I have been thinking lately, what is it that gives rust its seductive visual power? Why are so many creative folk increasingly drawn to using rust and rusting in their palette?
I suppose my first thinking about rust in art was in response to the sculpture of Richard Serra and Anthony Caro.
The colour of their iron blends so much more easily into Nature when the surface has rusted, so the otherwise perhaps harsh appearance of slabs, fragments of towering metal is softened. There is also an indicator of change and decay embodied in the rusting process of these sculptures: perhaps a warning to the skyscrapers in front of which the sculptures often stand, that time will destroy us all.
Perhaps the rusted surfaces of monumental sculpture are similar in their effect on us to the sight of ruins, and that we seek reminders of time past and passing. (See my previous RCC post on Time here.) Hence the overwhelming number of photographs of rust – just put rust into Google Image!
I first saw the effect of rust on cloth at the 21:21 exhibition of fabric by Reiko Sudo and the NUNO studio. They had designed and made lengths of cloth marked with rusty nails. Reiko Sudo gave a master class after that exhibition in 2005 – designed to have a cascade effect, with all the participants themselves agreeing to give workshops to others.
In 2012 Alice Fox used rust transferred onto cloth to help capture the past and the current aesthetic attractions of Spurn Point during her residency there, and she continues to use the marks of rust in her work. She now gives workshops helping others such as Mags Ramsay to achieve interesting results.
Maeve Coulter who works in textiles and in printmaking has made Rust Prints which echo the visual and emotional effects of sepia in fading early photographs.
Printmaker Sally Hirst uses oxidised iron filings to colour the paper on which she then prints images of old iron structures such as bridges and piers.
Jean M. Judd has a section on rust dyeing process on her website, and a generous soul has offered Free Rust Texture Stock Photos for designers, so there must be quite a demand. Is it because we are almost engulfed by technology which we no longer comprehend – so few of us can make the clever things which glide us through daily life – that we reach back to signs of a time which we think we understand.
It is good also to feel that those tools from past technology, now discarded, can be used to make something beautiful before being thrown back onto the scrapheap – or recycled, as seen in the rustnstuff blog.
Archive for the 'art intepretation' Category
I have been thinking lately, what is it that gives rust its seductive visual power? Why are so many creative folk increasingly drawn to using rust and rusting in their palette?
Tags: art, Morandi, still life
I was introduced to the work of Georgio Morandi several years ago by my friend Barbara Fitzpatrick, who is an architect, painter, and now my drawing instructor. At first I was puzzled by her enthusiasm for what looked to me like dull, repetitive, almost monochromatic, paintings of bottles and boxes? painted chunks of cement? blocks of old cheese? I couldn’t even always make out what the objects were. But Barb assured me I should keep on looking. So look I did. And the work began to intrigue me.
And I found myself going back to look again and again. The paintings are quiet, deceptively simple. The objects can appear both flat and 3 dimensional at the same time.
Despite the apparent lack of color, there are many subtle shifts of value.
When I first started drawing with Barb as my teacher, she had us look at Morandi carefully and attempt to draw one of his still lifes. And it was then that I really started to look at the relationships among his objects, the shapes and volumes of his forms, the spaces between the bottles and boxes, the shadows, the subtle textural shifts, the places where one object almost, almost fades into another, but just doesn’t quite. or perhaps, in fact, does.
But the aha! moment really came very recently. I had been working on a piece and I knew it was close to finished, but I was reverse appliqueing shapes to a background and I couldn’t get them quite right. I was satisfied with the shapes themselves and the background was good too. But they wouldn’t come together. And then, the Morandi moment. . . . I remembered to look at the negative space. And that was it. Bang, they came together. Thank you Morandi (and Barbara).
I love being near the sea, on it, in it, or by it. The sea has inspired much of my work, and so I was interested when recently I read a post on Alice Fox’s blog about that very subject. I wondered how many artists I could think of just off the top of my head, who have a substantial body of work referencing the sea – and all of the ones I have come up with are British. Is it because we Brits are living on a small island, have a maritime history, and none of us is that far from the sea – or is that we are a crowded land and the sea offers us long open views and entrancing light?
