With assessments coming next week and the end of the semester the week following, I thought I would post a little about what I’ve been up to. Oddly, after working all semester, I feel like I don’t have much to show for it, but I think that is mainly because I don’t have many completed pieces. I have been doing a lot of preparatory work and experimentation this semester which will (hopefully) come to fruition in my degree show next semester.
The Mead of Poetry
As mentioned previously in my blog, my maternal great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from Norway. I have been interested in Norway for some time, fascinated with the traditional design elements which spread, blended, influenced and were influenced by the Celtic styles. This past summer, I spent a little time in Oslo, visiting museums and familiarising myself with the culture (blog posts here and here). From this trip, I brought home a number of books of Norse myths and folktales.
Amongst these stories, I found one that left me with a compelling image which could be interpreted in any number of ways, gets still be true to the source. In brief, the story of the Mead of Poetry begins like this:
At the conclusion of the Aesir-Vanir War, the Aesir and Vanir gods and goddesses sealed their truce by spitting into a great vat. From their spittle they formed a man whom they named Kvasir (“Fermented Juice”). Kvasir was the wisest human that had ever lived; none were able to present him with a question for which he didn’t have a satisfying answer. He became famous and traveled throughout the world giving counsel.
Kvasir was invited to the home of two dwarves, Fjalar (“Deceiver”) and Galar (“Screamer”). Upon his arrival, the dwarves slew Kvasir and brewed mead with his blood. This mead contained Kvasir’s ability to dispense wisdom, and was appropriately named Óðrœrir (“Stirrer of Inspiration”). Any who drank of it would become a poet or a scholar.
When the gods questioned them about Kvasir’s disappearance, Fjalar and Galar told them that Kvasir had choked on his wisdom.
Now granted, I am extrapolating on things a bit here, but I envision the murder of Kvasir to be a ritualistic and gruesome act, much like the slaughter of an animal. I picture Kvasir bound and strung up by his feet, inverted and ready for his blood to be drained, in preparation for the brewing of the mead.
To this end, I am working on a wooden sculpture of a man, which will ideally hang inverted from the ceiling of my studio. Work so far has involved getting a 6ft block of limewood to carve, and the basic roughing out of the form. I anticipate working first with power tools (an ArborTech Wood Carver) to working with traditional chisels and gouges once the rough shape is completed.
When finished, I hope to hang the figure by the ankles from the ceiling of my studio. This will, of course, depend on a number of issues, not the least of which is Health and Safety. If the piece is not too heavy (the block began life at approx. 200 kilos) and a beam can be found to support it, and I can get the appropriate assistance from the technicians, then it will hang, approximately 3 feet off the ground in the centre of my studio space for the degree show. If this plan fails, then I will need to build a scaffold of some sort and hang it from that, within my studio, probably much lower.
The sculpture of Kvasir as he is today.
This semester, I also joined the Print Portfolio project, which was originally to be a group of us who would each provide an edition of prints (probably one per person, with an edition of 20-30) to be collected into a boxed set and (hopefully) sold and displayed. We would each get a set of prints for ourselves, to eventually be sold for a fortune when we all make it big. Unfortunately, the parameters of the project have recently changed and I’m not certain what the status is.
Anyway, in addition to the print portfolio, I wanted to utilise the prints in my degree show, as a sort of adjunct to the hanging body of Kvasir. I have toyed with the idea of creating illustrative, narrative prints which will tell the story, as well as simply some more abstracted images which might explore the idea of the Mead of Poetry, which I am thinking of as being similar to a mind-expanding drug.
So I began experimenting with Mono-printing. a method of creating essentially one-off prints. There are several different methods and I tried a few before settling on one which works and gives me the effects I want. What I do is essentially finger paint on glass with limo-ink, then lay the paper on the glass and run a roller over it lightly. This method gives me the possibility for 3 to 4 prints, each of which are significantly different.
I am also experimenting with images in the computer. The idea is that if I get an image I like, either mono-printed or in the computer, I can try (another experiment) using the Project Space, the Contemporary Stave Church Portal.Router to create a woodcut of it and print multiple images from that. This method would be similar to the one I used in my piece for the
For my degree show, I am considering having prints hanging on the walls, but I am also considering printing on the floor of the space, perhaps in a spiral around the hanging figure. Either way, I would like to utilise mono-printing as the starting point for these images.
An example of four different images from the same print. Each time the paper is removed, the image is altered.
The physical pieces I have for assessment at the end of the first semester seem scant to me. I have my Portal, which leads into my studio space. I have a rough hewn block of wood which seems to have taken me most of the semester to acquire — locating sawmills and tree surgeons who deal in pieces that size; finding one who had one that was in a wood that I wanted to work in; and finally rationalising the cost and getting it delivered— took me nearly two months. The last thing I have are the mono prints. These currently number around 100, but there are probably only 20 that i consider successful and maybe 10 that I want to show. Very few of these are on archival paper, since I considered this both an experimental and a learning process. Newsprint is cheap and plentiful, so although I tried a few different paper types, the bulk of these prints are on newsprint.
I feel like what I am putting on display are simply stepping stones to my degree show, which hopefully is what the tutors see them as. Although there is a lack of truly finished work, I think the pieces speak to the path I am currently taking.