Wednesday 7 April 2010

Final. Art. Project. *gasp*

Top view.

Front view.
More after the jump...

Back view.

Peeking inside.

A look from the back.

Side view of the paint dripping down.

© Glendon Mellow 2010
Mixed media: oil paint on slate, acrylic string gel, wood, wire

* * *
This was the final project of my undergraduate career. The original version, handed in a week ago was poorly constructed and fell apart immediately after class. I admit - I have a painter's vanity, and spent waaaay more time on the painting than the construction of the cube. So, with instructions from my professor to tweak some things and add some things, I re-worked the cube.

And lugged tons of heavy, delicate-and-flaky painted stone on a 90 minute commute back to school and reassembled it.

Aesthetically, my aim was to create something you could look at from multiple angles and keep discovering new things. Scientifically, I wanted to mess with the idea of the descent of a made-up winged trilobite: this idea changed into a whimsical look at the fossils and artifacts in the flying trilobite's soil.

Degree. Done!

Thanks to all my friends and family and bloggy friends and commenters for all their support. And especially, thanks to my wife Michelle for all of her encouragement and help in me going back to school. You rock.

I'll post grad photos in June.

You can see the process of this here: one, two, three, four.

- - - - - - - -

Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow B.F.A.
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

"How many wood glues died to make this project?! You monster!"


Trish said...

Good work! It looks really cool in the pictures and I'm sure it's amazing in "person".

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Trish!

I'm pretty proud of the oils in this one. Especially the one I smashed with a hammer.

traumador said...

on the being done CONGRATULATIONS!

glad you finally made it to the end of your degree too! (i took forever on my own, but unlike yourself i didn't have the good excuse of work stretching it out :P it just took me nearly a decade... so your not alone)

i just wanted to congratulate you straight off the bat... as your piece inspired a whole other giant comment that is to follow... which is not meant to offend. rather promote discussion (so i hope).

traumador said...

this piece is definately a new style for you!

i will expose my cultural simplicity here, but i've never been a big fan of abstract formats like this. (espcially as you had to smash a perfectly awesome painting to do it...)

however to prove my simplicity is not due to me being simplistic, but rather me sense of artistic conventions needing to be, i present to you a mega discussion starting essay! (i had started off small, and it exploded over the course of 30 minutes... please consider this a tribute Glendon, not an attack. i've taken every measure i could to explain myself here!)

this is probably something i indirectly learned (through association) from my awful high school art teacher, who was unencouraging my whole high skool art career. she told me in my final evaluation in grade 12 straight up i couldn't do art. she was huge on abstract work, and was the opposite of supportive in my efforts to do "realistic" art (as in drawing or painting recognizable things). i never saw the point or function in any of my teacher's art. it was just at breaking the classic rules of art and thus manifesting nonsense to no particular effect.

i'm more for straight up pictures and statues. even if their content isn't realistic, if you follow. i just find these clear formats have a more natural narrative, that any viewer can grasp something of what the artist was trying to say (i'm a big follower of marshall mcluhan's "the medium is the message").

i'm sure your piece is better in person, but all i see in the photos is that you smashed your work... which to me (as the medium is the message, and the medium here was destruction in the end) says i shouldn't bother with this piece. the artist thought so highly of his work he took a hammer to it.

i love the concept of a disarticulated flying trilobite fossil and the treasures that could surround it in its matrix, but would rather see it in a traditional 2D drawing/painting (of which you are one of my favourites at by the way!) or an actual 3D sculpture of the scene. i find this piece (in the photos anyways) is more about breaking narrative conventions then it is telling me your story (as i have to waste so much time figuring out your new visual rules)

that earlier piece you did for your course, where you put your pieces in a wood frame fold out book was a brilliant use of multiple conventions. i know how to view and interpret a picture, i know how to read a book. put the two together i get a rather clever artistic recreation of a picture book (that yet isn't one).

traumador said...

