Tell us a little bit about yourself—your background, major program of study, reasons for taking this trip, and anything else interesting you want to share (maybe something people might not know about you).
Being able to view artwork at its home base was the first and foremost reason I came on this trip. Seeing the flesh and bones of the work as well as the privileged people who are constantly saturated in this culture and art work. I did, however, want to explore independence, experience a different social rapport, and analyze the behavior of those around me. This includes my peers and understanding what type of people they really are, how they act in a new environment, view work, and respond to social interactions. My focus here at Kwantlen Polytechnic University is Fine Arts with a focus on ceramics and, more recently, unconventional materials. I am also a painter and appreciate digital media, performance and most mediums. My ceramics practice focuses on biology of the human body and the interconnectivity of our mental and physical state often seen in somatization. These studies have driven me into various directions that scrape the surface of obsession and mental health. Seeing work in different countries was important to me because of all the obligations of daily life intertwined with a sole focus on the task at hand and only worrying about taking in what I was viewing. I think for the first time I was given an opportunity that allowed me to really experience art for art’s sake.
What has met or exceeded your expectations or surprised you about London (or Venice) so far?
What shocked me most about London was the similarities it had with Vancouver and finding a city with a better transit system. Granted the system is chaotic, it is more reliable, frequent, bike friendly, and walkable. Everywhere I had previously visited couldn’t even hold a candle up to Vancouver’s transit, but London was exceptional. I also found it hilarious to watch people from the upper decks of the buses scramble for their lives. It was a risk to cross the street most times because the traffic lights face the opposite direction from the crosswalk. Not to mention the cyclists that appear out of nowhere and It doesn’t help to have the habit of checking the wrong direction.
On the upside the humour was amazing, self-deprecation in many instances, and the location names were hilarious. My favorite jokes regarding the underground system was the continuous reminder to “Mind The Gap,” as the tube was so old that the platform and train are inconsistent at every stop and you could lose a child in it if you’re not careful! Before leaving for London I had this expectation of cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture. This exceeded my expectations because our hostel was placed near the Saint Pancras station, the most gorgeous building with peaks and arches for days, and Kings Cross, which is where Harry Potter’s trains were filmed. Both were marvelous land marks that made you feel safe and direction savvy. The historical architecture has persevered and around every corner something beautiful, like a mural or artwork. The galleries and museums were free entry and were works of art themselves. The ceilings decorative, the curb side appeal on point, and made the experience unforgettable. Another thing that was amazing in both London and Venice was the food quality, real butter and amazing croissants’. Most memorable thing for me was the underground line that’s called Piccadilly line to Cockfoster (where of course you can always pick your dilly to Cockfoster).
Give us some insight into your assigned artwork from the Tate Modern. After seeing the work in person in London (and any other related art from the same artist or art movement associated with the assigned work), what struck you most about it and/or how did the artwork’s form, content, and context shift for you when seeing it.
After studying Eva Hesse for three weeks and then viewing her artwork, it was extremely rewarding. I was able to make out all kinds of detail that was impossible to capture in a reproduction. Seeing so many works that had similar qualities really put in perspective how influential this work was. You could tell how it shifted other contemporary artists in their own practice and the potential of Hesse’s work if she was still practicing. Initially the size shocked me, Hesse’s Addendum (1967) was much larger than I had anticipated as well as coolness of the colour, implied mass was heavier and display choice that lead to a direct conversation with humanity through the work surrounding it. In the room it was displayed a simplified casted human stood looking directly at it (see image below) caught in the sublime of the work. And although large, the human figure seemed so bound up in its emotions, that it was as if it was looking into the sky slowly sinking into the universe, just a speck, humbled by Addendum.
While getting more than expected, the shift in form, content, and context wa reconfirming what I had learned, other than the materials that were said to be less finished and rough. Addendum seemed very clean and complete to me. My opinion, however, is distorted by the work I usually see now which has no limits to the unfinished qualities, sometimes barely a concept started. Knowing that this work contributed to the allowance we have today was profoundly moving. I found myself understanding the articles and the write ups better than before, and I could see how this sculpture was pushing the confinements and separations of painting, sculpture, and the wall. I saw many works that came in later time periods and saw how similar the work was. This includes Keith Sonnier’s, Red Flocked Wall (1969). From looking at Red Flocked Wall (see images below), I could tell Hesse’s influence by the choice of materials mixed together that included liquid latex, pigment, saw dust, and flocking. This looks to be mixed and then applied to the wall and carefully ripped off the wall and secured to the ground. It shows the aspects of Hesse’s influence by the lean of the work off the wall, material choice, and human quality that’s hard to identify, but there. This work expands on Hesse’s work by not only using formal qualities, but by bringing in a disturbing element by appearance instead of analyzing the downfalls of humanity, which I tend to relate to Hesse’s obsession with terminology and common constructs.
