Statement

Throughout various zones in the rural banality of the countryside there are usually dens, sometimes made by inhabitants of that space, or unknown visitors, strange interventions sitting somewhere between the personal and the eerie.

Creating a space that relies on the process of making something in that space, in order to discover why it has been made in the first place, has an inherent paradox. Can the relationship between the process of making and the environment of the maker be explored in terms of the external versus the internal?

Spatial relationships are uncovered between objects, materials, colours and forms, and they are anchored by their own occurrence. Self-fabricating everything is key.

The origins of materials that are over-used is often apparent in what they become, sculpture as captured mutability within a specific environment. But the excessive use of one material taken beyond its original usage can end with the formulation of something unforeseen and altogether more exciting, and often absurd.

​A den in the woods might be seen as a hideaway but it could also signify a meeting point between internal space and external space, a shroud over a working space which contains the contradiction of being, but not being seen, a membrane where different spaces collide and through which the liminality of the chosen materials can be explored.

 

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'Paper Den Membrane'

Gummed paper tape is an interesting material to use - it is usually used to seal edges of boxes for exportation, edges of exhibition walls, fixing water colour paper and in framing.

 

It's 100% recyclable and biodegradable. After picking materials that fell at the edge of my practice, gummed tape became one of the primary materials that occupied the inbetween space of making and exhibiting, and is a surprisingly strong and adaptable sculpting medium.

While I was working on the sculptures I was reading Borges and became interested in the nature of paradoxes, particularly in relation to the eerie effect of a doppelganger - what Freud refers to as 'Unheimlich' - and time lapse cause-effect paradoxes that Mark Fisher eloquently drills into in his book The Weird and the Eerie. I wondered whether I might be able to make a pair of works that rely on each other's existence somewhat, so tried to achieve this with painting and sculpture as complimentary objects.

I thought what would happen if I used this odd material solely to create a representation of what might be behind the walls it often seals the edges of, made it into a shelter of sorts of the interior? I understand there may also be a relationship to temporary living for people without homes, who have been displaced for various reasons.

 

The dialogue between the interior and exterior worlds could be opened up, where the interior I've made suggests a space where things are free to change, objects undergo transformation; the exterior may be the space of the viewer. The sculptures and painting undergo a kind of rhythmic deconstruction, a chain of mutability, the paper wall a fabricated membrane that goes against the intended use of the material. The paper and wood used hark back to the woodland environment I was originally exploring.

In order to also talk about the idea of a painting as a meta-object, I created a transparency from a piece of work that is hanging in front of a widow. The light is something which then passes through the surface, tinted as it does.

 

My work has been informed through reading the paradox heavy writings of Borges' Labyrinths, the powerless characters in Kafka's The Castle, existentialist texts by Nietzsche, Stanislaw Lem's science fiction magnum opus Solaris, the absurdist cause-effect scenario in Albert Camus' philosophical novel The Outsider, and what is real and what isn't leading Jiddu Krishnamurti to ask if The Observer is the Observed.

 

 

I'm currently engaged in exploring parallels between eerie objects that have no obvious role except perhaps signify a relationship between the internal world of an individual in relation to the external world they both co-inhabit.

 

In terms of quantum physics this would perhaps be akin to thinking whether a human thought has any mass and if it does, no matter how infinitesimal, there is a cause-effect scenario occurring whereby brainwaves can affect reality.

 

This seems to have a strong relationship to making piece of artwork - with my latest sculptures I am merely making them into odd reflections of collections of thoughts driven by the material from which they are made.

Everything I chose to show has been made by hand, by myself only. There is a strange parallel between using gummed tape as a kind of sculptural material and my own painting method, and was as meditative as painting itself. As I worked on them, the wooden structures ended up becoming painted invocations of animals charged with a bizarre spiritual fulfillment.

Artists that have been the most influential to date

Christina Inglesias
The influence of writing and film on Inglesias' Pavilion Suspended works are really important - the latticed structures directly providing an interplay between the source material of the science fiction novel and the materials used to recreate them as some kind of passageway or temporary dwelling station.


Angela de la Cruz

What I like most about her work, which sits between painting and sculpture, is that it challenges restrictions and traditional grandiosity of painting through its materiality. The dark humour of the new pieces is underplayed, their characters at times forlorn and pathetic, at other times bombastic and feline.

Kurt Schwitters

Schwitters series of large scale abstract collage and dwellings that operate as studio spaces, such as the Merz Barn in Cumbria, have been a strong influence. I'm interested in how the spaces he created directly correlates to his process, Merz being the term he coined to describe his own practice, his Merzbau combined his living space with a changing and expanding art work.

Thomas Hirschhorn

Hirschhorn's in-between worlds consisting of the repeated use of certain materials in often confrontational installations resonates well with my practice.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Abraham Cruzvillegas (above)

These often room-sized works have a natural flow and rhythm made from amalgamations of many parts of various sizes, materials and other properties. The cyclic movement of objects and connected spaces in site-specific works.

Claire Barclay

Clare Barclay's incredibly well fabricated installations have a constructed presence born straight out of working within the space. She charges the work with a sense that the objects and environment are still in the process of change.

