My project explores the idea of prospecting. This is in both a literal and more figurative way. I want to investigate this idea of treasure, and the lengths people go to get their hands on precious stones. The idea of searching for something so valuable in amongst an environment so contrasting: barren sandy rocky landscapes which have been excavated and upturned.
Today we live in a materialistic society of consumption, greed and excess. This stems from our ancestors, as since the beginning of time it is within our nature to want the precious. Even in Bible, Jesus is brought Gold, Frankensense and Murr by the wisemen. Civilisations have fought over precious minerals and even today Gold is a status symbol.
This asks my audience what it is that they treasure. The idea of wealth is very personal, as one can be wealthy and have no money - if they value spiritually for example, or treasure memories and relationships.
Most humans crave a sense of belonging and treasure the idea of community. Simultaneously, humans care about how they are perceived and their identity. Many people who join the circus are people who are outcast from society, often victims of deformities and visual abnormalities which make them different. By joining the circus these individuals take on a celebrity like identity as crowds come to watch them perform. Although they are still individuals and contrasted against other performers eg, a duo of a very tall man and very short woman, there is a sense of unity and community. This for many would have been more appealing than a life of isolation - However, we must ask ourselves at what price dose this come. Many of these individuals are enriched as they have more of a purpose in life, but at the expense of their self worth. The circus revolves around the idea of entertainment and treasuring a spectacle, however, this could be cruel and humiliating for the performer.
After spending my morning researching the circus and mining in the library I started collaging and documenting some of my selected images in my sketchbook. Working with completely new material is exciting, but also seems unfamiliar. I was not very pleased with my first double page spread, as although I am interesting in mining as a concept, visually I find the images less inspiring. My attention was brought to the labour intensiveness of mining, as I tried to capture the figures hard at work, searching for gold. Hoping to move my work forward I tried to source more imagery that interested me.
Feeling rather overwhelemed by all the books in the library and as of where to start I searched key words in my project such as treasure, mining, prospecting but not many books came up that seemed very related to these themes. I then tried searching synonyms for these words, which lead me to find This included Splendors of the Sea, The Photographs of Norbert Wu. This did seem abit off topic but I considered how how pearls are found underwater. Visually, the colours and textures of underwater life interested me, and I thought it made a unique combination with circus imagery.
Many of the images I had researched online of mining in madagascar seemed like the environment was very dry, and that the dusty landscape set the tone of the mining theme. I found one book on madagascar, and next to it were books on the Sahara desert. I took photocopies of these and combined it with my other imagery in a collage to help get my ideas down in my sketchbook. I am pleased with the out come of this page, as I think my repetative mark making captures the dry quality of the environment. What was successful? Trying not to just create random shapes, I studied the face of the clown and thought his mouth and face makeup created quite a unique shape. I also highlighted the shape from the sea crab that attracted my attention, and then combined the two shapes together to create a unique response to the research.
Today was a full day of collaging to help refine my ideas. What was successful? I think there is a playful and surreal element in my work, as I merge figures with nature, and incorporate layers of shape/pattern. In the collage below the females skirt almost metamorphoses into coral, and she is surrounded by a mash up of sea floor and the walls from her environment. This confuses the eye at first I think, because the rough sea bed textures seem blurry and almost unrcognisable. I think the hints of neon colour work well with the darker, more shady ocean floor. I also repeated the shape of the yellow coral to create slight visual connections/relationships.
On the adjoining page I was attracted to the characterful pose of the figure, and the almost performative way his arms and legs are captured. As in the previous collage I extracted the female figures legs, here, I decided to emphasise them. I repeated the shape of the mans legs, and by placing them around a central axsis created a playful dynamism - almost as if the legs are walking/dancing away by themselves. I think the fine black mark making creates a nice variety, and grounds the shapes well.
I continued to collage at quite a fast pace, sticking things down instinctively and impulsively. Now reflecting on my work, it is difficult to say specifically why I placed certain things where they are, other than it felt right, for aesthtic reasons and to balance the composition. I have created a hybrid of a sort of circus desert, incorporating hyenas with enlarged circus trousers. I have also used gems throughout, to highlight/enhance certain areas, but also relating back to the theme of treasure.
Today my collages seemed more focused on the circus, but more the freakshow aspect. Although I am unsure as to what extent I will be investigating underwaterlife further, in this case, I felt it highlighted how the performers of the freakshows are percieved - less than human. The image of the female with enlarged feet is one that I have thought is most poignant. Like in the other collages, I have decided to highlight her legs by repeating the shape around a central point. Their deformed nature in emphasised by photographic legs.
