Negotiated Essay: 3000 Words
Art that can find its own way because on the road to rot, you find decay!
Writings on a movement and three artists who have inspired my own artwork.
Module Name: Engaging with Art: Reading, Thinking & Writing in Year Two
Module Code: FAE2013-N
Module Tutor: Jared Pappas-Kelley
Deadline: Wednesday 10th February
“In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.”.
― Ernst Fischer
- Chapter 1: Actualism
- Chapter 2: Rogers Hiorns
- Chapter 3: Jim Dine
- Chapter 4: Sam Taylor Wood
- Table of illustrations
My art work and practice explores the themes of ‘time’ and the ‘changing state of objects’ through the process of deterioration. The idea is to explore the concept of ‘beauty’ using these themes to show that ‘beauty’ is not generic or obvious but instead is subjective as exampled by a rotting piece of fruit as opposed to a living one. My argument is that whereas time is central to the world and everything deteriorates and changes, beauty is something that remains. To me, there is specific beauty about the natural process of change and passing of time and therefore my work attempts to demonstrate this using natural processes such as ‘rotting’, ‘decay’ and ‘rust’ to create art.
This essay will be a reflective discussion relating the above themes in my art work and studio practice to the contemporary work of other artists, principally Roger Hiorns, Sam-Taylor Wood and Jim Dine, in the process exploring various practices and themes.
Chapter 1: ‘Actualism’ or ‘Actual art’
‘Actualism’ is a genre first described by Albert Frankenstein and refers to artwork that is created through, “The Self-conscious enlistment of the forces of nature, by artists, towards the completion of their art”. This genre relates very much to my work as my art practice also relies on natural processes. Any artist who works in this way has little or no control over their pieces and how they will turn out. In my practice, I have found this to be very much true, and when creating work I have had to rely on the natural processes to produce results, for example with work that I have created through decay, rotting, rust or as a result of deterioration.
In addition to this, natural change is a continual process meaning that the artwork is always changing and has the potential to last forever. Terry Fugate-Wilcox, a commentator on art, refers to this and states: “The work will last forever, as long as you understand it changes”. This is a concept that interests me since it demonstrates that at any moment my art work is viewed it will be different as it is always developing and changing.
This also means that viewers are only seeing a snapshot of the work each time. In my opinion the fact that the work continues to develop and change as time passes is the essence of its beauty. Another important aspect of ‘Actualism’ for artists creating artwork related to this genre, is that the future of the work is just as important as the present. This is because the artwork takes on a presence of its own which cannot be controlled, and although processes can be manipulated or accelerated by the artist, the end result cannot be predicted. For example when I worked with fruit and the process of rotting, the fruit simply had to be allowed time to rot and decay, a process which could not be controlled. There are ways in which I was able to accelerate the process by changing the environments but the end result was out of my hands and a waiting game. This is the reason why work created in this way is unique and cannot be replicated. This uniqueness to work is something I find fascinating and like to adopt in my work so that each of my pieces are individual. Furthermore, as the work is forever changing I believe that in a sense it becomes immortal.
One example of an artist whose work exemplifies a transformation process through time and change is Roger Hiorns and his various pieces including ‘Seizure, ‘Nunhead’ and ‘the Birth of an Architect’.
Chapter 2: Roger Hiorns
Roger Hiorns is a British sculptor whose work and practice conveys a striking message of how ‘living’ material can be used to create incredible art pieces through a process of metamorphoses. Hiorns uses copper sulphate, a chemical solution which allows for natural growth and form, rapidly transforming existing objects and space. Examples of such work are the crystallised car engines for which Hiorns received critical acclaim entitled ‘Nunhead’ (2004), ‘All Night Chemist’ (2004) as well as ‘The Birth of an Architect’ and ‘the architect’s mother’ from 2003. The sculptures all symbolise power and also represents how the future is a product of the past.
These car engines were submerged in the copper sulphate solution to form a growth of vibrant blue crystals encrusting the surface. For these pieces Hiorns used industrial waste products and transformed them into something beautiful, a similar process to my work which uses industrial remnants. In my work I am also aiming to show beauty from these obsolete items but by using the process of rust instead of copper sulphate. In this way I am also transforming the industrial items and changing the meaning.
‘The Birth of an Architect’ is a large sculpture of an engine which is connected almost like an umbilical cord to a small scale model of a cathedral. ‘All Night Chemist’ represents the old becoming transformed into the new. It is a progression from the ‘birth of an architect’ to a large sculpture fully grown.