​Camille Henrot's Voluminous forms and association with the natural environment, and Eva Hesse's distinct use of certain materials over and over again in artworks that occupy spaces away from the wall.

The big, brash and often beautifully coloured sculpture-installations of Jessica Stockholder and the colourful painted surfaces in works by Jost Muenster.

cruzvillegas
Kurt Schwitter's 'Merz Barn'

Interior of Schwitter's Merzbau

 

Houses of Cards

I began using fabric dye on paper to create sets of colourful cards to be stacked up in precarious positions. 

Each piece was an individual painting in its own right and I felt there is a connection to my previous work as I began to think the Shipwreck was also about the potential of failure.

The cards are stacked in ways that convey the edge of a potential cause-effect scenario, where the downfall becomes expected.

I've been interested in breaking down and restructuring materials and objects associated with painting so they become sculptural and occupy an expanded space.

 

When situated in precarious positions the tension between thinking and doing can be explored.

The various constituent elements are brought together through experimentation, becoming neither painting or sculpture by occupying some space between the two - the force majeure of the process of making on the final outcome. 


Evocations of the lines in a drawing, different applications of colour, and multiple manifestations of similar objects are some of the tools used to describe connections between objects as forms of collisions, the potential and visible impact zones between working and re-working.

I'm often asking what defines a structural element in a painting, and what does an object that belongs on a wall become once the wall is taken away?

Questioning painting as a medium by finding ways to convert something from its 2D origins to a 3D space leads an investigation into what elements are most important, and by removing them from where they were conceived and perverting their purpose they are set free.

 

The evolution of painting into an expanded format paradoxically encourages the continual acknowledgement of painting - how far does it go into other media before it stops being recognisable as painting and becomes entirely something else?

 

The decision making process involves asking what to retain by considering what is most important. The wooden stretchers and part of the surface are free to become their own objects. Colour and spatial relationships connect the materials to one another.

By dismantling my own painting method and breaking its generic formats and location, the traditional presentation and purpose of a painting is subverted.

 

At times the resulting creations are acts of vandalism, part of an ongoing series of annihilation, or just playful constructions using simple materials that sit somewhere between painting and sculpture and communicate the potentiality of, and also for, change.

The usefulness of photography as a method of providing extra context has also been important.

There's also a recurring motif of the broken and dismantled object or dilapidated environments such as abandoned dens in the wilderness.

Anti-Structure, 2018

oil paint on linen

During Unit 3 I began working on two things: making painting and sculpture as paradoxal equivalents of one another, and painting on sculptures and materials other than canvas or linen.

I had been reading Expanded Painting by Mark Titmarsh, which really encouraged me to engage more with the edges of my practice. I was already painting onto sculptures of my own construction and using fabric to link elements. I took paintings off frames (above and opposite) and began using gummed tape as a material to add planes and extra dimension to salvaged and deconstructed stretchers.

Rosebud, 2018

oil paint on gum tape

Expanding the Painting

 

At this stage I was eager to find a way to express a relationship between different media within the context of abandoned spaces or banal rural dereliction.

I began to link my current practice to the work I was producing earlier on in the course. I reintroduced photography and sought to link hand crafted objects in the gallery space to these external spaces, as a means of joining the two together somehow.

Whilst I was in Spain over Easter I visited an excellent show at the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern called The Birth of Abstraction.

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The show was packed with pieces of work from major artists. I saw parallels between what I was working on and some of the works on display here, particularly structural formats not bound by a picture frame, mixed materials and painted-on pieces of wood and cloth.

This exhibition, and others such as the previous Jasper Johns retrospective and John Bunker's last solo show really encourage the use of other media in painting. It's well-trodden ground but a necessary step towards tackling the complexities of what to and what not to include in a piece of work.

 
Shipwreck 1

Looking at the relationship between painting and sculpture in my work, I amalgamated elements from painting with found objects to create the remnants of a ship baking in the end-of-the-world sun.

 

I started taking the painting away from the wall so it could be a free-standing object. As I was making the work I was thinking about how to compose form and colour in space, to create relationships between these different objects as an expanded painting.

The warm colours I used evoked a setting sun, or skies full of dust from desert winds.

I was also thinking about instability, imbalance, and the links between environmental and personal tragedy. This was in part influenced by the film The Mosquito Coast.

Light and shadow became an important element when I was experimenting with the set up. The spotlight effect created the shadows that I felt completed the work, but the spotlight itself made it too 'stagey' so it was eschewed in favour of natural light and a slightly different arrangement of objects for the final piece.

I was thinking order versus disorder, and systems of authority and conformity, and if removed or rebelled against the potential resulting dilapidation might reflect freedom, but also represent missed opportunities and lost redemption. 

 

​​My approach is often idiosyncratic and the materials varied. I often use components from painting, but the frame is often removed, or broken apart and remade. Objects exist near these broken boundaries, some ready made, others self-fabricated, remnants of control and authority. Rubber, cotton, sack cloth, resin, paint, plastic, wood, paper and plasticine have all been used.

