If a ladder stands in a forest clearing…

Last week I was mostly… building a framework for Larain’s painting of the ladder in the wood clearing. Whilst walking in a wood very close to my house I came across a lumberjack’s clearing (romanticised obvs.) in it stood an aluminium ladder leaning against a tall straight tree. It was somewhat surreal since there seemed to be no reason for the ladder to be there, I took some photos however the lighting was poor, so I planned to return.

Limond, J (2020) Untitled (ladder in a clearing) [digital photograph]

Larain’s painting utilised the ladder and the concept of the clearing, but she had taken a photograph in a wood near where she lived that captured an old oak, on the edge of a clearing. These two images where merged in photoshop to test the composition and we agreed to go with the resulting image. 

I collected the finished painting at the same time as I worked on the wood panels with her. Searching my store for suitable materials I found some which would make up the aesthetic of the work I want, but I needed some subframe timber. I completed the inner frame (the sub-frame) and prepped the reclaimed timber (cut out the recesses with a router and sanded the facias). I have since fitted the plastic but I’m now in a bit of a hiatus, I applied three layers of builders plastic but felt that the this was too much as the image was entirely obscured. 

Limond, J (2020) Untitled (time lapse video of a partial revealing) [digital video]

Whilst moving the painting around the studio I had witnessed  some flashes of sunlight hitting the rear of the painting, this gave it an ethereal feel. 

Limond, J (2020) Untitled (Larain Briggs’s painting with plastic and sunshine) [digital photograph]

But with the two layers of plastic I wasn’t able to replicate this, also it may have had something to do with the height of the sun, creating the perfect conditions for the effect. 

On reflection, I have no plans of putting a light box behind the image (although this could be an idea for a later work), and placing it in front of a window seems a bit haphazard and awkward. Also, if I was to rely on the sun the image would only be present when the conditions are right, even if the spectator is present the image might not be. Almost like if a tree falls in a Forrest you expect a noise… and art isn’t art in a box, only when it is observed… Although arguably the uncertainty, the chance element could equally be part of the art. I have thought of using glass that is opaque whilst a voltage is applied and becomes transparent when a switch is flicked. Maybe this could be connected to a PIR and the approaching spectator would trigger the switch with their presence. A bit like my scales. 

My original thought was to reveal the painting through a single slash in the plastic but the sunlight cast new light on to the work, quite literally. I shall try the slash, referencing Fontana, but I need to consider alternatives. One being cigarette burns in the plastic (possibly with the use of a soldering iron since I don’t smoke nor have access to cigarettes) or multiple razor blade slashes. Both of these instantly change the viewers reading of the work, possibly suggesting a revealing though pain and suffering. Maybe self harm. Also I need to consider the number of layers of plastic. Another idea, inspired by Marina Abramović’s (1974) work Rhythm “0”, a table is laid out with mean of revealing on it for the public to expose the work. 

Abramović, Marina (2016) Marina Abromivić on performing “Rhythm 0” (1974)
[YouTube video]

But my thoughts also go to the ephemeral beauty of the work by Cai Guo-Qiang, who uses gunpowder to create often abstract works. 

Cai Guo-Qiang (1990) I am an Extraterrestial: Project for Meeting with Tenjin (Heavenly Gods): Projects for Extraerrrials No. 4.
Available at: https://g.co/arts/bZfwLew9dLJFNS7P6 [accessed 18/10/2020]

Here, the added handwritten annotations, reminded me of the work of Anselm Kiefer. 

Cai Guy-Qiang is also interested in reclaiming materials and objects in order to repurpose them as artworks. 

This work Borrowing Your Enemy’s Arrows (1998) uses an old fishing boat, found at the bottom of a river near his home town. He then embellishes the object, adorning it with 3000 arrows, and a single national flag of china. The installation alludes to a Chinese myth which boils down to using your enemy’s strengths against them – click see the link for more… 

Although I am more interested in how truth maybe revealed through suffering, as Harari wrote in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. “So if you want to know the truth about the universe, about the meaning of life and about your own identity, the best place to start is by observing suffering and exploring what it is.” (p.358)

Harari also writes about myth, here is an interview about his book Sapiens in a performance titled “The Myths we need to survive” 

Intelligence Squared (2015) Yuval Noah Harai on the myths we need to survive.
[YouTube video]

More from the art garage next week… 

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