Julio Villamil, 1999
I have always enjoyed exploring different methods of creating objects and images. In fact, I believe that making art is an involved thought process, in which the challenge is to solve the puzzle at the same time it is being conceived. Art is a vehicle for understanding, and the methods are secondary to the overall creation and concept of the piece. To be able to analyze the designs used in my art, we must look at a number of different processes and materials. There is a dialog beneath the surface of my work, which speaks about the objects as they relate to the process in which they are conceived. The image goes through a transformation as the concept of the piece evolves along side with its own creation. The relationship an image has with its process of design is shown in the line quality and overall composition of the work. My ideas of a piece evolve as the materials, process and concepts change. An interaction between myself, the maker, and the object being made, take place.
I collect most of my images from drawings and sketches, which I try to approach with a clear mind, and without thinking about it as a finished work of art. I believe these images are connected closest to my memories and feelings because they were created in response to my life. Using these images, I have an interactive starting point that I know is a part of myself. These pieces of my life, I try to evaluate and understand. Each sketch acts as a symbol, speaking of a time and place. My reaction to these symbols takes place in an involved process, which explores the image, and brings about new relationships and understanding about the artwork itself. Content and meaning evolve as the figure is adopted into different, and altered situations.
Many times, frustration and anger were inspiration for quick drawings and sketches. One such sketch sat in the margins of my math homework for years, created in a moment of frustration and feelings of loneliness. Even though it consists of a pencil drawing only an inch across, the image is one of intense power for me. The screaming man, fear in his eyes, looking straight out at the viewer presented some interesting relationships to explore. The sketch has the image of an old man, but the expression he wears on his face is all mine.
Fig.1 Line study of face ready for photocopy enlargement.
Only an inch and a half in size, the entire image is made up of unconnected, short lines. After redraeing the image with more line definition(Fig. 1), I then enlarged the portrait using a photocopy machine. My idea was to recreate the image and explore the relationship of the line and the space created, while retaining the original visual qualities. Slabs of clay were cut and fit to the enlarged photocopy, what was the original pen line, now was built off the flat surface of the paper, and a two-dimensional image with physical line depth was created. The pieces had to be suspended by twine, which would run through hundreds of little holes(Fig.2). Knots tied at just the right spot hold each of the ceramic slabs in place. What was originally conceived as pencil on paper was now transformed into ceramic and twine.
Fig. 2 Self Portrait, Detail of Clay slabs and Twine.
Fig. 3 Self Portrait, Ceramic, Twine and Wood Dowels.
The result of the project was a wall hanging, Self Portrait(Fig.3). Physically, the piece exists in three dimensions, but the line and style suggest the flat drawing from which the image was found. Because of this play on three dimensional qualities, interesting effects of lighting occur. The piece was hung in a window of a small art gallery called Into the Mystic, in Minnetonka, MN. The movement of the sun across the sky interacted with the sculpture. Changing shadows and suggesting dimensions, the screaming figure came alive within its new boundaries in the room.
The involved processes of working in the ceramic medium have brought me to some very interesting forms and images. While exploring the unity and function between man and woman as partners in life, I also analyze the differences and individuality of the sexes. Mother and Father (Fig.4) is a ceramic vessel where the lines making up the figures are cracks in the clay. Part of the process is presented to the viewer, suggesting at how it was made. The process is a very big part of the piece and its meaning. The vessel was made on a traditional potters wheel, but the image was applied to the clay before the form was finished. To do this, some planning and foresight are necessary. First, the throwing process is stopped just short of giving the piece form, and the outer surface of the cylinder is smoothed out. This allows lines to be incised into the surface of the clay with some limited detail. Careful planning and preparation go into throwing before the piece is started to achieve an even thickness. The vessel is then formed from the inside only, this stretches the interior part of the clay wall, while the incised image floats on top. The process changes the proportions of the image. The lines expand, and the flat areas remain the same size.
