the paper to enable the corners to be folded in neatly. The smaller papers will move around inside the box, but there is also space for the more 3D stringy platted cords I made of left-over materials.

 I also made a lid for the box - this took two goes, as I got the sizing wrong on the first attempt - and in fact I also made a mistake on the second attempt but that is not so visible. Overall I am happy with the box. This is the first time I make one from scratch, I didn't consult any books or web-sites, just had a go ironing the paper flat and then folding it into shape. And it is now a functional box! 
Adamson, Glenn, Thinking through Craft, Berg, 2007
Sussman, Elizabeth, Eva Hesse: Sculpture (Jewish Museum), Yale University Press, 2006

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