Associations begin to form that indulge freedom of interpretation. The neck tie and bicycle inner tubes create a relationship with the city commuter, as well acting as possible remnants of a lost society.

Parts of previous paintings started to inform some of the shapes I later began to construct out of wood.

painting

The return to painting was not a planned one, but rather felt like a natural development of my practice in which having investigated new ways to explore spaces and manipulate shapes, I now gravitated towards a familiar field to further my abilities.

The colour orange and its derivatives un-selfconsciously started dominating these works. An association perhaps linked to my early investigations of familiar places and its undeniable but also unsolicited connections to childhood, memory and time such as is used by Russian conceptual artists Illya and Emilia Kabakov (below).

​However, applying these new found forms and mental spaces to the canvas proved engrossing but often limiting.

 

So I gradually began to put the brush down and instead tear pieces of the canvas to allow for further possibilities and by doing so, the structure of the canvas itself naturally became part of the painting and in time something I occasionally chose to remove.

I thought about artists such as Lucio Fontana who had punctured the picture frame, created holes and slashes as an intersection of painting and sculpture.

So I started experimenting with the idea of not just expose the structure, but to break it. To dismember the painting piece by piece and deconstruct its elements, which once I had used in my woodlands interventions.

​The shapes felt now more fluid and instantaneously reached out to stretch and occupy the space around itself in all possible angles and 2D spaces now embraced 3D possibilities, with the canvas free to hang, wrap around and explore new functions, edging towards sculpture but still attached to the wall.

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Woodland Interventions

In the beginning I wanted to stop painting. Or rather deconstruct my practice, refine my ideas and begin to identify what sort of work I really want to make with painting as just one component.

Immediately playing with the idea that my image making could involve the direct application of paint onto the source material - in this case photographs, printed in black and white I used oil paint to highlight or obscure areas of interest.

I found through quickly working onto prints I was inventing scenes within the image, looking at a space I knew very well in a different way to before - or at least I began to express something about a familiar space in a way that felt more immediate, and more explicit.

 

There was also a collision happening between the eeriness of a place that could have dens as habitations, and the strange objects that might be found within.

The subject of these photographs are primarily the woodlands area behind my parents house in Norfolk. A familiar place which holds a special personal significance, but at that time still elusive. So by asking "what attracted me to those woods?", a strong pull to rewind, free my practice from the weight of pre-conceived ideas and explore new imaginary places at the edge of reality & recollection revealed itself during this exploratory process. 
 

Spaces/Places

and the Uncanny

To start with, I was interested in changing an existing space by introducing shapes and colour into it or taking areas away by obscuring them. I thought about collage, and the act of obscuring parts of a scene.

I found through quickly working onto prints I was inventing scenes within the image, looking at a space I knew very well in a different way to before - or at least I began to express something about a familiar space in a way that felt more immediate and more explicit.

 

However, this then evolved upon reflecting on the idea of taking the shapes out of the canvas and physically introducing them into the space of the viewer.

​I created shapes out of wood, simple forms from a painting. I then painted those in block colours to display alongside other work and then I finally decided to take these shapes and place them directly in the space which paradoxically I was so keen to originally to simply photograph.

By investigating these surroundings, I naturally gravitated towards spaces which reminded me or were reminiscent of dens, once possibly used as habitations.

The objects which I then introduced to these spaces became part of a daydream narrative in which they either played active characters or were simply an extra addition to the landscape, but in both situations served as witnesses to a long forgotten anecdote.

When painting the interaction with surface and paint is a satisfying one; the materialism inspires in a similar way to trudge through earth or grass and trees.

I thought about Richard Long's walks, his interactions with the environment a method of signposting a journey as art process, the grand gesture his act of passage through space.

I'm interested in how banal places have an inherent eeriness to them, especially a natural environment where something has occurred without a clear explanation.

The simultaneous removal, through obscuring, and addition, through placements of objects, creates a weird effect. The shapes seem like spontaneous manifestations, or could be seen as acts of natural graffiti that also evoke passage through a place as part of a visibly repeated process.

I have been influenced by films such as Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky, where the background eeriness, much like radiation, permeates yet remains invisible until its effects are made clear. I was also becoming informed by Edgelands by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts, and Feral by George Monbiot about rewilding the natural environment, which has been over-farmed and over-controlled.

I feel that the patchwork of hidden properties and dimensions of a space requires an intervention to exist, a hidden cause-effect scenario, like when an animal is seen darting through the undergrowth.

I have a personal connection to this place and its banality is broadly representative of much of the English countryside when managed.

As such I'm trying to identify how I can move beyond a place known to me and begin to work in response to my immediate surroundings and environment.

Important considerations to be taken forward include the relationship of objects to the spaces around them, the relevance of certain materials, ideas about repetition, particularly within collage, and its relationship to the uncanny. How I approach the foreground, middle-ground and background is also important, as is what they could mean as separate things.

Once these concepts became more urgent, I gradually and simultaneously returned back to painting to explore further repeated shapes and structural elements that would eventually lay the foundation for objects produced later on in the course.

 

© 2018 copyright Mark Jeffreys

All rights reserved. 

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