“Ilya and Emilia Kabakov are amongst the most celebrated artists of their generation, widely known as pioneers of installation art” (Tate). Their artwork reflects on the Soviet Union regime that they were taught from a young age, and the officially approved style of Socialist Realism. Ilya supported himself as a children’s book illustrator from 1955 to 1987, only showing his artworks to a select few.
Ilya and Emilia met through their artwork and studies. After keeping in contact, they began working together in the late 1980’s, and became married in 1992. Their artwork combined together are immersive installations and look at the themes and ideas of utopia, dreams and fear. This has been said to “reflect on the universal human condition” (Tate).
Much of the works take on aspects from post-expressionism to abstraction, and I found that the paintings could almost verge on destructivism. This can be reflected in the use of materials, which were often plywood or Masonite, which is often used as floorboards, as well as other cheap materials.
While in the exhibition, I found many of the works to be captivating, due to this difference in materials compared to more ‘traditional’ materials. The use of forced perspective was also found in many pieces, an especially obvious in the installations. Within the majority of the installations, they would swallow an entire room. With many different elements to each of this, I found myself drawn in by individual details, but not necessarily the entire installation. Each of the paintings were also beautiful in the way that they would be giving you an insight into another world, through portholes in the first world. This did make some of the images very confusing, however, as I was not able to understand what was happening in each of these layers.
The Tate Exchange is a current workshop experience that is being run on the 5th floor at the Tate Modern, London. Working with ArtLab @ Tate Exchange, we ran workshops over two days with primary and secondary school children. By working as a co-researcher in the Artlab team, we were able to explore artists materials ‘from the clay that the dinosaurs walked on to building new experiences with 3D printers and green screen’.
Throughout the day, the students were taken through different ways of making, producing and thinking about artworks. Clay was used to create faces, and then hands using blindfolds and description. Creating a long piece of artwork that spanned the table was the most difficult challenge a many of the students had ideas that they wanted to execute, but found there was not enough time to do this in.
We also had the challenge of wrapping plastic, dyed in pink to raise awareness for breast cancer, around various objecting including balls, people, chairs, pillars and even on the windows. This allowed an extra level of creativity and thought in order to physically manifest the ideas in real life. A group of girls wrapped an exercise ball, and then themselves in a group attached to the ball. This did make it difficult for them to move, however they seemed very comfortable!
The last activity of these days was looking at green screen on iPad’s. Using a green screen app, we were able to make different colours the green screen e.g. yellow, to be able to see the image in the background. These images and videos were captured by the group, and layered using this app. Thirty second videos were created by over six groups and previewed by the group at the end of the session. Throughout this experience, I was able to assist the groups with their ideas, and creating their videos. I even participated in one, being a basketball hoop for a group who looked at ball games and participation.
Richard Dean is a sculptor, known for his large, lyrical open forms in materials including laminated wood and poly-carbonate to leather, cloth and clay. Construction and engineering are key elements of Deacon’s work as he continually changes methods, adapting it to his current sculptural approach.
Themes that run through his work include that of continuous looping, forming a balance between volume and space in the exhibition area. Organic forms also feature in Deacon’s work, reflecting in a deep-rooted interest of poems and philosophical text. His varied work exhibits a very hands-on approach that Deacon lives by, and shows that he not only cannot, but he will not, be pinned down by one style or subject matter, with constant experimentation. There is a constant two-way conversation between artist and material, and this constant movement between this conversation is shown in his website.
Alexander Calder was an American sculpture who was known to be the “originator of the mobile; a type of moving sculpture made with delicately balanced or suspended shapes that move in response to touch or air currents” (Tate). He bought movement to static objects, creating kinetic sculptures that would pause in a moment that lasted forever. With his works, sculpture was bought into the fourth dimension.
When entering a studio in the late 1920’s, Calder was creating figurative oil paintings. It was said that the visit to Piet Mondrian’s studio in 1930 led Calder astray from this, and permanently into abstraction. Calder then became fixated upon coloured rectangles covering one of the walls, where he wanted to make the physically move. This allowed Calder to experiment with the new materials including metal, in order to create his mobiles.
Within the workshop space at the University of Reading, we are very lucky to have a metal workshop, and to be able to have the opportunity to be trained in this. The first part of this workshop is learning basic health and safety, the tools that you may be using and the technique of ARC welding. I have previously done MIG welding, in which a gas is used to protect the weld from the air. If the weld reacts with the air, this can have dire consequences and a contaminated weld. With ARC welding, a coating on the rod used to ‘fuse’ the two pieces of metal together, does this job.
For ARC welding at Reading, we must provide cotton clothing, steel toe cap leather boots with a rubber sole (to earth you) and overalls. The University then provides for us the necessary masks, goggles, gloves and aprons for extra safety when welding. Other tools, other than the welder than can be used include; hammers, nuts and bolts, wire brushes and angle grinders (these we are not allowed to use, expect under close supervision from the workshop staff).
ARC welding can be used to make structures as a basis, or for under the artwork, or as part of the aesthetic features, and the part that is visible to the viewer. I am unsure as to which I will use welding for, however I have some ideas as I move into a more sculptural-based practice. Many artists have used ARC welding, or welding in general as part of their art practice, often bringing it into sculptures. These artists include; Alexander Calder, Harry Kramer, Philip King, Richard Deacon, Kendal Buster, Rebecca Warren, Lindsay Seers, Anthea Hamilton and Michael Dean.
