So, the final exhibition of the year is over, packed up, gone. The opening went really well, it was worth all the stress and hard work, to see the place packed with people, and to hear some great comments on all the art. I was particularly pleased when a couple of Level 7 students told me that we had pulled off a professional exhibition, totally worthy of Level 7, let alone Level 6!! Woot…!
I am so proud of all of us for making it happen, against a lot of odds. It is a lot to ask at the end of a college year, for the work not only to be presented in college for assessment, but again in a gallery. This involved two lots of sanding, painting preparing walls, plinths, filling holes, curating and then the actual installing! My installation was particularly time consuming, so yeah kudos to NM,IT Bachelor of Arts & Media Level 6 2014… WE ROCK N ROLL & RULE THE WAVES!!!
So now it is over… My trees were donated to firewood, my lovely friend and fellow student Leigh, gave a home to Wolfie and my painting mow hangs in my hallway. The tattered velvet hood, ah well, that may live to see another day, I’m not quite finished with my fairy tales yet….
I will leave you with some quick imperfect, iPhone snaps that I took on the night, through a slightly tipsy haze I unashamedly admit, but I like them, the little fragments that they capture. I have given them a faded, did I dream that, or did it really happen? touch, just for fun, and because, well that’s the way it is folks…
I like this shot, love the way the branches and shadows entangle with the trees in the painting…
The forest worked better in the gallery than in the studio, and I used all the trees!
A real lone wolf wandered by to check out my art
Artist – free to good home… Have rake will travel…
This may seem odd, in fact it was a serendipitous mistake (by my interpretation anyway).
You see, there are only 25 of us students exhibiting. But without a viewer there is no exhibition, and so the 26th person is the viewer… Roland Barthes would like this, that we leave room for the reader, who is the ultimate author, or artist…
Whatever. I have been making catalogues, lovingly, by hand and my trusty Bernina…
There will be 150 of them… by Tuesday…
I designed the layout and had the insides printed, and then I asked everyone for scraps of their artwork, and stitched them to the covers, then I stitched the covers and text together… Each catalogue is a unique piece of art in it’s own right. The viewers can have fun figuring out which artists their scrap came from ;-/
I like gritty, edgy, scrappy, recycled, grunge style art… it has soul… like Rory Gallagher…
Ok, by request, here is my artist’s statement for my installation which I have entitled: In Search of the Wolf
In Search of the Wolf – Artist Statement
Inevitably they find their way into the forest. It is there that they lose and find themselves. It is there that they gain a sense of what is to be done. The forest is always large, immense, great and mysterious. No one ever gains power over the forest, but the forest possesses the power to change lives and alter destinies. (Zipes, 2003)
The above quote by Jack Zipes, takes me to a place I remember and yet cannot find on a map. In my current work I am exploring the meaning of this lost place within the concept of fairy tales. In Zipes’ forest, we can confront the wolf, and survive to tell the tale. These stories have been passed down through history throughout the world. They have set behaviour patterns, and archetypes with which we can access the fragmented parts of ourselves.
I chose to work with this theme because I have always had a love of books and other worlds, which I am sure I have lived in. I have been in an active search of the wolf throughout my adult life, ever since I fell in love with him as a child. Unfortunately this lead to some bad relationship decisions, which I feel were due to my lack of understanding of my own identity. I live in a world and an era in which I often feel alien. This has led me to create my own worlds within my art and poetry, where I can find healing and sanctuary.
I am currently working with mixed media, and installation, in which I allow my own personal mythology to lead the way. The fairy tale like characters and a winter forest setting, reference the stories I grew up with and the areas in Northern Europe where many of these stories originated.I am using traditional women’s crafts, to form my beast or animus. This illustrates the strength of the female, which is enhanced by the assimilation of the animus. The tattered piece of cloak references the many retellings, of folk and fairy tales through the ages.
The narrative within my work is personal, but others may find their own story within their interpretations, or even be inspired to explore their own identity through this genre. Carl Jung believed that in order to reach our real self we had to meet our shadow and our animus or anima and assimilate these aspects of our personality into our selves. Jack Zipes illustrates the part Fairy Tales play in this process, which Jung calls Individuation, when he said:
Fairy tales begin with conflict because we all begin our lives with conflict. We are all misfit for the world, and somehow we must fit in, fit in with other people, and thus we must invent or find the means through communication to satisfy as well as resolve conflicting desires and instincts. (Zipes, 2012)
My work engages in a dialogue with both traditional fairy tales and storytelling through imagery and installation. I am interested in the narrative art of artists such as Kiki Smith and Paula Rego
This project is underpinned by the theories of Carl Jung, James Hillman and Jacques Lacan, relating to the concept of a fragmented self. The works of Jungian psychologist Marie Von Franz, and the writings of Jack Zipes, who is a professor of German and a scholar of fairy tales, also inform my current work.
