Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Stay Silly

Sharon Griffin and I would like to say a massive thank you Mary & Hugh for generously allowing us to use their wonderful Twenty Twenty Gallery as a space in which to shooting some videos. As I've previously mentioned, Sharon and I have been selected to exhibit some of the sculptures from our ongoing Unlockdown art collaboration project at this February's COLLECT art fair (in conjunction with The Crafts Council), at Somerset House, London. And as part of the preparation for the show we've been taking photos of the work, and shooting videos of us talking about out individual artistic practices and of what it's like working as a collaboration.

So, after several hours of laboriously positioning the artwork, us trying out different lighting set ups, and trying to talk to camera without fluffing our lines (we wrote out a rough script to try and help us from deviating too badly off topic), we treated ourselves to a few minutes of dancing about and pulling faces to camera. The photo shows me pretending to be dismayed by Sharon's antics.

Thursday, 6 January 2022

Small Box Sculptures

I've recently started going through the remains of one of my favourite sculptures, 'The City'; a sculpture that somehow got destroyed when I lent it to an exhibition in Birmingham some years ago. I'm considering using what I can repair and salvage from the original sculpture and, together with new additional element, making a larger version. In going through the small box sections that made up 'The City' (a kind of mobile tower version of a cabinet of curiosities, made out of found materials) I started thinking about some of the small wheeled box sculptures that I made not long after I'd built 'The City', and which were influenced by this larger piece. So I thought I share some of these pieces with you here.

Small wheeled box sculptures by artist, Wayne Chisnall

All of these small sculptures were made in the first few years after I moved to London in 1999. One of the reasons that they are so small is that for my first few years I either didn't have a dedicated art studio or I was living in a cramped live/work space (often an old shop front, or a single room in a flat share), so my work space was usually also my bedroom.

The first of the six pieces you see above is 'Spider Box', made from sections of an antique tea chest and contains spider husks, cob webs, and a dead wasp. the third, 'Don't Feed Box', has a door set into the front, that opens up to a human hair-lined interior. The fourth is called 'Blind Copy Box'; 'Copy' because it's dimensions and details copied the early stages of one of my other sculptures (Nest Box), and 'Blind' because whereas 'Nest Box' has a glass lens set into it, Blind Copy Box just has a flat wooden surface. 

'Nest Box' sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Of all these early box sculptures, 'Nest Box' probably bears closer resemblance to elements of its big sister, 'The City'. It incorporates pieces of found wood and metal, vines, a magnified lens, a stone, and it sits on casters. As you can see from the photos, I had started to incorporate a framework structure to it, with the intention of continuously adding to the piece over time, and letting it develop in an organic manner. However, I've not been able to find it for some time now. Hopefully it is in a box somewhere in one of my art stores (even though I've looked for it exhaustively). Otherwise I have probably got left behind at an exhibition or something similar).

'Sleeping Beauty Box' sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall

'Sleeping Beauty Box' (so named because of the rose thorns inside of it) is also made with a magnified glass lens; a window that allows the viewer to see the piece's 'inner workings'. One of the things that I like about using magnified lenses is that it gives the interior scene of the sculpture a dream or fairy tale-like appearance - magnifying and throwing one area into sharp focus, whilst slightly distorting and blurring the area immediately around it.

This one, 'Arterial Box', is coated in multiple layers of street and roads that I hand-cut from the pages of an old London A to Z. By cutting out all the negative spaces between the roads and streets, and layering them over one another, on the surface of the box sculpture, I was able to build up a dense network of road systems; systems that would be impossible in reality - connecting parts of London that shouldn't be connected. One of the things that I enjoyed about creating this piece is that once I had decided where to place a layer of 'road lacework' on a particular surface, any sections that then folded of the edge of that surface (especially if it then folded over a second edge of corner) would reroute the pathways in even more unexpected directions.

'Arterial Box' sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall, at 'Mapping' exhibition, Bury Art Museum

In 2007 I exhibited 'Arterial Box' at Lancashire's Bury Art Museum, in an exhibition called 'Mapping'. It was a really good show, with lots of big name artists; artist such as Cornelia Parker, Richard Long, and Ian Hamilton Finlay

I remember that when I drove up Bury from London to go to the show's private viewing, I foolishly deciding to take the more scenic route rather than stick to the motorways, which on the maps looked to be of a less direct route (oh the irony). I took something like 8 hours - with myself and my patient passenger, the art journalist, Holly Howe, spending more time than we'd have liked, ambling through villages with 20 mph speed limits.

