Arts Proposal – Out of the Matrix

Gothic Memphis / The Halls of Alegria

Before outlining what this project will entail, I think it’s important to consider the current social climate we find ourselves in, and the restrictions placed upon us. When approaching this project, due to the uncertainty brought into our lives these past two years, I won’t provide a clear-cut output. Instead I want to spend the proposal outlining my initial image creation, my principles and my thoughts, heading into this project.

As a child I lived my life online, racing home from school everyday to spend my time in digital worlds, video games, chat rooms, and forums. As Australians have become more digitally literate, acceptance of internet culture has been growing, and with everyone locked down for the last two years, the concept of inhabiting digital spaces is now secondary to most people.

As I’ve spent more time online as an adult, I find myself increasingly divided on the benefits and dangers of having access to everyone, all of the time. I find myself enamored with the thousands of career options it presents, the endless wells of knowledge I can draw from, and that I have been able to exhibit my work to people all around the globe. This constant global connection though also leads to endless, cyclical arguments, and we can see them play out in real time, on twitter, in youtube comment sections, and in endless forums. It has also led to the polarization of political opinions, as well as giving extremist ideals space to take root and grow.

I am taking inspiration from modern interactive entertainment, and traditional tapestry storytelling methods for my designs. My intent is to personify online interactions we experience every day, using an aesthetic that harkens back to what we thought the internet could look like in the late nineties. Mixing this with the alegria design sensibilities, those blocky, gangly, flat figures set as the representatives for many a tech company. A grim take on corporate memphis and the utopian ideals fed to us by Silicon valley.

My intent though isn’t necessarily to skewer or parody these companies, or this particular artstyle. I intend to harness it’s ubiquity to create work that toes the line between familiar and unsettling. I want to take this style of corporate memphis, or Alegria as it is known in the industry, and use it as a tool for art, repurposing an overused commercial tool for a more meaningful artistic purpose.

Designs will be created in adobe illustrator, using the same tools as designers gives a sense of authenticity to the work. Illustrator also lends itself to a very specific art making process, and works well whether remaining digital or being screen printed, allowing flexibility. I studied graphic design in my early twenties and had a great love for Illustrator, but it is something I haven’t touched since I began studying fine art.

My work will be digital first, physical second. These are works that are born from internet culture, and as such belong to it. I want to appreciate the internet for what it can be at its best, when it embodies the ideals of print. While commenting on the more toxic behaviors and ideals the internet can harbour.

Artists who will influence my work include Jess Johnson, or @flesh_dozer as she is known online, her work creates digital worlds, full of fractal repetition and fleshy depictions of human bodies. Brian Tessler or @cool3dworlds also creates 3d worlds, but with a more disturbed, distorted approach. Both these artists have created living worlds through their images, attempting to capture the absurd reality of the internet, and digital space.

References

  1. Gracie, A 2015, ‘Telling Stories Through Tapestry’, Word Wench, Blog Post, 04 May, Viewed 25 August 2021, <https://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2015/05/telling-stories-through-tapestry.html>
  2. Gabert-Doyon, J 2021, ‘Why does every advert look the same? Blame Corporate Memphis‘, WIRED UK, 21 January, viewed 24 August 2021, <https://www.wired.co.uk/article/corporate-memphis-design-tech>
  3. Know your meme 2021, Corporate Art Style, Know your meme, viewed 25 August 2021, <https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/subcultures/corporate-art-style>
  4. Kain, E 2012, ‘Storytelling in Dark Souls and Skyrim’, Forbes, 29 March, viewed 23 August 2021, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/03/29/storytelling-in-dark-souls-and-skyrim/?sh=13a722f35984>
  5. Hawley, R 2019, ‘Don’t Worry, These Gangly-armed Cartoons Are Here to Protect You From Big Tech’, Eye On Design, 21 August, viewed 25 August 2021, <https://eyeondesign.aiga.org/dont-worry-these-gangley-armed-cartoons-are-here-to-protect-you-from-big-tech/>
  6. Tesser, B, viewed 25 August 2021, <https://brianbrianbrianbrian.com/>
  7. Johnson, J, viewed 25 August 2021, <https://www.jessjohnson.org/?ltclid=c7a00ef4-0fa8-4fad-8dfb-623eadd64787>

Can i give you a hand?

So this post will basically be talking through my early design process in creating a Covid charm, see my previous post for what a charm is. Initially we were told to think about what had defined our time in lockdown, and therapy came to mind. I spent probably about 15 weeks in sessions with a student therapist from Melbourne university, It was easily some of the most intense sessions I’ve ever been a part of, and by the end felt like I was more mentally exhausted by the therapy than the lockdown. We did this one exercise called chair work, where I would address the chair sitting next to my therapist on the screen as if I was also sitting in it? does that make sense? this was all over zoom.