Jung, C. G. (1970). The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche. (G. Adler & R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2 edition.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1970). Interpretation of Fairytales. Dallas: Spring Publictions Inc.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1990). Individuation in Fairy Tales. Boston: Shambhala.
Von Franz, M.-L. (1995). Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales (Revised.). Boston: Shambhala Publications Inc.
Zipes, J. (2003). The Brothers Grimm: From Enchanted Forests to the Modern World (2nd edition.). Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Zipes, J. (2012). The Irresistable Fairy Tale. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
I found this advertisement by The Toyota Foundation, I like it a lot… so much power in this image, and the wording:
Without nature, there are no stories…
The use of the fairy tale in all aspects of art is something that drives my own practice. Fairy tales are recognized globally just about. Their language is universal, as old as time, and yet with a firm footing in the present.
I will be so glad when this is all over… the self doubt, the exhibiting part, the assessment, the damned crazy business of getting it all as I see it in my mind, as I have seen it for the past few months. Getting others to see that vision.
Each piece of work I have undertaken this year has been installation. Not through planning, I never saw myself as an installation artist, but it has just happened. So I am discovering something about myself as an artist through my work, through experimenting, playing, making… letting the path twist and turn… But when it comes to setting up, I look at the clean simplicity of a picture on a wall, a screen on a plinth, a graphic on a laptop… and I wonder why I make things so difficult and messy for myself.
So… I made a cloak, well, part of a torn, worn, ancient cloak. I used pieces of recycled velvet in many shades of red. It is worn and torn, unpicked and restitched. This will hang on one of the trees, it represents the many layers of self, and the many retellings of the story. The story of the hero’s journey, the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the story of the wolf, the story of me…
Here is a detail of the patchwork and rough stitching…
Then I started to hang a few trees, trying to get an idea of what I need before Monday. About three of the trees/branches are good to go. I need to go and source more in the bush behind my property. A very awesome thing happened while I was hanging the trees… a gorgeous shadow picture appeared on my newly painted wall… I tried to capture it on my iPhone…
This is how ‘Desire’ is looking at the moment:
I need a title too, for the whole thing, I am thinking In Search of the Wolf…
While creating Wolfie, Ruby’s animus persona dude, I have been thinking a lot about the materials that artists use and the connotations these may have for the viewer. Because I am using faux fur as part of my animus creation I decided to investigate if and how it has been used in fine art. After all, I am guessing that quite a lot of the art viewing public would not give faux fur a place in an art gallery. I came up with quite a collection of different ways this material has been used by artists, from the obvious, to the totally out there, What the hell is that made of?!
Lets start with the more obvious, with this image of an art doll, by American artist, Linda Ehrenfried. Linda creates amazing creatures from fairy tales, mythology and her own imagination. This is Nebble, he is made from polymer clay, copper wire, faux fur and paint. I would give him a home…
This next image is a photograph by Matthew Albanese, this amazing guy creates the most incredible landscapes from materials such as corn syrup, paprika, sugar, tile grout, jelly beans and cotton wool. You can see more of his work here. Spot the faux fur:
One more example is Silver coated faux fur paint spill art by Kate Nichols… I am not even going to ask why, but you can read more about Kate’s work here
So, there we go… not only faux fur, but jelly beans. There are some art snobs out there who would turn their nose up at the use of these materials, but we have to remember that water colours and acrylics were once given the same treatment.
I know why I am using faux fur, and that’s what matters to me.
I am a big fan and supporter of Brain Pickings, possibly the best website out there, along with TED.
Every Sunday morning I try to spend a luxurious hour lost in the forest, that is the weekly Brain Pickings newsletter. The paths twist and turn, and it is easy to bet lost and not get home until dark, but whatever time I return, at the end of each journey I have a basket full of the very best and tastiest of fungi.
Today I was drawn towards an interview with Ben Schott, author of the original Schott’s Miscellany. and it’s many offspring. I recommend this interview to all designers out there. The original book which I was gifted about 10 years ago is totally unique. But only today did I discover that the design of the book is based on the golden ratio. Schott talks about design with a passion that I wish all designers had access to. The quote from the interview that really got to me today was this one:
I’m a fan Virginia Woolf — I’m a real fan of Mrs. Dalloway more than anything else she’s written. But what, I think, seduces her work is that sense that small things are significant. There’s another great quote [from To the Lighthouse] which sums up one of my theories of design, to the extent that I’m entitled to have any theories, which is: “light and evanescent but held together by bolts of iron.”
[Design] must be, on the surface, like a butterfly’s wing — but underneath it must be clamped together with bolts of iron…
This is what I think is the secret of so much craft — to make it look effortless and evanescent, like a butterfly’s wing, but it needs to have structure, rigidity, purpose.
