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Master of Fine Art International Practice

University College for the Creative Arts at Canterbury, Epsom, Farnham, Maidstone and Rochester
(formerly Kent Institute of Design - KIAD)
Canterbury Campus Fine Arts Student: Laury Dizengremel

Writing Assignments


Critical Evaluation 1 - Handed in 8 April 2005
Laury Dizengremel

Report:

Material Experimentation

What are the materials and techniques in use in your studio practice at the moment?
Current materials include sculpture media that are new to me as well as types of materials I have used in the past such as wet (earth) clay, plaster and wax. With regards techniques, I continue to take digital photographs, and to use modelling as my preferred approach for sculpture, but I am also rough sketching different sculpture design/composition ideas right now - many of which would include a variety of materials such as concrete, stone or steel - and I have been making equally rough diagrams for a video project.

For the sketches and diagrams, I use whatever bits of paper there are to hand (which I later paste into my notebooks), drawing with either thin felt pens or whatever other type of writing/drawing implement I have in my bag at the time. For photography, I use a very defined format of digital pics taken at the same distance from the subject, same height, from all major angles (front, three quarter front from both sides, profile, three quarter back from both sides, back, as well as "up the nose" and "from the top" where feasible).

I also use a measurement sheet (designed by Daisy Grubbs - see left) and callipers plus measuring tape and ruler to record the main references I need to make busts. I am experimenting with image creation and manipulation software to create some new compositions. Also I have bought very colourful rolls of deep purple and lime green organic fibre paper and deep purple and metallic yarns in Taiwan - although unsure as yet what I will use them for. With a view to creating travelogues for the remote sites I visit, I have been gathering a whole host of materials from the mundane to the esoteric: intro leaflets for museums/galleries I visit, city or country guides, photos taken of people or places, web page info from a number of sites such as www.lonelyplanet.com, etc.

How have these changed in the period since the Review?
Since the review, and especially since I began travelling, I have adopted a new technical approach to my work. I now use a variety of sculpture media which differ greatly from those I have used in the past. These new materials include air-drying clay which I had always eschewed before but which does present a definite quality (speed with which it can be transformed into a "transportable" artwork) when making work that needs to dry fast. Its drawbacks (more expensive material at the outset, rather more sticky feeling, less familiar in texture, quite unpredictable in drying time) are outweighed by the speed of drying and, since it can be transported to places where casting is cheaper soon after being made, the final savings will be significant.

With some idea of incorporating precious, miniature elements into larger compositions, I have also just bought some rather expensive clay silver in small quantities, usually used to make jewellery or small silversmith objects, which I plan to experiment with. This material (product name: Art or Precious Clay Silver) is rather innovative and was shown to me in Taipei last week by Lian Jun Tu, a fellow mature artist, also now an MFA student (jewellery major), currently studying at the National University of the Arts of Taiwan. It is sold in Japan, Taiwan, Australia, the US and Switzerland. I have not yet found online any distributors for it in the UK.

According to Lian Jun Tu and also to a mainland Chinese sculptor, Zhang Yaxi, this clay silver has apparently only very recently been introduced in art university circles in Asia. My interest in it is very high, because it can be modelled into any small shape, as well as cast into miniature moulds.

What is the relation of the change of materials and techniques to the progress you have made in your individual project?
As soon as I began to look for subjects from a variety of ethnic backgrounds to use for my attempt to "portray humankind" and made plans to travel around the world, I also ran into some barriers or constraints: finances partially, and also certain timescale issues that are consistent with the MFA course guide's description of MFA students being encouraged to develop or evolve an international art practice on current, active basis.

In order to allow my already existing international art practice to continue (a photography assignment for the United Nations Development office of Honduras and a private sculpture commission in Washington D.C., both in February, plus a public commission recently awarded for a city in Ireland for which I had to make visit to Drogheda in mid- March, and an international sculpture symposium in Kunming, China starting in April during which each participating sculptor is expected to create a permanent piece of outdoor sculpture), I have had to shelve some of my other intended remote sites.