I showed up late for class, and totally unprepared the morning these sketches were due, luckily I was on the far end of the room, and double lucky I find it easier to pay attention if my hands are busy. So I tried to come up with some ideas that would be fun, but maybe easier to execute. I always get kind of annoyed when I see peoples art diaries and they’re these perfectly maintained books, each page a masterpiece. Most of my visual diaries are 90% half finished pencil sketches, 5% slightly more fleshed out ideas, and 5% notes to myself, sometimes about art, but mostly like phone numbers, quick math and maybe an important password or two. So I don’t really enjoy showing them, but here’s my starting point.

Waxing relaxing all cool

Despite this being my first time using wax, I’ve spent countless hours at work playing with blu-tac on the tills, making tiny sculptures in my down time (if I work for you this is a lie and I am a model employee) so this felt kind of like an extension of that, only the wax was a lot firmer. The thing I was most interested to make was hands, I always love drawing hands, getting a hand right feels like an accomplishment. So I started making hands, these ones below were a combination of brown and pink sheet wax, I focused on getting them as small as I could while still feeling substantial and recognizable. I learnt ways I could make them smoother and look cleaner, but I actually really liked the rough handmade appearance. To me they have the appearance of carved stone, which I think gives off a more masculine vibe.

I’m most proud of the clicking hand on the far right, it came in at 0.7 grams of wax, which I think turns out to be 7.3 grams of silver. There’s something so fantastically fiddly about working with objects this small, people forgive inaccuracies on a smaller scale, and adding too much detail might end up making it look messy.

Another style I attempted were these rings down below, it might be difficult to see but they are flat little hands wrapped around to make a ring. These seem to be the most popular thing I’ve made, I think I get that, they’re super simple and especially the smaller ring has just enough variation to look human, but still stylized.

Francis Upirchard

When my teacher mentioned this artists name, I thought it was spelt Francis Oop Richard, I don’t if anyone ever has had the middle name Oop, but you can see it in my diary photo above.

UPRICHARD’s practice involves design, sculpture and traditional craft methods. I can really see why my teacher recommended her work, it’s very bodily, and has a really nice tactile . In the video linked below she also talks about smaller scale being intimate, and an intuitive process of creating, both aspects I very much admire and relate too.

At this moment two of my wax pieces have been cast and are ready for collection, but unfortunately medical issues have kept me homebound for the last few days. I’m excited to see how they turned out and will post when I have them in my grubby little hands!

Resources

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOAL9Hcv6ME
  2. https://www.katemacgarry.com/artists/52-francis-upritchard/

Covid charms and where to find them

I don’t have a lot of experience with jewelry, I dislike the feeling of metal on my skin, so that rules out necklaces and rings. I only just got my ears pierced last year, in a post lockdown identity crisis, and have not yet brought myself to wear anything but sleepers outside the house. This semester I was lucky enough to get into the Casting and Metal Alloying, a class that would probably benefit from some basic knowledge of jewelry.

Having said that, I do think I understand the appeal of charms, though I’ve never worn them. I’ve always had trinkets and baubles, and little objects of importance, strewn around my room, kept safe in small boxes. Badges, shells, polaroid’s, leaves, tickets and toys, but this class deals with charms in relation to jewelry, so first!

What is a charm?

A charm is a small artifact, or object, that has some significance or meaning behind it. They’re often designed to be attached to a bracelet, or other piece of wearable jewelry.

During World War 2, soldiers would send home charms that reflected their experiences while stationed overseas. In the image above, sourced from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, there is a combination of army signifiers, like a jeep, and artillery gun, but also coins from several allied nations.

This type of charm became incredibly popular post WWII in America, as servicemen would bring home these charms from local artisans overseas. My father served in the Australian army, and as a child I remember seeing lots of small charms including Akubra hats, Australian crests, and indigenous animals, all made from silver, or sometimes even pewter. My family home had huge cabinets filled with trinkets, ceramic elephants, tiny glass dogs, and these small charms of Australiana.

I remember having one charm in particular that I attached to a keychain, I can’t for the life of me remember what it was, but I knew it was made from some kind of rough metal or stone. I remember being obsessed with the idea that if I rubbed it enough, I could wear down over time. This somehow made it more valuable to me, that it would eventually disappear.

How is it different to an amulet and a talisman?

Traditionally an amulet is an object with apparent magical power, it’s purpose often to protect the owner from the evil influence of others. This can be worn, or simply held in a location, in order to confer it’s powers. Amulets were originally made from natural material, such as animal bone or gemstones, but in more contemporary settings could be made out of any material.

A talisman is thought to be an object of great power, the can provide energy, luck or connect someone to a sense of spirituality. Traditionally made from the bones and trimmings of predatory animals, but more modern totems could include a piece of clothing with significant value, a tool that has proved incredibly useful, or really anything to which a person could form a strong emotional recognition for.

In summary
A charm is for remembering, or tradition
An amulet is for protection, or comfort
And a talisman for power, luck or spirituality

All these functions may apply to each, and the definitions of each seems pretty mailable

Covid Charms

The first class project is titled “Covid Charms”, and it got me thinking about what my charm was. The only item I feel gave me power was my FitBit. I got really into running about halfway through, and it was really good for my mental health. Every time I left the house with the FitBit on, it was a physical reminder of my commitment to self care.

(this is not an advertisement for FitBit)

References