Materiality, Form and Focus

After my struggles last week I went to the library and took out a couple of books to start thinking more into what my work is about and how it relates to art currently in the world. Materiality, Edited by Petra Lange-Berndt has been totally eye opening. This book contains documents on contemporary art by many different artists. Materiality is one of the most contested yet key features in current contemporary art, materials that are messy, unstable or interfere with social norms are all currently being used and my work recently has been truly focused on the materials I am using, rather than trying to display a story or emotion. Expanding foam, which I am currently focusing on, is an unstable chemical material that was created as a building material.

By having a look through this book, I have initially found a few statements that very much link to the purpose and development of my work. This book has made me think more into depth about why I am using the materials and how key they are to my process and forms. 

Using materials in unusual and unorthodox ways allows artists to grab viewers attention. “The term material describes not prime matter but substances that are always subject to change, be it through handling interaction with their surroundings, or the dynamic life of their chemical reactions” (Materiality, Lange-Berndt, pg 12) This is true to expanding foam, when it is first used the chemicals inside create a dynamic material that changes and develops with its surroundings. I manipulate the foam in a way that directs it to create the forms I somewhat want it to develop, even though these forms are both random and experimental. 

Monika Wagner’s Extract, Material, 2001, states that “Material is understood as an information carrier; in this interpretation material is a medium” (Materiality, Wagner, pg 27). this suggests each material an artist uses already has a initial idea attached to it, for example, when we think of paint, we think of a tactile fluid material that an artists hand can create into images of spectacular imagination or meaning. Or if we where to look as wood, it has notions of craftsmanship, nature, and a hard surface that can take weight or can be made into an object of significant use. But as an artist, taking these materials and trying to give them another meaning can be difficult. Ai Weiwei uses materials and the ready-made to remake works that signify different meanings and display the beauty of a functioning object. 

Ai Wei Wei Grapes 2010, Materiality and use of materials

Ai Weiwei Grapes, 2010, A cluster of Qing Stools at the Royal Academy, London

Weiweis work here not only shows the use of wood, it also is engulfed with Chinese culture through the use of recycled materials and structures that once where used in peoples everyday life. But does it display pure materiality as a focus? And Although I am still confused as to what my work is, I am beginning to gain a larger understanding of what I am creating, and looking at Weiweis work along side this book has prompted me forward. 

Reflecting back to Wanger, “Material needs no longer to be understood as a detachable carrier for a form or an idea, but can be regarded as indissolubly interwoven with it.” (Materiality, Wanger, 2001) My chosen materials are currently expanding foam, knitting and old chairs, all of these materials have meanings already attatched to them. 

Old chairs being a sign of historical culture, craftsmanship, strength, family time around the table, meals, comfort, relaxation and illness. But why cant a chair just be constructed pieces of wood?

Knitting is often seen as a woman’s craft which is used to create practical pieces of textiles, the time it takes to create a garment by hand can be many hours of hard work. But in art, knitting hasn’t really been represented in another form. To me, knitting is about time and energy that has been used to create that constructed material, also the concentration it can take to create it. But why cant knitting just be a piece of material, and not something more complicated?

Expanding foam is a workman’s material and not often seen to be used in art. Its an insulator that is often used in houses to fill large gaps and holes. But the chemicals in expanding foam allow it to grow and move on its own. Not many materials have this quality. 

I have chosen all of my materials simply because I wanted to use them and experiment with how they can collaborate together, and although there have been many questions asked about tumours, the body, and historical reference, my work at the moment is simply about process, form, and truth to materials. This does extend further into the body lightly as this has always been a reference I come back to. Most of my forms look like body parts, fat, tumours or bodily movement, even though this is not intentional.