Thursday, 9 December 2021

The Artist's Manual

Today I had a rather pleasant surprise (even if the postman did wake me from a mid-day snooze) when an unexpected parcel arrived at my door. I opened it up, thinking that maybe it contained something that I'd ordered as a Yuletide present for someone, only to realise that inside were two copies of a new art book that features one of my sculptures, 'Magnet'. I'd been contacted well over a year ago about having my work featured in a couple of art books, and I'd almost forgot about them.


This book, 'the artist's manual' (ISBN: 9780241483855) is published by DK, with Rob Pepper as consultant editor, and is surprisingly chunkier than I was expecting. It is an art source book, covering media, materials, tools, and techniques, and filled with hundreds of images of work, from a wide range of artists. My piece is featured in the 'Readymades and Assemblage' chapter.


'Magnet', toy tower sculpture, by artist, Wayne Chisnall, featured in 'the artist's manual'

Flicking through the pages I quickly found images of three sculptures by one of the contributing authors, the lovely and talented sculptor, Julian Wild - an artist that I've exhibited alongside a few times, starting from back when we were both members of the Royal British Society of Sculptors (a society for whom Julian was Vice President from 2015-2019).


As I'd mentioned in a previous post, 'Magnet', my toy tower sculpture, is now in the permanent collection at The Black Gold Museum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (due to open in 2022).


The Black Gold Museum, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (opening 2022)

'Magnet' is from of a series of four wheeled tower sculptures (the others being The City, Book Tower and Fetish); each relating to a different aspect of our relationship with material possessions, and how our psychological attachment to large quantities of physical objects limit our freedom and mobility.


Originally titled 'Toy Tower', it was renamed 'Magnet' after its first showing when it became evident that its powers of attraction seemed to work on children and adults in equal measure. On the first day of Magnet’s first exhibition the person invigilating told me that he had looked over to where my sculpture should have been, only to find that it had disappeared. Apparently four little boys had managed to sneak the piece out into the street before being chased off by the invigilator, who wheeled the sculpture back into the gallery.


Contents pages, 'the artist's manual', DK publishing, 2021

It's still a bit odd not having Magnet around anymore, as it's one of the earliest sculptures I made (way back in 1999) and has been a colourful presence around the place for over two decades - especially since most of my later sculptures tend to lean towards the brown end of the colour spectrum. To compensate for its absence I think that maybe the next piece in my giant face mask wall sculptures series will have to be made using plastic toys.

Monday, 29 November 2021

Staple Face

Here's 'Staple Face', one of the pieces from mine & Sharon Griffin's ongoing collaboration project, UnlockdownThe creative process in this project begins by one of us starting a piece off (we usually start with clay, but not always), before we hand it over to the other for them to add their touch, before it is handed back again. And so it goes until the piece is deemed to be complete.


'Staple Face', 2021, ceramic & metal, by Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

Compared to other 'Unlockdown' pieces, 'Staple Face' required quite minimal intervention on my part. I pressed slabs of clay into a mould that Sharon had made of one of her bust figures, and when I removed it from the mould I was fascinated by the creases that occurred where the slabs of rolled clay had joined. To me they looked like beautiful scars, and thinking on one of my favourite black and white horror movie characters, Frankenstein's Monster (played by Boris Karloff - who I later found out was born just round the corner from where I lived, in Forest Hill, when I first moved London), I decided to hand-make rusty metal staples to join the 'scars' together. Sharon handled the lovely glazing (made to her own recipe, from locally sourced Telford minerals) and the firing.

'Staple Face', 2021, ceramic & metal, by Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

'Staple face' is the second piece that I've worked on, where I've incorporated hand-made metal staples. The first one was my 'Frankenstein's Log' sculpture; one of my solo artworks, and not part of the 'Unlockdown' project.


