Sarah Sepe: MA Personal Statement
The series of work exhibited in my final show is a response to the long drawing, ‘Palimpsest’ shown in the Otter Gallery which I have re-hung in the foyer for this exhibition. In the Otter, it was hung in folds from the ceiling as though it were a textile airing and was an exploration of light and space which altered the environment with shadows and reflections. Now it has become a plane of drawing hanging down the wall, barely there, the visibility reacting to changing light conditions. In the early evening, with the sun focussed through the windows opposite, a frame of light creates a spotlight on the Melinex sheet animating the work- creating shadows behind it and reflections on the opposite wall.
Throughout this period of study, I have been concerned with a generic piece of plain knitting- not a knitted garment or made object but purely the structure of a piece of knitting. The piece of knitting is composed of a single line (a thread) and the spaces between the line as this line is woven backwards and forwards, up and down throughout. I have used a simple repetitive action to make drawings with a line graphically inscribed and with a thread, both in two and three dimensions. I consider my work to be positioned between drawing, sculpture and textiles and I use the word ‘drawing’ in its widest possible definition. De Zegher considers drawings to be ‘born from an outward gesture linking inner impulses and thoughts to the other through the touching of a surface with repeated graphic marks and lines’ (de Zegher, 2010, p23) but in a talk on Eva Hesse’s drawings acknowledges the ‘expanded field ultimately leading to the collapse of disciplinary boundaries and the current hybridisation of boundaries’ (de Zegher, 2009, 8.50).
Along with the drawing in the foyer, I have been directly influenced by Mc Keever’s Hartgrove paintings seen at the Royal Academy, McCall’s Vertical Works seen at Ambika P3 and images of a light box made by Hoyles (Tala, 2009, p91) and together with a stated aim to use light as a material, it has been my intent that this body of work should manifest itself as a series of interventions in space building upon the drawn ‘knitting’ of previous modules.
I will now consider each space and the piece of work in turn: although I have moved between media they are all inter-related with no hierarchy and were made concurrently as one body of work. Fer talks of her frustration as an art historian studying the chronology of Hesse’s work to whom she attributes the following ‘I never remember working on one thing, it was always at least pairs and further ahead’ (Fer, 2002, 5.16) which I take to mean that Hesse worked in a similar non-linear manner. I have very recently become aware of Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome theory expounded in their book ‘A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia’ and applying this (or how I understand their ideas) to my work and to the way I work, has been enlightening in this module. Massumi writes in the translator’s foreword, ….’a plateau is reached when circumstances combine to bring an activity to a pitch of intensity that is not automatically dissipated in a climax. The heightening of energies is sustained long enough to leave a kind of afterimage that can be reactivated or injected into other activities, creating a fabric of intense states between which any number of connecting routes could exist.’ (Massumi in Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p xiv). Taking ‘Palimpsest’ as a plateau already reached to some extent (and part of a network itself) then this module has been about creating a network of other plateaus which are inexorably linked to all the others and will be linked to more in the future.
The dark room and the print table in the textiles room are a series of drawings that start and end in an unfinished state with the possibility of theoretically picking up the drawing and extending it. Deleuze and Guattari’s describe plateaus as being rhizomes with …’ no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 2004, p27). The traditional pen and ink drawings have been painstakingly drawn; each drawing has taken me a long, obsessive working day to make. By constantly drawing a repetitive pattern, the line I draw takes on an individual style similar to handwriting. An analogy would be the way children copy letters to learn the individual shapes and then proceed to learn to write in their own style. Susan Hiller described automatic writing when talking of her work Sisters of Menon at recent seminar at Tate, as conveying a physical act, leaving a trace, an automatic action but not worked in a trance and this reflects the way I draw too.
An inherent part of the work is the handmade element where apparent imperfections create areas of interest and are part of the story of its making. It embodies human experience, my experience of drawing in the textile room on the print table which carries its own story in the marked surface. The table is an optimal size to hand print textiles- by stretching over the table the entire surface can be reached. These are a similar size to McKeever’s paintings seen at the Royal Academy, which have been a major inspiration to this body of work. I have also used the tabletop as a way of presenting work- a drawing similar to the set hung in the Dark Room. There are multiple point of reference then, in a similar fashion to Anne Wilson’s lace Topologies:
‘relationships between systems of materiality (textile networks) and systems of immateriality (Internet and the web); microscopic, specimen-like images of biology and the internal body; and macro views of urban sprawl – systems of organization of city structures, interdependent and/or parasitic, processes of expansion’ (Wilson, no date )
Wilson displayed her Topologies on a thirty-six foot long table top (seen at the V&A in 2008) where vast numbers of pieces of black lace were pinned to the surface with insect pins. She talks of the influence of Deleuze and Guattari’s ‘anti-hierarchical rhizome theory’ on her ‘conceptual structure of working’ in a lecture on You Tube (Wilson A, You Tube, 2007, 38.00)
The installation in the dark room is centred on drawings on panels of Melinex also known as Mylar. This is ‘ an inert, acid-free polyester plastic material which is perfect for long term storage of precious documents and works of art’ (Falkiners, 2011) and can be used for interleaving or wrapping. I have used it as a support for my drawings which are protected by the nature of the substrate. When installing the drawings it is as if they are themselves interleaved or alternatively can be seen as textiles suspended in mid air as though they are drying or airing. The reflective properties of the Melinex has been explored to reduce the physicality of the work further- to explore just how minimal the essence of the work can be whilst maintaining inherent properties of a textile.
