The importance of the unseen- on making things

Creating an artwork involves many processes, most of which remain unseen to the outside world of spectators and audiences. The translation of thoughts and ideas into something concrete and viewable (in one manner or other) is long, hard and necessary for any artist. The unseen is a large part of the artwork, a fundamental building block, and perhaps worthy of more consideration than it is given by others than the artists themselves. Yet how can this unseen be made tangible to others? Does it factor in the viewing of, or participation in, an artwork by a spectator?

Similar to artists like Sandy Skoglund who work in much the same manner, for me the many cultural experiences I go trough in my way to a new work are fundamental to the final outcome. The differences between where I have been and where I am, the similarities, are all organic, they keep changing as I discover new approaches, materials, new vantage points, skills and maturing thought patterns, or as I discover new things about my cultural background or present cultural setting.

It is one of those unseen romances that never fade, never stops being fascinating, challenging or sometimes even heartbreaking. Within all this, which at the best of times can seem confusing and chaotic, comes the making. Making the unseen visible, attempting to translate all these seemingly abstract ideas about home, identity, myths and so on. I often meet people who struggle to understand why I make my own props, why I bother to spend endless hours teaching myself to build the things that fit into the images I already have in my head, when they aren’t perfect, and could even sometimes be referred to (and have been referred to) as ugly.  It would be a whole other kind of work if I just went out and bought ready-mades. Although I sometimes fail, I like that my sculptures strive towards the same ideal as I do. They strive to find their trans-identity, between the contradictions in material and representation, their past, present and future. And what most people fail to realize is that they are never intended to be perfect or too realistic. Their making, the whole process serves its purpose perfectly already.

So many new discoveries come with the experience of making. There’s this strange bonding between thoughts and material, an almost meditative state, that I’d like to think somehow translates, if only in small fragments, into the finished artwork. And the artwork is rarely just the sculpture itself. The artwork is its context, the image built around it, the installation, the continuation of narrative it provides as a three dimensional object.

My first decapitated troll's head in the making. He's only minor steps away from being finished, and has a half done brother on the way. There will be (at least) 3 heads in total to coincide with the number of heads Norwegian trolls usually have (These range mostly from 1 to 9, 3 being the most common). These will feature in an image to be shot sometime in the (near) future based around the fairytale, and Kittelsen painting, Soria Moria. For those with little knowledge on Norwegian fairytales; trolls often capture fair princesses and are very often decapitated to be defeated. (Images taken with mobile phone.)

I research everything i make. If it’s a troll’s head, I read about trolls, look at drawings and paintings, read fairytales, watch movies. I search my memories, my culture, for clues as to how I can portray something personal through them.  Then I go through a steep learning curve as I start to build. Firstly trying to work out how to get a basic shape, an armature, and from there, the finer layers of detail. I’m not a sculptor, as with my light painting, I am self-taught hence I do not strive for this idea of “learned perfection”. My aim is to make the troll, or whatever it may be, embody bits of those unseen processes and experiences. The making facilitates my thinking.  In ways I imagine I imprint parts of myself onto what I am making. (Which when you think about it is impossible not to do in some way when you make things by hand with paper clay.) And in the end this imperfect, homemade object appears, and no matter what it looks like it has already served an elemental purpose. In the many hours it takes me to build it, my skills improve, and perhaps most importantly, my thoughts mature as I have allowed myself to spend much time in silent conversation with my own ideas.

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About Dida

Visual artist, light painter and mother.
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