‘Nunhead’ looks like something that might be seen in the sea and represents mechanised heads. All these works started off as lifeless metal objects that were no longer of use, but evolved to be transformed by art becoming different to their elements and the object. One suggests sterility and passivity in opposition to the elements used to create the sculpture that propose a kind of self-generating life. Even though Hiorns and my artworks are inorganic they have the element of the organic in as much as they change and grow independently after the initial human intervention.
Hiorns is probably best known for his 2008 piece ‘Seizure’ in which he poured 80,000 litres of copper sulphate solution through a hole in the ceiling of an abandoned public housing apartment. After a few weeks every surface of the apartment was covered in blue crystals, creating an amazing installation of glinting mirrors covering an everyday flat which looked like jewels literally growing from the walls, floors, ceilings and pipes.
The piece was described as “Destined to be remembered as one of the truly worthwhile and significant moments of modern British art” by Jonathan Jones from The Guardian. For me, the engine pieces referenced above which were metal objects, submerged in copper sulphate, relate more to my art as the materials I use for most of my work is metal.
In ‘Seizure’ Hiorns uses the whole space meaning that the viewer walks into a sculpture. The sculpture becomes an installation. He uses space in a different way as instead of placing a sculpture into a space the space is the sculpture. It is amazing and eye catching and there is a clear beauty in his work as the crystals glisten. It is taking viewers into another world and Hiorns described the experience himself after visiting the work for the first time as, ” an uncanny moment of standing in this quite threatening environment”…“the sharpness and the oddness of it enlivens your senses, puts them in a different state. It’s somehow like being a spaceman”.
Hiorns’ artworks take on a life of their own and evolve independently reinventing themselves daily, metamorphosing into infinite configurations. They are open to variations of chance, brought on by the whim of the materials he uses or the fluctuations in the environment to which they are exposed to. It is this creative process to which I relate to, and I aspire to create art in this way. As with Hiorns and other artists who create work that is regarded as ‘actual art’ I like to have little control over my pieces and would like the end result to surprise me as well as viewers. In an interview with James Lingwood, Hiorns stated “I was very interested in the idea that the artwork would exist aesthetically without my hand and in me not being present for most of the making. I would put together some kind of basic structure which would then grow into something else, the unanticipated other”. This quote both confirms the intention behind the way in which Hiorns works and also supports my assertions.
Whether it be Hiorns ceramic sculptures or his BMW engines embellished with blue crystals, these pieces daily reinvent themselves. Similarly, my experimental rust art forms do the same, either by weathering slowly outside or by being artificially created on metal or cloth and affected by chemical reactions, as with are Hiorns; copper sulphate artworks. I use salt, vinegar or tannin, which is present in tea and coffee, to start off a chemical reaction on the surface of my artworks, after that I have nothing more to do with them. I have initially only set the artworks in motion. The human element no longer exists, as in the conventional sense with painting, drawing, sculpture etc., unless at some point I decide to add more chemicals or heat during the process in order to speed up the metamorphosis.
The metal sculptures I produce and then artificially rust with chemicals and varying temperatures, experimenting with different techniques, I record methodically by photographic means. The rusted cloth art I have created uses industrial tools that I rust or that are already rusted, similarly as Hoirns uses metal initially for example his works, ‘The Birth of an Architect’ 2003, ‘The Architect’s Mother’ 2003, ‘All Night Chemist’ 2004 and ‘Nunhead’ 2004. This is a process whereby I place industrial tools and metal on the cloth and then use tannin from tea or coffee to create stains or prints onto the cloth. The industrial tools and metal must be rusted in order to create the stains or prints.
Chapter 3: Jim Dine
In my artwork I have explored the process of ‘rusting’ by working with industrial remnants and specifically items that explore how something once valued or used can later be abandoned or forgotten about becoming obsolete. Another artist who works with industrial remnants and tools is Jim Dine. Dine’s work involves drawing and photographing tools. Similarly my work uses tools to create sculptural work as well as to create prints of rust which incorporates the element of time.
Jim Dine is a painter, sculptor, draftsman and printmaker, and is internationally renowned for his works. He emerged from the Pop Art era, but himself did not follow any new trends in art in order for his art to be liked by the many, something for which I admire him for this. So in a sense he was an individual artist in his own right.