The light projected through them highlights the drawn line and casts shadows on the back wall and reflections on the other three walls thereby making an installation …‘where the space and the ensemble of items in it are regarded in their entirety as a singular entity’ (Bishop, 2005, p6). The reflections contain the shadow of the drawn lines and respond to the movement of people within the space. The viewer (and the shadow of the viewer) experiences ‘temporal flow and spatial awareness’ (Rosenthall, 2003, p27).The reflections are so barely there that I can’t push the work any further before it disintegrates and doesn’t exist at all, the drawings have become the slightest trace like those of Whitread’s described by Pesenti ‘..where forms billow and meander…..and can be as volatile as the haze of breath on a frosty window’ (Pesenti, 2010, p 11). The points where lines cross symbolise an intensity similar to those described by Frederick when describing Marden’s ‘Nevis’ drawings as ‘nodes of concentration.’ (Frederick, 2011, p100).
By controlling the pattern of the light from the projector, I can control to some extent what the viewer will experience; the power point has been designed to not overwhelm the drawings but to allow the viewer to see the different facets of the installation in a measured way. Everyone’s experience will be different, depending on the number of people in the room and how they move in the space.
Showing my work in the spaces in artOne allowed me to react to the spaces and make site specific installations. Upstairs, the particular nature of the exhibition space has imposed its own character on the work, for sculptural hanging work I have worked with the industrial air conditioning units rather than ignoring them. These have shaped the nature of the installations, together with the all encompassing, uncontrollable flood of light in the studio area.
The long drawing is shown on a smooth horizontal plane, the floor, moving up to a turbulent suspended area under the air conditioning unit which is affected currents of moving air. I have used pen and ink to draw a knitted line which has then been shaped into yet another knitted line (which in turn has the potential to be part of another knitted line …..). This is the start of a potentially never ending sequence of increasing scale, linking a micro world of cells to that of landscapes. At a certain point in time (about 7.00pm each day) the sun is low enough in the sky to shine in the windows opposite- lighting up a rectangle on the wall full of shadows of the drawn line.
The air conditioning units were the inspiration for other interventions in the space- knitted bands moving into or out of the square panels. There is an obvious connection here with McKeever’s Hartgrove paintings, the surface covered with textile like ‘bands’- ‘if you tried to tear cambric to make bandages you might produce bands like these white forms’ (Lynton, 2010, p17) Each end of the installation deals with space and light and a movement from chaos to order- manifested in different ways because of the change of materials- a paper yarn slowly hand-knitted contrasting with the industrially knitted nylon ribbon. They also refer to the dark room installation and the long drawing in the foyer.
The video, ‘Palimpsest’ made in collaboration with Nora Young, focuses the eye on the spaces I find most interesting within ‘Palimpsest’ when hung in the Otter Gallery. The reflected drawing between the folds and the ensuing film blurs the notion of reality by not making clear the differentiation between the real line and the reflection of that line. These spaces could easily be overlooked by the viewer in the gallery, but by becoming the subject matter of the video the audience is forced to take note of these spaces. The simplicity of the structure of the work belies the complexity to be found to those who engage with it fully. McKeever talks of photographing ‘precisely the aura or echo of a fact, rather than the thing itself’ (Caiger-Smith, 2007 p25) and this is what I seek to make visible in my work by using light as a material where possible.
The slides are another starting point for working with light as a material in the dark space. Initial experiments with hand crafted insets have created projections which I have directed onto the wall and onto drawings. The slides seem to freeze a point in time, to force the focus upon a particular area of an endless web. Rather than projecting them, I am showing them as small pieces of work- full of possibilities for further development. They refer to other works- the spotlights through the drawings in the dark room, the drawn black line of the installation on the other side of the gallery, the installations at either end of the space drawing into the air-conditioning units. Fer describes ‘indirect and tangential connections’ between the works in the exhibition ‘Studioworks’ and Hesse’s larger works. (Fer, 2009a, p23) and Hesse herself showed such pieces in glass cases during her life time- subsequently, they have been ‘shown at every major retrospective of Hesse’s work (except for one)’ (Fer, 2009a, p24) as an integral part of her practice. It is in this spirit that I am showing them here; indeed all the pieces can be seen in that light, I have reached a tentative conclusion at this time and in this space, but as my practice is developing, each piece will, like Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizome, be ‘always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable.’
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|You Tube/Podcasts Video|
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|Ambika P3, Anthony McCall, Vertical Works, 20 March 2011|
|Tate Britain Susan Hiller|
|Tate Britain Corin Sworn|
|Hayward Gallery: Tracey Emin|
|Royal Academy: Artists’ Laboratory Ian McKeever RA. September 2010|
|Tate Britain, Susan Hiller: Defining a Practice, 7 May 2011|