Propertius

Uncategorized July 17, 2017

Working on a translation of Propertius for fun + so as not to lose my Latin. I’m doing it in two stages. The first is a word-by-word literal translation with all the grammatical information. The second is a silly, modernised version of the translation which is, unsurprisingly, really very difficult indeed.

 

Quarries of Paris, part 2

Uncategorized July 17, 2017

I posted some more information about the Paris quarries project up over here. It’s something that will remain in an ongoing state for as long as we’re in Paris, but I turned out perhaps a bit more nebulous than I would have liked. Partly, I think it’s because I didn’t set off with a very clear idea, but partly because it’s an enormous subject and I perhaps was trying to shoe-horn too much into one project (a perennial problem…).

Also, while I was at the Beaux Arts, I focused exclusively on photography which may or may not have contributed to the feeling of dissatisfaction with the project — I think it may have been more successful had I conceived of things as more of a mixed bag. It ended up feeling a bit too documentary, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but not exactly what I wanted either. It’s interesting, though, to end up with something that you aren’t very pleased with and to think about why and how to resolve some of those problems for the next project.

Quarries of Paris

Uncategorized November 20, 2016

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I’ve recently started working on a new project about the quarries underneath Paris, limestone and urban geology. Since it’s still very early in the process, everything is a bit of a jumble in my mind – I know I want to look at the relationship between the history, labour, materials and processes which contributed to the building of the city and the ways in which, historically and physically these things have become invisible, despite the fact that much of the infrastructure is just below the surface of the city.

I’ve been digging in the archives and reading everything I can find (which, incidentally, is a lot. Ahh, the French and their love of archives), but there’s nothing quite the same as first-hand knowledge. Before we moved to Paris, I contacted Gilles Thomas, who is one of the leading authorities on underground Paris. Although the office which was established under Louis XVI in 1777 – L’Inspection Générale des Carrières – has done much good by way of mapping networks and systems and reinforcing the former quarries to prevent sinkholes and building collapses, they are less interested preserving and promoting the history of the city’s underground. Gilles, on the other hand, is incredibly passionate about documenting and preserving these important spaces, without which, Paris would not be as it is today.

The following are photos from my first visit to the Grand Réseau Sud, a large network of 100km of tunnels under the 5th, 6th, 14th and 15th arrondissements of Paris. Prior to the 19th century, the GRS was in fact a series of fragmented quarries, dating from the 13th century onwards. By the 17th century, the city’s expansion began to occupy land formerly used for quarrying – a number of large construction projects in the late-1600s spent a great deal of money reinforcing caverns left by abandoned mining enterprises. 100 years later, the growing city continued to expand at an ever faster rate. The disaster which in part precipitated the founding of the IGC occurred in one of these far-flung expansions – in 1774, some 30 metres of street collapsed to a depth of 30 metres.

For this first trip, we visited the Quartier Sarrette, which is apparently one of the most visited areas of the GRS. Cataphiles is the name for people who visit the regularly quarries, but for people who supposedly love something, it was incredibly depressing to see evidence of pretty poor treatment. Graffiti covers practically every surface and there’s trash everywhere – I don’t have a problem with graffiti per se, but it’s so frustrating, when you’re trying to understand the history of a place, not to be able to see it properly. Gilles said that back in the ’80s, when he first started visiting the quarries, there was no graffiti at all. I wish I could have seen it like that, but then again, it’s pretty amazing to be able to see it at all, considering how many people will never be able to.

More trips soon.

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Salzburg Summer Academy – Sculpture Symposium

Uncategorized August 17, 2016

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I’ve just returned from nearly a month living and working on a limestone quarry in the Untersberg massif, just outside Salzburg. The workshop was lead by Greek sculptor, Andreas Lolis.

My main reason to participate was to gain a solid technical basis for working with stones (both by hand and with power tools) a little bit easier to manage than the gorgeous granite which covers nearly every square inch of Finland. However, because my starting point for work is often an idea/archive/other research and not forms, I found myself at a complete loss for the first few weeks. The teaching staff had a difficult time understanding my working methods – i.e. unwillingness to make a form for no reason – and I somehow couldn’t put my usual way of thinking to one side simply for the sake of learning.

Nevertheless, I managed to muddle through two not-very-interesting pieces to get to grips with hand tools (on one piece) and power tools (on the other piece), before making a series of rather adorable miniature pieces from shaping offcuts. The final piece was born out of intense frustration and turned out to be the thing I was most happy with.

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We had a dedicated outside working area near the quarry’s main office. I had wholly misinformed ideas about a quiet working space, with the gentle clatter of chisel and hammer. How wrong I was! Every one of the 12 other sculptors used a Flex from morning until night and, even with sound and face protection, the noise and dust were horrendous.

