Today, we had out critiques for 2D which I enjoyed quite a bit because it was really interesting to see all the different styles of each and every one of my classmates be it in terms of their mark making pieces or even their ways of presenting. However, I was also on high alert for the most part of this critique because:
- I needed to make sure no one touched my work (Reason will be clear later on in this post)
- I was the last to present.
Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed everyone’s presentation – honorary mention to some of my favourite concepts, Shah and Jiayi – and I learned(thanks Keeyong for the history lesson and Amanda for that Jap story) and laughed quite a bit too (Ryan’s bug story and Sihui’s Kdrama analogies). But enough about other presentations, this post should get started on mine.
To me, fear is something that grows. Fear heightens, therefore it has intensity, which is why I wanted to express that by having a gradient. In this piece, the gradient goes light to dark from left to right and as we can see, when it is still light, there are only faint inklings of barely visible marks from the crumpled newsprint. This is to create a sense of mystery as it is through the unknown that fear grows.
As the background gets darker, the marks get more concentrated until we see a clear silhouette of what appears to be claws, a biomorphic form of sort. This is to indicate reaching the peak of your fear when you’ve finally seen what was shrouded in the darkness. I decided to use a branch here as often, in horror movies when the character is heading towards a destination where the monsters are, they have to walk through a forest where shadows from trees loom over them and that’s always something that has stuck me as eerie. Then, I used the crumpled newsprint to create these short uneven lines along with the horizontal stripy textured background to make it seem like there is static – also inspired by horror movie scenes.
For love, I wanted to do something that wasn’t cliche. The initial idea was to work it along the lines of lust, inspired by the following scene from Titanic:
However, seeing as how we were only allowed to make our marks black and white, I couldn’t think of a way to express lust in black without making it look slightly creepy. Hence, I decided to work with the idea of an obsessive love instead.
For this mark, I chose to use the translucent packing paper to signify innocence and purity, and it couldn’t be opaque as I wanted that filmy effect where there’s this feeling where you think you might just be able to see through it yet you can’t. I also didn’t want to make the handprints too dark and contrasting against the packing paper as, more often than not, obsessive love isn’t something that’s very apparent on the surface. Hence, I tried to make the handprints as faint and subtle as possible by getting off excess ink on a scrap piece of cardboard as seen below:
I knew I wanted my mark to look like hands gripping onto the sheet so as to express the possessiveness and to sort of imitate fingerprint bruises when someone is gripped too hard. Initially, I tried printing while crumpling the paper concurrently, however, the marks that resulted didn’t really look like handprints as can be seen above in the top right and bottom left prints. Therefore, I decided to make my print first, and then crumple the paper so as to achieve my desired effect.
My concept for sadness was to express the feeling of loss, hence for this piece, I knew I had to experiment with negative space. My original idea looked like this:
From the left photo, I liked the softer edges around the petals. However, I felt that the dark background gave it more of the feeling of absence instead of loss, where something is already missing instead of in the process of disappearing. This is significant because to me, I find it more sad to know that something’s slipping away from me and there’s nothing I can do about it. On the other hand for absence, either you didn’t have it in the first place, or you’ve already lost it, which then brings about more the feeling of resignation instead of sadness.
I also tried using the machine for one print (right photo), and the hardness of the edges just wasn’t what I wanted so I knew I had to stay away from the press machine for this one.
With all these in mind, I decided I wanted to go for more white negative space than black positive space. I still stuck to using flowers because they were symbolic(you give flowers to sick people at the hospital, flowers at funerals, etc) and they’re also the last thing given to me by my colleagues from my second last job whom I miss loads. Then, how I got down to making the prints was by lifting off the layers of ink. Essentially what this means is, I just didn’t re-ink my linoleum after each print and by the fourth print, I achieved my desired effect, which is the faint, hazy, scarce and scattered print you see above, with more negative space and gaps in the positive space, so as to bring about the feeling of fleetingness, like it’s about to disappear.
When I think of anger, I think of “seeing red”. Hence, for anger, I wanted this piece to look like what I envision a character to be seeing whenever I hear this phrase.
For the splotches, I alternated between stamping the top and bottom of a paper pulp cup tray I got from Starbucks. I then took the razor from a clingwrap box and made slicing movements on the paper whilst bearing in mind not to tear through it. Afterwhich, without waiting for the paint to dry, I crumpled the paper and repeated the process. I like that there was a mixture of fine, razor-thin streaks but also organic blobs as for me, anger is something that can be harsh and sharp, but also unsubstantial. There’s also almost equal amounts of negative and positive space as I’d like to believe that even when anger takes over, there are still gaps for some semblance of reason to come in and prevent the anger from clouding over your head.
My original idea for surprise was to make use of the following item as my mark making tool, a plastic diamond:
I like that there were these firework-looking like marks, however, they seemed too inorganic and planned. Also, it didn’t strike me as anything particularly interesting, much less surprising, hence, I had to set out to explore more on my concept of surprise.