He became interested in printing when he was 17 and attending adult education classes in painting, at the Art Academy in Cincinnati, finding a book called Modern Prints and Drawings, by Paul Sachs who was a collector and connoisseur of prints and drawings. This book changed his life. He used his grandfather’s workshop in the basements to carve using an old wooden chisel, and made his first print down there a portrait of an old rabbi’s head and shoulders.
According to Jim Dine, “You’ve got to care about prints. You’ve got to care about woodcuts, lithographs and etchings. You can’t care about whether they sell or whether anyone feels the way you do about your images. I love printmaking so much I try not to care about anything beyond my ego. I keep going because, like the woman who swallowed the knives and nails, I can’t stop. I’ve put my life into it”.
Jim Dine said “Everything I do is made with my hands. And for me, traditionally prints have been another way to draw. Just that. In 1963 I complained to Jasper Johns that my work was being treated badly because of its “homemade” quality. He told me to get used to it as we were moving into an age of mechanical, anti-handcrafted art and there was not going back. He was right about what was to come and he was right that I wasn’t going to go along with the prevailing winds. Not only has Jim Dine’s art inspired me but also his words strike home with me. I understand the concept of ‘homemade quality’ that it important to Dine and this is something that it important to me and that I aim to create within my work. I also like to create art with my hands and this is why I enjoy creating handmade sculptures and fabric work using natural means and by hand rather than adopting printmaking techniques.
Chapter 4: Sam Taylor Wood
Sam Taylor Wood creates images in photography, film and video, which are over the top views of a reality based world pushed to the limits of space and time. Taylor-Wood works mainly consist of portraits or self-portraits of the subject, model, and actor-artist. She always presents a small thread of tension or suspense in all of her works, something which is never resolved, leaving the viewer wondering what happened next and wishing that there was more. But the next image or scene never appears.
Some of her works made me- and would possibly provoke in other viewer’s too- strong emotions, of disgust, sadness and a sense of discomfort, in particular her nude works, and works associated with rot and decay, and finally her crying men 2002 -2004.
Generally people do not like to view nudity in such a complete state as Taylor-Woods’ photographs portray. It is a social norm that men are supposed to be the strong sex and should restrain their emotions, and not show them in public, as this makes their behaviour uncomfortable and embarrassing for people to watch.
The final pieces of work to which relate and which I have used as inspiration for my artworks are her two film pieces, entitled ‘Still Life’ 2001 and ‘A Little Death’ 2002. ‘Still Life’ shows how something nice and fresh can change and become old and impure and ruined. It highlights that ‘everything’ doesn’t last’ and that ‘things change’.
Her work evokes a sense of intrigue as the video progresses. Viewers want to see the way in which the fruit is changing and how it will end up. Towards the end, the work evokes feelings of disgust towards what the fruit has become- the colours now are more dark and gloomy. At the end, it is impossible to you cannot tell that the objects were fruit. However, even though the fruit has rotted it will still exist just in another form. The pen shows how although some things change, others do not. The pen has stayed ‘pure’ and ‘normal’. Even though the camera is low digital it still shows detail in the colour change and highlights the metamorphism. Through the video you can notice and see the small changes as the time goes on.
I think her work is interesting as she shows the time lapse and the changing process in the fruit rotting. I like that it is a natural piece of artwork that has changed over time without being touched or artificially produced. Because of this, the art piece is unique and cannot be reproduced again the same.
‘A little death’ as well as ‘Still Life’ remind us of our mortality and the vanity of things that eventually become worthless. They both challenge the onslaught of time, the photo stills and films rendering the subject immortal. The ‘Crying Men series’ and many of Taylor-Woods self-portraits function not as images to flatter for posterity, but as aides memoire of the fragility of human existence.
I have not worked in film as Sam Taylor-Wood but have used photography to record snap shots in time, of organic and inorganic objects as they rot and decay over time. These were used as research on my part, not as artworks in their own right, to enable me to produce sculptures, paintings, drawings etc. for my studio practice modules.
My photography has a similar effect on the emotions of the viewer as does Taylor-Woods’ work, as most people do not like to see or experience rot and decay visually or in person as it brings to the fore emotions of revulsion, disgust and reminding people that everything dies, and youth, life, beauty is not something that can be held on to forever.
My photography is designed to show a time lapse of life and beauty as it fades and dies. It actually disgusted me taking the photographs as the fruit for example apples or mushrooms neared their death as it were. The time they were of use and fresh was tiny in comparison to the length of time of the process of decay and I was able to individually time capsule this process in my photographs.
