My choice of material is routed in ideas and concepts of the readymade, functionality and redundancy. The idea which has run through the majority of my work this year, is to restore a function to the increasingly defunct object of the paperclip. This new function is found by replacing element of an object (usually involving a grid, or net). This new object, although functional, is in itself pointless. Although three dimensional, my work can become very pictorial, due largely to the way that they have been installed, becoming representations of objects. This was an idea that I took note of when further developing my practice. I have begun to consider the installation of my work more. I had a habit of having a ‘vision’ in my head of how the object should be installed, often similar to the original context in which that object would be placed, or hanged outside the gallery. Moving forward, it has become increasingly important instead of instinctively going for that method of installation, to plan and experiment with the context, questioning how the object is viewed and by who, thus controlling the way in which the piece is viewed.
I have been looking at the types of methods artists use for of creating significance within a work. Artists like Tamoko Takahashi creates significance through the grouping of objects. She assembles a mass of materials ‘objects’, installing them freeform into a space, with each grouping having its own narrative. I also looked at the work of David Hammons. He makes objects which are iconic and standalone pieces. His method is more like what I was trying to achieve. He works with low value found objects, transforming them into something else. His piece ‘Spade with Chain’ (1973) adjusts the readymade and adds construction and ‘craft’ to it. There are links with the processes and the subject matter.
My practice rehabilitates an object through adding it to another. Both these object become my materials. I researched the tradition of found objects, reading more critical essays alongside the history. “The Readymade and The Tube of Paint” by Theirry du Duve really helped to clarify my thoughts about my choice of material, specifically the major impact industrialisation had in the production of art. In a wider context the readymade is about the division of labour. Everything is a readymade. This spurred me on to look more at the context surrounding my chosen material of the paperclip. What is the significance of a paperclip? For me it is redundancy. The humbleness of the object. Just like industrialisation pushed painting out in favour of photography, the digital age has pushed aside paperclips. Their primary function being for holding paper together, an attachment. Now paper- copies are slowly fading out of existence, surpassed by emails and PDFs.
I became interested in how even in this digital age, the paperclip still remains the universal symbol for an attachment. This got me into Visual Theory and Semiotics. Stated simply, you have an icon, a thing, which refers to something else, but looks like what it refers to. This is what my work does. The nets I made are icons, they are not in themselves fishing net, at least not in the traditional sense, yet their appearance is of a net. This concept of representation and icons was something that I used when designing the badminton set, testing how big I needed to make the net in order for it to represent, or become an icon. I started with the scale of a toy badminton set one which you would put up in your garden, but even that seemed unnecessarily big to create this representation. In the end I found I could reduce the length of the net and as a result the length of the court to 1/3 the original length. In reducing the length, I also found it necessary to reduce the width of the net so it did not look disproportionate. However, I found the height had to be a constant. The size became rather domestic.
After this piece I felt a bit at loss of what to do next. Maybe I was done with the paperclip? On one hand I feel that there are many more things I can do with this material. I am beginning to see my work as a series. On the other hand, though, I don’t want to get stuck just with one material. What I feel I need to do is find a new material that allows me to work with the themes of domestic and redundancy that I am interested in, but at the same time continue to make with the paperclips, adding to this series.
My latest piece was the hammock constructed out of paperclips. Originally I intended for it to be functional however, I realised this undermined what I was trying to achieve. In making the work functional I would be making it comical and approachable like I did with the badminton set. Whereas, I want people to focus on the material and the context rather than creating a functional representation.
Prior to the idea of the hammock, I only produced netting in grid form. So as wider research I looked into the history of nets, their function and their designs, both within an art context and not. Obviously with the gridded net shape I looked at Rosalind Krauss, but I have become increasingly aware that there are far more designs out there. I have been working with hexagons to create a pattern that is both stronger than the grid, but also when pulled tight forms brick shaped rectangles.
Whereas initially I attempted to qualify my use of material with links to the readymade and functionality, I had a breakthrough moment when talking to Mathew Weir. He likes to ask a lot of questions. This forced me to come up with answers. I found my answers to these questions surprised me, almost coming from my subconscious. He asked me why the paperclip? Why the fishing net? Why Badminton? and I answered with my usual answer revolving around the materiality and functionality etc. But Mathew noticed that I mentioned my Dad in relation to all of these objects. Whether this was a subconscious choice, or by design, I realised that the route to my fascination with these objects was to do with my childhood. I think these objects represent structure, support and the domestic, creating objects that literally hold things in place.
This revelation made me more confident in my choice of material, I previously thought I was hanging onto these objects for want of something better to do. I have been pushing for these objects to be recognised for their rejuvenated functionality forgetting that they are functioning as artwork regardless of whether they work or not. And the function of artwork is to raise questions. The precious nature of art is something that I previously worked with in my work last year, the elevated status linking to the idea of holding onto something, a person, a moment, or even a material.