I decided to go for a more literal approach of which I actually include a surprise in my piece. This one was inspired by Cai Guo Qiang’s gunpowder works as I mentioned in my previous post here. So the idea was to use birthday candles as they’re something I associate with birthday surprises whenever lights suddenly go off and someone appears with a lit up birthday cake and everyone starts singing the birthday song. On first look, the piece looks smokey and feels quite mysterious as there are no clear forms and very little negative space. Also, this happens to be the only piece on this board of which I didn’t use newsprint but instead used a thicker paper. This is also to make people curious as to why is this the only one that’s out of place.
Then, I run my hand across the paper.
The result is the appearance of random, sporadic strokes I made using the back end of the candle via automatic technique so as to get wax on the paper before I smoked it up. I chose to make sporadic strokes to represent more of an element of surprise as, in life, you won’t be surprised if everything goes according to your plans and you see everything coming. This piece was also the reason why I had to be on high alert for the entire duration of the critique as I was worried someone might just come along and accidentally smudge off the ash, which would then truly be a terrible surprise for me.
I struggled the most with this last piece as I couldn’t figure out how to express joy without following what I felt would be the cliche stereotypes that represented what Joy should visually look like – white, soft edged, etc. Hence, I decided to dig deeper. I thought about the subsets of this emotion – cheerfulness, optimism, relief – and related the most to this one in particular: contentment.
Contentment to me, would be sleeping in on a rainy day and enjoying the breeze by the beach as you look past the shoreline. And that’s a scene that I really wanted to recreate for this piece. Also, in an effort to follow in Mark Bradford’s footsteps, I sourced for materials that were available to me which could also reflect this contentment that I wanted to portray.
Fabric Washing Powder
So, I’m someone who doesn’t really like doing any form of household chore. However, ever since moving into hall, I’ve come to realise there is one particular chore that I would never skip, regardless of the amount of work I have piled up, or the amount of sleep I need to catch up on. That chore, would be laundry. Whenever I get a fresh batch of laundry back, as I’m folding my clothes and storing them back into my closet, I always can’t help but to take every single article of clothing and to put them to my face and just inhale. The feeling of contentment I get, makes laundry day something that I look forward to each week.
One thing I’m very proud of about my room in hall would be that my roommate and I have worked hard to achieve the clean floors we now have. Whenever we have people over, they always comment on how our floor feels really great and this wouldn’t have been possible, had we not made sure to scrub every inch of our floor. When we first arrived, the floor was in such a bad state that there seemed to be a layer of dirt stuck permanently onto the flooring. It was only after a few rounds of scrubbing that we were able to see the actual colour of the floor.
So yes, whenever I step into my room and feel how clean our floor is, it brings me great contentment which is why I decided to use the floor brush as my tool of choice as well.
With my tools gathered, I set to making my marks. One challenge I faced here was how to scatter my powder so that the resulting print would still look like water ripples. In the end, because I was working on a larger scale print as advised by Joy, the automatic technique of scattering the powder worked well enough as I managed to get an area which was successful. I also made sure I only moved the floor brush in one direction over the paper as I felt that to express contentment, the stroke had to be clean and even in order to carry across the sereneness of this emotion. I also made sure to move my brush across multiple times in order to darken the contrast between the negative and positive spaces so as to really simulate the feeling of the light reflection from the moon on a water’s surface.
In conclusion, this project really challenged me in terms of the abstraction of it as, I’ve always been someone that has difficulty even thinking out of the box. So when Joy first showed us the brief and told us we couldn’t illustrate the emotions literally or create anything representational, I actually felt my stomach drop, because how else was I going to let people see what I’m trying to express? However, that aside, I really enjoyed this entire process as it was truly quite therapeutic making marks and experimenting different ways to express each emotion.
Another challenge however, would be that sometimes, even though I was successful in making my desired mark the first time, I wouldn’t be able to replicate it the second time due to different conditions being met.This was also what made me quite nervous for my Surprise piece as I had no way to know how the waxed areas would look like upon removal of the ash even though my prior pieces may have been successful. Thankfully though, it wasn’t a complete failure, which I can’t say for some of my other experimentation marks for the other emotions. For those, I either had to keep trying and hope for the best, work around the new mark, or just completely scrap it and try a new idea. However, I’ve come to realise that it may not necessarily be a terrible thing as more often than nought, I come to like the new ideas even better.
Thankfully, my surprise mark didn’t fail and my classmates seemed to like it judging by their post its. Joy also mentioned that I did well in the aspects of my materials and actions. However, one thing to improve on would be my visual descriptions of my works as I didn’t manage to use much key terms in my presentation. Hopefully, I was able to do better in this post, but other than that, do comment below should anyone have any more feedback for me!
- Mark Bradford
- Cai Guo Qiang
- Emma Kunz
Link to post can be found here.