'Frankenstein's Log', 2020, sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall

As I'd previously mentioned, Sharon, and I have been selected to exhibit some of our work from 'Unlockdown' at COLLECT. However, I don't think that Staple Face will be on of the pieces that Sharon & I will be showing at the art fair. COLLECT makers fair will take place at Somerset House in London, in February 2022. This highly acclaimed Crafts Council event showcases the best of British and international high-end crafts, and Sharon and I are both very excited to be selected to take part.


Sharon and I would like to say a massive thank you to the wonderful creative team at Kensa, who have so beautifully photographed the sculptures that we will be exhibiting at COLLECT. Kensa is a creative marketing agency based here in Telford, Shropshire.


Over the next few months, Sharon and I will be revealing more of what we've been working on and sharing our ideas, inspirations and processes.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Craft Council's 'COLLECT' Art Fair 2022

After 18 months of keeping it secret I'm now delighted to announce that I, along with my collaborator, Sharon Griffin, will be exhibit sculptures from our ongoing 'Unlockdown' project at COLLECT, which will take place at Somerset House in London, in February 2022. This highly acclaimed Crafts Council event (the biggest makers fair in Europe) showcases the best of British and international high-end crafts, and Sharon and I are both very excited to be selected to take part.


Courtyard at Somerset House, London, UK, photo by Kevin Meredith

Over the next few months, Sharon and I will be revealing more of what we've been working on and sharing our ideas, inspirations and processes. If we're brave enough maybe we'll even share some of our thoughts about what we've discovered about ourselves along the way. Making art can be very revealing about one's own psyche, and can draw on early memories and sometimes traumas too (heavy!).


artist, Wayne Chisnall, working in pottery studio, Wellington, Shropshire, 2021

In this photo I'm working on a piece that would become 'Nail Head' - one of my favourite pieces, so far, from mine and Sharon's collaboration.

Friday, 26 November 2021

Digital Doodles

I've recently been messing around with this wonky old Wacom drawing tablet that I've had knocking around my studio for years. I originally found it after it had been chucked it out by another artist during one of my previous studio moves in London. As was quite common back then (and probably still is now, although there now seem to be less and less artists' studio spaces available in the capital), a whole building full of artists would be given short notice to move out and find studio space elsewhere, and in the rush to move, piles of unwanted art materials, books and curios would be abandoned outside studio doors - far too tempting to a hoarder like me!

Untitled digital skull doodle, 2021, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Anyway - back to this temperamental drawing tablet. There's a bit of a time delay between the movement of the pen and what appears on the screen, and sometimes, when I've lifted the pen from the pad it will still carry on making marks on the screen. 

Untitled digital skull doodle, 2021, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

But I'm quite enjoying this malfunction - it's like having to wrestle with the line whilst you're drawing - forcing you to counter each unexpected mark with a split second corrective one. I've also found that if I hold the pen a certain way (at the furthest point from the nib), it amplifies the malfunction - making the drawing process a little less easy to control, but hopefully producing more interesting/random-looking line work.

Untitled digital skull doodle, 2021, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Digital art isn't something that I'm that familiar with, which I probably why I'm having so much fun discovering what I can do with it - to the extent that I'll sometimes find myself doodling away on it till about 6:30 in the morning.


Untitled digital skull doodle, 2021, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Part of me hopes that I don't learn to many digital skills as I like seeing what can be achieved with limited knowledge of a medium.

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Mini Painting Challenge - Continued Update

I've just realised that, so far, I've only posted images of the first half of the 100 or so paintings that I made during the mini painting challenge that I set myself near the start of last year. So here's a few more from the second half of that series. I'll post more at later dates, so as not to overwhelm with a glut of images all in one post.

"Scrotal Teapot'', 2020, oil on book cover by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall

In mid-January of 2020 I came up with the idea of setting myself the ridiculously ambitious challenge of trying to paint 1000 small oil paintings in a 12 month time span. My initial thoughts behind the project were that I'd knock out a load of quick oil sketches as a way or generating a few new ideas and trying out different painting techniques. Although the majority of the paintings didn't turn out to be quite as quick or sketchy as I'd initially intended, I was, for the first few weeks, still on schedule for my target. 

"Bride Of Frankenstein'', 2020, oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall

However, I soon realised how all-consuming a twelve month painting challenge of this scale would be, and that putting that amount of pressure on myself would take a lot of the fun out of painting. Also, it wouldn't allow me any free time for working on my sculptural projects, and I've always found that taking a break from one medium and switching to another for a while keeps me motivated and helps generate new ideas. 