however this cube (in photographic form again) i have no clue what i'm looking at or how i'm supposed to process it. i do see it as a potential concept model for a more clear piece. for example i could see this concept working as a glass cube filled with sand and the pictures were pressed against the glass as though buried in strata, and we're looking at them beneath the ground.

however at moment to me it is a unhappy fusion of 2D pieces in a unnatural 3D context (fossils don't come in cubes... or floating in the air) perhaps a different shape?

to me modern crazy constructs and installations are just saying "i'm a pretensious new age artist, who can't be bothered to stick with hundreds of years worth of artistic convention... aren't i special". (i am NOT saying this is you glendon, by the way, as this is not a typical piece of your art).

the true greats of art, da vinci, michelangelo, raphael (aka the ninja turtles :P) achieved their status not through inventing new nonsensical artforms, but rather perfecting and innovating the classics!

which is what you do best glendon. you're paintings are great. you're playing within the established artistic rules, and making totally brand new great art works within them.

people know what look for with a painting/drawing. people know what to do with statue/sculpture.

new age artists spending their whole time making up new rules. this has two problems for me. 1 it says to me they aren't very good at art, as they have to make up new rules to make themselves talented. 2 their spitting in our face, by telling us that artistic conventions as old as humanity itself aren't good enough for them (or us, as we're supposed to view them highly).

paintings and statues have always been trendy throughout history, right back to cave drawings and simply sculptures of mammoths. how many dead moose stuffed full of photos are in the classic art museums?!?

in conclusion i love the individual elements i see in your piece glendon. i'm just not sold on the 3D framework (especially as again you had to destroy your paintings to achieve it)

Glendon Mellow said...

First off Traumador, let me say thanks for a well-thought response to the piece.

Second, lay any worries to rest. Well-thought out criticism is not offensive. We're good.

Okay. A few points in response.

The only piece that was broken after painting it was the one on the top of the whole apparatus. The others were painted on slate fragments - the destruction wasn't totally wanton.

I totally get what you mean about abstracts being difficult to do when you think representatively. Right there with you.

As I said in the post, I am also guilty of painter's vanity, and left a lot of the structural questions until the last minute. A week earlier, the entire thing collapsed.

Perhaps the photos aren't doing it justice (I hope). There's a lot to see, and one thing that doesn't come through well here is that most of the falling pieces are in a kind of spiral, with drips of paint linking them, as if each oozes to the next below. A couple interrupt the spiral.

Originally, I wanted a spiralling family tree, (no cube) since spirals are pretty, but you and I (and most of this blog's readers) know that evolution doesn't work like a pretty spiral staircase.

I thought about a kind of waterfall of paint with fossils on the rocks. I still kind of like that idea, but I think that's a different project. I have some materials already to do it.

So, I went with something sort of like a Harris matrix represented in three dimensions instead of on the page.

To address your concern of the contemporary practice of breaking the boundaries of the canvas: I know what you mean. And perhaps I failed at being successful with it here. The assignment was to do exactly that, and treat the paint itself as a 3D medium, break the boundaries of canvas. My project is guilty of mainly residing on 2D slate pieces, with dribbles of acrylic string gel dripping and creating relationships.

I agree that when artists break the traditions of the artists before them, it isn't usually successful. But innovation is a part of art, and part of this class. That's not spitting in the face of Michaelangelo; he shocked and did unconventional things in his day too.

York University's motto is "Tentanda Via - the way must be tried" (though lately they're putting "redefine the possible" on everything).

I'll see about getting some more photos up over the next few days, and maybe scan some individual pieces.

Peter Bond said...

I love the piece, Glendon! And I'm going to have to disagree with Craig on this one.

My interpretation is that the piece is a block of layered rock (sandstone, perhaps) full of fossils, each on an individual (invisible) sedimentary rock layer, squished 2D by the process of compaction and pressure (perhaps even some metamorphism). Your piece is a 3D representation of Geology. Complete with a damaged, disarticulated fossil!

