Iridescent Alloys

When I was applying for this MA, I remember compiling my portfolio. It had a smattering of this and that. I loved many forms of art and I was not ashamed to stuff them all into my portfolio. But even as I compiled it I knew what I lacked: a voice. An individual, unique form of art that represented me as an artist. I guess that is one of the primary things I was searching for when I began this program.

I have to admit something. Growing up, I had the WORST art teachers. This is partly the reason that I want to begin a full time career as an art teacher, at least for a while. To be the inspirational sort of teacher (like Jonathan is) that I never encountered in my own early years. I feel like teachers help their students form a foundation and these art teachers kneaded into me a very real fear of art not being ‘good enough’ that survives in my soul to this day!

Anyway, they could not diminish my love for creativity and art in general and I turned my attention to literature. I fell in love with the likes of Daphne Du Maurier, Andrew Marvell, Edwin Muir, Samuel Beckett, Arthur Miller, Neil Gaiman and Robin Hobb to name a few! But it was Katherine Mansfield whose work inspired me to create my own. I agreed with her belief that art could unabashedly be interdisciplinary! I enjoyed directing plays, writing scripts, reading books, writing blogs and (as yet unfinished) books as much as I liked to dabble in painting. But eventually, I hoped to use these influences to create a type of painting that was all mine (even though I understand that all artistic work builds on work that has come before and nothing can be truly original and la di da, you get what I mean 😉 ).

Then this MA took me on a journey. I began art four years ago and I felt like I was finding myself slowly but surely. You could say this MA was like stepping on the accelerator. Suddenly I felt the world around me swirling and changing, opening doors and windows in places I had never thought to look before! I began to pick and choose more finely. Yes I love chalk pastels and watercolor to this day but do they have to factor into the style I want to develop? Not really, and so on so forth.

I have always been inspired by my Muslim heritage. There are so many scientific and artistic contributions the muslim world made before fading into oblivion (and worse, notoriety!). It is what prompted me to learn Arabic calligraphy. Mosaic art is another form of art seen widely in this area of the world. But every time I explored, I stumbled into the same sort of thing. Mosaic tiles placed in a pattern, divided by grout. Over and over again. I tried that, didn’t enjoy it, didn’t get that thrill that comes from imagining your creation and not knowing the outcome.

So I began to view the word mosaic a little more literally. That led me to pouring paint, making cells. A mosaic of acrylic paint. I then began to fumble around with air dry clay and voila, a cartoony lightbulb appeared.

That was the beginning of this series I like to call “Iridescent Alloys”. Alloys, because hello, melding of different substances and iridescent because they shall be covered in glass shards that glitter in the sun. (Also Alloys because I am and always will be head over heels with Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series. Credit where credit is due guys).

The base of the sculpture is a canvassed piece of wood covered by impasto techniques and acrylic pour.  The sculpture is sculpted by hand out of air dry clay, acrylic pour and spatter and covered with shards of broken glass that mirror the sunlight. I don’t use grout but I do use ceramic glue and mosaic sealer to make sure everything is joined firmly together.

There are so many ways this can be expounded upon but as a beginning I choose to represent the elements. Why? Well, I’m new to air dry clay and I want to sculpt something that may not be so specific, something that has room for a bit of error.

I guess artists who have preceded me have done this whole 2D into 3D thing (just think of Robert Rauschenberg’s Combines) but the novelty in my approach may be:

  1. Viewing the sculpture as an extension of the painting. Like the ocean and the wave are one. The sculpture is life springing out of the pages.

  2. Using this combination of clay, mosaic and canvas in the first place.

What do I want to say with this series? When I think about that, this quote comes to mind:

“When you are in the middle of a story it isn’t a story at all, only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept by the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It’s only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it, to yourself or someone.” –Margaret Atwood.

This particular series of Iridescent Alloys represents the forces of nature. It reflects on the human condition; navigating past forces beyond our control to live the life we want. It poses the question: are we capable of shaping our own lives or is it the collision of fate, karma and coincidence that lends us our successes and failures? Ultimately, it is an introspective series that suggests that life can be what we make of it and success is determined by our ability to make the best use of the time that is given to us.

“What if we follow the natural contours and shapes of the tesserae of our lives, taking the apparently broken elements and pairing colors and pieces according to their inherent form, creating beauty along the way, creating something whole and unique from the pieces of our lives?…Life is infinitely more complex and expansive than any single template contains or defines. Instead of a star quilt sewn from a pattern, we slide the pieces of our lives into our own understandings to compose individual mosaics from the treasures and scraps of the tesserae of life—arranging the tiles to catch the light.”

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