Overall, I think my artwork incorporates a wide range of mediums including sculpture, drawing and fabric work. I have explored the themes of ‘time’ and ‘changing state of objects’ by showing different perceptions and symbolising these themes in various ways in my work. For example I have used organic subject matter such as fruit and through photography documented decay but I have also utilised metal and industrial remnants to create rust works. Beauty is something that is subjective and by exploring the ‘changing state of objects’ I have shown that beauty is closely related to time and in essence that beauty can be created through change and development. I do think that my work fits into the Actualism movement as my artwork is always about natural processes of working and natural changes where the artists has little control over the end results.
The three artists discussed above all influence and inspire my work and practice in many ways. Roger Hiorns is a sculptor like me and works with change and time. The way in which Hiorns is able to transform objects into breath-taking beautiful art is the main this I aspire to create. Jim Dine’s methods of working uses a lot of similar mediums to me and I take inspiration from his tool drawings in the way they bleed onto the paper, creating a naturalistic look, and having a handmade quality. This is something I would like to create in my fabric work. Sam Taylor-Wood’s work is very different to mine as she uses video and film, something which I have not yet explored. I like the way her films are narrative, telling a story and the way in which she is able to capture a ‘process’ or ‘time phase’ in order to allow viewers to experience it again and again, yet each time it still evokes strong emotions. In some ways I feel that her work relates to mine in that she explores the same themes that I do and she also incorporates the element of ‘time’ into her work just as I do for example, I have captured ‘change’ and ‘time’ in my photographs but would like to develop this further to the same standard and quality in Sam Taylor-Woods’ work. I hope to continue to develop my practice, and create further work, by taking inspiration from the ways in which these other artists explore the same themes in their work as I do, but just in different ways.
Word count: 3419
Table of illustrations
Front cover image: My artwork
Plaster sculpture holding a fresh apple- which rotted over the course of my project
Image 1: My artwork
Three metal sculptures that I rusted
Image 2: Roger Hiorns
The Birth of The Architect, 2003, 8-series BMW engine, steel, card, copper sulphate
92.72 x 55 x 30.51 inches
http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/roger_hiorns/ [date and time accessed 4/02/2016, 11.07am]
Image 3: Roger Hiorns
Nunhead, 2004, Engine, steel, copper sulphate, nylon
56.69 x 81.5 x 48.03 inches
http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/roger-hiorns/selected-artworks?view=slider#52 [date and time accessed 4/2/2016, 11.16am]
Image 4: Roger Hiorns
A Jerwood / Artangel Commission , Harper Road, London
http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/roger-hiorns/selected-artworks?view=slider#38 [date and time accessed 4/2/2016, 11.28am]
Image 5: Roger Hiorns
All night chemist, 2004, Chair, engine, copper sulfate, steel
28.35 x 28.74 x 49.61 inches
(72 x 73 x 126 cm)
http://www.culture24.org.uk/places-to-go/london/art36678 [date and time accessed 4/2/2016, 11.01am]
Image 6: Jim Dine
With Aldo Behind Me, 2008, etching, drypoint and mechanical abrasion
133.4 x 111.1 cm Edition of 15; Courtesy Alan Cristea Gallery
http://www.artslant.com/sf/artists/rackroom/1431-jim-dine [date and time accessed 4/2/2016, 12.09pm]
Image 7 and 8: Sam Taylor-Wood
Still Life 2001. 35 mm film / DVD – Duration 3 min. 44 sec.
http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/matter-time [date and time accessed 24/1/2016. 10.32am]
Primary Sources [eg. Exhibitions, contact artist directly, interviews]
Secondary Sources [eg. Books, Websites, Journals, Films.]
Books: Dine, Jim
Ackley, Clifford. S and Murphy, Patrick. Jim Dine Printmaker, Leaving My Tracks. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2012.
Dine, Jim. A Printmaker’s Documentary. Germany: Steidl. 2013.
Dine, Jim. My Tools, Images and text. Germany. Steidl. 2014. This book accompanied the exhibition Jim Dine My Tools 19th September – 8th February 2014.
Books: Hiorns, Roger
Charlesworth, J. J. and Morton, Tom. Roger Hiorns, images and text. Published by Milton Keynes Gallery. 2006. Text Pages 3-16. Published on the occasion of the exhibition Roger Hiorns, 8th April – 28th May 2006.
Hiorns, Roger. Seizure. London: Artangel and The Jerwood Charitable Foundation, 2008.
