Ephemera: Why it’s not a shame when I tear down an artwork

Architectural Space, Brushstroke, Deinstalling, Floor, Gesture, Video

e·phem·er·al
[ih-fem-er-uhl]
adjective
1.lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory: the ephemeral joys of childhood.
2.lasting but one day: an ephemeral flower.
noun
3.anything short-lived, as certain insects.

My work exists for a time and then it is gone again – it’s ephemeral.  This is a word I have become closely acquainted with.  Rather a nice one, especially in it’s pural form, ephemera.  I get asked what the point of the work is if it’s only present for a short time.  It’s an interesting connundrum.  I used to agonise over it, but it’s par-for-the-course now – put it up, pause, rip it down.

To me my paintings are so performative and involve my whole body, its whole movement.  So to compare it to an art object where it would be a great a shame if it were destroyed discounts the performative in these works. To make art objects (like a painting on canvas, a thing, something you can hold in your hand) is to make something for forever, to draw attention to and value the art-thing, but what do you do when the art isn’t an object? If it’s part of a wall, a floor or a ceiling and will be taken down, how is its fleeting life to be valued?

It began to happen quite organically, I wanted to paint ever larger and once you grow beyond the dimensions of your car, moving your art around and keeping it in good condition while you’re at it, becomes extremely difficult.  It was the fault of one too many trips in the car, trying to drive with the seat pulled all the way forward, knees way up under the steering wheel, allowing room for the large canvases in the back.  (And this hardly stellar car idea only developed after a period of taking large canvasses on the train, where it began to be miraculous that I wasn’t carried away on a gust of wind during the walk to the station, while carrying such a mighty sail of a painting).  Ah the memories.

Then onto the wall and floor I went and the thought of killing my darlings was truly sad, because the painting had been hard fought.  One of the first videos I made, though, was of me pulling down a painting.  I peeled painted vinyl off the floor, the act of which made the paint move into three dimensional space and wrenching the colour from its surface was transformative.  The space could be returned to its former state and the painting was now a pile of sticky, stretched vinyl scraps, a brightly coloured mess, my fingernails a mess.

Tearing down an artwork has grown to be as much a part of the art making as the development work leading up to the painting that it has equal value in my mind. It’s just as performative to tear at this skin I spread over the floor as it is to paint with my whole body.  I brought it into the world and now I take it out.  Then the ideas from the physicality of tearing down forms part of the thought processes and development for the next iteration or the next work.

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Casper Over/Flowing – Work in Progress

Exhibition, Floor, Gesture, Installation, Vinyl, Wall, Work in progress

With my solo exhibition at Rubicon ARI now open, I can reveal some details of the work in progress.  I was working with a Casper David Friedrich painting in mind, sloughing off its canvas and crossing the thresholds of the room, with colours lifted from his landscape.

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Plus – check out the photographic documentation for the show.

Radius and Extension – Work in Progress

Brushstroke, Exhibition, Floor, Installation, Site Specific, Vinyl, Wall, Work in progress

Radius and Extension finally opened last night. Thanks for coming, all who could make it, and if you couldn’t, I hope you’ll pop in to C3 at the Abbotsford Convent and have a look before it closes on August 10.

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Planning for this show has been going on for a few months now, which has made it feel like an eternity in the making.  I could create very little of it prior to the days of install, shortly before it opened, so the planning involved drawings and colour charts and writing, lots of writing.

Above is a model I made of the gallery space to help me get a feel for the amount of space I would be working in.  I don’t usually make models like this, but I think it might just feature in the future.  Size ratio 1metre:1inch.  Metric to imperial for some reason, yes – don’t judge me.  It allowed me to get a feel for just how much vinyl I’d need, to know how large I should make the actual painting.  Estimating the correct amount of materials is vital when you make the work only when it’s time to install the gallery.  I’m not saying I could take up architecture model making, but I thought it was pretty useful maquette and I was particularly fond of the tiny scribbled fireplace.

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Hours and hours were spent on install day 1, just laying vinyl.  Rolling it out, cutting it to brush stroke silhouettes, as was my want, then applying it.

If I had any doubt when I arrived in the empty gallery, that feeling left as soon as I rolled out my first length of vinyl diagonally across the gallery floor.  As soon as I stood back from it, I had the immediate urge to skate all over it in paint.

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The concept for Radius and Extension was to map out the marks created with extension of my reach and radius of my wrists, elbows and shoulders.  So most of the marks were made from my knees, reaching as far as I could before moving my knees a little further and reaching once again, paying as little attention as possible to what the paint is doing until after I stand up.  Before brushing I pour the paint in order to distribute it evenly, as the brush I’m working with was made for sweeping floors, not being loaded with paint.

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In previous works where I have painted in the studio and then applied the vinyl to a site has been a strange combination of painting on the floor, but then sticking it on the wall.  In this work I wanted to keep it on the floor and perhaps hold on to some of the action of painting.

Radius and Extension

C3 Contemporary Art Space

23rd July – 10th August

The Making of Reaching/Pushing for onefourfour

Floor, Gesture

Space. When given the theme for onefourfour this past month, I thought ‘I’m all over this’.  Much of my work for the last few years has related to space, I have been obsessed.  I can relate space to just about anything.  But it coincidentally aligned with some ideas I have been working on lately around placing my body in the artwork, instead of just focusing on the marks it can make.

I mapped ‘footprint’ of my body, where my limbs meet the ground when stretching out and holding myself up off the ground.  I cut out a black vinyl quadrilateral to match and upturned myself on it, pushing myself up.  I ran back and forth to the tripod to check the shot, instruct my shutter operator and fret over the lines and bending limbs I saw in the playback.

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I took about 120 shots all up, including initial mock ups, taken inside where it was warm and toasty, so I had plenty of shots to choose from with varying compositions.

The size of the artworks for One Four Four are 6 x 6 inches, which I had anticipated before taking the photographs, adjusting the composition to suit.  I narrowed the field and started cropping them to squares.  This one won out as I only just fit within the boundary when squared off, perfect.  Pushing out on the afforded 6 inch space.  Reaching to the very edges.

 

Reaching/Pushing (c) 2014 Naomi NichollsReaching/Pushing (c) 2014 Naomi Nicholls

 

What is onefourfour?

Twelve Australian female artists have been invited to participate in onefourfour which sees them create one work a month for one year.  Every artist is assigned a month to choose a theme that all the artists work to, and the results are posted on this blog at the end of each month.  The only restriction is that the work is to be 6 x 6″.  This small canvas size was chosen so it’s a quick and fun exercise and doesn’t become a daunting task to create a piece every month.