"Saintly Long Dog'', 2020, oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall

Apart from two or three, all of the paintings in this 2020 series are painted directly to the painting's surface with brush and oil paint, rather than being pencilled in beforehand. I really like the immediacy of this approach. You can often end up with a piece that has a vibrancy that you might not have got if you were being more considered and calculated.

"Sullen Ted'', 2020, oil on board by UK artist, Wayne Chisnall

The mini oil paintings/oil sketches that I've produced so far are mostly painted on small, wall mountable, plywood or chipboard plaques (recycled form pieces of  Victoria and Albert Museum packing crates), or on old book covers and recycled pieces of primed mount board (recycled from the V&A museum's Paper Conservation Department and from their Picture Framing Dept.).

Sunday, 25 July 2021

'Unlockdown' - Close-up Details

The reason that I've not posted anything about 'Unlockdown' (the art collaboration project between myself and the ceramics artist, Sharon Griffin) for a while is that we thought we'd hold some stuff back until we exhibit the main body of the work. Sharon and I have been selected to exhibit the work at a big event in London, which, because of Covid, has now been postponed till early 2022 - unless another lockdown hits, in which case I'm sure that it'll be postponed even further.

'Nail Head', ceramic & metal sculpture, Unlockdown project. Artists, Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

However, just to show that we're still working on Unlockdown, I thought I'd share a couple of close-up detail photos from two of the more recent pieces - one of them still a work-in-progress.

These pieces might be the last two sculptures that feature a true face, as Sharon and I have reached a point in the project where we feel to need to move away from the figure. This will be more of a departure from the norm for Sharon as her current practice is predominantly figurative. The ceramic elements of the initial sculptures were that of androgynous-looking human busts, which later got cropped down to disembodied heads, and we feel that the next stage is the simplifying the heads into spheres. 

Ceramic & wood sculpture (work-in-progress), Unlockdown project. Artists, Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

To give a brief reminder of the process behind the project, and how it started off, here's a bit of text from one of my earlier posts about Unlockdown - "what we are undertaking is to produce a series of experimental sculptures whereby Sharon kicks off the creation of each new sculpture by giving me a clay bust of a relatively androgynous-looking figure, made from a plaster cast mould that she made from her original clay bust sculpture. I then alter the clay bust in some way, before handing it back to Sharon, in order for her to perform her alchemy by apply some of her glazes (created from her own recipes, using locally sourced geological ingredients - apparently the variety of geological settings in Shropshire is unmatched within the British Isles or, within such a relatively small area, probably anywhere else in the world), and then fire the piece.  She then hands the piece back to me for next stage, in which I integrate it with other manipulated materials." 

Although Sharon works predominantly in clay and I work in... well, pretty much anything I can get my grubby hands on, we have a lot of things in common - a love of nature and the earth, of manipulating materials, we share many similar views, we're both from the same part of Shropshire, both with similarly odd family backgrounds etc. So I'm very excited to see where our collaboration takes us. 

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Sketchbooks, Barra, And The Smell Of Death

For the last decade or two I've been using sketchbooks that are A5-size, or smaller - mostly because I only tend to use them as notebooks for scribbling down ideas (and thumbnail sketches) for sculptures, and because they're a convenient size for slipping into a back pocket or shoulder bag. 

'Skeletal Wings', 2021, charcoal, ink & acrylic paint sketch on paper, by Wayne Chisnall

But I'd recently been thinking of upsizing to A3-sized sketchbooks so that I can get back into sketching just for the joy of sketching, with the larger pages allowing me more room to be creative. So when I stumbled upon a couple of new A3 hardback sketchbooks at my local second-hand book stall I took it as a sign, and bought them.

Curious-looking weather-worn wooden post in Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

With the first sketch in my new sketchbook I initially wanted to attack the page with a smorgasbord of materials but ultimately reined it in and just used charcoal, ink and acrylic paint. For the subject matter I chose one of the many finds that I brought back from my recent trip to Barra in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. It's the partial remains of a sea bird - the wings and bits of connecting skeleton.

