Shift Happens: The Process

Large Flexagon Sculpture

As previously mentioned, it was a personal decision to change direction from the work I have been making to focus on developing work that better represented my practice’s intentions. For that reason I have decided to stop using ‘Finish Fetish’ materials and explore different alternatives to finish the work. The scale of the work has also vastly increased so each triangle has sides of 1004 x 870 x 502mm. This choice is a practical reason for both facilities available to me and the handling by participators. It means that I am able to get the precision from the laser cutter that ensures the flexagon design will fold and twist without any problems.  The size although large is manageable especially when being folded one by one and has a stronger relationship to the whole of the body.

Another reason I was struggling with the jewellery inspired pieces is that on a personal level I wasn’t feeling ‘flow’. A theory by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1934) that investigates the feeling we get when attempting tasks, explains that to achieve optimal experience we are self driven to attempt and therefore accomplish difficult tasks. Throughout my practice my most successful pieces have caused me to experience flow. An artist that I find I most relate to on this subject is Richard Deacon, especially when watching his videos explaining the processes behind his practice.  A specific video http://www.richarddeacon.net/ describes his thoughts on making smaller maquettes for a larger piece. Once created that larger piece feels contained to the smaller. On an aesthetic level his use of fixing is also something that resides in my work.

Richard Deacon, What Could Make Me Feel This Way A, 1993

This feeling is also something I want to evoke in others experiencing my work. The main point I can extract from Csikszentmihalyi’s writing is that a task should be offered. Without task there is no incentive.   

Concerns for this work are:

As I address each of these concerns I hope to present my thought process around each decision.

SCALE

I believe scale has the most priority as it not only stands as a concern in its own right but affects all the others,  as well as timescale. I decided that the scale of the work was to be increased so each triangle has sides of 1004 x 870 x 502mm (Approximately A1). This choice is a practical reason for both facilities available to me and the handling by participators. It means that I am able to get the precision from the laser cutter that ensures the flexagon design will fold and twist without any problems so it is manageable for a person. This scale also has a stronger relationship to the whole of the body rather than just the hand. 

MATERIALS

My choice of materials at this stage is open and is something I am still researching. However, due to the scale I am limited by cost to attempt to clad the work in an acrylic. Also as I am attempting to distance myself from ‘Fetish Finish’ the acrylics used would be matte, which means  there wouldn’t be any substance behind my choice especially when there are so many different alternatives I can use.

COLOUR SCHEMES

As I have progressed through the various sculptures my choice of colour scheme has related to either personal experimentation (first flexagon work) or current colour trends(flexagon jewellery) neither of which I have found to be very successful. Therefore with interaction as a primary goal I have begun research into colour theory as well as children’s toys.

Large Flexagon Sculpture- Design Choices

I utilised my experience of formal knowledge when picking out certain elements of the design.

FRAME

As previously mentioned, the scale of the work will be approximately A1. For this reason, I originally chose to make the frame from MDF. It consisted of 18mm MDF sandwiched between 3mm. The 18mm would be cut by hand while the 3mm was cut by the laser, the cladding was then screwed into the MDF. This allowed for the cladding to appear sharp and provide an overall precise geometric appearance. However, after creating a test pair it was clear that when trying to fold the pair the weight of the two alone would be too heavy for a participator, let alone eighteen. It also raised some structural issues regarding the durability of the hinges from that weight. 

With that in mind, the only option was to make it hollow. This was achieved by cutting blocks of timber to a required length, which were attached to the cladding using a nail gun. The overall outcome meant they are lightweight (I am able to pick up a maximum of six at a time) as well as being structurally uniform.

HINGING SYSTEM

The overall depth of each frame is 4cm, so I needed a hinging system that would compensate for this depth and allow for 360 degree rotation. Through researching different types it was clear that no readily available hinge existed and that I would need to design it. I settled with a cog, it would allow for the flexibility while also sparking associations to an audience of turning cogs showing the form can move.

Initial Cog design

The cogs interlock and are then sandwiched between two axles. Pins go through holes in the centre of both the cogs and axles and are then screwed into the edge of the frame to secure in place. The first attempt of trialling the hinge was using the original heavy frame which resulted in many of the axles breaking. The change in the frame helped to ease the pressure on the axles but breakages still occurred, so a change in design was needed.

The current design now incorporates a rod of copper with a diameter of 3.2mm. This measure is now being used as the centre hole for the cog and axles. The thicker edge means the axles do not snap as easily. It also means that all cogs along the same edge are interlocked, increasing friction so the fold is smoother. To keep the rod in place, wooden tabs are screwed into the frame edge.