Alice Fox: Sand streams 3 (detail) from here
I first stumbled upon Alice Fox’s work when she had a residency at Spurn Point. Her work was to do with the edge between the sea and the land, that glorious shifting margin around its constants, regular revised revisitings bringing its temporary, delightful detritus. Her work captures so much of the ephemeral moments like the ever moving waves, the shifting sands, the tumbling pebbles, the water, the developing rust…
Debbie Lyddon: Aeolian Pipes, from here
Debbie Lyddon also works on that margin of the land and the sea. There is an article about her work Caught by the Tide on the TextileArtist blog. That east coast attracts several of the artists I know about: such as Joan Eardley (mentioned in my post here)
Joan Eardley: Sea and Snow, from here
and Pauline Burbidge – who has done much work based on water, has in the past couple of years made some wondrous pieces inspired by the tidal causeway to Lindisfarne not far from her home.
Pauline Burbidge: Causeway III, from here
A few years ago she also made a quilt inspired by the view across the Atlantic from Applecross in Scotland.
Pauline Burbidge: Applecross (detail), from here
The ceramic artist Annie Turner’s work is inspired by the estuary: detritus, mud, discarded tools such as nets, shells, … they contribute to her spare elegant pieces.
Annie Turner: Oyster Net
Annie Turner: Sea Breeze
The work of Polly Binns is also inspired by wetlands at the edge of the sea. Mud sounds so pejorative as a word, and yet it is mud and what lives in it, is washed up onto it, is impressed in it which inspires. It is part of that edge world which changes both predictably and unpredictably day by day, hour by hour, season by season, ever changing yet keeping somehow the same fascination, whatever.
Polly Binns: Landmark, from here
Anita Reynolds is a printmaker and painter who over the past couple of years has walked round the coast of Devon, Cornwall, and Dorset: the South West Coastal Path. She makes an interesting point in her blog about the changing topography:
Walking through new landscapes has been exciting as well as a little daunting. Knowing how long it takes to really understand a place makes me uncertain that I can represent it by just walking through. On the other hand I found that the familiarity of my home stretch made me not look with fresh eyes. I guess you get different things from first contact compared with the deeper understanding gained after many visits.
Anita Reynolds: Day 1, Hurlstone Point from Bossington Beach
Can one ever be familiar with the sea itself? Two artists who give us magnificent glimpses of it are Maggi Hambling and John Virtue. I love those waves, that power, that snapshot of the enigmatic sculptural presence: a force which can and does destroy. Turner also captured moments of light over the sea, and I so enjoy his complementing the elements with the human interaction in the form of working ships.
JMW Turner: Snow Storm – Steam Boat off Harbour’s Mouth, from here
Of course, there are many many paintings of bathers. I think that most of them are really about the figures disporting themselves rather than about the element in which they bathe. I have always admired Duncan Grant’s painting of bathers, however, not only because of the bodies, but also because of his treatment of the sea.
Duncan Grant: Bathing, from here
I have probably forgotten someone important, and would love to be reminded of or introduced to other artists who were inspired by the sea and its edges to make a significant body of work.
“Like the making of art itself, collecting reminds me of prospecting. Some perceived sparkle makes you start to dig and then a seam can be followed.”
Julian Opie is a British artist I’ve never looked at twice. His flat, graphic style always got the “so what?’ reaction. But reading about his art collection has changed that.
Opie has put together an exhibition* of his collection and his own work – and what strange bedfellows they are – portraits from the 17th and 18th centuries don’t, on the surface, connect with his “sculptures”.
In an article** about his show (and collecting habit) he says: “A chance encounter with (and purchase of) a ‘School of Godfrey kneeler’ portrait opened up the whole of 17th- and 18th-century portraiture or me. The painting caught my eye due to its powerful purposefulness and sense of being an object…When I started to investigate where it had come from, however, I began discovering a world of art parallel to, but quite separate from, the contemporary art world. … The list of artists kept growing as I found one who taught another or competed with another. … I began to understand the period in a way I had never done before … numerous brilliant, exciting artists I had never heard of, describing a whole world, evoking a whole scene. “
“It is tempting to see the present as special, but it is also exciting to realise that he past was once today. To me, the art of different periods brings those worlds parallel,” says Opie.