Experimentation with collage placement:
This morning we were put in pairs and had to explain each others projects to each other. My partner then had to explain my project to the group of 6 and visa versa. This was an interesting way to discover how resolved our ideas are thematically, and what it is exactly that we are investigating. At the start I felt apprehensive explaining my idea to my friend because I have already researched quite broad and opposing topics. This is fine as long as I am clear as to what the links are between the topics and how they relate to each other.
Discussing my ideas with my partner really helped me to clarify the links between the circus and mining. As individuals join the circus in hope for a better future, and miners search restlessly for valuable materials.
What seemed less clear is why I have researched underwater life - this was initially due to the idea of pearls being under water. However, through my initial research I have realised the way in which these circus performers are treated is degrading and can be inhuman. They are not shown the same respect other people receive, instead they are exploited and their identity becomes a commodity. By combing images of circus performers and animal parts it questions the value of their identities as people, in response to how they are treated.
Certain animals that really appeal to me are crocodiles, Hyenas, lobsters and sea slugs. These animals all have distinct appearances and different textures which I would like to explore: fur, scales, hard shells and a soft jelly texture. Combining this with the circus performers will create a conflict between perceptions of reality and illusion - as the idea of illusion is integral to the magic and treasure of theatre.
I went to the Mark Dion exhibition at white chapel Gallery, which includes installations and sculptures which explore the natural history of species. “Inspired by cinema as well as surrealism and minimalism... his tableaux evoke a cast of characters that observe or exploit the natural world.”
My favourite piece of the exhibition was the last room in which the viewer is plunged into darkness. Arranged across cabinets are the ghosts of animals and instruments, coated in what seems like green slime. This abstracts then of their identity, as they become more silhouette like and unified by their coatings. I thought it was really effective as it blurs the idea of reality, and animals seem more like objects. Their bright appearance against the dark surrounding is very dramatic and otherworldly, and although many of the animals are extinct, it is it they are fossilised in the space.
I was less impressed by the rest of the exhibition, but I think that’s is due to its scientific outlook. However, I thought it was interesting that “The Library for the Birds of London” incorporated real zebra finches. Although the work has been created with advice from the RSPCA, I thought it was strange to view these creatures in a cadge indoors. This has made me think more about themes of exploitation, which are at the heart of the circus.
In the afternoon we were able to experiment in a few different workshops which included a heat press which I found very exciting. Different affects can be achieved using string which embossed the fabric you print onto, and any shapes from card. Inks can be used to create a blotchy texture which makes a nice contrast against the bold shapes of colour. I also experimented using metallic foils which require a glue adhesive - meaning it is more difficult to achieve sharp edges but still adds visual interest. Masking tape can also create a slight embossed surface and by printing the same shapes you can tone variation as the ink becomes lessened with each press.
I created quite a few prints because the print process is fast pace and experimental. I think the harlequin pattern came out well, but perhaps the connotations of the circus is too literal. I think the irregular jewellery shapes are effective because they lack the detail of any gem stones, but have a distinct appearance. I think this is most successful in the negative space prints of the jewellery, as our eyes are more drawn to the solid space that surrounds the shape. This creates a inverted silhouette which has a bold beauty in its simplicity, and does not need layers of other shapes.
I discovered by accident that if the layout paper is crumpled, it creates a winkled and blurred effect on the print. I think this makes a nice contrast against the solid shape of the earing.
After dicussing my project with my tutor Francis, we both agreed that I needed to reign my ideas in! So far, I have created quite alot of collage work in my sketchbook, beacuse it is how I naturally respond to research and information. This has been very informative because it has lead me to clarify the ideas I want to explore further. I want to move away from underwater life and the desert. I now want to explore the idea of treasure and excess and combine this with my research of the circus.
The harrods project will be a good opportunity for me to explores themes of excess and luxury goods. Exploring what is 'too much?' and how we have become so materialistic.
Post Harrods project - Now I return to my research on the circus, and I aim to combine this with the idea that Harrods is a brand that offers an accredition. Does it matter where something is brought from? Doesn't the owner put their own value on the item/s, or is it advertising that sways belief. I have researched lots of valuable jewellery which is enlarged and accessories, which are encrusted with jems acting as status symbols. These things are very visual, displaying wealth and serving to attract the attention of others. Returning back the circus 'freaks', their appearance is also very visual and their life revolves around displaying themselves. I have been thinking about what it is we desire - the photo below has been prominant in my mind, as ive been thinking about highlighting disabilties, and making them desireable by using certain materials e.g gems, fur, attractive colours.