Friday, 15 March 2019

Mouldy Kitchen

At home I've got two art studios, a tool/workshop, an art storage room, garden space, and yet somehow I invariably end up (project size permitting) working in the kitchen. I guess it's because that's where the food and kettle also live.

Mould for giant face mask wall sculpture. Artist: Wayne Chisnall. 2019

My current 'kitchen project' is the creation of a plaster mould. Once the mould is completed I plan to use it to produce a new series of giant wall-mounted face mask sculptures, all made from different materials. The first in the series will probably be made using human hair but what I'm really looking forward to doing is making some mosaic versions. I've already started collecting royal commemorative mugs and plates - the smashing up of which, should be fun. 
For the actual design of the face I wanted to keep it simple and gender/race-neutral so I went for a very stylised form - which ended up looking not unlike a simplified version of a traditional African mask. I wanted to draw attention to the similarity in structure of the mouth and eye lids so deliberately made them the same size and shape (although I had to add a little extra to the bottom of the mouth to help attach it to the rest of the face and to keep it in a parallel plain to that of the eyes).  

Construction stages of 'positive' for mould, to make giant face mask wall sculpture. Artist: Wayne Chisnall. 2019

But before I could make the mould I had to make a positive, from which to cast it. I had originally intended to make it from clay but after weighing up the pros and cons I decided that I'd probably be able to get it more symmetrical if I constructed it using a ridged base structure, coated in some sort of plaster. After casting my mind back into the mists of time, to what I could remember from my school days' Technical Drawing lessons, I worked out the shapes needed to built an elliptical mound from recycled vinyl-coated chipboard. Once that was built I covered it in coats of wall filler, mixed with acrylic paint. After I'd given it a roughly even coating I made the chipboard structures for the eyes and mouth, and screwed them into place - then coated them in the same acrylic/plaster mix as before. After that I sanded the face down to a smooth finish and coated it in varnish. I had a bit of trouble with the varnish (using a two different types, and stupidly, in the wrong order), which meant that the top layer didn't properly dry. This meant that when I came to give it a final sanding, there was an area that I couldn't get perfectly smooth (but I can sort this out at the mould stage, by sanding it once it's become bone dry).

Construction stages of mould making, for giant face mask wall sculpture. Artist: Wayne Chisnall. 2019

To make the mould I spent hours (far more than initially expected - as is usually the case) applying a putty around the edge of the positive, to fill in the gaps where small pieces had chipped off, and so that there would be no undercuts in the mould after I poured the plaster of Paris. I then constructed a wall (sealing the edges with silicon sealant) around the positive, to contain the plaster. Next, I covered the positive in petroleum jelly and washing up liquid. This acted as a release agent for when the time came to separate the mould from the positive. I'm not sure if it was because the plaster was a bit old, but when I came to pour the first layer of it over the positive it started setting pretty much as soon as it left the mixing bowl. So I had to clean it all off the positive and start again. Anyway - using a first layer of plaster of Paris poured over the positive, I then mixed up more and added it, along with strips of webbing for reinforcement. Next, I incorporated sheets of chicken wire (for more reinforcement) and builders plaster - followed by expanding foam and a foam bard. The foam was to act as shock absorption and hopefully help prevent the mould from cracking, should it get knocked. It was also to help reduce the overall weight of the mould as it was already, by this point, bloody heavy.
Once the plaster was set I removed the temporary walls, removed the positive (which thankfully fell out when I turned the mould on its side. I had feared that it would be stuck fast and I'd have a hell of a job to remove it), cleaned up the mould, and painted the sides of the mould with acrylic paint to protect the exposed areas of expanded foam. Apparently it degrades somewhat when exposed to light. I then decided that I hadn't strained my back quite enough moving the mould around so proceeded to make it even heavier by building a protective wooden frame for it.

'Positive', left over from mould-making stage, and hanging on wall. Artist: Wayne Chisnall. 2019

One of the positives (please excuse the unintentional pun) of making the positive the way I did, is that it survived the mould-making process. Something that it probably would not have done if I'd made it out of clay. So, after knocking up a metal fixing plate for the back of the positive, I ended up with something a bit more substantial to occupy the wall space above my log burner. To misquote the Duke, "The wall mask really tied the room together".

Now all I have to do is wait for the plaster mould to become bone dry - which could take weeks given the size of the mould and the current temperature (not helped by the fact that I like to live in a relatively chilly house; something that I probably picked up from all those years of living in warehouses, garages and ex-shops.  Artists eh?). Then I can sand it to a smooth finish, seal it, and it'll be good to go.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

One Minute Sculptures with Erwin Wurm

There's a gentle playfulness and absurdity to Erwin Wurm's work that I love, and I was lucky enough to meet the artist at his recent exhibition at Thaddaeus Ropac in Dover Street, London.
Artist, Wayne Chisnall, as one of Erwin Wurm's 'One Minute Sculptures', Thaddaeus Ropac Gallery, London, 2019.

As well as physical sculptures and a large collection of his drawings on display at the gallery, he also had a plinth in which members of the gallery going public could participate and become part of his ongoing 'One Minute Sculpture' project. Here's a Polaroid (which Mr Wurm kindly signed for me) of me taking part.

Artist, Wayne Chisnall, as one of Erwin Wurm's 'One Minute Sculptures', Austrian Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2017.

But this is not the first time that I encountered Mr Wurm, or his One Minute Sculpture series. Here are some photos of me having fun at his exhibition in the Austrian Pavilion during the last Venice Biennale in 2017.

Artist, Wayne Chisnall, as one of Erwin Wurm's 'One Minute Sculptures', Austrian Pavilion, Venice Biennale, 2017.