However, I was "saved" as soon as I hit Heathrow and then Hong Kong airport in transit to Taiwan, by a sudden realization that ethnic subjects were everywhere to be found! In fact, were it not that an integral part of my project centres around the availability of cheaper technical assistance, cheaper materials for both small and large scale works, and cheaper foundry services in China, and the fact that, while Asian Indians and Africans do frequently reside or travel abroad, South, Central and North American-continent Indian subjects do not readily travel the world, I see that I could just as easily conduct some of my research at Heathrow or Gatwick airport…

My main remote sites selected for the phase until October 2005 will be China (am investigating the set-ups and facilities I can use for making experimental and then final degree show artworks), plus the USA and Canada, for those elusive North American indigenous people to complement the Mayan and Ameridian people I have already sampled while in Honduras. So, my whole viewpoint on the materials and process involved in recording likenesses and measurements has changed drastically, just in the last month.

Whereas before, I regarded them as having to be recorded in specific locations around the globe, and as mere tools, and a phase towards the making of busts, I have begun to consider them as potentially available wherever I go, and now also see the records in themselves as potentially useable, as media for creating artwork. I have now even moved on to the possibility of including in whatever final artworks I will make for my MFA final show, busts made entirely without actual references to specific subjects. Either created purely from experience and imagination alone, or partially inspired by the image of a person seen in a newspaper, magazine or on a website.

Whilst I had started to contemplate and then experiment with making small scale busts during the period leading up to the Review, now with the investment in Art Clay Silver materials and tools, I am taking the idea further, and this is opening new avenues for my project. Sketching designs is a process I hardly ever used (only when strictly necessary) during the Review phase. Now I am making it an almost daily habit, whether by hand or using computer software such as Paint Shop Pro. On that subject, since the Review I have moved on to a newer operating system having acquired a new laptop. I also upgraded from Windows ME to XP, and from an earlier version of Paint Shop Pro to the latest, much more sophisticated version - which involves quite a bit of current self-guided study using the software's tutorials and online help to become familiar with completely new tools useful to my particular project, specifically the removal of background from images containing bronze busts, and therefore I am on a steep learning curve. It is also a time-consuming activity!

From what guidance in materials, and techniques, would you benefit at this stage of the development of your project?
With regards guidance for the development of my project, I seek advice or help whenever a question pops up from whatever professional person seems most likely to have relevant answers. For example, I have purchased a book describing basic techniques for using Art Clay Silver as well as garnering tips from my friend in Taiwan. I will continue to seek advice with regards making with this material from professional artists who are using it. Also, yesterday I asked a young Chinese film-maker and film teacher for advice for a possible video within my project, which he is kind enough to find of interest. For his latest documentary, he has recently been awarded prizes from Beaubourg Museum in Paris, in Germany and two other film institutions as well as being a new recipient of a Sundance award. He is a lecturer at the Sichuan Fine Art Institute in Chongqing, China.

Thematic Research

What reading or observational research have you undertaken since Review?
In February, in the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Gallery in Washington D.C, co-curated by the Whitney Museum of American Art of New York, I saw a fantastic Isamu Noguchi exhibition and purchased a book entitled Isamu Noguchi Master Sculptor (2004) by Valerie J. Fletcher which I have read from cover to cover. The book "examines Noguchi's use of different materials and explores the reasons underlying his diverse practice."

(Tamil Indian Irish Ethiopian Sudanese Maya Chorti Tamil Indian: A few portraits taken in last 60 days)

Observational research undertaken since the Review includes visiting several museums and galleries (in Tegucigalpa, Washington D.C., Taipei and Chongqing), finding and purchasing a very simplistic but interesting chart of ethnic groups in Tegucigalpa, plus taking photographs and measurements of a Mayan girl, an Ameridian boy, an Irish man, an Ethiopian man, a Sudanese baby boy, a Tamil Indian woman and a Taiwanese baby boy (see left). Also, I have visited a number of websites investigating different materials and sculptors.

What are the changes to the content or theme of the project you are developing?

The overall theme of my project - a portrayal of humankind - has not lately changed much in itself, but it has evolved significantly in terms of content, impacted by two specific influences: the South East Asian Tsunami of last December, and a political art piece created by a fellow sculptor and friend Regina Aguilar while I was in Tegucigalpa and Valle de Angeles in February.

Since the event, I have continued to think about the impact of the Tsunami, about the volunteers who went there, about the donations (expressions of a desire to help) that poured in from the private sector as well as from public bodies; about the possibility of such a similar large-scale natural disaster happening anywhere. This has made me want to take more responsibility as an artist, and prompted me to create an artwork that shows solidarity for the survivors. Recently I started designing a Tsunami Memorial Sculpture as part of my on-going MFA artwork production which, naturally, is deeply influenced by my project's focus of interest.