Fig. 4 - Mother and Father, Lidded Ceramic Vessel.
Interesting effects occurred with each of the figures, giving them a new life of their own. The bodies were designed to stretch, and the proportions of the bodies distort into the correct proportions. These figures were creations of mine, but due to the process, the clay has shown its presence by being responsible for the alteration and representation of form and figure. The process distorts the mark of the tool and the line between the creator and the creation are blurred.
Stretching the figures while giving form to a vessel brought about more ideas for representation of the figure and the exploration of space. I began to explore the space around the vessel as a continuous image in the round, rather than have two separate sides. The figures had to be fresh, and not pre-conceived so the image would maintain its integrity through the stretching of the underlying surface. I began conceiving different figures directly on the clay surface, rather than sketch with pencil and paper. Each mark I made had to be with confidence, or the image would not work.
Fig. 5 Dancing Women, Ceramic Vessel with Imagery in the Round.
One such ceramic vessel with the stretched image technique is Dancing Women(Fig.5). I found the images to be visually interesting, and decided to explore them in more depth. Already having undergone changes in line and form, I wanted to translate these images again, but in a different medium. While sketching the figures in marker, I noticed that some of the ink bled through the paper to the opposite side. Using this knowledge, I began a series of drawings (Fig.6) to explore how line and mass are affected from the back side of the paper. These studies were not interesting enough on their own, and I turned to the photocopy machine once again for its line changing qualities. The sketches were put through a series of enlargements, reductions, and tone control changes where I attempted to change the line in order to better represent the figure they compose.
Fig. 6, Left Dancing Women, Sketch
Fig 6, Right Dancing Women, Acrylic paint on canvass,6 x 9
Fig. 7 Red Lips, Blue Background. Acrylic on stretched canvass. 4 x 6.
Fig. 8 Study for Red Lips, Blue Background. Marker on both sides of paper.
Red Lips, Blue Background,(Fig.7) was conceived through these photocopied sketches. Originally a scribble on a blank page,(Fig.8) the form of a woman took shape, and I reworked the figure to better define her proportions. The original marker sketch was reduced in size to under an inch by the photocopier reduction process. The way the photocopier reads information is by areas of dark or light values. Setting the contrast high and running the copies through over and over(Fig.9), change the line and its appearance. This changed line was one of my primary concerns with the painting. The relationship between the image and the lines, which describe the form, spoke to me about her boundaries. The color and line relationships play with the depth of the composition and reinforce the abstracted view of the portrait. A large area of blue behind her acts as the background, but is physically painted on top of the white. The white, which makes up the foreground of the figure, lies physically behind the other layers of paint, but the space is pulled forward through the blue because the lines of the figure define her boundaries. As the eye follows to the edges of the canvass, the form of this woman starts to flatten and disappear. At the center, red lips jump off the canvass. The position of the lips at the center of the canvass, and the bold voluptuousness they speak of, establish the focal point of the painting, contrasting the cool blue and neutral white ground, defying its space as foreground or background depending on the focus of the viewer. Sharp black lines break up large areas of color, these change in thickness and in shape, adding a dimension of depth within the line itself. The space inside the figure runs out into the border, flattening the image and tying it back to the original line sketch from which the painting was conceived, as the distorted body and exaggerated features relate directly to the conceptualization and formation of the piece and its process.
Fig.9 Photocopy Process Line study.
The interaction of an idea with the physical process entertains and intrigues me throughout the many different materials and designs I have explored. These are developed to create a new understanding of the form and the space interacting with the image. How do you perceive an image? Do you see what the lines represent as a whole, or do you see the line on its own offering inherent visual qualities. The medium worked in directly influences the lines and techniques involved. The lines and techniques in tooling them are responsible for the effect of the overall image. My place in art is to interpret my experiences and views by working with the conception of an idea, and forming a dialog with it. Together, the object and the objective creator set up a language which describes the relationship between a small part, and the environment which these pieces occupy.