Sunday, 11 December 2016

Studio Notes: Large Capital and Capital Construction

Capital Construction - in progress. Photo by Shirin Shahidi.

Inner platforms/skeletal structure of Capital Construction, in progress.

Mobile Notes:

Skeletal structure of large sessile stigma - becomes cage-like, reminiscent of bamboo structures in Bangladesh pre-papering. On its side it becomes like a plough, a rotary blade to churn earth. And like a waterwheel, and like an industrial wallpaper machine.
Urge to make flat, severed top of ovary structure. A flat top with prong/rod sticking up….its counterpart receptacle embedded within the surface of the stigma (Large Capital). Borrowing from the format of botanical models which open up/come apart.

Urge to make wall-based relief structures. Parts semi-flattened through shape and colour, rather than, or as well as, the 'mosaic-ed' flat collages ….which cd then be suspended within the architectural panels. Cut up the large Pollen Factory collage? Mount it on cdbd? Cut out the centre turbo-turbine-triads …to reveal in 3D the 'pollen dynamite sticks'.
Captain(s) of Industry (= Stamens/Anthers). Capital Construction (ovary). Large Capital (pistil head/stigma). 

Autopsy. Deadhead. Dissect. Cut open. Sever and splice. Klappe zu, Affe tot: downward vertical swipe followed by left to right horizontal swipe.
Studies for Large Capital (above top) and Capital Construction (above bottom). Gouache on paper.

Misc. references:

Felt pen drawing of tulip pistil.
The purple shadow becomes an additional
pediment to the 'capital-like stigma'

Drill bits for mining coal:

Architectural Capitals:

Anticlockwise from below:

- Classical order ionic capital
- Page of Egyptian Capitals from Owen Jones', The Grammar of Ornament, 1856
- Illustration by May Morris for William Morris lecture, 'Some Hints on Pattern Designing'. Image courtesy of William Morris Gallery

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Studio Notes: Pollen & Coal

Pollen studies. Felt pen on paper, 2016.

Mobile notes:

 Painting on 3D pollen.  The painted colour has a different register to the collage - much softer, perhaps too soft. Or perhaps just not enough of it yet? Some areas need going over - a 2nd layer, to obliterate brushstrokes, and increase flatness of the added colour. I like and dislike the confused, multi-layering of structure and pattern. A sense of shifting realities.
 To do: collages of pollen.  Collages of packaging textures/patterns, samplers for borders. Testers of pigment pollen surface. Collage from gouache of Study for Large Capital.


 Image for WMG by 2/12/16: s'thing to convey key idea of plant machines/plantworks - the botanical and the industrial, Morris and the domestic (Study for Large Captial? Includes both plant & machine refs (e.g. tulip stigma/wingnut/drone). 
• Make 'Large Capital' (Tulip Stigma) 
• Collage or object itself? Sheet of gouache &/or collage studies of crosssections of pistil like cogs. Crosssections and heads (capitals) 
• Anthers - continue with longitudinal crosssections and transverse crosssections. Re-implant the 3d cdbd cross-section into the papier mache exterior walls.
• Fragments, dissected parts of plants, pulled apart. In the quest to understand, the plant/flower is destroyed. Nature violated. 
• Fragments, isolated motifs: woodblocks...
• The woodblock itself, as an object, like layered sediment of plant matter: i.e. likened to formation of coal. Loop - coal lump/clump faceted woodblocks with surface motifs (tulip stigma, collage of palette painting that appears like the coal structure).
• Wall panels/wall charts. They don't have to be rectangular.  Cut out fragments…semi-relief blocks on 'jigsawed' cardboard shapes. Isolated shapes suspended from the hanging rail, and/or, a combination of pieces strung together. E.g. The style and stigma…separated/dissected sections. Flattened versions of 3d models.
• Pollen grains… Papier mache ...layers over egg-box spikes, gesso'd, painted • Like ornaments? Too much like ornaments? 3D pattern components. Morris's relationship to ornament - re. architecture and the gothic - anti utilitarian, purely functional...preference for adorning, ornamenting. but specific in his ideas of tasteful ornament - pro-organic - architecture that includes 'growth'. Against overly geometric design. Interesting rub - incompatibility of Morris/Mitten aesthetics!