The second recent influence, a courageous piece by Regina, together with a friend of hers, a writer who was tortured during the contra period, was a social-political commentary about the "worse than animalistic" behaviour of their country's politicians in their bid for election or re-election in February of this year (presidential, mayoral, etc. - see picture left.) Seeing them make the piece, succeeding in finding a means of displaying it publicly only with the greatest of difficulty, photographing them during a television breakfast show with a hostess who was literally putting her job on the line for showcasing and discussing it, further galvanized me into wanting to produce increasingly meaningful statements using art as the via.

Communication Strategies

With whom are you associating in the context of your research and the development of your project?
I have discussed my overall MFA project and some of the recent developments such as my Tsunami Memorial Sculpture sub-project at some length with a large numbers of professional artists, receiving very positive responses and valuable input. After receiving feedback from Regina in Honduras, and from my Taiwanese pro artists and MFA student friends, I am now talking here in Chongqing with the film-maker mentioned earlier and also with the Sculpture Department leader of the Sichuan Fine Art Institute where I am currently staying.

This week since arriving in mainland China from Taiwan, I have made a number of contacts to investigate all the resources and techniques available to me here to produce certain pieces I would like to make. In particular, I have applied for and hope to be accepted into the Tank Loft Arts Centre residency programme which offers me at a nominal cost the use of a large studio (workspace + accommodation space) on the edge of the Sichuan Fine Art Institute in Chongqing, China. This studio also comes with access to affordable materials and technicians. Since the Institute will be implementing its own large bronze casting foundry later this year, I will be able to work here next year after PG Dips on all my final artwork pieces for an MFA degree show which - subject to final approval from my own course leader and the Tank Loft Centre's Directors, I hope to be able to schedule in the Centre's gallery.

I have also just visited another new bronze foundry and a glass foundry here in Chongqing during the last few days.

At the Future Hope art exhibition scheduled for April 26th in London, thanks to fellow MFA student Ravinda Kalsi, I will soon have an opportunity to associate with various people from whom I hope to solicit feedback on a piece upon which my entire project is fundamentally based, entitled Artists of the Future, a composition of many faces created "by chance" some years ago and later reproduced in glass. Previous to enrolling on the MFA course, I lacked the framework and time to further explore this theme.

Finally, selected by the Organizing Committee of the upcoming 1st International Sculpture Symposium in Kunming (30 April-31 May), I will be using that platform to create a large scale outdoor sculpture consistent with my MFA project. In June, to investigate Chinese and Tibetan minority ethnic groups, I am planning to travel to much more remote areas of north western China, up through the desert on the old Silk Road and into Tibet. I will be in the company of a group of 25 third year design students from the Sichuan Fine Art Institute and their leader, sculptor Zhang Yaxi. We will travel by public bus routes and by train, staying in hostels and nomad tents.

In late August, September and October, I will be going to the US and Canada where I will investigate native north American Indians. Wherever I am, I have been communicating about my project, receiving all sorts of suggestions for further research as well as interesting feedback.

Evaluation Learning from Semester 1:

Give examples of text or lectures from the core programme which are proving relevant to your project development and show that reference.
We were encouraged during our Research Methodology lecture to create our own bibliography as relevant to our project. Looking for books, websites and articles that would provide me with a wider view of portraiture, I came across several excellent references. For example, in an article in Art in America (October issue,1999) by Michael Duncan, this passage particularly caught my interest:
"As one of the oldest forms of representational art, portraiture by definition deals with gender and identity--as well as such good old-fashioned concepts as virtue, beauty, vanity and corruption. The tension in a portrait between the particular and the generic creates a kind of narrative in which viewers are asked to unravel the back story of a subject's life and, implicitly, to compare it with their own. At its best, portraiture can capture a historical moment, recording a particular subject at a revealing time. It is a kind of theater of the human, directed by the artist/voyeur and starring the subject/exhibitionist."

This idea of theatre of the human described by Duncan as being a production directed by the artist is very real to me. When I conceive of works to make showing multiple ethnicities, I envision increasingly theatrical presentations of humans intermingling. Reading that article, I've realized that what I most like about portraiture is its intrinsically dramatic quality!

