I can see there are needs to research into both process and meaning. there are valuable lessons in both. However, many artists are with-holding of their process. Understandably. This means I have to try and find clues and like a detective solve the puzzle of ‘how’ and ‘in what way’. Meaning and expression are more easily accessible. This is a curious position. Back to the medieval ‘mystery of the artist’ – the secrets of the guilds!
Su Blackwell is another of my favourite Paper Sculptors. Whilst she has never claimed to be the Scottish Poetry Library sculptress there are many similarities for me to feel they are one and the same person. I am particularly taken by her work when she scales up her book art to become set designs and when she translates her techniques into textile installations. She was originally trained in Textiles at Bradford College, and followed this with an MA in Textiles from the Royal College of Arts; Justin Croft is quoted as saying on her website, ‘I can see the influence of her textiles training, too – there are multiple repeats and each letter is like a stitch. It’s as if she’s weaving with words’.
First, her set design for ‘The Snow Queen’ at The Rose Theatre in Kingston (2011) appeals to me because the text and cut-out paper designs are enlarged so that the actors are diminished to illustration size. They become players on the page. The pieces are formed from the text of the story with key words being carefully placed. Trees and lampposts make for a fragile light and shadow enhanced by the stage lighting. Interestingly, the artists feels that some of the intimacy is lost on the large scale works, but on this occasion I find I feel drawn into the scene in the same way one is drawn into the pages of a book. I wish to consider this as my own work grow… how I can draw the audience into my pieces removing that observer barrier, perhaps creating a position of favoured witness?
In Part 2 of ATV, I struggled to animate the fabric surface, my paper samples had been lively and interactive but I had failed to transform the fabric surface effectively. In this part of MMT we are being encouraged to manipulate the surface, so I get another chance to develop what was emerging in Part 5 of ATV. I need to take a lesson from Su Blackwell in answer to one of the question that is posted on her website as part of an interview:
‘What are the differences in-between your paper and your fabric work?
I treat the materials the same. Paper is more malleable to the hand, it has a visible memory. I am not tired of working with paper, in fact the more I work with it, the more fascinating it becomes. Fabric is less forgiving than paper.’
Looking at her dress installations (which incidentally will be on exhibition at the Museum Sinclair Haus near Frankfurt from October 2016) I am struck by the paperiness of the fabric cut-outs. I need to learn how to translate what I feel when working with paper into fabric, and I suppose the only way this can be done is by familarity with an increasing range of fabrics and papers, and experiments with process in both. It should also be noted that alongside her installation and book art and paper sculptures Su Blackwell has also fulfilled commission for fabric design from Liberty Art Fabrics, London.
Her cut-outs are ornate, intricate flaps – some of which have freed themselves from the surface and become separate entities! The design of ‘While You Were Sleeping (Revisited)’ 92014) and the earlier ‘The Grass Grows Between Her Toes’ (2010) bit have an ethereal lift and fragility to them. The very dresses are destroyed to create a moment of beauty captured as if a point in time photographed. I would love to see these pieces in exhibition in order to fully appreciate the transformation of the dresses and understand the process by which the sculpture is formed.
‘The Fairytale Princess’, Su Blackwell & Wendy Jones; Thames and Hudson 2013