 Unravelled, spliced coal structure. Something interesting happened when partial sections/layers slid over the layer below…like graphite sloughing off mid process, suggestion of how this cd be built back up - new facets added to solidify voids.

 Walls, borders and blocks. Cdbd double-wall. Single wall. Honeycomb wall, small, medium, large. Walls with windows. Ornamental margins. Coal 'block'. Energy block. Woodcut block. Thinking of layered sediment of cardboard and offcuts. Ontop, ridges in the arrangement of coal structure, facets coloured in shades of black, brown, blue and purple (bruise colours).
 Colour palette: ‘colourless’ cells /'neutral' cardboard.... neutrality of (as in colourless cells), translated/seen through making painted drawings, become colours of bruises and colours of coal - buff, ochre to tangerine and light blue/grey in light to deep purple/brown/maroon in shadow.

Pollen in progress with small constructions of tulip pistil (Capital Construction) in progress

In progress: Pollen - papier mache model - testing painting reticulated pollen pattern on papier mache surface. Photograph by Shirin Shahidi.
3d paper sketch of coal structure

Drawing of coal structure, taken from molecular structure (above left, 'coal' images from google images), and paper model (above right).

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Studio Notes: The Pollen Factory

The Pollen Factory: cardboard diagram of the cross section of an anther & gouache study of cardboard structure. Below, large scale collage in progress, which uses both the 3d diagram, gouache study & felt pen drawings as templates to work from.

Making the collage I find myself thinking of hives, of each cell as a space to live and/or work - a home or a factory unit; of insects busy, buzzing, working, collecting, building. The different roles of different bees - the worker, the drone, the queen. Replication, reproduction, pollination. Engines, turbines, dynamite sticks. Of clocks and time. Cycles - of nature, life, work. Rotations, shifts, miserable make-shifts. Waste and surplus. Of efficiency and inefficiency. This is taking too much time. Hurry up, too slow! Of the absurdity and pleasure, pleasure taking time and pleasure in making the work. And of Morris.

The Pollen Factory - paper collage in progress. Photograph by Shirin Shahidi, November 2016.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

William Morris Gallery: Visits - Woodblocks

William Morris, woodblock for Tulip textile design.
The gallery has a large collection of the original woodblocks in their archives. Beautiful objects in their own right, I love the variety of surfaces used for different sections of the designs. Each leaf of the design appears to hold a whole tree. Metal fins like mushroom lamellae or gills are employed for linear detail. has a description of the function of the mushroom's reproductive blades:
'Gills (called "lamellae" in Mycologese) are the many platelike or bladelike structures attached to the underside of the cap in some mushrooms, representing an ingenious reproductive strategy. Like all mushrooms, gilled mushrooms are spore factories, created for the sole purpose of manufacturing microscopic spores to be carried away by air currents and, with any luck, to land in a suitable location to germinate and start a new organism. The odds of any individual spore having this kind of luck, however, are so low that the mushroom produces millions of spores to compensate. The gills are assembly lines, and they dramatically increase the number of spores the mushroom can produce. Both sides of each gill are covered with microscopic spore-producing machinery. Imagine the difference in the number of spores produced if the underside of the cap were simply a single, flat production surface; far fewer machines could operate!'
Michael Kuo.

Pleasing that Morris's hand-made, hand-tool-machines for mass production share an aesthetic with biological spore factories. In the studio, the project is tuning in to focus on the reproductive parts of plants, as analogous to industrial mass-production. Giant anthers as architectural pollen factories, containing hive-like cross-sections with pollen 'dynamite'. More on that in another post....

Another block for the same design has a soft, baize-like surface, for blocking in an area of background colour. The head of a poppy seed case in the gallery gardens, presents itself as a ready made printing block.