Kisimul Castle, a medieval castle located on a small island off CastlebayBarra

Last month I spend ten days on this amazing island in the Western Isles - staying with a good friend, Ian Armstrong, at his family's cottage. The landscape was stunning - reminding me a little of Iceland (if on a somewhat smaller scale), and we spent most of our time exploring the beaches. As an artist that utilises a lot of found materials in his sculptures, I'm a big enthusiast of beach combing, and not surprisingly I ended up returning to Shropshire with a rather large quantity of beach finds. A lot of these finds consisted of skulls and other body parts (sheep, birds, sea otters, crustaceans etc - I didn't bring back the dolphin). And considering their various states of decomposition, and the smell inside the car on our 8 hour journey home (after the 5 hour ferry journey), I must say that Ian showed a saint-like tolerance. Once I got home, it took me weeks to properly clean up the specimens (many of which I already have ideas for how they might be used), and some of them, even now, are still a little bit stinky. Although, a few weeks of mummification/desiccation in the baking heat of my conservatory, coupled with a good coating of resin should sort that problem out.

Dolphin carcass, washed up on the shore at Barra, Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Head Art

Have you ever said something just to be provocative or to play devil's advocate, and some time later questioned whether there might actually be something in what you said?

I remember, many years ago, as part of a group of prospective art students, going to check out universities. At one of the art colleges that we visited, when being interviewed by one of the fine art lecturers, I found myself feeling particularly bloody minded. This was probably because I wasn't that impressed with the attractiveness of the students that I'd seen at the college, and therefore decided that it wasn't the educational establishment I wanted to attend - I was, after all, a very young man at the time, and definitely somewhat superficial. Anyway - during the conversation with the lecturer we somehow got to point where I stated that as long as I made the work in my head it didn't actually need to physically exist (basically, I was being a dick). He then asked me how the work could be assessed if no-one else could see it. To which I replied (still being a dick) that it didn't matter if no-one else could experience it, I made (or didn't make) my art for my own gratification. 

The basic upshot of the conversation was that he offered me a place on the course, there and then. I turned it down (dick!).

Montage of pages from sketchbooks by the artist, Wayne Chisnall

But moving away from the initial youthful bloody mindedness of my side of that conversation, I've recently come to think that there might actually be a grain of truth in there somewhere. I long ago came to terms with the fact that I'll never be able to physically create all the pieces of artwork that I have ideas for - partly because of time constraints, partly because of material or cost constraints, and partly because every piece of art that I make generally triggers ideas for multiple/different version of itself. Because of this I always keep sketchbooks close to hand so that I can jot down ideas - usually a mixture of thumbnail sketches and spidery handwriting, detailing the materials to be used in the sculpture's construction, along with background notes on the thoughts behind the ideas.

And even though I know that the vast majority of these ideas will never see the light of day, as physical objects, I always contented myself with the thought that as long as they existed in a sketchbook, they do existed in some form. But lately I've started to enjoy constructing and developing artwork ideas just in my head (over extended periods of time), and not working them out in sketchbooks first. I know that this can be a risky practice as there have been many times that I've had an idea for a piece but failed to 'realise' it in a sketchbook, and then forgotten it completely. Yet I'm now starting the come round to the idea of this not necessarily being a bad thing. Now that we live in a social media age, where every last thought is shared and all our online activities are algorithmically monitored, maybe some things should remain ephemeral and enjoyed on a purely personal level.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

New Ink-Wash Skull Designs Tote Bags

 A few weeks ago I posted (across various social media) images of 7 of my ink wash drawings - asking people which one I should go with for my next screen-printed, skull design, cotton tote bag range? Last time I produced a range of skull tote bags I used my 'Swirly Skull' design, but I think they've all sold out now, unless there's one or two mixed in with my stock of Davincipuss tote bags. All of these new ink-wash drawings are based upon photographs that I took of the skulls from the Catacombs of Paris. I took the photos a few years ago, when my travelling companion, the art journalist, Holly Howe, and I were in the city - cat and boat-sitting for the talented sculptor, Kate MccGuire.

The 7 proposed design options for new screen printed 'ink-wash skull designs' cotton tote bags by Wayne Chisnall

Across Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, opinion was mostly split between ink wash drawing number 1 and number 7. After too much deliberation I still couldn't choose between the two so I decided to go with both - having one screen printed on the front of the bag and the other on the back (although, which is the front and which is the back is a matter of personal taste).