Subsequently he became interested in “ancient art”, buying a small marble Aphrodite and going on to learn more about the whole ancient period, from Roman statuary and portraiture to Tanagra Greek figurines and to all things Egyptian.
A pattern is evolving – stumble on the art, like it, (buy it,) get curious, investigate… “After the heated frenzy of having found and caught the work there follows a sense of calm. I look forward to having it on view.”
How does his collection inform his own art?
“Looking at other artists’ work gives me clues in terms of materials, composition, subject matter, colour – everything really. But it also reflects what my interests are, making me feel connected, giving me confidence. [Compared with ancient artists] artists now don’t really know what they are doing and have to invent or find this sense of obviousness and purpose for themselves.”
It works the other way round, too, Opie says. “Making art is in part a conversation with people about whom you can make certain assumptions of sameness. I assume my viewers are living in the same world as I am, that their picture of themselves and their surroundings is built of much the same material as mine. What art looks like, what images we have already seen, has great bearing on how we see new art. What we see is structured and defined by what we know, and a lot of that h=is to do with art from the past … I have always aimed to make my work with all that in mind, as part of its meaning and promise. If I make something that looks a bit like and 18th-century painting or reminds one of an information screen in an airport, it is because I mean it to.”
“…because I mean it to”… Through being informed about the history and context of art at different times, as Opie has done via his own art collection, the “meaning to” becomes something wider, deeper than the technical aspects of producing the work.
Telling the readers of this blog about the joys of learning about areas of art outside their own field of practice is unnecessary – you’ve read this far, after all! – but I can’t help thinking that this sort of interest or knowledge seems to be rather lacking in other parts of the textile-art field. Prove me wrong?
And, tell me … what’s on your walls? How does it influence the art you make?
**Published in Art Quarterly, Spring 2014; a draft is at julianopie.com. Images and captions in this post are drawn from those in the published article.
Tags: ceramics, clay, crochet, macrame, Norma Minkowitz, sculpture, skulls, Stephanie Lanter, Vladimir Denshchikov
I had not intended to add to Olga’s discussion on crochet but serendipity played its part so here I am. When Stephanie Lanter’s piece “Invader” arrived at ClaySpace for its national competition and exhibit, Clay3 (work must fit in a 12″ x12″ x12″ cube), it was in eight pieces. When no one else would step up to fix it, I did. This lead me to look further into Stephanie’s work where I would discover porcelain and fiber sculptures that dealt with communication.
“My porcelain and fiber sculptures are symbols representations of relations (i.e. communications) with others and ourselves. These intimate ‘phones’ are softened and contextualized with threads and crocheted doilies. Inspired by by the sensuality of antique phones, my use of low-tech process is not a critique of technology but of behavior. I examine dysfunction, loneliness, ‘home,’ and ambivalence through abstraction and excess, and laugh at my obsessions in this realm of connection. Also, I wonder how changing modes of fulfilling this basic need to “reach out and touch” each other–is also changing us.”
When I was sharing my discoveries with a friend, she thought I should check out the work of Norma Minkowitz. Norma explores the possibilities of crocheted, interlaced sculptures stiffened into hard mesh-like forms. Her work deals with the passage of time, fragility of life, and the inevitability of mortality. “Despite the repeated use of the same basic stitch, no two are exactly alike. This conveys the intimacy and imperfection of the human hand while creating a movement akin to the cross hatching of a pen and ink drawing. The interlacing technique that I use makes it possible for me to convey the fragile, the hidden, and the mysterious qualities of my work, in psychological statements that invite the viewer to interpret and contemplate my art. I am still drawing, but with fiber. “
Talking with Olga, she made a comment that it was beginning to feel like the sixties again. “It will be macrame next.” Of course , I had to explore what was happening in macrame and found some incredible artists using this medium. We are most certainly not talking hippie macrame. Jim (no last name given) creates skulls out of macrame. His website is here. Then there is Ukrainian artist Vladimir Denshchikov who creates religious icons using macrame and painted canvas (only the faces are painted).
