Poor Art

November 2017

'And art ? When the rocking stops. A sense of being henceforth always after.' (Christian Wiman)

As the Italian post-war miracle soured and collapsed into a chaos of economic, social and political instability, Arte Povera emerged from within a network of urban cultural activity. As opposed to endorsing a distinctive style, Arte Povera described a process of open-ended experimentation – an unfettered situation in favour of complete openness to materials and processes. The artists sculpted, took photographs, made performances and installations and worked in many different ways, creating works of immense physical presence, as well as small-scale ephemeral gestures. They continue to exert a significant influence on artists today. This is the context for the 'Poor Art' project.

Submission Details: At the end of the project you are expected to present, in addition to the work itself, a document of the 'objet d'art,' sculpture, assemblage, installation, intervention … that you have made in response to the brief.

At the start of the project my mother found some rope, originally used for curtains back home when I was younger, I decided to base the crux of the project on this rope. I found it was very versatile, it could be taken apart easily and was made of a soft natural material that felt nice and soaked up water (and inks) easily. In addition to the string, I had a selection of objects, mostly leftover from previous projects I didn’t use them for.

One of the first things I did was stick some of the rope onto small canvases. I took it apart and experimented using different lengths - some parts the rope is still in tact, others I took it apart into a lot of thin strings. The end result was an interesting variety of textures. I also stuck down an old polaroid as I liked the contrast in textures. When I’d finished, I carefully painted a line across the canvases, mostly to see how the string would react, and found when the paint got to wet the string soaked it up and made it blurry. Interesting.

I created a series of ‘string drawings’, I dipped the string in some paint and used it to paint on the paper, holding it at a difference to allow little control. I experimented painting with different mediums, including acrylic paint, ink and emulsion, but the most effective result was using poster paint mixed with some water. At the ideal consistency, it was thin enough for the string to soak it up but not too thin that it dripped everywhere. I drew various things, including a self-portrait by tracing my face, then drawing elements that seemed to appear in this drawing. Drawing with the string created an abstract but still vaguely recognizable image. I then drew a larger image of a bear.

As a variation from the string drawings, I tied some rope to the ceiling and, after dopping it in some paint, let it hang onto some paper. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very interesting as the string wouldn’t really move itself and make marks, I ended up having to hold the string anyway. Attempting to lift the string so it wasn’t dragging on the paper didn’t help either as it couldn’t reach anything but the centre.

I noticed that whenever the string got wet it would soak up the liquid, so I done it deliberately using ink. The result was fascinating, as I dipped the string it it slowly soaked it up and changed colour, and I noticed it would travel up the individual strands rather than the string as a whole.
I took this a step further, got one of the ropes and divided its strands into three different coloured pots of ink. Slowly, the string soaked up the ink and every strand was a different colour, it looked good although towards the bottom it was quite messy.

I decided to continue with the ‘painting with string’ idea by creating a series of tools to draw with. I did this by dipping the rope in glue and letting it dry while hanging, causing it to dry as a stick. Some paintbrushes with string brushes, a palette knife and a few pencils with graphite tips. A couple of them I actually ended up working with in my final piece.

In addition to the string I had a small assortment of found objects, mainly beanie babies, that I experimented with. One of these was a dragon that i’d ‘emptied’ at an earlier date but never used. I cut his head off and tied it to the ceiling, and glued to string into his mouth as if he was being sick. There wasn’t really any meaning behind this, I was just messing about and seeing how well the string would stick to beanies. I had hoped to get a small flower and plant it inside it’s neck, but sadly I couldn’t find one at the time of year.

My ‘hanging-toys-from-struff’ adventures continued with a small bear, he wasn’t a beanie baby but I found him at the side of the road and picked him up. I tied it under the stairs where people would be passing during the opening day. I have no idea where the bear came from, so perhaps a part of me was hoping his previous owner would pass him and pick him up, or at least see him. Perhaps I was subconsciously making a statement for the desire to find what you didn’t know what was lost.

Other object experiments included a hedgehog which I decorated with rubbish that I’d found, and a mannequin that I ‘clothed’ with rope.

One of the beanie babies I had was called ‘kissme’, I thought this was quite cute and a little sad considering it’s eventual purpose. When I was painting with the string brushes, I decided to write her name and pose the bear with the brush as if she is asking. I would end up doing this again more extensively in my final piece.

A few more experiments with the rope, dipping it in paint and glue:

I had a dog beanie which I dipped in paint (only it’s foot, I couldn’t bring myself to dip it’s face in. I’m losing my touch, clearly). Then dipped it’s paws in and let it ‘run’ across the paper in a manner similar to a child playing.

In my final piece, wanted to expand on the larger string drawing, incorporating a few more aspects that I had been experimenting with. I started by drawing a self portrait, relying mostly on touching and feeling my face rather than working from a visual reference. When I finished, I circled the painting with the string, later tying the dog beanie to it. I found that this action was very reminiscent of playing and I was taking a toy dog for a walk. This also had the advantage of smudging and blurring the page, it was like my action of playing was being recorded on paper. I also got the kissme bear and used it to pick up objects my manipulating the beanie’s hands. This was surprisingly hard, especially trying to get the wet string out the pot.

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