Front & back of new screen printed 'ink-wash skull designs' cotton tote bags by Wayne Chisnall

Today the bags arrived from the printers and I must say, I'm pleased with the results - especially with the way that they managed to capture the mid tones of the original ink-wash drawings. The printers seem to have used a halftone technique similar to how photographs are reproduced in newspaper print. 

Front of new screen printed 'ink-wash skull designs' cotton tote bags by Wayne Chisnall

If you'd like one of these double-sided-print bags, email me at waynechisnall@yahoo.co.uk . They are £15 each (free postage to the UK).

Back of new screen printed 'ink-wash skull designs' cotton tote bags by Wayne Chisnall

My designs are screen printed, in black ink, onto 100% cotton fabric (Bags By Jassz 'Beech' Cotton Long Handle Tote Bags) in natural (the colour), which are 140gsm in weight.

Tote bag dimensions are 380mm wide x 410mm deep.

The top of the bag to the apex of the handle measures 380mm.

Friday, 26 March 2021

'Conscious Isolation' Presentation on YouTube

I'd like to thank the talented artist, Susie Olczak, and the rest of the Conscious Isolation team, for inviting me to take part in a series of live-streamed artists' presentations, organised in collaboration with the University of East London

My talk can now be found on the Conscious Isolation YouTube channel. Unless it's now been edited, I suggest fast-forwarding the first 55 seconds, as it's mostly dead air - or is that very telling of how impatient I've now become with everything online?

In the talk I give a 40 minute overview of some of the key elements of my art career; focusing mainly on my sculptural work and touching on some of the main themes and motifs that run throughout it. The following 20 minutes of the hour-long video is a Q&A session, with Susie Olczak asking me the questions that were messaged in by the online audience.

The presentation starts off with a brief mention of my 'accidental' early career as an illustrator, then quickly moves on to me finding my feet as a sculptor.

In the presentation I cover the emergence of some of the elements that go on to recur in my work; elements such as the box, the tower, the orifice etc. I also talk about my interest in rusty nails and other found materials, and the influences of animators such as The Brothers Quay, as well as the influence of the totemic Minkisi carvings from the Congo.

Half way through the talk I do introduce some of my two dimensional work. Mostly of these are paintings; one of them being the commission of cover artwork for The Scaramanga Six's 'Chronica' album. Even though I briefly mention studying printmaking at Bournville College, before I went on to study sculpture at the University of Northampton, the only print featured in the video is my 'Spidey Pods' screen print (printed up for me by the talented artist/printmaker, Tony Lee). And that's only really in the video to show that it was based upon one of my earlier paintings.

I also go on to discuss various commissions, solo exhibitions, workshops, collaborations, and ongoing projects. Towards the end of the presentation I talk about how, as a child, I'd wanted to be involved somehow in film production. With this in mind, in the video, I share a few slides of instances where my work has appeared in feature films - some where my sculptures have been used and one instance where I created some prop artwork. I even manage to shoehorn in the script that I part-wrote with John Malkovich (through a Sony script writing project), which was then turned into the animated short film, 'Snow Angel'.

Lastly I'd like thank all the viewers who took the time to tune in to the live-streaming of the presentation, and for all the great comments and questions that they posted. I only wish I'd thought to share the live-streaming link a little more than two hours in advance. 

Wayne Chisnall - Consious Isolation - YouTube  

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Rusty Nail Art

There are several themes or motifs that run through much of my artwork, so I thought that I'd choose one of them, that of the rusty nail, and share with you a few of the pieces that utilise it.

Nail Heart (2011), Nailless heart (2012) & Mutant Nail Heart (2012) by British artist, Wayne Chisnall

As I mentioned in my recent Instagram video, my first piece to incorporate an element of rusty nails was a sculpture (one of a series of four tower pieces that I made in 1999) called 'The City'. The City was more architectural than its three sister pieces, and mostly made up of small cabinets and boxes constructed from and containing found materials. In this case the nails only adorned an isolated area of the sculpture. With later pieces, the rusty nails took on more of a starring role. 

