Started life as a theatrical mask, now a piece of sculpture. 37cm in diameter. ‘ Papier Machè’, Plywood, Acrylic Paint and Gold Leaf.
Today I have been making cartoonish drawings of Primary Emotions.
A Neutral Face
Sad and Happy Angry and Disgusted Surprised and Fearful
These I intend to use next week for some online teaching, as I give a demo on mask-making to prop. making students. I would like to get them active and not just give a one sided lecture. I use these ideas when teaching mask performance skills so why not for makers. I hope it will make it more personal for them as they examine their own faces and feel what muscles they use to make these extreme expressions.
Today was to have been the finale of the Hart Of the Woods Project. Instead, the project is on hold until we are all able to get out and about, and people are able attend Outdoor events again. Instead, we are sharing images and films from the project. Check out https://www.instagram.com/hart_of_the_wood We are: to Ben Wigley (Artdocs) , Nathaniel Robin Mann, Lisa Knapp, Martin Sommerville, Sian Allen and the National Trust folks at Comer Woods, Dudmaston, Shropshire.
These are the finished Red Deer Headdresses I have made for the project.
Started back in March, these three have been my principal companions over the past three months during the CV19 lockdown. And fine companions they have been to sooth my soul. They have inspired me to make archeological and folkloric investigations, drawings and prompted dreams.
Looking forwards to the time when they will be able to leave the studio and take their place out there, in the magical world of Art and Nature on this Midsummers Day.
I have been in working in collaboration with Richard T.Frost to make three wooden replicas of ‘The Canterbury Jade Axe’ (British Museum). These have been made to be handling objects, to be shown together with a large charcoal drawing, which may be included in an exhibition planned for 2021.
Elm from Tim , White Walnut from Rosie & Black Walnut from Tim
Many hours in the making. Several days for Richard to carve then two weeks for me to sand and polish, using boiled linseed oil, seven coats of oil based varnish, polished with rotten stone, raw linseed oil and red earth to finish.
These artefacts are yet again a manifestation of my meditations on the human impulse to make stuff, the creative urge. Many years ago I was horrified to see in an exhibition, some ‘Sculptures for the Blind’ by Brancusi, displayed inside a prospect box! These three pieces are designed to be handled, to be not just something to look at but also to be something beautiful to touch. Hand and Eye in collaboration.
Yes, they have metaphoric resonances but my continuing rumination’s are taking me somewhere else. As I develop the drawing , started but expected to develop over the next few months, I hope to find that ‘where’.
Once again I am working on a large scale charcoal drawing (1.30 metre sq.) This time being a meditation on the influence upon my artistic life by maleness, Leonardo da Vinci, movement and touch. The ghosts of ancestral giants.
With a side dish of smaller drawings to complement the process.
Even bringing my work as a mask-maker into play:
All to be continued:
The early summer has been dominated by this project in Leicestershire, working with Andy Barret, The 1620 House, a Primary School and Dragon’s Breath Theatre. I can’t believe I had never heard of this extraordinary person, Sir Kenelm Digby. Our Ken was a proto scientist, diplomat, privateer, man of letters and inventor. Such an inspiration to all of us involved.
The House and Garden are a delight. Visitors are encouraged to truly interact with the place as most ‘things’ in the house are replica’s and therefore handleable. This was the home of the sister of Sir Kenelm. She who modernised the medieval building with new windows in 1620. The garden is laid out as of the time with a maze, herbarium and roses.
In the House we told the story of Sir Kenelm Digby and his world. I, as Dr Jon (Phenomenologist,) took on the role of a scientist looking back at 17th Century through the five senses, smell, taste, sound, sight and touch. Andy in role as an Historian, told the story of Sir Kenelm, of 17th Century world view and the rise of science out of superstition. Sir Kenelm was the son of one of the Bonfire Plot conspirators.
Back at the school the children spent three days with us to make manifest their own story of the visit to the 1620 House and of Sir Kenelm Digby, his wife Venetia, through puppetry, scientific experiments, writing (prose and poetry), image making and performance.
A fascinating journey for us all, with history and science made alive.
Over several month I have been working on a new ‘Arlecchino mask, breaking away from traditional representations in a search for a more mature, tricksterish and altogether joyous character. Initial drawings to find some sort of ‘Essence’.
Progression was made in the clay design with several changes of direction, which retained elements of tradition but with a greater emphasis on asymmetry and uplift.
Experimenting with a lighter paint scene in order better see the sculpture.
Following the British Museum Exhibition of Scythian Art and Artefacts which I saw in 2017, I have been meaning to apply some of that inspiration to my mask work. I was particularly drawn to the painted funerary masks from the Oglakhty burial site. These extraordinary objects are still attached to the skulls of the individuals for whom they were made. The originals are made of gypsum. The mask of the woman, which is somewhat better preserved, has remained in my consciousness as an inspiration. I recently made a cast of an existing mask of a woman and then realised that there were some similarities between my mask and the Oglakhty mask. I have therefor tried to replicate the painted design from the ancient Scythian mask onto my contemporary version. They are not the same, my mask has the eyes open and the forehead finishes at a hairline rather than lapping over the cranium. The overall proportions are not quite the same.
I have had to improvise and make up details which I cannot see in the source images, especially as some area’s have been damaged. Painting this has given me a greater respect for the Scythian creators and their skill in making the original. I have at present left the paining in this bold state, rather than distress the paint-job to beautify and make it more acceptable to modern audiences. My instinct is to do some subtle shading to enhance the modelling and I am not sure I like my eye lid painting so I think that I will repaint them in the white. I have enjoyed the asymmetry of the design and applying it over the nearly symmetrical face. There is a hypothesis that the painting replicates a tattoo .
Is this character an Amazon, an ancient feminine warrior ? Certainly my original mask was intended to represent the strong mature woman. This being my version of the Artemis archetype (The Huntress).
Making ready for the forthcoming exhibition at Surface Gallery and exploring different ways of hanging drawings and sculptures, with regards to the probability that they will get splashed. Lots of fun flinging dirty water about. Studio floor a delightful mess now.