I understand Craig's resistance to this piece. We've been having wonderful discussions about the validity of photography as art. As someone who does see photographs as art, I feel there is a place within "art" for all manner of medium (not just the traditional painting and sculptures.)

I feel that art SHOULD be a challenge. A challenge to the viewer, to respond with some reaction/emotion - I think of Picasso's work. Often hard to interpret, it leave the viewer to come up with their own ideas as to what the piece means. Sometimes it frustrates the viewer.

Picasso's "Guernica" made me angry when I first stood in front of it. Huge, simple, ugly. Weird horse in a room with a dead baby. But you spend the time, look closer, clues become evident. Link it with the historical setting it was painted in (1937 Spain), and you create your own interpretation of the work. Perhaps an interpretation completely different from the person standing beside you.

This is how I feel when I look at your fossil cube, challenged to interpret. I came up with 3D Geology. You have a different interpretation, as does Craig.

And that's a good thing. Sometimes it's nice to see a Sunflower and think, "Ahhh, beautiful Sunflower" and sometimes it's nice to be challenged and upset. That's art to me.

My interpretation is of course by no means intended to antagonize, Craig! The discussion has only just begun!

And Glendon, congratulations on graduating! Wonderful!

Weapon of Mass Imagination said...

Peter- I took your reply as none aggressive, as this is likewise meant.

I just wanted to clarify, I'm not attacking content here. I'm criticizing the medium content is framed within.

So your example of a contreversial piece, Picasso's "Guernica", actually fits better within my argument, than a defense of modern art.

Though the content of Pablo's piece is weird and abstract, in its actually MEDIUM, a painting, this piece is quite a standard work of art in its construction and framing. It is still a "classic" format. Everyone knows how to "read" a painting (but much like words no one ever gets the same thing out of reading anything).

It is simply the content he placed within this framework that was contreversial and weird. Not what I have an issue with.

I'm against new formats when it comes to communicating relevant messages, as a new format is simply for the sake of being a new format. Everyone is too fixated on how their supposed to "read" the new format, rather then grasp the information within.

This is not Glendon's intention typically with his art. He wants us to grasp a scientific concept from his work (which he normally does exceptionally well), but with this piece I don't think most people would get it this time. They'd be spending all their time and energy trying to figure out how to "read" his piece. As it is not a normal format...

(End part 1)

Weapon of Mass Imagination said...

Part 2

My argument is based on Marshall McLuhan (so I guess it comes down to whether you agree with his views or not). Boiled down his theories are perfectly summarized by his famous saying "the medium is the message". (Which ties into Dawkins' meme theory quite well, for you Dawkins fans out there)

McLuhan argued that ideas are useless unless you transmit them. However the instant you transmit them, the content of the information doesn't matter at all compared to how you transmit it.

He defined the framing and composition of this transmission as the information's medium (aka its format), and a great deal of whether the information is going to be accepted or not is how everyone else views your choosen medium, and NOT the idea itself!

So for example Charles Darwin wants to tell the world about his new idea Evolution. His choice of format (medium) will have the greatest impact on who will accept it and how they will accept it. If he publishes it as a comic book, it will be precieved as kids stuff and most adults will immediately dismiss it, but kids will take it in. If he publishes it as a coffee table book it might get glanced at by people, but be taken lightly as per the medium. Publishing it as fully academic book means it will immediately be taken as a serious but yet academic idea, and looked at as of such (and the common joe will dismiss it as intellectual nonsense).

What happens to the content there after is simply a branching tree of more mediums (or as Dawkin's defined them memes!). You can see this with how the idea evolution took off. Darwin's medium was taken seriously and thus the idea was transmitted within educated circles (whether they accepted the idea or not... they were aware of it). From here we've seen more and more people transmit it themselves (again whether it is in agreement of the idea or trying to undermine it), and thus evolution has taken on a form in most avaliable human mediums.

So when I'm talking about art, this is what I mean. To me a modern art piece is not about transmitting an idea, like say disarticulated fossils and the other treasures buried with it, but rather being a medium to simply breaks artistic conventions and solely define this new medium's conventions.

