I new as soon as I had completed Part 3 and received my tutors report that I wanted to take some of the materials I had gathered for part 3 and develop some of those samples further. I knew I had held back with some materials foolishly and, I needed to make sure I got a grip of letting materials take me to where they could go. I had been blocking their progress as ‘Something I wanted to tackle for Part 5’. I am so annoyed with myself for doing this as it was short-sighted and I was not pushing myself as I truly want to do so.
I had an idea that was stimulated by visiting Cornelia Parker’s exhibition at the Whitworth gallery, Manchester in April 2015, on a study day with the OCA. I was enamoured with her work and was particularly drawn to her ‘Pornographic’ drawings. In my blog dated June 2nd 2015 I had written: ‘I wanted to see if she had included any of her ‘Pornographic drawings’ as I was referencing them in the Exploring ideas course. The first thing my eyes focussed on was indeed one of those images. Pornographic drawings are prints made using confiscated pornographic films given by H.M Customs, mixed with chemicals which melt the celluloid film into a substance Parker then make prints with. She used the method that produces images in the manner of Rorschach psychological ink blots.’
I wanted to do the same with the negatives I had and also the cine film. I have had both soaking in acetone for weeks and so far little has changed except that the negatives have warped slightly. I had been working on many ‘samples’ by working on using the raw materials I had gathered throughout the Exploring Ideas course. I was conscious when working on Part 3, especially so when my tutor had made this comment:
It stuck a chord as when I had been working on part 3 I had literally become frozen, and was unable to move forward. I noted that I had lost my ability to play and explore playfully with materials as I had a ‘end game’ in mind that I couldn’t shift. This disabled me from getting the most out of the materials I had used. I connected it with my year of working on the Introduction to printing that had me focussed on producing and end product -print- in mind and then planning how to get there. I had struggled with this course and it had permeated into every pore and creative habit. One good thing that did arise from it was that because of that struggle with printing I had learned a lot about how I naturally prefer to work, think, problem solve and also how tenacious I can be in trying to solve a problem or master a technique.
I was at the stage of resigning myself to not being able to make the July assessment, which was a target of mine when I decided to review again the samples I had been working on for weeks. I had gathered the materials I had and started to break down some mental barriers I had about where I was going. I had bags of distemper, 4 reels of cine film numerous negatives of 35mm and medium format, old Polaroid film, a large piece of fabric that had been soaking for 9 months in vinegar and wrapped around an iron grate from the workhouse and slate roof tiles from the workhouse buildings.
The raw materials:
Though I was working with materials I had gathered which related to my ancestry I wanted to look beyond any preconceived ideas I had about the end product, personal piece and allow myself to be led by those materials to a destination I knew not where or how. I needed to surrender to the process again. A lost skill. I soaked some in acetone as previously mentioned and then I set about looking at what I could do with the distemper as I had so much of it. The volume of distemper took away any nerves about using all I had to sample and nothing left to create a ‘finished piece’. it had been in my studio for nearly a year now and has dried out into small crusted blocks and dust. My first thought was how can I turn this into something I could work with? My tutor had commented that:
I felt I had validation that there was something in the distemper that I had to find and bring out. I knew I could only do this with experimenting. I decided to mix some with gesso and apply it to calico and also to a box canvas. I wanted to have some fabric I could manipulate after the mix had set in order to see what would be left if I crunched and broke up the dried paste.
I felt I then had to look at ways of containing the dust and small crusts of the distemper. I ripped muslin and made a long tube from it, stitching the sides and I also sectioned it with stitching as I didn’t want it to all drop to the bottom and re-create the bag that it had been collected in.
I stitched together medium format negatives to form a pocket and filled them with distemper, as well as stitching medium format negatives to muslin and filling them with distemper.
Some negatives I stitched on to acetate that would shrink in the oven and filled them with distemper. After they had been placed in the oven they came out looking as the images below.
Some I stitched around all four edges and did not fill with distemper. I wanted to see how the negative would be able to mould and change whilst secured to the shrinking acetate.
I tied medium format negatives onto the shrinking acetate to see how they would react together. I attached them at each corner to allow some flexibility and to see how they would interact together when heat was applied.
I stitched a pocket of muslin onto the front of a Polaroid film and filled it with distemper too.
I stitched medium format negatives onto the stained fabric and created a pocket in which I filled with distemper.
I stitched a piece of the sinkable acetate to some of the stained fabric, stitching along each of the four sides. It came out of the oven beautifully manipulated.
I then sandwiched the 35mm negatives that the acetone had distorted and not disintegrated between two pieces of muslin too.
I wrapped some of the acetone soaked negatives in calico to see if there could be a transfer of image.
I did the same with some Polaroid film I had soaked in acetone, but this time wrapped it in the rust stained fabric.
I soaked both in boiling water.I thought this would maximise the chances of transference of inks to the fabric.
I stitched some of the distorted negatives onto strips of the stained fabric.
Some of the negatives layers had actually become slightly separated from each other. It looked as though I could actually coax them apart. I used a bamboo skewer to ease away the images from the stiff base layer of the film. I had done many Polaroid lifts before, where you can put the Polaroid photograph into hot water and the image comes away from the base of the photograph and becomes an almost fluid image that you can then apply to many things such as wood, porcelain etc. I did not know that negatives too could be manipulated in this way. I placed the image layer onto the shrinkable acetate to allow it to dry.
The ghostly images took on a new persona due to the wrinkles and distortions.
I wondered if these would adhere to the fabric when dried. They didn’t and in fact curled and distorted to the point that they were unrecognisable as negatives. I wasn’t disappointed by this as I was also conscious that I needed to get away from being representational in my work. My tutor had noted:
This was another reason I wanted to revisit Part 3 in an attempt at getting me to work with and explore materials and where I had fallen short.
I had taken apart some of the Polaroid cassettes and their unused contents as they had already begun to decompose from them being 20 years out of date. I discovered small packets of printing solution that hadn’t been disturbed so I decided to use the contents to see if I could get some print from them. I used calico in strips. I snipped off the ends of each sachet and squeezed the contents onto the calico. I then used a brayer to distribute the solution. The results were similar to the ‘Pornographic drawings’ by Cornelia Parker.
I was delighted with the results.
The more I have played with the materials I have gathered the more I removed myself for having any preconceived idea of what I could produce from them. The had become simply found materials with no connection to my family or its history. I had in fact split my mind into two thoughts. One was that I will produce prints using the dissolved film to produce a final piece and two that I should just see what I could do with the materials I had. For some reason I had relegated my play to a heading of, ‘learn to play with materials’ and regain that skill lost in the Printing course. I had done this to the point where I had become blind to what had grown and developed for this playing.
My mind had been churning over reconciling myself to the fact I would have to wait until November assessment, that anything that would compromise my printing using the solution would not be completing this line of enquiry. Not pushing it to the farthest point. In deciding to out all these new samples out to review I realised that again, I had become blind to the opportunities and possibilities of the materials I had. I suddenly saw them in a new light and realised my tunnel vision had taken me away from looking at the value of what had come out of my experimenting.
I took to my sketch book to work out some ideas of how I could combine my experiments in some way, to use at least two methods together as the OCA course had requested. I was excited at the prospect of following the materials to see where they would take me.