Shift Happens: The Process

Sculpture as Jewellery

My use of gloss acrylics has always been from an interest of 1960’s minimalism. However, it is apparent from art history that the use of acrylics consequently causes the works to be visual. As I progress through my practice I aim to utilise these materials to not only focus perception visually but also through haptic interaction. I believe that by creating a playful task understanding can be achieved.

After reviewing the Space Shifters exhibition at the Hayward Gallery- Southbank, along with it’s publication, I was introduced to the Light and Space movement along with the term ‘Finish Fetish’. The term was coined in 1966 by curator John Coplans. He used the term to describe a notable art movement within Los Angeles at the time which used materials to create a ‘sense of ambience’. These materials included acrylic, glass, plexiglass, vaporised metals, fiberglass and polymer resins. This movement included artists such as Robert Irwin, Larry Bell and Fred Eversley. Their sculptural/installation works used these materials to control light and space, to dematerialise the object and reshape perception. This aim was successful because of their use of scale, the architectural nature of the works created an ambience and changed how the body  existed in the gallery space.

I believe that the aim to dematerialise the work alongside the vast is what caused them to be more visual. Although I agree this method is successful in creating an experience, I am unsure whether that experience can lead to understanding. For this reason I aim to contradict the dematerialisation of the art object to bring tangibility to these materials. In doing so I hope to combine the visual with the haptic. I attempted this by using jewellery as a starting point.  Jewellery already uses these materials but is designed to be in contact with the body. By emphasising the element of task, I wanted to create a form of fidget toy-bracelet hybrid. An example of what i’m trying achieve from culture is a Rubik’s cube. The object utilises element of task alongside handheld object and colour to create an incentive.

Through researching Marcel Mauss, a French sociologist whose academic work navigated the boundaries between sociology and anthropology. I discovered that his theory of connaissance and habitus described in ‘techniques of the body’ explores how body actions are taught and become embedded; ‘not by the individual themselves, but by all his education, by the whole society to which he belongs, in the place he occupies in it.’ (Mauss, M. 1935; 76).

Mauss’ theory was presented in art through the Neo-Concrete movement. The movement consisted of a collection of young Brazilian artists in the 1950s that aimed to bring sensuality to concrete art. They agreed with Concrete artists that the utilisation of line, colour and plane was the most effective way to present abstract concepts such as topology. However, this rational approach meant that the works were visual and had no action or task to aid the viewer into understanding.

Lygia Clark, Bicho, 1960

Lygia Clark- a co-founder of the Neo-Concrete movement- believed that the ‘spectator’s interaction in the work is not limited to reception but to achieve realisation themselves’ (Roinik, S. 1999; 76). Clark demonstrates Mauss’ theory by first using simple geometric shapes, ‘since numbers and triangles are perfect and eternal, mankind’s knowledge of them is certain.’ (Gamwell, L. 2015; 158). Basic two-dimensional forms such as squares, triangles and circles have been taught to us throughout our education. Euclid’s Elements states within the first proof that a ruler can be used to draw a straight line and a compass can be used to draw a circle. By using these two rules an equilateral triangle can be made. These initial proofs not only show how line is converted into two-dimensional shapes but how one can do that using tools.

We have also learnt, through education and through living, how these flat shapes can be constructed together to form three-dimensions. An example of Clark applying these forms to formal knowledge is in her work Bicho (critters) 1960. A sculpture constructed of semi-circles, triangles and quadrilaterals, each joined along the edge with visible hinges. By making a sculpture that can fold Clark is encouraging the sculpture to be reconfigured by her audience into a range of different shapes, all of which could move and none of which remain static.

I have attempted to do the same, making a flexagon bracelet that consists of layered acrylic hinged with keyrings. The use of keyrings is designed to create an association to the hand, creating a relatable connection to keys and keyring accessories. The colours used with this work incorporate millennial/interior design colour trends such as pastels, copper and neutral tones.

Although still an initial work I have decided to pause this idea while developing my practice. The challenging nature of this piece to make the object both perfect in design alongside practicality is ambitious and would test my technical ability. However, it is my personal reservation on making an object that is sellable that concerns me, for the aim of my practice has always been to aid understanding. Another concern is that I may target the female gender more than males or children. It is with this in mind that I plan to regroup my thoughts into focusing on including all people with the intention for experience and object.

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