This is fine and dandy, and every now and then (but very rarely!) a new medium might emerge into common acceptance and usage (I mean acceptence as in society can easily "read" the new format). At the same time these pioneering pieces don't communicate anything other then their new form of communication. They are in essence from a McLuhan point of view a children's introductory picture book to this new artform.

The instant you want to transmit an actual message, like Glendon's noble mission of "Art in Awe of Science", you need your audience to know the medium SO they will be getting the information out of your piece. As again this is the critical part of the information transmission process. The audience needs to be able to "read" "interpret" etc. what you've put down.

Weapon of Mass Imagination said...

PS- Oops I forgot to switch my accounts...

The problem with a multi teared online life :P

Glendon Mellow said...

A small note to your latest comments - fascinating stuff, Peter and Craig! - we must also remember that while McLuhan's medium-is-the-message applies, remember, this is a 3 dimensional box with paintings hanging in it seen over the internet.

In a way, I've cudgeled a 3-dimensional thing into a 2-dimensional medium.

This does not render Craig's concerns about the piece null and void, but it does matter.

Since I began blogging my art years ago, my typical format has shrunk more and more. It's easier to scan and photograph small things to display online.

This is meant to be seen in meatspace. However - Craig's points are still valid as he is correct, this is an unconventional and non-established way of creating paintings.

Unknown said...

Congrats! That's great that you are graduating. I finish my associates this this summer too. I like the piece. Wish I could see it in person to really appreciate it.

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks Eric! (What is your associates? Congrats in any case!)

I'll put some other pictures up now that I've brought it safely home. This project had to be almost completely disassembled to get home. It's sitting on the dining room table now...

Sean Craven said...

First off, congratulations, sir. Well done.

Now, as for the discussion on the nature of the piece...

Craig, I have a great deal of sympathy for your position. But I've had the unpleasant experience of deciding that I did not like the work of a number of fine artists, only to find out that I was judging them on the basis of reproductions of their work -- and when I saw the real pieces face-to-face, I had to change my mind.

This is a real issue in fine arts -- the gap between what is out there and our opportunities to truly experience the works.

Honestly, there is no way to truly convey a piece like this over the internet. The best you can hope for is to use it as the basis for creating an internet experience. And that experience will have surprisingly little to do with the initial work.

What you say about the desire for novelty in the fine arts makes a lot of sense. And the flip side of that is the tendency for people in fine arts to want to place themselves and others into a cultural matrix -- who influenced you? What's your movement?

I think experimentation like this is tremendously useful. Too much focus on novelty is a dead-end, but so is an avoidance of novelty. I tend to agree with McLuhan -- but as an artist, I see the statement you quote as being a challenge rather than a restriction.

I don't feel that experimental formats are opposed to conventional techniques. I don't see art in that kind of competitive way -- I'll steal any idea or technique or approach that will take me further down the road, and I don't care if it comes from fine art, pop art, folk art, or anything at all.

In this particular case, I have no idea how well Glendon's piece works. The photographs are intriguing, but they cannot give the experience of examining the object in life.

I will say that from a distance, I think of this not so much as a set of paintings as a sculpture that makes use of painting as an essential part of the constructive process.

Very interesting stuff here, and I'll be mulling it over for a while. I think in a lot of ways, this touches on one of my big questions these days. Is the image enough?

Glendon Mellow said...

Thanks for the congrats, Sean.

And thanks for your comments as well. It sounds like all of us agree that novelty or attempts at innovative mediums can often distract or fail at enhancing the art.

I will say it is totally fair for Craig (or Peter, Eric or Trish or yourself) to judge the Last Project as it is displayed here - because it is displayed here. I have posted photos on this blog with full knowledge that the experience will be different than in person.

It's funny, but by and large I think more like Craig about artwork than not; yet here I am with this piece I've made. Projects like this have cropped up in my work since I began university, all those many years ago.

Gives me an idea for another post too...

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