How artist research has influenced the process of me making work:
Kienholz engages the audience with his installations by incorporating life size figurative sculptures and physical scenes that engulf the viewer and forces them to consider certain truths about society. For example in his 1965 piece ‘The Beanery’ Kienholz tackles ideas to do with time. He uses the setting of a bar that was popular with celebrities in LA around that time. Kienholz uses figurative sculptures with clocks as the faces all set at exactly the same time, to symbolise the wasting of time that happens when people go to a bar.
The Beanery 1965 – found objects and casts
Kienholz’s use of figures in an installation to talk about a certain short coming in society has helped me become clearer about the way that I am planning on using figurative sculptures to comment on what I believe to be a shortcoming in our society at the moment. As my project is about Altruism, and I have been looking into the systematic denial of our society to accept that as humans we all have natural instincts that may contradict living a perfectly selfless life.
Furthermore, Kienholz’s selection of the found objects that he used are meticulously chosen to link with the themes behind his installation as the dirty and gritty objects that he found in junk yards symbolise the dirty gritty society that he felt he lived in and was trying to present. The way that he has combined particular found objects with self-made casts has also inspired me to think about how pieces that I have made can be combined with specific found objects.
Below are photographs of my final installation, I have incorporated different pieces that I have made myself like bones made out of clay, and found objects, this combining of found objects and hand crafted items came from the direct influence of Kienholz, who employed the same method in his piece ‘The Beanery’ creating a unique composition. I, in turn employed a similar process of creation combining found objects with hand made piece. Although the aesthetic is very different to ‘The Beanery’ the combination of these different types of materials has created the same type of unique atmosphere, of figurative sculptures interacting in a social way.
Kienholz has added atmosphere and life to his installation ‘The Beanery’, by having a sound clip that plays on a loop with ‘clinking glasses and laughter’, the addition of the sound creates a more all-encompassing environment for the audience as they are forced to use another sense rather than just sight, which can create a more immersive situation. For my own installation I have been influenced by Kienholz’s use of sound, as I want to try to incorporate sound into my own piece to bring the figurative sculptures to life and create an immersive environment. I want to incorporate sound that is various different people talking about their opinions on helping others and how they feel about the concept of altruism, to correspond with the figurative sculptures that are representing these different types of people in visual way.
I thought to mention Isa Genzken, whose assemblage sculptures often explore the way that certain aesthetics in society correspond with social and political ideals at that time. I think that her work has given me inspiration, to do with the composition of my installation, as I am keen to present certain aesthetics through each of the 8 individually assembled sculptures that would suggest to an audience the type of person that the sculpture is trying to represent.
Like in Genzken’s piece ‘Schauspieler’ (2013) she has used multiple mannequins as a base with objects added so that all of the mannequins are assembled in different ways, therefore presenting different ideas for the audience to consider about each sculpture and how that could be a wider comment on society. All of the pieces individually have suggestive element to them, which then allows the audience to try to read between the lines and interpret the gaps to then discus complex topics. I would like to in a similar way create all of my sculptures so that they are suggestive instead of giving the answer straight away, which forces the audience to pay attention to each element and suggestion of each object and about what each sculpture is representing.
Additionally, Genzken’s placement of each of the mannequins so that some of them are by themselves and some of them look like they are engaged in conversation, is another crucial element that contributes to the success of the piece, and I think that from Genzken I have noted and am prepared for the importance of the composition of all of the sculptures and how they will appear individually but also how they will all interact with each other.
‘Schauspieler’ 2013 – found materials
In Shonibare’s piece ‘Gallantry and Criminal Conversation’ (2002), he presents the insatiable sexual appetites of young European socialites from the 17th and 18th century, when they would go on the ‘Grand Tour’- seen as central to the education of a young aristocrat at the time. The presentation of life size fiberglass mannequins with no heads, in compromising sexual positions with the luggage around them used as props, suggests the openness of their debauchery, which contradicts the traditional societal ideals of the time, when equate and polite, demure social interaction was publicly accepted and ravenous sexual appetites were not. As independent art critic Janet Batet commented in a review for Art Pulse, ‘sensuality and flirtation have been replaced by stark libido’. In this piece Shonibare is bringing to the fore natural/ instinctive activity that would have been kept behind closed doors and would not have been outwardly accepted within societal norms.