Morton, Tom and Douglas, Caroline. Untitled, (Arts Council collection works) illustrated. London. Published by Hayward Gallery Publishing. 2012.
Hiorns, Roger, Untitled ACC25/2010. London: Hayward Publishing, 2010.
Books: Taylor-Wood, Sam
Doroshenko, Peter. Sam Taylor-Wood, Still Lives, images and text. Germany. Published by Steidl Baltic, 2006. Pages 7, 45, 47, 61-63. Published on the occasion of the exhibition Sam Taylor-Wood still lives at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 17th May – 3rd September 2006.
Taylor-Wood, Sam. Sam Taylor-Wood Contact, images. London. Published by Booth-Clibborn Editions. 2002. Published images of the Contact exhibition 2000.
Taylor-Wood, Sam. Sam Taylor-Wood Jesus is coming, images. Germany. Published by Steidl. 2006.
Articles and other printed material e.g. Journals etc.
Frankenstein, Alfred. ‘NY, Helene Aylon’ San Francisco Chronicle. Betty Parsons Gallery. 28 September 1975.
Goodman, J. ‘Terry Fugate-Wilcoxon at Shakespeare’s Fulcrum’. Art in America, vol 88, issue 12 (2000) 125.
Film and videos:
Taylor-Wood, Sam. ‘A Little Death’ 2002, 35mm film/DVD projection – Duration 9 min. 30 sec.
Full video [date and time accessed 24/1/2016. 10.47am]
Additional material e.g. websites etc.
Egan, Troy Actualism in Art: A Discourse. Dissertation submitted to University of Waikato, New Zealand. 2010. Available online at Research Gate file:///C:/Users/Invate/Downloads/T.EGAN%20-%20ENGL591%20-%20Actualism%20in%20Art%20(Final).pdf [date and time accessed: 14.12.2015, 12:30pm].
http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/roger_hiorns.htm[date and time accessed: 22.01.2016 at 12:00pm].
http://www.ysp.co.uk/exhibitions/roger-hiorns-seizure[date and time accessed 15.01.2016 at 12:30pm].
http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jun/13/seizure-copper-sulphate-crystals-yorkshire [date and time accessed 11.12.15 at 11:10am].
1 Fischer, Ernst. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/decay [date and time accessed 4/2/2016, 10.23pm]
 Frankenstein, Alfred. ‘NY, Helene Aylon’ San Francisco Chronicle. Betty Parsons Gallery. 28 September 1975.
 Goodman, J. ‘Terry Fugate-Wilcoxon at Shakespeare’s Fulcrum’. Art in America, vol 88, issue 12 (2000) 125.
 Egan, Troy Actualism in Art: A Discourse. Dissertation submitted to University of Waikato, New Zealand. 2010. Available online at Research Gate file:///C:/Users/Invate/Downloads/T.EGAN%20-%20ENGL591%20-%20Actualism%20in%20Art%20(Final).pdf [date and time accessed: 14.12.2015, 12:30pm].
 Hiorns, Roger, Untitled ACC25/2010, (London: Hayward Publishing, 2010) 14-17.
 http://www.saatchigallery.com/artists/roger_hiorns.htm [date and time accessed: 22.01.2016 at 12:00pm].
 Hiorns, Roger Untitled ACC25/2010, (London: Hayward Publishing, 2010) 14-17.
 http://www.ysp.co.uk/exhibitions/roger-hiorns-seizure [date and time accessed 15.01.2016 at 12:30pm].
 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jun/13/seizure-copper-sulphate-crystals-yorkshire [date and time accessed: 11.12.15 at 11:10am].
 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/jun/13/seizure-copper-sulphate-crystals-yorkshire [date and time accessed: 19.01.16 at 2:35pm ].
 Roger Hiorns, Seizure. (London: Artangel and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, 2008) 72.
 Ackley, Clifford. S and Murphy, Patrick, Jim Dine Printmaker, Leaving My Tracks. (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2012)
 Dine, Jim, A Printmaker’s Documentary. (Germany: Steidl, 2013) 7.
 Dine, Jim, A Printmaker’s Documentary. (Germany: Steidl, 2013) 6.
 Dine, Jim, A Printmaker’s Documentary. (Germany: Steidl, 2013) 14.
 Doroshenko, Peter. Sam Taylor-Wood, Still Lives, images and text. Germany. Published by Steidl Baltic, 2006. Pages 7, 45, 47, 61-63. Published on the occasion of the exhibition Sam Taylor-Wood still lives at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, 17th May – 3rd September 2006.