Chris Burden pushes his body to the limit through his performance works, which are considered some of the most shocking works in the history of twentieth century art. These works include; “spending five days and nights in the fetal position inside a locker, having a spectator push pins into his body, being ‘crucified’ to a Volkswagen Beetles, being kicked down two flights of stairs, and even having shot himself” (The Art Story). He exclaims that;
I had an intuitive sense that being shot is as American as apple pie. We see people being shot on TV, we read about it in the newspaper. Everybody has wondered what it’s like. So I did it.” – The Art Story
One of the main things that Burden wants to overcome in his work is the sense of understanding of seemingly ‘inartistic’ gestures. His artwork is primarily conceptual artwork, with a background of the Vietnam war. The works that are produced also “challenges viewers to take stock of their own moral compasses and widen their understanding of the ways in which it is possible for art to serve humanity” (The Art Story). All performances, theoretically, can be stopped at any time by the audience, however they do not, which further pushes Burden’s prospect that we have become desensitised to violence, or that we are not willing to help. These performances are filmed, and sculptures are photographed for documentation.
Superflex are currently known for their exhibition of One Two Three Swing! at the Tate Modern, London, in which an orange line of swings weaves in, and out, of the Turbine Hall. The potential of swinging with more than one person (two or three in this case), allows us to realise that our collective energy resists gravity and challenges the laws of nature.
The group of three artists, Jakob Fenger, Bjørnstjerne Christiansen and Rasmus Nielsen, are best known for playfully subversive installations and films. They wish to challenge “the role of the artist in contemporary society and explore the nature of globalisation and systems of power” (Superflex.net). Through wit and humour, they are able to address serious social and cultural concerns.
In 2014, the group explore the voyeuristic relationship to conflict. This was done through the installation of an operating theatre in a gallery in the Swiss mountain municipality of S-chanf. Later, the surgical tools, operating table and lamp were sent to Syria to provide medical relief.
Through these works, I enjoy the prospect of the encouragement of learning more about serious social and cultural concerns world-wide. Many of the artworks that they create do not have this obvious aspect, and it is that thought process that you have to go through that I am interested in.
Sophie Calle finds it an important aspect of life to be able to disappear at a moments notice, that she should be able to lock the door behind her and become another person entirely, and continue to document and exhibit the most intimate details of her life. Even her mother and father have become parts of her works; she became an artist for her father, as a metaphorical seduction, and she filmed her mother’s deathbed, which was shown at the Venice Biennale), and even making an album for her cat.
One of the main themes throughout her work is that of absence, including that of stolen paintings in a body of art, boyfriends who have left and family members that have died. This theme is presented in delicate books of photograph and text, and video. This all began when she was unable to think of ideas, so she became a psychogeographer, and followed someone while documenting the journey. This led to her documenting hotel rooms, and even getting her own mother to hire a private detective to follow her for two weeks.
Each piece touches upon a personal story, sometimes embarking upon others to interpret these, writing on them, and then re-presenting the stories in this way. This includes the work Take Care of Yourself, in which a boyfriend broke up with Calle over email, and signed it off “Take care of yourself”. This was ten to 107 female professionals to analyse, distorting and blurring Calle’s emotion. Her works are confusingly intimate, but at the same time not. (The Guardian)
Eva Rothschild often works with Pexiglas, leather and paper in her Minimalist sculptural works, along with wall-based works and videos. A recurring motif throughout her work is the use of unstable geometric forms, with each piece and element relying upon one another for support.
“Taking on a range of formats, her columns, frames, arches and benches form a fragile union of physical components, in which our experience of them is determines contextually by the temporary groupings the works inhabit for the duration of the exhibition.” – The New Art Gallery Walsall
The context that much of her work is considered in, is the space that the work will be displayed in. After working with the same galleries several times, she often finds it difficult to inspire new works, as she knows how her work was positioned last time. Rothschild uses colour sporadically, often toying with it in the space. The sculptures encapsulate the space, making its physical presence known.
I enjoy the complexity of Rothschild’s work, whereupon each element must be in line, for the others to fall into place. Some of her works structurally work, however when looking at them, they seem like they would fall. It is this wonder of gravity and structure, and the simple use of colour and design, that draws me to her works.
Jana Sterbak looks at the themes of power, control, seduction, sexuality and the turn to technology to transcend physicality. Her artistic vision has said to have been influenced by a Marxist/Leninist educational system and a childhood in Prague.
Her works are often sculptural, including the use of the human body and every-day objects to portray a sense of the absurd and a vision of the darker forces that appear within her life. These sculptural forms often take garment-like constructions, including that of wire mesh dresses with uninsulated nickelchrome wire wrapped around it. This particular piece portrays how uncomfortable Sterbak feels, and challenges identity.
These garments have also taken on technological aspects. Remote Control is a large hoop dress, however the performer must place themselves into a canvas panty at the centre of the garment. Their movements are therefore determined by a remote control which is held and controlled by a male, with a female performer. The cage-like continuation of her work alludes to the imprisoning effects of technological innovation. (Art History)