A bit of a fallow period, although I have been continuing to experiment in the sculpture workshop (evening class) and going along to events to help me keep thinking about the project. I have been building small structures with polystyrene, scrim and plaster, but seem to want to scrape back the plaster right to the scrim, reveal a texture underneath, make it clear that I am interested in forces, not depictions.
I visit the Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the Royal Academy, and this was much more pertinent than I could have possibly imagined. The artist had constructed a major wooden floor-based wave-like piece, based on a map of China, and including exquisite 'invisible' wood joining, embedded in Chinese traditions of wood working. In addition, there was another floor-based wave-like piece on display made, terribly poignantly, from thousands of restraightened metal struts gathered by Ai Weiwei and his team. The struts had been employed in the building of public buildings including schools in Sichuan, done on the cheap, so that they were easily destroyed by the earthquake in 2008, killing thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren. This moving piece gave me pause in terms of the careful selection of materials.
The Thursday playdate with Brian was fun, but left me curiously unsatisfied. One piece of oak bent beautifully, but I am not after the lovely bend of a Windsor chair. I am looking for something much more 'revolting'. I think of heating small pieces and crashing them into one another, but I am not sure. I look further into the reality of a quake, what effectively happens is a kind of shake, not a bashing together as such, even though the tectonic plates are rubbing against each other. Having felt an earthquake in the early hours of the morning when living in Germany, I remember that sense of shaking, but, at the same time, of liquidity, as though the floor of the block of flats I was living on could have simply slid off the rest of the building.
Over Christmas there is little time to work as we are away at a family get together. However, I meet a potter at the place we are staying. He was showing some beautiful work and generously showed us some 'firsts' as well as the wonderful 'seconds' for sale in the greenhouse, which were very strong and dated from the earliest years of his career. I talked to him about his raku work, which struck me immediately. What to my untutored eyes was a somewhat 'failed' pot, was in fact, his greatest achievement, in the true spirit of raku.
That certainly interests me, I mentioned the word 'entropy' to him, in the sense of the notion of inevitable social decline and degeneration, which, on reflection, makes me think of Robert Smithson. I had been looking at precarity on the PGDip, a kind of precarious language of activism and survival, the metaphor I have chosen for this piece is one of upswell. But is that a language that really accords with what I am reading, and what my practice thus far has indicated about the need for a more precarious approach? I am thinking on. I start to think more realistically about pieces that are free-standing, at least to start with, because installation work seems improbable at this stage.
I start drawing precarious wooden structures, like clashes in mid-air, and see them in baby pink and blue for some reason! The drawings aren't strong, just a feeling really - I note that in the third one, where I try to integrate my bent wood piece, this just doesn't work, the process may simply not be right for what I am trying to do.
I find a definition of raku and the Chinese letter form seems so pertient here:
I wonder whether I could make the form of the Chinese expression in wood? But in many respects I think raku may be much more interesting for Clare's work than mine. But it does make me think about the kinds of visual languages that contemporary contexts call for. This links in with some reflections I have had about the Japanese art school experiment Bigakko and one of the tutor's interest in working without a fixed sense of ground.