Grey squares


In the previous post Dail talked about her response to Matthew Harris’s challenge to scale up/ speed-up by filling a three metre square space within a relatively short period of time. Like Dail my studio will not accommodate a work on this scale so once she had finished her experiments the large board she had been working on crossed the corridor from her studio to mine.

As I have mentioned before one of my main concerns throughout this project is to consider notions of chance and control, exploring how altering the balance between these two factors effects my perceptions of what I am creating and the final output.

I decided to build upon an idea I had begun to explore in a previous session when I had worked with paper to create an assemblage of individual units. I started by using a home-made cola nib on a long stick to mark up a number of sheets of grey paper with a slightly wobbly inked grid. Because of the nature of the cola nib the ink flow was unpredictable causing uneven widths to the grid lines.


I then spent a number of hours cutting up this gridded paper into individual pieces. Because of the method used to mark up the grid the pieces were much more random than if I’d drawn them freehand with a more controllable drawing tool. Each piece has a very pleasing inked edge of variable thickness.


Once I had a huge pile of these not so square squares I had to think about how much I could build chance into the way I assembled them. There were many complicated rules I could have applied to force me not to take aesthetic decisions but I decided in the end, partly because of the scale of the piece and because the exercise was also about working quickly, that I would set simple rules about which edges came together and take the element of aesthetic judgement out of the process by closing my eyes. At each stage of the assembly the rules had to change slightly but I tried very hard to resist the temptation to interfere with the chance element even if I found the way the pieces were coming together displeasing.  Continuing with my chosen method I used up all the cut paper squares. In the end I didn’t have enough to completely cover the surface of the board but I enjoyed the way the construction petered out into white space.


What became evident as the piece grew was the relationship between the arrangement of the grey paper squares with their inked edges and the negative spaces that were formed by this arrangement. Once the piece was complete I was able start to investigate these negative spaces. As a way of ‘finding’ more and smaller negative spaces I made a couple of smaller grey paper constructions in the same way as the larger piece and used these on top of the large piece, moving them around until interesting negative space shapes revealed themselves.


The scaling up (even if not on the scale Matthew had originally suggested) was a challenge and the large format combined with time restrictions prevented me from ‘tidying things up’ too much. Working with the paper was relatively quick and allowed me to make discoveries I wouldn’t make if I was working more slowly


So many other ideas presented themselves as I was working and I tried to consciously tune into this attentive contemplation, allowing myself to stay alert to the unexpected that might happen along the way or to a pleasing but unintended arrangement of elements that might occur as I worked.



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