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All in all, it was an interesting, if ultimately disappointing, experience. I realised that, although I am absolutely mad for stone, I am definitely not cut out for a career as a contemporary stone sculptor. There’s a certain kind of intelligence required for working out the nuances of any given material, but if all that’s required is to think about material as material and nothing else, that’s not enough to sustain my interest for very long. And besides, especially with regards stone, there’s so much more to think about – cultural, historical, architectural, geological, etc. – why limit yourself to acontextual form-making? One of many sticking points between me and our instructor…

And yet, I did learn quite a lot about how to sculpt stone, as much (if not more) from the other participants as from the teacher. I also learned how to sharpen a knife on the bottom of a ceramic coffee mug, and how to make pancakes using nothing but eggs and bananas. Magic.

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Struve Geodetic Arc

Uncategorized May 15, 2016

A few weeks ago, we went on a bit of a road trip across Finland to visit five of the six sites of the Struve Geodetic Arc which stretch across the country north to south. I’d already been to Mustaviiri Island in the Gulf of Finland, the sixth site, late last year – hence only five of six. I’m currently in the process of wrapping up my graduation artworks about the Struve Arc, its ramifications for our understanding of the shape of the Earth, with a bit of the history of the concept of progress thrown in for a bit of left-field good measure.

As one of the projects is a sort of series of small(ish) models for a proposed group of monuments for the Struve Arc sites in Finland, along with our visits to the Arc sites, we also visited six granite quarries in locations near each of the Struve sites to select stone for each of the sculptures.

A small selection of photos from the trip below!

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Stone Writing

Uncategorized March 13, 2016

Working on a new print in the lithography lab for an artist’s book I’ve made as part of my MA graduation project on the history of the idea of progress and the Struve Geodetic Arc. Lithography is a hugely labour-intensive, complex, and thoroughly exhausting process, but it’s beautifully direct, surprising and incredibly joyful.

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Test stone

etching

First etch of the test stone with gum arabic and nitric acid

The Plan

Plan for the final print

painting on the background wash with tusche

Painting the background layer with a water/tusche wash. The tusche gets a first etch with gum and nitric acid before being swapped out for a basic printing ink. The stone, with the printing ink, is etched for a second time before the basic ink is washed out and exchanged for the final printing ink. 

printing the background wash

Printing the background wash in a light grey

the printed background

The printed background (layer 1)

the overlay - drawn on the stone with pencil - represents 3 different series of survey measurements from the 17th to the 20th centuries

The overlay – drawn directly on the stone with a 9B graphite pencil – it represents 3 different series of survey measurements in northern Finland, from those of Maupertius in the 17th century to those of the Struve Geodetic Arc in the 19th century to those made by the Finnish Geodetic Institute in the 20th century. Here, I’m about to rub out the pencil and prepare the stone for the basic printing ink, also called roll-up ink.

the first two overlays printed in yellow and blue

The first two overlays printed in yellow and then cyan (layers 2 and 3)

mixing and rolling out the magenta ink for the last layer

Mixing and rolling out a magenta ink for the final layer

printing the forth and final overlay

Printing the forth and final overlay

the print just off the press

The print just off the press

the finished print, in an edition of 11

The finished print, in an edition of 11

Struve Arc, Trip 1: Mustaviiri Island

Uncategorized December 14, 2015

A few images from today’s start to the series of trips planned for one of my MA graduation projects about the Struve Geodetic Arc. Over the next few months, I’ll visit each of the six nominated original triangulation spots in Finland maintained as part of its status as a UNESCO World Heritage sites. Along the way, I’ll be collecting geological samples, taking notes and images on my trusty Hassy 503cx. I’ll then make a series of commemorative stone sculptures – one for each site – in a relevant type of local Finnish stone, all of which will be exhibited here in Helsinki in June, 2016.

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How to design, construct and install a large stained glass window

Uncategorized November 30, 2015

1.altasThe original visualisation on which the window design was based

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Matching glass colours

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The glass is mouth-blown into long cylinders and then formed into sheets through a series of varrying-temperature ovens

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Making a small test panel with the first cartoon (it did not go well at all!)

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After the test panel made quite obvious that the margin of error was very small (1-2mm), I redrew the cartoon using more precise tools for greater accuracy

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Early stages of glass cutting

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Later stages of glass cutting

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All 650 pieces of glass cut and labelled before being joined together with lead came

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Early stages of leading up – the came is an H-profile which holds the pieces of glass on either side. It is later held together by soldering at each joint

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Later stages of leading up

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Once the window has been fully leaded and soldered, a cement-type compound of linseed oil, calcium carbonate, turps and carbon black powder is forced between the gaps in the glass and the lead. This cement helps to strengthen the window. Additional calcium carbonate is spread over the window to dry out the cement – it is later brushed off as part of the final cleaning process.

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The angle steel outer frame was bent in the UK, before being shipped to Helsinki for final welding.

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The outer frame and ferramenta – a steel internal support structure which was later tied on to the reserve side of the window – prior to installation in the Kunsthalle

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The tricky installation process…

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The back of the window following installation. The ferramenta – attached with bronze wire ties – is visible from this angle.

 

Famine in Scotland, 1690s

Uncategorized September 7, 2015

Looking at the connections between cereal crops, famine and crisis in five case studies across European history for an ongoing work.

Discovered much of relevance and of interest in the archives of Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun’s in the National Library of Scotland last month.

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