‘Gallantry and Criminal Conversation’ 2002 – Fiberglass, African Dutch wax fabric
I feel as though this idea of a completely instinctual way of being and feeling, that is shamed by wider society but that Shonibare wants to address and bring to the fore has inspired and given myself clear direction to the way in which I want to present my thoughts on altruism.
Many people are perhaps instinctively/naturally greedy and are not capable of selfless acts, but society denies this and has made me want to confront the deep routed hypocrisy in modern society as people continually try to deny their natural greed, by celebration or public acknowledgment of any act they have done to help another who is in a less fortunate situation.
Like Shonibare, I would like to create a figurative piece that discusses deep routed hypocrisy within society.
I am also taken with the visual duality of the clothes Shonibare’s headless figures wear as the contrast of the Victorian style which is traditionally physically constricting, with the African fabric which in recent times has become synonymous with African identity and independence, connotes the duel personalities that individuals living in a society that accepts some human behaviour and not others are forced to adopt. As Batet said ‘Shonibare’s characters reveal the agonizing condition of a human being caught between two cultures’ but as I see it, there is a sense that he is presenting more than just teetering on the edge of two cultures, but he is also suggesting that humans are forced to teeter on the edge of their natural instincts whilst conforming to what ‘sophisticated’ society expects of them.
Like Shonibare using the clothes to represent this duality in society, I wish to use physical elements of the human body like skin, bone and hair, contrasted with found objects like clothes, jewellery and food to suggest the ways in which humans feel societal pressure to be as selfless as possible and ‘fit in’ represented through the clothes and other objects that people outwardly identify with in public, whilst underneath all of the materialism still being animal and still being made of flesh and bone, therefore having natural instincts.
Above are photographs of pieces of the sculptures, that I created that show off the use of elements of the physical human body, the pieces of spine stacked one above another, with a piece of metal running through to keep the spine up.
The other photograph show a casted latex nipple combined with a peach coloured pillow with a ruffled border, this seamless combination of skin and found object, along with the spine screwed onto the bar stool present the aesthetic contrast of the human body and the materialist elements that surround the human body this contrast being inspired by the the way in which Shonibare presents contrast through his selection of clothes for his fibreglass mannequins with the style contrasting the material they are made from, which in turn is a comment on the way that humans are forced to balance their lives within society.
Beecroft is mainly a performance artist who focuses on creating work to do with body image and how this relates to modern society, especially to do with eating disorders, which she herself suffered with. What particularly interested me about this artist in relation to my work is the way that she uses marble, inanimate sculptures of the female form, interspersed with real women adopting the same positions as the sculptures in her 2011 piece ‘VB67’. This combination brings to the fore all of the similarities and differences between a real human and a marble/plaster interpretation and how the two link together presenting Beecroft’s discussion of the female form in modern society. I think that I can take the idea of comparing two types of entity and matter in my own installation that are linked in many ways but are also very different and can therefore create an interesting discussion about the topic of altruism and acting selflessly vs acting of greedy natural instincts. For my installation I wish to compare physical human elements that I have hand crafted like skin and bone (made from clay and liquid latex) with sourced materials and objects that suggests the use of materialistic objects for a person to present an outward persona to society.
In Wurtz’s work he focuses on using ‘ordinary’ objects and materials, like shoelaces and plastic lids for tins, to express his belief in the true power and interesting nature of these seemingly plain objects, as he focus on ‘food shelter and clothing’ suggesting that what more do humans really need to feel happy in life? After watching a Baltic Bites video in which B.Wurtz discusses his work he says at one point that a lot of found objects that other artists will use already have an intrinsic uniqueness or identity and so he said ‘they are already too interesting’ and ‘there is nothing really I can do with those’. I think that this philosophy that B. Wurtz implements when choosing objects to use and create sculptures with, is something that I definitely want to take into consideration, as I do not want my sculptures to stand out because of individual objects that are incorporated into them, I would rather that they were much more ordinary and could encapsulate a wide range of people without giving way a very specific or particular identity.
Untitled (pan paintings), 1993/2002, Acrylic paint on aluminum
Bunch #4, 1996 – metal, wood, wire
I looked at Conner’s piece ‘Child’ (1959-60), which is tackling the controversial topic of execution in the USA. Conner made this piece in particular relation to the criminal Caryl Chessman, who was sentenced to death by gas chamber in 1948 for kidnapping. This sentencing was extremely controversial at the time.
