Sunday, 27 March 2022

The Devourer And Child

Even though I have lots of projects that I should probably be getting on with, I currently feel the need to start something new - something a bit more experimental. My sculptures are usually planned out well in advance and are quite laborious to construct but I've recently been thinking about making a series of small, speedily executed pieces. The idea behind these maquettes being that they act more as rough 3 dimensional sketches (where I can play with forms and see what, if anything, usefully emerges), than as finished works in their own right. 

'The Devourer & Child', 2022, wood and metal sculpture, artist, Wayne Chisnall

I love the primitive clunkiness of Eduardo Paolozzi's 1950s sculptures (before he moved into his less detailed, and more industrial-looking sculptural period), and the way that they are only barely figurative. And it's with thoughts like this in mind (especially the vestige of figuration) that I started doing a few thumbnail drawings and making notes in my sketchbook - trying the get into the right headspace before I physically stared work.

sketchbook pages, 2022, artist, Wayne Chisnall

This piece, 'The Devourer & Child', started out as an armature (where I quickly screwed together roughly-cut pieces of wood and metal) for the first of these small sculptures; the intention being that I would then coat it in other materials and carve into them to create the eventual sculpture. However, after seeing the sculptural shorthand of a figure that emerged in the armature, I decided to leave it as it is. Sometimes it's hard to know when to stop working on a piece and just step away from it; so many artworks can be ruined by over working them.

'The Devourer And Child', 2022, wood & metal sculpture, artist, Wayne Chisnall

Before I started working on this one I had an inspirational image in my head of a very famous painting. At first I thought it was one of William Blake's. After furious searching for the image I suddenly remembered that it wasn't by Blake at all; it was by Goya. It was Goya's 'Saturn Devouring His Son', from his black paintings series. I think that what had temporarily thrown me was that I'd somehow formed a visual connection between Goya's piece and Blake's 'The Ghost of A Flea'.

'Saturn Devouring His Son', Francisco Goya . 'Cyclops', Eduardo Paolozzi . 'Ghost of a Flea', William Blake

Although the piece is generally known as 'Saturn Devouring His Son' (from the Roman myth of Saturn, which was derived from the earlier Greek myth of the titan Cronus/Kronos, who, through fear of being deposed by his children, ate them at birth), this is a title that has been attributed to the work after the artist's death. The painting is from what has become known as the Black Painting series. Goya painted 14 haunting paintings directly onto the walls of his house in Manzanares, near Madrid, between 1819 and 1823. As they were not intended for public display (they were later removed from the walls and transferred to canvas) Goya never named the paintings or explained their meaning.

Wednesday, 2 March 2022

'Bound' at 'Collect' Art Fair 2022

With just a day or so to go before Sharon Griffin and I headed down to London, to exhibit work from our 'Unlockdown' at Somerset House (as part of the Crafts Council's designers and makers art fair, Collect 2022), I managed to put the finishing touches to our sculpture, 'Bound'. My contribution to the sculpture was the hand-made black rope binding (braided and knotted together from my ripped up clothing) that envelopes the ceramic figure that Sharon created.

'Bound', 2022, ceramic and textile, at Collect art fair 2022. Artists, Sharon Griffin & Wayne Chisnall

Whereas my contributions to some of the previous pieces that we've created together have been quite invasive (a prime example being 'Constraint', where I chopped up the clay figure that Sharon gave me, much to her horror, and then built a framework of recycled oak battens that penetrated and enveloped the figure), for 'Bound' I wanted to add a more minimal touch; an intervention that would complement the form and accentuate my interpretation of what Sharon was conveying through her part (the main part) of the sculpture. For this reason I used fabric (a new art material for me), as it more easily followed the lines and wrapped around the features of the figure that Sharon had created.

'Contaiment', 2020, ceramic & oak, at Collect art fair 2022. Artists, Sharon Griffin & Wayne Chisnall

Even though it took a lot longer than I'd initially expected to make the bindings, I really enjoyed the process. And it enabled me to sit in my studio for hours on end, listening to podcasts whilst I did so. To get the bindings thick and irregular enough I had to plait lots of separate sections together, throw in lots of irregular knots, and leave just the right amount loose ends to give that unconsidered looking. The practice of knotting together all the thin strips of clothing felt very Zen. I'll definitely be using fabric and knot-work in my future art practice. I found that one of the ingredients in achieving a sense of irregularity in the bindings was by not going overboard on some of the threads and leaving them relatively un-knotted. This gave some aspects of the binding a sinewy or tendon-like appearance.

'Bound' (detail), 2022, ceramic and textile. Artists, Sharon Griffin & Wayne Chisnall

Whereas 'Nail Head' was the sculpture most photographed by the Collect 2022 visitors who came to our room in the South Wing of Somerset House, 'Bound' was definitely the one that provoked the strongest reaction. The most emotional responses were from visitors who said that it made them think of the conditions and treatment of slaves on slave ships - something that I'd not been thinking about when I added my contribution to the piece. But, as I've said many times, as a creator of art I don't believe that my opinion on what I create (here I'm usually talking about work that I create on my own) is the definitive explanation of what it means. With the creation of art, and probably more so in the case of sculpture, so much is going on subconsciously that much of the meaning and influences are only revealed during or after the creation process. So if someone else sees something different to what I see in my work, I'm usually interested to hear what it is.

A few visitors to the fair chatted to Sharon and I about Shibari, the ancient art of Japanese rope bondage. I was vaguely aware of Shibari (although I didn't previously know what it was called) and was interested to hear from two of the visitors that they attend life drawing classes where Shibari is demonstrated. I'm not sure which life drawing classes the visitors, that we spoke to, attend (or if it's even the same one) but I managed to find a London one run by Anatomie studio (which is where I found this black and white photo - apologies to photographer whose name I couldn't find). Involved in the life drawing classes are Anatomie studio founder, Anna Bones and rope model Sofia, both of whom are passionate about sexual empowerment, feminism and freedom of expression.