Archive

Mask Making

Ralf Weztel contacted me just three weeks ago from Brussels in dire need of a maker who could replicate a cheap plastic mask in something more durable (Paper Maché).

I met with him in Edinburgh last Tuesday, took a cast of the mask, brought it home and made the mask in time to post it on Monday so he could perform with it on Tuesday. He has a one man show throughout the Edinburgh Festival (August 2019.) Go see the show and tell me all about it as I am unable to make a return trip to Scotland.

Sometimes a tight deadline can be an exciting challenge, this one certainly was.             Felt good though, timing fell into place. As I was in the north anyway, a day trip to Edinburgh was an easy diversion  away from family in Berwick upon Tweed..                                                                                                        I do love it when there is a tangible  purpose to a job.

Ralf Wetzel    (Belgium)         ‘Absolutely Reliable!’  by Ralf Wetzel and Lee Delon

Venue C cubed, Brodie’s Close, Lawnmarket, EdinburghEH1 2PS, venue 50                                        Dates 1-25 Aug (not 13)    Time 22:00 (0hr50)                                                                            Ticket prices £9.50-£11.50 / concessions £7.50-£9.50 / under 18s £5.50-£7.50

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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.

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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.

From initial research drawings, through clay sculpture, to mould making ready for      casting in paper.                Once out of the mould ,I experiment with paint finishes.            One  is prepared with a solid colour as a base coat and the other  I use the paint                as  a stain directly  onto the brown paper .

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Her mantra is ‘I have a secret’.

Next  I have to try the mask out on a performer.

May 18th & 19th.  For these two day I had a table full of masks at The Poppy and Pint.

Lots of lovely conversations about masks and peoples experiences of them, some performers but mainly from the point of view of witnesses of transformative events. The Venice Carnival came up a lot. Each day at lunchtime I did a walkabout through the main streets enjoying the public reactions to The Old Lady with her Boy in her Basket.  Many people up for engaging with her and asking her questions she can answer by nodding yes or no. Some children had fun pretending to be frightened of her, but as they kept coming back for more they made their game clear.

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).

3RD SPACE Studios Exhibition opening event this evening at 6.00 p.m.

Tope Floor of Surface Gallery upto and including  Saturday 11th May

Celebrating our ten years of existence and the ten artists who are current members.

This evening Stephen Jon and his crew shall be performing as ‘The Critics’ and later  he will be adding another layer to the large charcoal drawing.

Join him for a Charcoal Drawing workshop next Wednesday  2.00 till 4.00 p.m.