Feedback I’ve received during critiques suggest that I consider motorising the sculpture so it can fold by itself. Although a helpful suggestion I believe a sculpture that follows a choreographed movement pattern discourages interaction.

An example that successfully incorporates choregraphed pattern as part of the work is a sound sculpture created by Julian Henriques- Knots and Donuts, 2011. Henriques utilised a 3D Ambisonic System to place the listeners at the centre of a circular sound field. The sound travelled around the listener as if ‘drawing’ shapes in sound, as a sparkler might do in light’ (Tate, 2011). The duration of the sculpture lasted for 12 minutes, and portrayed entities such as a circle, Torus, figure of eight and Borromean knot (three mutually interlocked rings). The sound sculpture utilised a linked system of eight speakers which operates on both the horizontal and vertical plane and were placed as if they were in the corners of a cube. This created a central spot for listeners, combined with a use of height to allow listeners to be fully submerged in sound.

The listener has no active role in the morphing of form; however, the work stimulates the mind’s eye and presents the possibilities to the listener. Listeners are able to visualise line and plane within their minds. He is only able to achieve this because of his use of sound, without the presence of sight or tangible work sound is needed to play an active role. Sound as materiality is something I am keen to research further and experiment with.

COLOUR SCHEME

My choice of colour schemes in the past have been underwhelming. I attempted to replicate minimal colours that link to interior design; however to inspire interaction bolder colours are needed.  With this in mind, I experimented with primary and complimentary colours. Through researching Bauhaus, I discovered artist and professor Johannes Itten whose research guided my colour choices in relation to how it will affect the viewers mood. Although there are seven different methods of contrast I chose the contrast of warm and cold colours.

This influence is evident in my choice of colours.  Pink, orange and the mahogany edges use warm tones to create an inviting atmosphere. The use of pink and orange is also used to create a spark of alertness. I had originally intended to use green as the third colour, for its connection to calm to create balance.

However, I thought contrasting alertness with calm would be pointless. Therefore still looking to included cooler tone I decided to use an electric blue. The vivid hues retain the desired alertness while also creating balance and relatability to the audience. 

Balance is also found in the battle between pink and blue. When experimenting with colour schemes on paper, I had never seen the pink and blue together without a third colour. It wasn’t until I started painting the larger triangles that I noticed the pink and blue contrast points obnoxiously towards gender stereotypes. This was a unfortunate subconscious decision however, with the inclusion of orange I believe the contrast is less distinct. 

The vivid ultramarine blue that I’ve used is well known within past and current culture, I hope by using this colour it will resonate with both an art and public audience to create relatability and trust. I adopted this method and colour when reviewing artist James Clarkson’s work. He uses the colour to comment on culture and mass production such as Primark and IKEA. By using common retail influences he is able to create that relatability, for which he believes the viewer is able to easily ‘digest’ the concept.

As mentioned above I have gone through a continuous design change with the cogs, and this is also true for the colour. Originally I had cut them out of clear acrylic; this affected the structure (causing them to crack) but also I question why I made them clear. The whole purpose of the hinge is that I should make them visible so it is obvious that the sculpture is designed to be interactive.

FINISH/ALTERNAVTIVE MATERIALS

FOAM Vs WOOD

Although I believe the combination of MDF and timber creates a suitable frame which allows for precision and is versatile in cladding and finish, the option of using foam was available. This material could make the work virtually risk free minimalizing weight and sharp edges, in doing so making it more approachable while also tactile. However, after considering the material I would of had to compromise on the preciseness of each shape. As well as consider an appropriate hinging system that wouldn’t damage the structure. This could of been a potential issue for the sculpture to not function as intended. I chose to have the form’s structure as my main priority. When I review the completed sculpture and its connection to an audience I may re-think this decision deciding foam to be a better choice of material.

FLOCK Vs SPRAY PAINT

I first considered spray paint to finish the sculpture, using a high quality automotive spray to be glossy. However, I recognised this was a decision that takes me back to my comfort of ‘Finish Fetish’ so decided to push through this thought and consider alternative materials.

When discussing this issue a suggestion of using flock was raised. After browsing types of colours and lengths of flock I discovered that the vibrant playful colours could be achieved without having to be glossy.  The flock also being static fibres means the work is tactile and friendly to touch. Although the application of flock could be risky in terms of finish, with practice I managed to get even coverage over all 36 sides. A concern I have with using flock is that it is considered a hazardous material causing irritation to the lungs and eyes.  This is only a major concern when apply the flock to the base however excess seems to be coming off the sculpture weeks after the application.

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