The reason why it seems important for me to mention this piece is because of the composition of the piece. The distressed, grotesque figure in the chair at the moment of execution would most likely pull focus to the viewer, however the crudely build child’s chair (almost the shape of a high chair for babies) I think is where the success of the piece lies or at least heavily contributes to the overall impact as the type of chair that it is and the fact that it is so childlike speaks volumes within itself.
‘Child’ 1959-60 – Wax, nylon, cloth, metal, twine, and high chair
Like Conner has done, I want my bar stool to be able to present the emotions and life of the figure that the sculpture is representing without the need for much else to express it, so that the chair can truly be a part of the sculpture.
As Conner’s ‘child’ piece is so simple yet the chair is integral to gain an emotional response from the viewer, as it gives so much away about the type of figure that would sit on it. In the same way that the bar stool I want to use does not need many objects added to it to make it complete as the bar stool can tell an audience what type of person would sit on the chair because of the type of chair that it is.
I looked at Kosuth’s piece ‘One and Three Chairs’ (1965). This piece consists of a physical chair, a photograph of that chair and a printed letters definition of the word ‘chair’. The reason why I thought that this could link to my project is because Kosuth had chosen these objects – representations of chairs – to spark a discussion into which one is the most important, and also creating a new meaning for the chairs. I think that it is significant that he has chosen representations of a chair as the object in question as this object does not have the most outward excitement for a viewer or philosophical importance in society and is simply seen as a functional object by most humans, however Kosuth has created deep importance around the object due to the selection of three different version of the same thing. In the same way that I wish to suggest the deep importance of the chairs that I am going to use in my sculpture, and how even the most subtle difference between one chair with another can be important.
‘One and Three Chairs’ 1965 – Found objects, a photograph, a physical chair and printed letters
Joseph Beuys’s 1964 piece ‘Fat Chair’ expresses a lot of important ideas about how humans exist within society, through the use of a plain chair with a mountain of fat on top which was given until 1985 to decompose. The fat on the chair presents an abstracted human anatomy, and the decomposition process of all of the fat mirrors the way that humans metabolise fat in the body to be able to carry out day to day functions.
‘Fat Chair’ 1964-85 – wooden chair and fat
I have found with this piece, like when I was looking at Bruce Conner’s piece ‘child’ that the way in which a simple chair can hold so many human attributes, which helps when discussing such complex philosophical ideas about society and human interaction whilst keeping an aesthetically simple sculpture as the chair can contain so may figurative characteristics when used in the right way through art.
Look at this piece ‘Fat Chair’ it has reinforced to me the fact that I want to keep my sculptures as uncluttered with found objects as possible so that each of the chair can truly be a part of the sculpture and suggest figurative elements of the person that it is representing.
I think that as I am planning on choosing ‘readymade’ objects to bring together to make a sculpture, to discuss an idea to do with society, it was important for me to look at Marcel Duchamp, who was the first artists to speak out about his beliefs about art being an intellectual pursuit and that the idea and the concept should always be favoured over the visual pleasure of a piece. He controversially started making art work that was made out of carefully selected mass manufactured objects, like a urinal and a bicycle wheel for example, so there was not skill to the artwork in the traditional sense of the word.
‘Bicycle Wheel’ 1951 – metal wheel mounted on painted wood stool
It was Duchamp who I looked at who first made me think about the fact that the topic that I am tackling in this project is so conceptual that the best way that I could possible present my ideas in a physical way would be through an installation comprising of various different chosen objects that are ‘Readymade’.
I particularly like the way that Gober combines domestic scenarios with very physical human element of the body, to create discussion around political and sexuality. I would like to incorporate very physical human elements into my sculptures whilst combining them with materialistic element of clothing and pieces of furniture like the chairs.
Untitled beeswax, pigment and human hair
Untitled, 2009-2010, Plaster, beeswax, human hair, cotton, leather, aluminum pull tabs, enamel paint
These photos show how I was directly inspired by Gober, when creating my own work as I have created a figurative sculptures that incoperates domestic (deck chair) and materialistic (tie and shoes) elements, whilst also containing black synthetic hair that I have sewn into the tie to help strike the visual contrast between the bodily hair and the domestic objects, this contrast of objects then allows conversation of more complex societal issues in the piece.