As part of the Venice Biennale, 2009, Sarah Browne commissioned this carpet from Donegal Carpets. This company has a long history making handmade carpets for very prestigious clients, but now only does machine production or outsourcing production to factories abroad.
To make this work, Sarah had to actually re-employ women who used to work at the factory and who now work at its heritage centre. The minimalist, almost modernist design was in part dictated by her decision to only use yarns still there in the factory, and there were few colours available. A silent film was also made to chronicle the production of the piece.
She is interested in the work’s role as a piece of national identity, and the sense of the various histories of the people and company involved in its making.
Founded in 1970 by Malcolm Hughes & Jeffrey Steele.
Approach to making abstract art – the object is constructed from a vocabulary of basic geometric elements in accordance with some form of predetermined and often mathematical principle. The idea is as well as having aesthetic value the resulting work will also resonate with the viewer’s intellect as they can consider the principles used in the work. They seemed to have gained more acceptance in Europe despite being a British group.
Constructionists – acted as a sort of precursor to the systems group. They included; Victor Pasmore, Mary & Kenneth Martin, John Ernst & Anthony Hill.
While the mathematical element in this work was important these artists saw it as only a tool to inform the compositions; “an aesthetic of objective invention and sensation, distinctly rational and determinist.”
This movement grew out of the history of European Constructivism, which had featured a strong socio-political rationalle; “a synthesis of painting, sculpture, design and architecture in evolution of an egalitarian and inspirational living environment.” With the advent of the cold war it seems this kind of idealism and these lofty political ideas were not to be trusted any more, so artists increasingly began to turn to the internal logic of how art is made. The interests were;
construction – building art from constituent parts,
allowing intuition or chance to play a part,
no illusion / symbolism,
space as a compositional element,
the work projects its own essential qualities – not artist’s personality or drives (not fans of Pollock etc. presumably)
use of non-traditional materials, 3d reliefs popular
They had 2 main approaches to using mathematics;
1. Architectural model. Architects use maths to articulate their buildings’ designs; how everything is supported, structured and proportioned. Buildings falling down not a big advantage. The Constructionists used maths to govern how the elements making up the work must function to articulate the form of the piece.
2. A fundamental approach to the essence of maths – going deeper into the principles of maths and how it can tell us about systems we experience in the world around us. Work made with this in mind can give the viewer a sense that it relates to something more significant outside of itself; has something to say about the world we inhabit.
Artists associated with Constructionists;
Was interested in dissolving the duality between architecture and art by having them use similar languages. Did a wall piece in belfast hospital using the modular grid of the building to inform the design and only using materials that were used in the building’s construction. Other pieces used the Fibonacci series (sequence of numbers where each number is the sum of the previous two) to determine the dimensions of the geometric elements.
Also was interested in Fibonacci series to inform his works. Did a lot of sculptural pieces and mobiles, monumental works
The Snorks – a concert for creatures – the world of the abyss. He became fascinated with bioluminescence, a phenomenon where phytoplankton and other small sea creatures collectively produce giant clouds of light that can be detected from space. This is thought to be the most widespread form of communication between non-human creatures on the planet. He organised a giant firework display in Abu Dhabi (obviously very savvy about how much money they have there, especially for a project involving the marine). The footage of this was beamed onto giant screens in Times Square, New York via satellite – this he saw as acting as an artificial representation of bioluminescence. So we have the Earth’s largest communication interface receiving an interpretation of the most widespread form of communication between non-human creatures on Earth.
“Computer Composition With Lines” (1964) A. Michael Noll
"Composition With Lines" (1917) Piet Mondrian
He has commissioned a band, Anti-Pop consortium, to compose music to be played underwater to the sea creatures at a depth between 3500 and 5000 metres below sea level. This will also form the soundtrack to a movie based on the event. His intention is to make the creatures produce the light phenomenon in response to the music.
Nanosculptures – tiny sculptures, only visible through an electron microscope, apparently inspired by Alice in Wonderland,
Cellar Door – Opera-based piece, collaboration with Ramundas Malasauskus. Consisted in on form of 3 rooms, separated by quick sliding doors. Geodesic design on floor carpet. There were identical triplets serving champagne to visitors and sweets were served with absolutely n taste of their own.
Arrangements – pairings of bronze sculptures and photographs
Flares – digital transmission to create an abstraction. They are concentric circular forms of light caused by a light leak in the artist’s camera.
Solarizations – silver gelatin prints, drawings on foil, the photographed. Solarization of the final photographic print “creates additional layer of procedural transmission, abstracting the image even further from its initial source” –
“trajectory from conceptual genesis to concrete formalism is the principal act of the work”
Tablet sculptures – original sculpture cast in clay and then cast in bronze. Clay is malleable, can be worked like a drawing to make marks in space. Casting the final result in bronze Pearson conversely engages a process associated with permanence and solidity
Transmissions – large “screens” of cut metal forms like drawings standing upright in space. From one predetermined frontal position the metal fragments align themselves and become like one of his small solarizations. When the viewer moves it dissolves again. Sculpture is now informing and creating an image rather than the other way round.
Notes on Pearson
Pearson’s work seems to be concerned with modernist tropes,. There are similarities to various modes of abstraction from the past, and he wants to explore visiting them again but arriving at his formal references by using techniques involving a certain degree of chance, repetition and application of mechanical processes. It’s interesting that he used to collect and sell on old vinyl records. There’s a nice sense of trawling through the past to find something that has been under-appreciated or forgotten, and giving it a chance to surface again and be seen by fresh eyes in a new context. The works deals in what seems to be opposing forces; handmade / mechanised, gestural / automated, random / ordered.