Soundscape Finale

I didn’t contact my tutor in the end. Having reviewed what I’ve done so far and taken a step back, I yet again have decided to push on. The fact that I’m struggling is indicating that I am pushing myself, and that’s how we learn. I made a new piece of felt to manipulate into  a sample, and decided the best way to mould it would be with modelling mesh attached to the reverse. I had considered heat reactive moulding mesh, but the problem would be finding a suitable shape to mould it over whilst heating. I thought that mesh would allow me to play with it a bit after construction. To give a neater finish and cover the sharp edges of the mesh, I wrapped the edges with ribbon before handstitching to the reverse of the felt. In the final piece, I have decided to use felt backing for an even neater finish.


Once I was happy with the initial small sample I set about making the final piece. I made a larger rectangle in felt and stitched over in metallic thread using my wavy painting as a guide.  I cut it partially into strips before applying the mesh in overlapping sections on the reverse. In moulding the shape, I took inspiration from a sketch in my theme sketchbook of pulsing soundwaves, and also the appearance of speakers. The finished piece does actually feel like a modern speaker. Having got the desired shape, I took a photo and drew a rough plan of where I wanted my couching to run. For this I referenced my final painting plan. I had it in mind that the gimp looks very much like guitar strings, and to me the tight coils were akin to the strings wound around the pegs on a guitar head.



So here it is:



The couching highlights the contours of the shape to a certain extent, and I hope also have a vibrating quality both in form and colour against the background. I have laid out the main work to show the progression through the design process, and I think I can demonstrate my thinking. I am concerned about presentation for assessment as the final piece incorporates a lot of separate ideas, rather than progression through a single line. Most of the development has also been done in my sketchbook, which means it won’t be displayed as one piece like this.



‘Death:A Self Portrait’ and ‘Seduced by Art’

We had a weekend in London just before Christmas, and I’ve been a bit delayed in writing it up. The art highlights were a visit to the Wellcome Collection on Euston Road, and the National Gallery. The Wellcome are showing an exhibition of Richard Harris’s collection relating to death. The exhibits ranged from 16th century paintings contemplating death, to a huge plaster chandelier by Jodie Carey constructed from moulds of human bones. The pieces that held my attention and haunt me still, were a series of 51 etchings made in 1924 by Otto Dix based on his experiences fighting as a machine gunner in the Great War. I was struck by the incredible mark-making, particularly in pieces such as the crater field below, but also his unflinching portrayal of shell-shock and the alabaster dullness in the face of the dead. There was a tenderness and reverence about this particular portrait pictured below, that conflicted with the reality of a man fallen and left unceremoniously in the mud. The composition and light and shade in the ‘dance of death’ was captivating and horrifying all in one.


Crater field near Dontrien lit up by flares [Trichterfeld bei Dontrien, von Leuchtkugeln erhellt]


Mealtime in the Trenches [Mahlzeit in der Sappe]


Totentanz anno 17 (Hohe Toter Mann) [Dance of death 1917 – (Dead Man’s Hill)]
Dead man in the mud [Toter im Schlamm]
Next up was the relatively lighter relief of ‘Seduced by Art’ at the National Gallery. Modern photography was juxtaposed with art from the national collection in a series of broad themes such as portraiture and still life. The piece that stayed with me the the longest was Blow Up by Ori Gersht in 2007. He froze a flower arrangement and butterflies in liquid nitrogen, and took a series of photographs whilst small explosive charges were deployed, shattering the flowers in a mist of vivid fragments. This was shown alongside traditional still life, as was the time-lapse video by Sam Taylor-Wood showing the moulding and decay of a bowl of fruit. The main challenge here is the very notion of any life being truly still and finding beauty in destructive forces.
Another idea I picked up along the way was from Helen Chadwick’s One Flesh, 1985 – a montage of photocopied objects, fabric and a mother and child. I have used my scanner quite a lot for scanning sketches, but liked the idea of using lace and fabrics in this way. I was also inspired by an exhibition of Richard Hamilton’s Late Works, also at the National Gallery. He airbrushed and painted directly over his own photographs that had been printed on canvases. For me this echoed his earlier collages, and brought together modern ideas of airbrushing and photographic manipulation with the work of old masters – adding and removing people and details in response to the whims of their patrons.
A final scoot around the National Portrait Gallery delivered me face-to-face with a self portrait by Frank Auerbach 1994-2001. I admired the mark making and enjoyed the evolution over time. A living portrait that moved with it’s subject as lines were blurred and redrawn repeatedly over several years.

Sound Sketch Development


I had a look through my work from previous assignments, particularly colour and mark making to ge ideas on how I could inject some vibrancy into my work. I was particularly pleased with some pieces I had made before by combing inks. Having done this I made a couple of sketches of waves that worked well.


During this time I also attended the Knit and Stitch Show at Alexandra Palace. There I had lots of inspiration on yarns I could use, such as these spun sari silks and viscose gimp samples. I worked a new felt sample shown in the photo below, which indeed have more vibrancy and maintained the feeling of sound as the source inspiration.


From here I had a look again at structure. I have been thinking about some African tribal beaded jewellery, with long almost floor length strings of beads hanging centrally down the front like a fragmented panel.


The next suggested step in this assignment was to make larger scale drawings based upon pieces in my sketchbook. I took a section from my waved ink sketch and came up with this design.


In the course of researching this project, I happened across the work of Martin Klimas, a photographer who has photographed drops of paint on acetate placed over a speaker playing loud music, The drops dance in the air creating a visual expression of the sounds. I made a couple of large painted sketches based on these photos.


I then spent a day monoprinting with acrylic paint, drawing waveforms and adding splashes of colour, trying to marry these two main sketch ideas.



The final piece I came up with is below. I liked the way the waves were unfurling, tighter in the top left corner, becoming looser towards bottom right.


Looking back over my work after a break from it, I am truly undecided whether to pursue this piece or give up on it entirely and start again. Every step has seemed forced and a struggle, and I fear that by pushing myself too hard, I will end up with a final piece that I am not completely pleased with. I am keeping a number of themed sketchbooks that have developed in a more organic way, without me even thinking of them in terms of theme books. Would I be better following up with one of these and execute something cleanly that might be a bit more boring?

I am going to contact my tutor for advice at this point, and put forward alternative theme ideas. I think I know the answer though…

Sound samples

Having looked at materials, structures and colour ideas, I moved my sketch work forward by working some small felt samples.  To approach this I first sketched out some smocking ideas.


There were a number of problems with smocking as combined with the stitch detail, the ideas all ended up looking very busy or so technically fussy as to detract from the overall effect. A lot of the detail would also be lost in folds, and the undulating design could easily be lost and disjointed.  I didn’t like the gradually narrowing smocked diamonds, as alternate rows were asymmetrical and I found it unsettling. When I was playing with a piece of felt, the most visually pleasing effects were acheived with a very simple waveform as sketched below.


I made a sample of felt by dry felting commercially dyed wool tops into a mechanically manufactured felt base. I then selected a few tonal metallic and cotton threads to embellish with machine stitched wavy lines.



I then wanted to see how the felt could be stiffened to hold a solid shape, and made a small sample with pelmet thickness vilene sandwiched in felt.


At this point I sent my sketchbook to my tutor, who felt that I had settled on an idea too soon and that the samples needed to vibrate with colour. I completely agree but have to admit that I am still struggling.