My third project at Lancaster, entitled 'The Edge', began in week 5. This three week assignment centred on painting and aimed to give students the chance to experiment and test out ideas and translate these using paint. The project had a focus on colour and sought to build confidence and capability in colour analysis, mixing, application, painting tools, surface texture and depth.
In the first workshop, we were split into groups of six and given two key words. In my case, my group's key words were 'Cut' and 'Shadow'. With these words, we were given a short period of two hours, in which we were encouraged to work fast and furiously, to collectively create a 3D, free-standing 'painting'. Combining two words like 'cut' and 'Shadow' caused confusion amongst my group, but it was immediately clear that we would want to play with light. We agreed that our sculpture should we a plain white colour and should portray a rigid form, i.e. all the shapes that created the 'painting' had to be straight lines. Although we were not sure what shape the final piece would become, we began cutting shapes of random sizes using cardboard. These shapes were then coated with white acrylic paint and left to dry. In some cases, we played with texture and pattern, and used black acrylic paint to create greys and blacks. Each piece was extremely unique and can be seen in the final sculpture. Hurrying against time, we began to assemble our sculpture. As we put the different shapes together, we found that the paint had not completely dried and started to sag in some areas. To support the structure, we added more rigid cardboard into the areas that appeared to be struggling. Each piece of cardboard was slotted into another piece by cutting small lines and carefully inserting one piece to another. As our final sculpture took shape, it appeared to take the form of a 3D cubist piece, something that we did not anticipate. We also found that, when a light shone on the sculpture, the shadow that was created was almost as encapsulating and exciting as the sculpture itself. The slightest movement of light created a different shape of shadow behind. The sculpture successfully approached the theme, and both aspects were easy to see: 'cut' could be seen in the shape of the sculpture itself, whilst 'shadow' was created using light against the sculpture. The two combined to create a cut shadow behind the piece when a light shone on it.
Following the workshop, we were asked to go away and, using the results of ideas from this assignment, create a number of pieces that showed extended research and development of concepts. We were asked to resolve one piece of work to bring to the class in week 7. I began this follow up work by creating a series of mind maps (shown top) considering the different aspects I could explore. I began by considering boundaries, i.e. the edge of what is considered: Art, Normal and interesting. I then thought of personal boundaries - how people feel towards something, the loss of conscious boundaries caught in a fast moving crowd, sharing ordeals etc. I loved this idea of consciousness and began looking at character traits through further research. I found that there is a difference between people with thick boundaries and thin boundaries: a person with thin boundaries cannot differentiate between reality and fantasy, whereas someone with thick boundaries is more rational. This immediately brought me to the difference between reality and fantasy: what is real and what is fake. I considered films like 'The Matrix' and 'Inception', as well as ideas such as dream recall and absorption. I came to the conclusion that fantasy worlds have bizarre content; they are magical and that the fantastic elements stem from a consistent setting. These worlds follow rules of their own making. I looked at examples in literature such as 'Beowulf' and 'A Mid-Summer Night's Dream'. Upon researching 'A Mid-Summer Night's Dream', I found the work of artists Edwin Henry Landseer, who created satirical fantasy worlds that played on aspects of reality, Edward Robert Hughes and John Charles Dollman. I was also drawn to author Terry Pratchett's famous 'Discworld' that he creates in a number of his novels. In this world, anything that is believed enough may become true. Nothing can exist on this disk without a story first existing to mold its destiny and determine its form. the disk itself rests on the back of 4 elephants which stand on the back of an enormous turtle which swims through space. I was completed drawn by this idea and wanted to create my own fantasy world that played with colour and existence.
I began by first considering colour and making careful decisions about which colours to pay close attention to. I determined that a deep purple, which is related to daydreaming and higher spiritual attainment, would be central, as well as blues, representing inner security, as well as physical and mental relaxation, one-to-one communication, and trust, and greens, which encompass mental clarity and optimism, emotionally positivity and promotes a love of nature. I created a number of very quick pieces using a palette knife. These pieces, shown above, each have their own meaning. The blue piece shows curved and bending lines piercing through a warm and rich blue. The lines all spell 'dream' in different ways, but have been masked by the application of different layers. The pink piece, whilst also appearing to be very random, shows a love heart in the centre, making reference to it's association with love and closeness. The third, a purple piece resembling a portrait, is a quick sketch of a student's face side on. The purple is used to show the character in a state of dreaming. The original picture shows the girl looking out the window in imagination. The Purple colour helps highlight this sense of imagination.
Following this work, I began considering setting and thought about texture. I found that all the artists I had studied had set their characters in the forest so decided to focus on the forest. I played with glue and oil paint. I wanted to create textured trees so placed glue on cardboard, mixed this with oil paint and then let this drip. The effect this created was extremely exciting. I, once again, played with colour. I initially used browns, but went on to consider greens and blues. I found that green worked the best. I also looked at waterfalls as I felt this would add to the setting, but believed that this could detract attention from the central figure. I created a painting on MDF employing this texture but found this it was difficult to make the background and foreground mix, so scrapped the idea. I tested these green trees just using oil paint and found this created the effect I wanted.
Next, I began to look at figures. I wanted my central figure to be a girl, and so used a friend as a model. The friend I used had short hair which I felt added to the sense of fantasy. I took a number of side on photos, much like one of Edward Robert Hughes's paintings . I considered changing the colour of her hair, but decided against it, feeling that it would make her look odd. Next, I posed for a number of photographs. I took a front facing photograph and photoshopped this into a fantasy setting I found during research (shown below). I liked this idea, but wanted to continue with this idea of the forest, so placed myself in the forest scene. Whilst I feel the setting worked well, I do not like the painting as I got the proportions of my face wrong. The head is too long and the features too large. If I were to complete this piece again, I would pay close attention to the proportions and ensure an accurate drawing. This piece was submitted into the week 7 workshop.
In the week 7 workshop, having spent time getting our ideas together, we were told to swap paintings with another student (the painting I received is shown below). We were given a set of 6 instructions and told to roll a dice. Whatever number the dice landed on was the instruction we had to carry out. The duration that instruction lasted depended on the student - in my case, I was given 10 minutes to complete each instruction. After ten minutes, I would roll again. This activity was extremely exciting as it gave me the chance to work in ways I hadn't done before, such as using white spirit to thin oil paint whilst applying it. I was extremely happy with my final painting because, whilst it was vibrant and striking, the resemblance to the original was still visible.
Following the project, I decided to re-do my own final piece as I did not feel it captured what I had researched. I began looking at the work of Dalí and found that he sought to revalue the dream world. His works centre on the dream world and I was completely captured by his piece 'Metamorphosis of Narcissus' (1927). My newest painting, shown below, portrayed me asleep in bed. The world around me appears to merge its way into a fantasy without my realisation. I feel that the figure in this piece is painted accurately, but I feel I could have payed closer attention to the background. Nonetheless, I feel it was more successful than my initial final piece.
Below are two slideshows showing my work in my sketchbook, as well as photographs I took in woods on campus to provide inspiration for the forest scene.