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“The ‘memory’ of previous states” - The Open College of the Arts
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“The ‘memory’ of previous states”

I am highlighting Sally Pennington’s recent submission for her course – Drawing 2 Investigating Drawing: Part Four – Interacting with the environment.

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For the found images section of this course (see two images above) Sally states: “When you go out it becomes second nature to look at cracks in the path, cloud patterns in the sky, lines of bark and to think about them as drawings”. These images are small snap shots yet they have such a large presence. Every work has its own scale and artists get to decide what the appropriate choice is for every idea. Leonardo da Vinci stated that: “It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which… you may find really marvellous ideas”, and I add this here again as it relates to Sally’s own comment.

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In Project 2: Interacting with the environment (1 image above 2 and below) Sally stated: “I have found it very important to spend time ‘playing’ with natural materials before beginning to make anything.  I also appreciate the necessity of being familiar with the environment that you wish to make the work in.  It is really about feeling, about interacting with the outside world, using your whole self quite intuitively.  Although, as I have said, precision and often geometry are vital, it is also essential to react and respond to the natural lines, dips, contours of the natural world”. If you look up the word illusion there are so many interpretations available, one of them is “to play”. Often times when we are in the state of playing, we access our most potent ideas.

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With reference to project three – Installation (images below), Sally states: “it had always amazed me to see the sheer length of time that had elapsed between the Big Bang and life beginning on Earth.  When, after growing too torn and tatty to use, the time-line was taken down, the wall seemed very empty.  I began to think about the stars, the galaxies that formed in that moment and which are still red shifting away from us.  I find red shift a very powerful metaphor for the separation of things in our lives, whereas art seems to be a way of making connections.  I thought it would be good to ‘crack’ the wall and show the stars and galaxies outside our safe, enclosed environment. I used acrylic primer to build up the crack, then ink, a little white acrylic and coloured pencils to draw in the stars and nebulae.  Like Vija Celmin’s work, I wanted the space to be ‘dense’. The real difficulty with this is photographing it.  It’s a dark stairway, with little natural light, and very hard to photograph accurately.  In real life, it looks deeper than the shine from the flash allows; the shape of the crack going up the stairway is also different”.

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Sally submitted a short film for assignment four that I thought was very strong. Here is part of what she had to say: “What if I made several wire spheres (geometry) which would fit inside the hollows under the overhang and could then be released to find their own path down the slope?  It seemed that this would be a way of combining ‘drawing’ with movement.  I could try to record the natural movement of these spheres and the artwork would exist only in a state of flux. Going back to Cornelia Parker’s work, I wanted the wire to hold the ‘memory’ of previous states – the dents from being wrapped around tree branches and from making previous spheres.  I made six hollow drawn wire spheres of varying sizes ranging in diameter from 20 inches to 2 inches and transported them to the site. The lines of wire corresponded to the jutting tree roots and they fitted into the overhang quite naturally. I filmed and photographed them rolling the rain-eroded slope.  I had made the spheres in response to the environment, but now the environment – gravity and the paths of erosion – was acting on the spheres to make an ‘artwork’ of transience, existing just for seconds (unfortunately this video cannot be uploaded to the blog). The still photographs captured something of the movement and the ephemeral quality – the spheres appear at some angles to reflect the light like soap bubbles”. I am intrigued to see this work develop further, watch this space!

Title quote is an excerpt from Sally Pennington’s blog 2015.

Posted by author: Michelle Charles
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5 thoughts on ““The ‘memory’ of previous states”

  • Fascinating work which also reminds me that I need to keep my sixth sense attuned to my environment not just through looking but through seeking.

  • This is a fabulous response to assignment 4 of the course — much more interesting than mine! It’s interesting that playing with the materials of the natural world has inspired work expressing transience as well as deep time and space. That was my experience as well. Could you ay something about your Parallel Project?

  • Thank you very much for the comments.
    My blog is set to private at the moment, but am happy to invite people to read it if you email me (sally334522@oca-uk.com).

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