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Week 7

Artist research:

Dame Phyllida Barlow who was born on 4 April 1944, and died on 12 March 2023,[1] was a British visual artist.[2] 

Studying at Chelsea College of Art (1960–1963) and the Slade School of Art (1963–1966),[3] she would later join the staff of the Slade in the late 1960s and taught there for more than forty years.

In 2009 she retired from academia, becoming an emerita professor of fine art.

What I love about Barlow and what drew me to her work is how she didn’t hide her process. Material choices from the viewer, [14]employing “a distinctive vocabulary of inexpensive materials such as plywood, cardboard, plaster, cement, fabric and paint” to create colossal sculptures that lack a pristine look.[15] This embracement of a process resonates deeply with me as similar to Barlow I strive to break the barrier of the quality of art being determined by the materials used and embrace the handmade qualities that show what has gone into the final piece. For example, to support the weight of the tongue, I used pencils that I already owned. Furthermore, the support in the stem of the curious flower is made out of a broken clothes hanger.

“Maybe I don’t think enough about beauty in my work because I’m so curious about other qualities, abstract qualities of time, weight, balance, rhythm; collapse and fatigue versus the more upright dynamic notions of maybe posture … the state that something might be in. Is it growing or shrinking, is it going up or down, is it folding or unfolding?”

— Phyllida Barlow, The Guardian, 2016.[12]

This week I also completed some rough sketches for a sculpture I had in mind inspired by succulents. As you can see I’ve explored the shape and firm separated structure of the plant and utilised it by creating the concept of it being made of fingers.

This will be a timely process in contrast to the other two sculptures as it will require me to sculpt multiple individual figures of a presumably large quantity to get the desired mass to have an impact on the audience.

In addition to this, as you can see I’m currently at a crossroads of deciding whether I want the fingers to be skin tone or replicate the colouring of actual succulents. Much like the stems of the tongue Lillies, I believe this is a decision to be made when I complete the structure and actually begin painting.

To further help me make this decision I’m considering photographing the sculpture once completed and digitally editing it to get a clearer idea of the way the colours will look for I apply the paint.

In response to the sketches, this week I began to sculpt the fingers for the succulent-inspired plant currently at five in total, varying in sizes to emphasise their various origins. At the moment I’m unable to determine how many I will have to make so I’m continuing with no set end, simply when i determine by look it’s a sufficient amount.

It’s this piece I’ve been the most excited about so far.

In addition to the fingers, I’ve also created another tongue sculpture that is significantly larger than the other one to create a stronger composition and a more impactful viewing for the audience.

Finally, in our workshop this week we presented our workshop PowerPoint.

For my workshop, I proposed “expression and reflection through clay”, influenced by the question, “How do you perceive life?”. To answer this question I intended for the group to create sculptures that they can continue to mould throughout the workshop as more questions are posed relating to the central discussion such as, “are you basing your response with consideration for others or revolving it around solely yourself?”, creating a constantly changing structure that would be documented through the film to then be reviewed so the participants can reflect on their thought progress depicted through their actions throughout the workshop.

Due to my workshop being chosen last term, I didn’t want my one to be chosen this time which is why I’m grateful a clockmaking workshop was chosen instead. Especially considering, this will be a piece that can be included within the takeover which I’m looking forward to.

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