Still from a stop-motion film by film makers, The Brothers Quay, alongside 'The City' (1999) sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall

I spent four years collecting the rusty nails (there's also rusty screws and other metal objects in there, but it's mostly nails) that went into creating my most prominently nail encrusted sculpture, 'Nail Box'. Rather than just buy nails and rust then myself, I decided to only use nails that I found (or which people found for me) either here in the UK or from my travels around the World. Some of the nails were gathered from historical sites - including one that I found high up inside the dome of Saint Paul's Cathedral, London, when I was working there on an art handling job. 

'Nail Box' (2007), sculpture by artist, Wayne Chisnall

Aside from the rusty nails and antique metal casters, the box structure for 'Nail Box' is made of a plywood core, clad in old wooden backing boards from paintings from the Victoria and Albert museum, in London. The sculpture was created during the 15 years that I worked at the V&A, and I'm pleased to say that I still have a massive hoard of interesting found materials, mostly salvaged from the museum's skip.

Three views of 'Frankenstein's Orifice Box' (2011), by artist, Wayne Chisnall

The latest artwork that I've worked on, which utilises the rusty screws and nails, is a collaborative piece between myself and the artist, Sharon Griffin, as part of our ongoing 'Unlockdown' project. For this work however, the nails are inserted into fired clay, and not into wood, the structural material that I usually employ when working with nails.

'Nail Head' (work-in-process from 2020) sculpture by artists, Wayne Chisnall & Sharon Griffin

As I briefly mention in the video, my initial inspiration for the use of rusty nails, screws, and other found objects in my work (and also to create 'The City' itself) was triggered by my love of the stop-motion animated films of people like The Brothers Quay and Jan Svankmajer. However, when I moved to London back in 1999, in was living just round the corner from what is one of my favourite museums - the Horniman. And it was here that I discovered another form of nail-pierced object; the nikisi. Minkisi (the most commonly used plural for 'nikisi', from what I gather), predominantly stem from the Kongo region, and are usually carved wooden totemic figures, believed to be inhabited by spirits. The word, nikisi, can also refer to the spirit itself. Many minkisi are covered in nails, but this addition isn't decorative. These wooden carvings are not considered artworks. They are intended as spiritual working objects and the hammering of nails into them is a way of activating their power.

A 'nikisi' from the collection of the Horniman Museum, South London

For me, the power or energy (albeit probably imagined) of my nail sculptures comes not from their inner contents but from the collective resonance of each individual nail's personal history - built up, over time, through their interactions with the elements and things around them. 

Thursday, 21 January 2021

Ink Drawings - Nudes

In an earlier post I mentioned how it had recently go into doing ink wash drawings, using a traditional Chinese calligraphy brush and an old dip pen made from bamboo. I chose to do them on quite small (A5-size) sheets of watercolour paper. This meant that, due to the thickness of the brush and the nib of the dip pen, I wasn't able to be overly detailed with the drawings or spend too much time on them. 

Nude, 2020, ink wash drawing, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

One of the curious things that I discovered about working on sets of relatively quickly executed drawings is that I was less precious about them during the creation process - dismissing each one as nothing special, as soon it was finished, and then immediately starting on the next one. 

Nude, 2020, ink wash drawing, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

However, upon returning to them a day or so later, I found that some of them had qualities that I had not initially noticed. There were details here and there that interested me; details or marks that I probably would not have consciously made if I was drawing in a more aware or deliberate manner. I suppose muscle memory plays a large part in painting and drawing.

Nude, 2020, ink wash drawing, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

A lot of the recent ink wash drawings that I've been making are based upon some of the hundreds of photographs that I took of skulls from the Catacombs of Paris, when I visited there a few years ago. I'm sure that I'll post a few photos of them in upcoming blog posts but for now here are some of the drawings that I've done of nudes. As you can see, some of them have more of a cartoonish element to them than others.

Nude, 2020, ink wash drawing, by artist, Wayne Chisnall

As I've been doing a lot of these ink wash drawings lately, rather than inundate this blog with too many images of them, maybe I'll return to posting on my Oodles of Doodles blog - the one I set up (whilst drunk - hence the choice of domain name) some years ago, specifically for displaying my drawings and rough sketches. 

3 Nudes, 2020, ink wash drawings, by artist, Wayne Chisnall