At my last crit I had received mixed feedback about the piece Mysterious Paths, which I had taken on the chin, putting the piece to the back of a pile in my studio. Since then, I had worked furiously to produce other pieces, turning my emotions into energy which I had used in a positive way. However, all the while I had felt dissatisfied, having to conform by disregarding this piece, which sickened me every time I cast my eyes on it.
I was thinking about how to sum up what I had been doing with all of my other pieces…poetry, walking, using natural materials, trapping some of these in ice and wax…concealing layers and fragments…and then I had a thought about a way that I might be able to salvage this piece, making it less “obvious”, as had been mentioned in the crit. After all, I had nothing to lose, and didn’t want to be precious about leaving the piece as it stood.
I began by trying a few experiments to conceal various natural materials in layers of tissue paper; soil, ashes, a thistle and some Usnea lichen. My first few attempts failed…I had wet my brush before using Pva, and the tissue broke each time. Slowly I got the knack of the technique, brushing the glue on very slowly, and using a hairdryer to speed up the drying process.
Concealing Usnea lichen between layers of tissue paper
The same piece with Usnea lichen, held up to the window
A jagged, painted thistle trapped between tissue
The results were interesting; the PVA coating had giving the tissue more translucence, and this was especially apparent when held up to the light. Having become more confident in using the tissue and glue, I took the decision to cover over the found objects in the piece – on each of 16 square canvas boards.
I began with the easier ones- the small stones and pebbles, then worked up to the more complicated pieces…which will remain a secret! I used a hairdryer each time, and not only did this speed up the drying process, but it actually seemed to make the tissue stretch tightly, so that it resembled a kind of skin, with foreign bodies pushing hard against it in an attempt to break through.
I felt this was quite apt, as I was trying to show the present and the absent; the invisible landscape, the hidden paths, the concealed layers of nature and events which shaped the site, the clues waiting to be unearthed…
I really feel much more content with this piece now, and feel that covering the objects has made it stronger conceptually, and more interesting (and less obvious) aesthetically. It gives me a calm serene feeling, yet begs the viewer to touch it (gently!) and to enquire just what is underneath the “skin”.