I had great fun a couple of evenings ago, home to daylight and the garden to make a mess in. Out came the plastic bags and Plaster of Paris. It was messy.
For the first samples I wanted to use the same materials – plastic bags and plaster – to see what effects could be produced and to see how much control I had of the process.
I discovered that the plaster set much more rapidly than I’d expected given that it had very little air getting to it. It was also tricky to remove the plastic and daftly I had rolled over the bag on one of the samples so some of this remains trapped inside and within the cast.
As can be seen below I suspended one sample – recalling my childhood friends’ house where there was always a bag of goats cheese on the make in the larder; the second sample went into a ziplock back and I tied it up like ‘Flint’ to see what patterning and crease lines would result. The longitudinal sample was a ziplock bag filled about a third full and then pulled lengthwise . I then scrunched them together in an action similar to wringing water out of a saturated towel. I left these for about 10 minutes and they were hot to touch (the plaster was setting rapidly). I must admit to having run out of patience in mixing the powder. I didn’t measure quantities but did it by eye and feel, then I squashed out the lumpy bits when they were in the cast. It still worked – a very forgiving medium.
I am pleased at how different the results are – from fat and round and creased to straight and sharp and fractured. I feel the samples work well together complimenting and contrasting each other in shape and quality.
Once the bags were removed the results were as follows:
I love the bubbles and wrinkles and crinkles – the whole surface feels like that moment of liquid suspended in time. There is an unfinished quality to the top that holds further possibilities.
The paster is incredibly smooth in this sample the wrinkles have a very different quality to Sample 1.The air bubbles have risen to one place and popped there. The seam of the bag remains defined. There is a lot of plastic left in this sample as I rolled it over into itself. If I were to repeat this I would remember to roll the bag closed leaving the opening uppermost.
This sample is like driftwood. It broke frequently when I was trying to unwrap it. I like the sheering – like a giant flake! I was concerned it would all crumble into nothing but the middle section is surprisingly strong. There is statuesqueness to this sample that could be explored further. I like the twists that occur in the upper quarter contrasting with the diagonal and straight lines of the rest of the form.
Sample 2 and 3 are fascinating surfaces in and of themselves. Sample 1 is calling for further development – it has a weight the others lack, it can be held in the palm and feels dense yet flexible (even though it is a very solid form). Curiously there is fleshiness to it, a meatiness, like those bags of meat my mum would get from the butchers when we were little (I wanted more than anything to have a go at twisting the bag and pulling its top down into the plastic tie machine. I loved the way the butchers did that action almost unconsciously. I thought it looked like a perfect dance. I hated the smell of the butchers and the grittiness of the sawdust, the heavy thud from the knives against the block in the cold room. My mum would order all these cuts of meat by specific name, and then we’d embarrass her later telling people that we were having bones for lunch (chops). I still cannot touch meat, but I can deal with it in plastic. I do look a little nutty(ier) readying Sunday roast, but there we go…little tangent.
But these memories have led me on to an interesting enquiry. My mind jumped from the butchers of my childhood to wondering who was the first female surgeon (this all became blurred the crystallised after a discussion on the forum about the subversive and killing nature of using the term ‘women’s work’ and ‘men’s work’ no matter how supposedly complimentary the sentiment. Subtle, derogatory and sullying. But it did make me wonder who the first recognised female surgeon was. And that opened a whole surprise – James Barry who was in fact a Victorian woman (Margaret Ann Bulkley) who disguised herself for her whole life, became the General Inspector of Military Hospitals, but on the discovery of her true gender after she died of dsysentry she was buried without any ceremony or recognition in a simple grave in Kensal Green. She is acknowledged as the first surgeon to successfully perform a recorder Caesarian section where mum and baby survived. This took place in Cape Town, South Africa, the child took the name James Barry Munnik and passed this name to his godson James Barry Munnik Hertzog.
The Wellcome Collection, London