GCSE Exam questions 2010
difficult for Jim to respond in person to all of them but he has
prepared his own response to the question, which is about the layering
technique that artists employ.
Response to 2010 AQA EXAM … Question 6:
Artists and designers sometimes create their work in layers through a process of concealing and/or revealing. Jeanette Appleeton builds embroidered surfaces rich in layers of texture and colour. Victoria Crowe’s figurative paintings illustrate memories through transparent layers of paint. Ceramicist Jim Robison creates rich textured surfaces that appear to be weathered by time.
Consider the ways in which artists and/or designers explore layers and produce your own work using any appropriate media.
THOUGHTS ABOUT LAYERS
In response to the 2010 AQA exam questions:
There are many ways to think about Layering. It is not just in the materials itself, but the entire environment within which an artist’s work might develop and be viewed. Some of the possible examples that spring to mind are:
Personal BACKGROUND AND EXPERIENCE is one layer.
What you bring to the work, influences ideas and intentions before you proceed. Mechanical things interest me. Cars were followed by jet engines as a mechanic in the American Air force.
Construction and assembly, the very manipulation of materials is fun. Putting pieces together is assembling a puzzle. Our home and gallery contains much of my own efforts with wood, stone and concrete. Hand-building with sheets of clay is a bit like carpentry or joinery.
The Environment is fascinating. Landscape, trees, rock formations, wind, and rain… and its ever-changing visual, intellectual and emotional impact. Ancient man-made monuments, man’s activities on the land and architecture itself intrigue me.
Art lessons in college introduced me to basic ingredients of art: Line, Shape, Colour Form, Texture. I look for them everywhere. Composing with these elements is stimulating and always a consideration.
INTENTIONS and SOURCE MATERIAL are other layers
Some commissioned works have a clear message to convey.
History (Including Art History) might be part of it. Holmfirth ceramic murals in the Civic Hall contain flood theme. Panels for the Yorkshire Purchasing Organization in Wakefield reflect local architecture and rivers. Ancient buildings are visible in the ‘Friendship’ sculpture celebrating the ‘Twin Town’ scheme of Cambridge with Heidelberg in a series of four columns in the Grafton Shopping Centre in Cambridge.
My Liverpool Home, a panel for the Riverside Housing Association included details about family life, and actual clay impressions from the Liverpool docks and pavements in front of the Liver building. It also starts with the basic shapes of a square, circle and triangle. For me, these contain the message. The largest square frames the action, the triangle suggests a house roof and gable end, while the circle is a magnifying glass, looking inside the family home, filled with children’s drawings and piles of dirty dishes (after the romantic glass of wine).
Function is an element. In broad terms, this might mean that Sculptures and Art works are there to provide interest, pleasure and a focal point. Something to make you think or see things in a new way. Clay was the basis for the earliest recorded writing (cuneiform clay tablets, thousands of years old) and among the earliest building materials (very functional!). As a Ceramicist, function might include practical application within the home or in the garden, giving pleasure to eye and hand in daily use.
Sometimes, and perhaps most importantly, there is the element of experimentation and exploration of what materials can do when treated in different ways. Maybe it should just be called PLAY. The ‘what if?’ factor that comes into your mind, often while working and manipulating the material… Pieces made in this way are often just for personal enjoyment.
ART MATERIALS: the layers a viewer sees.
When drawing or painting, one line or layer of colour is seldom enough. Sketching ideas usually requires going over and over the same shape, making changes and gradually refining the idea. All of my larger commissions begin with a fresh, new sketchbook and a verbal listing of thoughts about the project. The build up of ideas goes hand in hand with the actual materials themselves.
There are at least three physical layers in play in my ceramic work.
It has its own colour and texture (based on grog content) and provides the base for the work. Dark clays have an earthy character; white clay feels lighter and gives a brighter colour response. Texture may also be APPLIED. Stamps, rollers, fingers, stones, shells, cloth… anything really. My tripod pieces begin with throwing sheets of clay against the studio wall, giving a texture from concrete block and straight lines from mortar joints.
Essentially clay and water mix that is brushed over the work. White slip brushed over a dark clay texture will highlight the surface and make the impressions appear darker.
Applied while the clay is still wet, coloured slips are used like paint or print materials and built up layers on top of the clay. They may be used over stencils, or combed and scratched through to make shapes and linear designs in the slip.
Glaze materials are mixed with water and usually applied with a spray guy. Brush, sponge, dip, or pouring may also be used to build up a top coating (of multiple colours) on the work. Up to five glazes may be used on any single piece. These may be transparent or translucent, so that both slip and clay layers show through to a greater or lesser extent.
Perhaps more unique to some of my work is the tendency to build up layers of slip decorated clay and re-roll them. This presses them together into a single sheet, but with a multiplicity of layers on view. This process also alters shapes and distorts patterns. It opens up scored lines and marks and in extreme cases will tear the clay open or break it up along the edges of the slab. The results are somewhat unpredictable and give a spontaneous look to the work. My intention is to give the slab a bit of ‘history’. These slabs with ‘attitude’ are then used to construct the work itself; painterly or sculptural pieces, often simple shapes, a vase, bowl or wall panel.
THE VIEWER: PURPOSE AND MEANING.
Another layer is that which the viewer brings to the work. Who will see this work? Is it aimed at a particular group? Will it be family, friends, assessors looking for particular things, someone with an arts background or complete strangers from the general public. The appreciation of work may depend on the background and education (and consequently the understanding) of the viewer. The artist/maker might have various meanings in mind, at many levels. Not all of these will be immediately visible to the viewer. In fact completely unintended meanings are often the outcome. This may even be to the advantage of the work.
When doing commissioned work, it is important to gauge what the customer has in mind. I do not see this as a dilution of artistic intent, but rather a sharpening of focus. Restrictions can bring a sort of freedom and a release from nagging uncertainty. Although I confess that the public piece in the middle of Holmfirth which had as an artist’s brief: Create an Art Work, a place to Sit and, while your are at it, a Map for the aid of visitors--did pose a challenge.
Part of my studio is a gallery for invited artists and craftspeople. Its primary focus on ceramics gives a chance to provide information about the work on view. There are so many different ways to do things in clay and part of my motivation is to provide an education into the reasons that things look the way they do—adding a layer of understanding is crucial to the appreciation of the work.
Knowing the efforts required of artist/makers is often a key to selling the work of course; this is an essential part of staying in business. But beyond the pure business side, there is excitement and stimulation that comes with seeing these works. Holding a piece, with some knowledge of the intellectual, imaginative and physical energies required for its very existence is an endless source of pleasure and encouragement for me to carry on making.
Research, study, experimentation, making and evaluation are all part of the process.
At risk of using a cliché, the more you put in, the more you get out. Ultimately, the important decisions and conclusions reached must be your own.
I had an art teacher on one of my courses here some years ago. So enthusiastic, and at my elbow constantly observing what was being done. When I was invited to exhibit with him at his school, it was with some amazement that I saw how hard he tried to copy my techniques exactly. And when he rushed up and asked ‘Did I pass?’ I just had to leave. I was disappointed that he felt that a copy of techniques alone would be enough. Without some purpose, some personal goals, techniques alone leaves the work vacuous and devoid of meaning. By all means borrow the tools, but make the results your own.
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