Week 4: Drawn to Light

It’s hard to believe that I am one month into my 12 month course already. How time flies! Thinking back to how quick my final undergraduate year went, I imagine this will be exceptionally fast too. I am enjoying every day of it though so far!

On Monday I decided to have a reading day as I had some philosophy reading to catch up on. We were reading Fredrich Nietzsche’s first book ‘The Birth of Tragedy’. I didn’t find it particularly difficult to understand but it was pretty heavy going and there were more pages than I anticipated. I also spent Monday re-reading the blog post from the previous week. I was going to book the laser cutter on my laptop for the week ahead but something stopped me.

To tell you the truth, I’d been looking at my test pieces from the laser cutter and having some doubts. The ones that shimmered I still liked, but I discovered when I placed more than two layers next to each other it ruins the shimmering effect. I don’t always know how I achieve the shimmer effect either, it seems to be a random combination of several factors and I think I just got lucky with my degree show work. I became frustrated at the time the laser takes to finish – when I draw or paint I am a very fast worker so this slow pace doesn’t sit very well with me, I think the energy is lost in the work. Also the laser cutter requires booking at busy times which was always a bit of a pain.

I asked myself the question- ‘Do I need the laser cutter anymore?’

A bit of a scary question but the answer came to me as a definite ‘no’. I enjoyed using the laser cutter for my undergraduate course, but I think it’s important to go with my gut instinct here. With all my little test drawings and experiments I am definitely feeling something more instinctual and organic. We have been talking a lot about ‘mimesis’ the idea of representation in our art and this has made me want to be a physical part of the work again. I felt as if a lot of myself was taken away when all I do is press a button on a machine.

My project ‘Enso’ came to mind. I had really enjoyed this project – I would say it was definitely one of my favourites throughout my entire undergraduate course. I started flipping through my sketchbook to try and come up with the solution when I began to notice all of these little line doodles (see below) I had been drawing unconsciously in the middle of my notes. Drawing. I wanted to draw.

I felt a little sad then because truly, I have never felt a connection with a material more than I have acrylic and light. It really speaks to me in a way that no other technique has managed to do before. So I started to think of a way I could combine the two and then it hit me – hand etch into acrylic. It allows me the same technique but a different process. That night I ordered a hand etcher and hoped like mad it would work. I knew acrylic scratches easily but you need a proper power tool to etch like the laser.

On Tuesday we had our philosophy discussion on Nietzsche’s book and I liked the concept of opposing Appolistic and Dionysiac forces, the former being this veil to mask the true world and the latter being primal urges and truth. It was almost this push and pull that I had been experiencing within my work – the primal carving methods were calling to me!

In the afternoon we had a lecture from Professor Mary Modeen, this time on ‘Modes of Representation’. If anything this lecture only made me surer of the abstract route I wanted to go down, though as we learned in the lecture – ‘everything is always an abstraction of something.’

On Wednesday morning our Humanities seminar was on ‘Las Meninas’ by Foucault which is a very intriguing piece of writing, I would recommend you to read it if you haven’t. I already knew the painting (I think it’s one of everyone’s favourites as it’s so enigmatic) and so it was great to hear Foucault’s opinions. Afterwards, I received an email telling me the etcher had arrived (thanks Amazon Prime) and I rushed home in the afternoon to try it out. Little did I know the book I had preordered – Caitlin Doughty’s From Here To Eternity had arrived, so I said the usual which was ‘I’ll just read a couple of pages’ and ended up reading almost the entire thing (review coming soon!) You can see my post on her other book here if you haven’t already read it.

Anyway finally during the evening I got around to the etcher and wow it was strange to get used to it. It kind of looks like a drill with a pen attachment and it was very difficult to control and hold. After a lot of practice I managed to get the hang of it. I really blew me away as there are different attachments, one like a pen, one that makes marks like charcoal etc. Of course I am sure they are all for woodworking and metal uses but nevertheless I like to repurpose tools to my ideas.

I don’t think I have mentioned this before but I have taken up meditation within the last couple of weeks and I am really enjoying it. I tried to incorporate this mindset into my drawing, almost letting the machine draw for me and just emptying my mind of all thoughts or concerns about the final outcome. I feel like this is an integral part of the work, kind of losing my preconceptions about the piece. To my delight I discovered the the etcher not only ‘draws’ but can also carve into the acrylic, therefore the final outcome is something of a hybrid between sculpture and line drawing. It looked like thread or neuron tangles and I like to think I was drawing thoughts or feelings as they came to me.

Test piece to try out etcher.
First attempt
First proper attempt at hand etching

During Thursday’s Lecture with Mary Modeen on ‘Contingency in art’ it reinfored some of my thoughts, like the process becoming part of the artwork and ’embracing the aleatoric’ something that happens a lot with this technique as I never feel like i’m fully in control of the machine. I love the feeling of creating something physical again, of getting covered in acrylic at the end of a etching session.

On Friday I spent the whole day etching a piece of mirrored acrylic I bought in the art shop, and discovered it was almost like painting as the metal reflects and reacts differently to the tool.

Mirror test
Back of mirror of test piece

Phew, so a busy week then all in all! Check out my Instagram and my Facebook as I am planning to put a lot more photographs and video updates this year than I have done in the past. Catch you all next week!

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