One thing I did not see coming was the grandeur and intimidation that came with it, I usually associate this quality with male-centric works however, but this was apparent while sitting on the floor and studying different angles of Addendum. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to see everything in these galleries in the round.
How did you approach the creative task of responding to your assigned artists in studio? What were your challenges as an artist to be in dialogue with the artwork and artist? Would you do anything differently now that you have seen the work in person?
When I start strategizing my response I knew I had to keep certain aspects of the work associated to Hesse. I chose to keep her titling process, the obsessive mathematics in placement, and the need to merge traditional notions of sculpture and painting. Addendum means to attach something to an already existing item, and in Hesse’s case, the title Addendum was a crucial aspect of the reading for the viewers. Hesse used a visual format to display the definition. When I read this piece, I saw that she was adding to both painting and sculpture by providing a new plane for painting to exist. Removed from the wall and joined by the shadows, Hesse had made a sculptural material an assembled painting. This helps with textile art work that formed as paintings later and sculptures to be flattened and considered paintings as well. I took this concept and applied it to something I am passionate about studying, human biology. Lugubrious (2019) is my addendum to the studies of human biology. It relates the mental state of mind; the human condition, to the physical evolution which it is contingent to. I tried to stay within the visual language of Hesse’s Addendum while responding, so I decided to use ribbon to connect both the half sphere’s, that change in size and distance, to the ceiling (see Amiee’s response artwork below). The spheres are meant to relate to mitosis and the ribbon to the mind, constantly dispersed with no real aim and the overlapping of one another, to your own emotions and others.
One of the most important visual aspects of the work that relates to Hesse is the lines that make the plane and merging the painting with objects. I thought this was my way of expanding the dialogue because it is not only leaned up against the wall, but removed entirely. This could be a deficiency because I have removed the shadows that perch on the wall behind Addendum, but it can be positive too as it invites the viewer from both sides, creating a shadow on the viewer, making them a part of the work. After viewing Addendum in person, I would definitely make my spheres larger and give it more girth, possibly have its expanse over an entire hallway, shifting from one side to another, controlling how the viewer moves through space.
Today’s activity was located at the Venice Biennale. What were your impressions? What will you take away of the experiences of this day? What are the most memorable moments for you?
The 2019 Biennale “May You Live In Interesting Times” curated by Ralph Rugoff and a jurying panel has over 90 participating countries and multiple sites of installations. There is the Giardini that has both pavilions dedicated to individual countries and a central pavilion that is an exhibition of all the artists, the Arsenale with all artists, and even off- site collateral events. Today the class explored the Arsenale, which out of all the sites I was able to get to, was my favorite. In the country dedicated pavilions, I saw some amazing work that represented the current state of nationhood and thought it to be inspiring and informative, however, the Arsenale was breathtaking. The work was more rooted in the way times are now, more generally, and the possibilities of the future. I found most of the work to be speaking about the present and the future as one merged concept. One unifying factor was the amount of video and audio work that was present. This seemed to be a cohesive need in represent the interesting times we live in.
My favorite artists from the Arsenale were comprised mainly of female artists including Zanele Muholi, a photographer who made gigantic portraits that stare directly into the viewers eyes. She prefers to be known as a visual activist. Her work involves African lesbians and disregards the viewer’s gaze as she meets it eye to eye with a look of disinterest. Alexandra Bircken, from Germany, who displayed multiple hung black body suits around ladders and other site-specific structures that gave suggestions of suicide, impossibilities, and dystopic views. Carol Bov, from Switzerland, produced work that was mainly large metal sculptures that looked soft and pliable. This made me think about the developing world’s shift to properly valuing and understanding all people including women for the skill and work they make and not regarding them only as female artists or marginalized peoples. Another thing I loved about the Biennale was the need to see what all people are doing around the world, given that the focus is still toward the usual countries of power and influence. This gives all countries a chance to fight and have a say in how they are represented and how influential they can be to the rest of the world no matter how small others think they may be.