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Posts Tagged ‘materials’

Every summer we unveil a new sculpture on the lawn in front of the Evanston Art Center, to inspire us and attract visitors for a whole year.

Gary Orlinsky flew in from the East Coast to install his “Elevated,” a sculpture of wood and industrial plastic, that rises 15 feet and stretches about 30 feet. The materials come from local sources, including the branches and saplings that were gathered on art center grounds after the tornado had swept through only a week earlier.

The artist is a native Chicagoan and named the piece after the Chicago El.  That’s only the name.  Names are not intended to limit the imagination in its chain reaction of associations.  The piece will evoke different associations in different viewers.

When I talked with Gary Orlinsky at the opening, he said he liked making one material look like something else, in this case, wood (painted black) looking like iron.  This is a pre-modernist idea and, in fact, he described himself as a Luddite.  But, actually, his translation of one material into another supports the metaphor I saw.

For me, obsessed with internet issues when I first saw it last week, “Elevated” conjured up associations to the staggering capacity of communication that our technology has facilitated and the questioning of traditional ideologies that these inventions have brought about.  All this is the meeting of axiomatic systems (math) and just physical stuff (copper, sand, etc).  Fiber optic cables are made of silica, which is sand, and the cables in “Elevated” are made of twigs knocked down by winds—just graspable, mundane materials.

I have the privilege of seeing this sculpture every week when I go to teach in that building and on those grounds and I get to contemplate this paradox.  It’s a powerful sculpture.  I only wish it were twice as long.

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

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I did this small drawing (6×10) yesterday from fast poses, about one to three minutes.  Now, a day later, it reminds me of Matisse’s painting, “Luxe, Calme et Volupté,” 1905.  Not in technique, but in the sense of pleasure that it conveys.   In the Matisse painting, as in my drawing, the nudes are at ease and are loosely sketched, without much fuss about anatomy.

But there’s another connection and that has to do with the pleasure of doing the work.  I can’t speak for Matisse, though he must have enjoyed the freedom of those wild colors in his Fauve years. (“Fauve” means wild beast.)

I’ll speak for myself and the materials I used.  This drawing is done on mat board, specifically 4-ply museum grade mat board.  Now, mat board is not intended to be drawn on; it lacks fiber and sizing.  I think of it as compressed lint.  But, oh, it is luxurious to draw on, if you give it a thin coat of clear acrylic gel. This seals the natural ragediness of the mat board, making it friendlier to the friction of the pencil.  The pencil I used here is the Stabilo-Aquarellable (see post 4.19.11) which loves the mat boards cushy surface.  It sinks in at the slightest pressure, produces a rich velvety line and deposits lots of black stuff for later washes.

When I’m preaching the importance of pleasure in drawing I’m perhaps a bit reactionary, in the sense that our contemporary art tends to the conceptual, the constructed, the engineered, the ironic, the alienated.  That’s fine, I love having my brain tickled.  But the artist’s rapport with the materials themselves has been suppressed, possibly even lost.  You can be sure that the original modernists, like Picasso and Matisse, loved their paints and their charcoal, their brushes and papers, their glops of paint and their drips.  They loved the mess and the physicality.

So, here’s the moral of the story: Draw on any surface that feels good.  I don’t mean your neighbor’s garage door, but neither do I mean to say that the paper or canvas has to come from a sanctified art supply store.   Experiment with supports!  Ditto pencil, pens, markers, brushes, sticks.  Take time to muck about with the materials and find something that—to you– feels like “luxe, calme et volupté.”

All contents copyright (C) 2010 Katherine Hilden. All rights reserved.

http://facefame.wordpress.com

http://katherinehilden.wordpress.com

www.khilden.com

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