From amongst the issues raised in the Internationalism seminar, present an issue which is proving relevant to the context or content of your project.
The Internationalism issue most relevant to my project deals with the freedom we now enjoy to choose and use materials and resources in different parts of the world. Since one of my favourite media is bronze, and since the cost of that material and the processes required to cast in Western countries is very high (because of higher costs of raw materials, living and labour), making works of any size in China or indeed any Asian country makes a great deal of sense.

Methodology

Describe the methodology which is developing in your work by concentrating upon the links between research (reading, observation, drawing, etc.) and the project itself.
The more I study, read, talk with fellow artists in all fields, (not only sculptors) the more I feel my project expanding to using different media with which to express my project ideas. For example, a few days ago I browsed through many student drawings by first year design students at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute. I was inspired to explore the use of colour as a strong element in my work whereas before I thought quite "mono-chromatically". Whether in Asia or in America, I am absorbing so many different cultural references that are bound to impact upon my work. I am unsure as yet where all of this will take me, but the research process is very exciting!

Integration

Are you beginning to work effectively in your distant site?
In my distant sites, away from my own children, daily chores and other distractions, I have been able to concentrate and work very effectively indeed. So far, whether in Honduras, Taiwan or China - thanks to my laptop (into which I download any pictures I take and with which I can connect to the internet wherever I am, to seek image or text references), and thanks to books available in English or simply by looking at images of works in foreign-language books, I have found it very easy to immerse myself in my MFA project.

I make it a point whenever possible to hook into an academic institution. For example last week, I visited the National University of the Arts in Taiwan for two whole days, meeting with the head of the Sculpture Department who spoke a very passable French (he earned his MA 12 years ago at the Beaux Arts in paris), toured many of the studios (metal, stone, clay, woodworking, ceramics, jewellery) and used the reference library there. Here in Chongqing I am living right on the Sichuan Fine Art Institute campus with an MA course leader for the sculpture department and his wife, also a sculptor. I am allowed access to most of the studios and facilities on campus.

What are the problems/advantages you find in working at this site?
I am not encountering any major problems working at distant sites, only very small ones (for example the scanner where I am staying is currently on the blink…). The advantages (distraction-free environment, inspiring culture, cheaper "everything") in all respects far outweigh such minor contrarieties!

Bibliography for this Assignment:
FLETCHER, VALERIE J.
Isamu Noguchi Master Sculptor, Scala Publishers, London (2004)
DUNCAN, MICHAEL
L.A. Portraiture: Post-Cool, article in Art in America, Oct 1999 http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1248/is_10_87/ai_56906442/pg_1

Websites for this Assignment:
Honduras in 24 Hours (photography event) http://www.honduras24horas.un.hn/copan.htm#LauryD
Tank Loft Arts Center: http://www.scfai.edu.cn/Chinese/tankloftartscenter_web/E_home.htm
Sichuan Fine Arts Institute: http://www.scfai.edu.cn/English/about.htm
National University of the Arts of Taiwan: http://www.ntua.edu.tw/eng
Art Silver Clay: http://www.silver-clay.com/
Lonely Planet Country Guides:
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/central_america/honduras/ http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/north_east_asia/taiwan/ http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/north_east_asia/china/
Chinese Ethnic Groups: http://www.china.org.cn/e-groups/shaoshu/
World Ethnic Groups: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/fields/2075.html


Back to top
  1. Original Description of MFA Project
  2. Research Methodology Chart for MFA Project
  3. Action Plan 1 -
  4. Action Plan 2 -
  5. Final Description of MFA Project
  1. Essay One 10 January 2005
  2. Essay Two 7 March 2005
  3. Critical Evaluation 1 8 April 2005
  4. Critical Evaluation 2
  5. Critical Evaluation 3
  6. PG Dips - Research Paper for Viva
  7. Artist Statement for MFA Final Show Sept. 2006
  1. Sculpture
  2. Photography
  3. Video
  4. Installation
  1. Personal bibliography
  2. Travel links
  3. Artist and art websites
  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. List of professional commissions executed , works purchased and works exhibited during course period Sept. 2004 to Sept. 2006
  3. List of professional engagements (symposia, lectures, etc.) during course period Sept. 2004 to Sept. 2006

E-mail: sculptures@sculpture-design.com

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