I always try to apply strong design principles to my own work, it is almost second nature to me to ask why something has to be there. When I first began a degree in graphic design at the end of the 70’s, the teaching was somewhat different to now. there were no computers for a start. But the basics are as relevant today as they were then. A designer should be able to explain the reason for each line, each curve, each dot… it is not enough that they look good, or they work… not for me anyway, and certainly not for Mr Jessop, the demon tutor! I never finished that degree, the standards were tough and the work was tedious, hand drawing perfect Roman serifs, one after the other, printing and collating the stationary for the final year students, using big old hand rolled presses. Yeah, it was tough, and with no magic brushes to aid us on our way. Still I have not forgotten the lessons of that first year.
To this end I decided to look at my current project, and ask myself some questions, just as Mr Jessop would have done.
What is the theme of my work?
Individuation, the process of finding ones way in life, to a complete self. Driven by the works of Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell.
How have I conceptualised this theme?
I have placed my work within the concept of fairy tales and the hero’s journey. In particular I have focused on the story of Little Red Riding Hood. I have used the tale to illustrate Jung’s concept of the shadow, and animus and anima.
Why a forest-like installation?
Fairy tales were often set in a forest setting,many that I was familiar with as a child are set in the dark forests of Northern Europe. The forest represents the shadow, the journey through the forest is the meeting and assimilation of the shadow side of one’s nature.
Why the antlers, the wolf critter?
Ruby’s wolf/wild thing head dress represents the male creature that she meets with in the forest and assimilates as part of her self. When Ruby meets her animus, she comes together with him, and realises that rather than be enemies the strength is in joining together.
Why a trophy like sculpture?
Achieving individuation is celebrated by this trophy. Ruby has come out of the forest more complete. The antlers and wolf like mask represent her achievement, of meeting with, and assimilating the shadow side, the animus. At the same time I didn’t want the cut off head trophy look, like those of the hunter, this trophy is more about creation or recreation. This is why the wolf head dress is a patchwork of women’s crafts, knitting, weaving. The things we gather throughout our lives become who we are, each thread gets woven into our being. By using creative fabrics rather than dead animal skin I am representing life and growth.
Why is she called Ruby?
Her true name is Ruby Tuesday, because I always wanted a child called Ruby Tuesday. But none of my children were born on a Tuesday so it didn’t seem right, (Thanks Mr Jessop…). I loved the song written by Keith Richards:
but I prefer the version by Melanie, I have been singing it for years, and years. I almost have it perfect… for me…
And that’s it really, it’s about love and desire. My mixed media painting, that may or may not be part of the installation is called Desire, because that is what it is about. Our journey’s through the shadows are generally led by desire.
I have spent a good few hours here and there trying to create the perfect for Ruby wolf fur, and so I empathise with all those two legged creatures out there who are attempting to grow their own. Here are some images of a few attempts of late to create Ruby’s Wolf persona.
The first one is kind of cute and scary and wild thing, but maybe too gonky… I worked out that it was because the nose fur is too long… needs to be more close cropped.
The knitted texture I think works well, it is important to my work to have the element of craft within the Ruby/wolf/animus persona. The following is a quote from an interview by Christine Kuan with artist Kiki Smith. It illustrates my own reasons for wanting to have an aspect of craft or woman’s work.
CK: Speaking of the ‘burden of history’, some your work incorporates materials and processes that have traditionally been identified with women’s productions for example, embroidery, sewing, etc. Do these materials and processes still retain vestiges of the art/craft divide today, or is that a barrier that’’s been broken down?
KS: Oh, I still think it’s a barrier, but one can still have a playful attitude towards it and try to some extent to disempower and disassemble it. Maybe in one or two generations it won’t exist. Those things that are barriers can give you energy as much as they can thwart your ambitions.
In the images below I changed the nose fur and played around with some of the different textures to try and create the Wolf like appearance, yet not totally wolf. This is animus, not just wolf, and I must remember that there are antlers to throw into the mix too. I need to experiment with the wolf mask and the antlers. The ears are still to be arranged!
I think with ears this will definitely look much more like the wolf/animus mask I imagined in my earlier sketches.
I like the bits that hang down at the sides, they give it a feel of the hunter and yet not being fur they subvert the traditional hunting to kill, and turn it into more of a creation process.
This last photo below really gives me an idea of the way forward. I think I know just how to attach the fur on the back of the head now. Many thanks to my beautiful daughter and close companion Phoebe Rose Anastasia, for her modeling and understanding of her crazy mother. Nothing I do is strange to my children, all weird behaviour has it’s own category, entitled: The sort of thing mummy would do.