Populations of small pins provide a stippled pattern to the design and with the peaks and troughs of the chiselled wood, viewed side-on or from above, appear as a landscape and city topography; and the the sandwiched layers of wood make me think of layers of vegetal sediment in the formation of coal.

With thanks to Anna Mason and Rowan Bain who have facilitated the visits and generously supported the research.

William Morris Gallery - Visits to the Archives


Over the last few months I've been visiting the archives and reading room at William Morris Gallery, Waltham Forest, to research Morris and his relationship to industry.

Much of his writing can be accessed online, although there's something pretty special about sitting in a house that Morris once inhabited, reading his words in pamphlets that are among some of the earliest printed copies of his essays and lectures.

There's a kind of poetic pomp to his prose. His passion and conviction is clear, while his choice of words and turn of phrase sometimes made me smile and perhaps shift a little uncomfortably in my seat; in particular his repeated reference to 'miserable make-shifts'. I can't help wondering what he might make of my own cardboard make-shifts.


A Factory As It Might Be - some excerpts:

Morris describes the potential for factories to be 'Palaces of Industry', standing in the middle of beautiful gardens. Of the industrial buildings and factories, Morris says, they are 'almost always at present mere nightmares....[which] sufficiently typify the work they are built for, and look what they are: temples of overcrowding and adulteration and over-work, of unrest....'. If, reasons Morris, factories become places of 'reasonable and light work, cheered at every step by hope and pleasure...', it's therefore reasonable to expect that the architecture reflects this:
'...Our buildings will be beautiful with their own beauty of simplicity as workshops, not bedizened with tomfoolery as some are now, which do not any the more for that hide their repulsiveness; ...besides the mere workshops, our factory will have other buildings which may carry ornament further than that, for it will need dining hall, library, school, places for study of various kinds, and other such structures; nor do i see why,,, we should not emulate the monks and craftsmen of the Middle Ages in our ornamentation of such buildings; why we should be shabby in housing our rest and pleasure and our search for knowledge, as we may well be shabby in housing the shabby life we have to live now.'

'So we have come to the outside of our factory of the future, and seen that it does not injure the beauty of the world but adds to it rather.'

'Our factory, then, is a pleasant place....our factory stands amidst gardens as beautiful (climate apart) as those of Alcinous, since there is no need of stinting it of ground, profit rents, being a thing of the past, and the labour on such gardens is like enough to be purely voluntary....and our working people will assuredly want open-air relaxation from their factory work'.

'Most factories sustain today large and handsome gardens...; only the said gardens...are, say, twenty miles away from the factory, out of the smoke, and are kept up for one member of the factory only, the sleeping partner...'.

'Now as to the work, first of all it will be useful, and therefore, honourable and honoured; because there will be no temptation to make mere useless toys, since there will be no rich men cudgelling their brains for means for spending superfluous money, and consequently no "organisers of labour" pandering to degrading follies for the sake of profit, wasting their intelligence and energy in contriving shares for cash in the shape of trumpery which they themselves heartily despise'.

'...machines of the most ingenious and best approved kinds will be used when necessary, but...used simply to save human labour...'

' the attractive work of our factory, that which was pleasant in itself to do, would be of the nature of art; therefore all slavery of work ceases under such a system, for whatever is burdensome about the factory would be taken turn and turn about, and so distributed, would cease to be a burden - would be, in fact, a kind of rest from the more exciting or artistic work'.

The factory would be a centre of education where children would receive technical instruction amidst their book-learning.

'...our factory, which is externally beautiful, will not be inside like a clean jail or workhouse; the architecture will come inside in the form of such ornament as may be suitable to the special circumstances. Art, pictures, sculptures should adorn a true palace of industry'.

'This our Socialistic factory, besides turning out goods useful to the community, will provide for its own workers work light in duration, and not oppressive in kind, education in childhood and youth. Serious occupation, amusing relaxation, and more rest for leisure of the workers., and with all that beauty of surroundings, and the power of producing beauty....'.

With thanks to Anna Mason and Rowan Bain who have facilitated the visits and generously supported the research.