I suspect that just like quilts, crochet and macrame have evolved. And I always find it interesting what medium people choose to express themselves. So if this is a reflection of growth from the 1960s, I say, “Rock on!”
In the current issue of Sculpture magazine I encountered an extraordinary story of mass participation crochet coral. The images would normally have put me off, because I am not a fan of the crowded and what I would call visually messy; but Sculpture is a serious publication, and I have rarely been disappointed with its articles. You can perhaps read the article through this link.
There have been several collaborations between science and the arts now, which can be read about here, and here, and here, and seen/listened to here. It is an area which seems to be growing, to my delight, because I do very much believe in the benefits of cross pollination. I thought that the Coral Crochet Reef would perhaps make an interesting post for Ragged Cloth Café.
Twins from Australia, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, the former the scientist (physics and maths) and the latter the artist (painting, literature, and logic), but both interested in mathematics were intrigued by a Latvian mathematician who worked out how to model hyperbolic geometry with crochet. They worked on examples of hyperbolic geometry for a couple of years until bored with perfect shapes – and found that imperfections in the pattern looked organic, and that the results looked like corals. They decided that they could crochet a whole reef – and from there the larger project grew. There is an excellent You-tube film here which explains the project much better than I ever could.
Should you wish to create your own versions of crocheted or knitted corals there are patterns here and here. This whole project, or the wide totality of projects goes to show just how much folks enjoy being part of creative communities, indeed, of a greater creative community. I’m not sure how many would think more about mathematics beyond hyperbolic geometry – but perhaps even if just one or two do that is success. I do hope that an increasing number of projects like this, and others combining ideas of science and the arts will permeate everyday culture so that we will grow up thinking more widely and in less pigeon-holed a manner.
To my personal visual taste the crochet reefs might be unattractive compared with the real growing marvels, but if our humanity can be enhanced as well as the existence of those who share our planet, then crochet on!
The real thing – image from here
I first became aware of Emily Carr when I saw her work at the National Gallery of Canada in Vancouver 15 years ago. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, gobsmacked! I had never heard of her or seen work like hers. For days I talked about her work (mostly to people who just nodded politely). When we got home, I looked her up and examined all the work I of hers I could find. Then I read Susan Vreeland’s wonderful novel The Forest Lover, a fictionalized account of her life. And in 2007 Sandy Wagner did a post here at Ragged Cloth Cafe about her. This summer I got the chance to go back to British Columbia, and of course I was anxious to see Carr’s work again. And I fell in love with it all over again.
Among the Firs 1930’s 36×30″
I love her trees and her light:
The Little Pine 1931 Scorned Timber 1935
The Red Cedar 1933 Above the Trees 1939
They beautifully convey the forests of British Columbia, the movement of the trees, the pouring down of light, and, in fact, the spiritual energy that Carr obviously found there. Her art was too individual, too avant garde for her time. And while sometimes praised for the “vigor of her technique” her work was shunned as being not realistic enough. Carr responded to this criticism by saying, “a picture should be more than meets the eye of the ordinary observer. . . .Art is art, nature is nature, you cannot improve upon it. . . .Pictures should be inspired by nature, but made in the soul of the artist, it is the soul of the individual that counts” ( Emily Carr, An Introduction to Her Life and Art by Anne Newlands).
Yes! The soul of the individual and the eye of the artist!
This past fall I took a drawing class for the first time. I believed myself pretty lacking in talent, but found that my good observational skills kept me in good stead. The class was working mainly on still lifes, and of course we all endeavored to be as accurate as possible. Realism (terrifying!). But what was most striking to me, above and beyond my astonishment that my drawings actually looked like what they were intended to, was that all the drawings, while quite “accurate,” were very different and could easily be identified by artist. Because we see differently and because we are interested in some things and not in others. In other words, we make choices, and those choices make our work individual.
I am grateful for Emily Carr’s beautiful choices, for her wonderful eye and magnificent soul.