I decided to examine stone for my chosen material, as I have always been very interested in geology and the structure of the Earth; as well as collecting stones and pebbles from every coastal location I have visited since my early childhood (and now I’m unsure with what to do with my boxes and boxes of rocks).
Stones, rocks and the like are initially considered quite fundamental and strong - used for structural purposes, monumental testaments and even coastal defences. This material then can be seen as very desirable through all of recorded history – regardless of the type of stone – they all stand the test of time.
In terms of materialism, the consideration of materials being comforting and spiritual, stone stands out in this sense. If you simply type ‘stone meaning’ into the internet, almost immediately you will be bombarded with rocks and stones that all have differing spiritual meanings and intentions; this is partly why I still to this day collect stones as I find this idea fascinating.
In addition to this, the symbolism of stone in a more qualitative term is that of, “ideas of endurance, stability, and permanence”. As mentioned before, stones are timeless, of course they erode and change, but perhaps this adds more to the elusive charm of the material – being ever-changing yet permanent. Stones of course cannot really be destroyed per say, and like many things change form and with this purpose.
Reiterating the more subjective view of stone, the adjectives used to describe the material are of great interest to me.
Choosing adjectives that connote with 'stone'
as a material and defining them also helps to
delve into the material in a more qualitative
view. Giving me more in-depth information in
a more objective and artistic way, a more
designer appropriate lens.
Words such as:
‘Endurance’, ‘Stability’, ‘Permanence’,
‘Silent’, ‘Timeless’, ‘Immovable’, ‘Grounded’:
Permanence – “the state or quality of
lasting or remaining unchanged indefinitely.”
Stability – “not deteriorating, not likely to
give way or overturn; firmly fixed.”
Timeless – “not affected by the passage of
time or changes in fashion.”
Grounded – “well balanced and sensible.”
A lot of the qualities of stone surround the
idea of building and construction, and then
that of geological purposes or natural
functions such as coastal formations and
Qualities however do vary due to stone type, variations in stone composition and quality mean that stone cannot be too simply categorised. Despite this, stone is usually associated as being strong, hard-wearing, heavy, abundant, foundational and usually is cold temperature-wise.
Another more qualitative 'angle' on stone is that of spirituality and stones, especially those considered 'precious' or gemstones. This includes more compressed stones and rocks that develop unique colours and forms due to to the conditions that material is put under; usually that of heat, compression and that addition of different variables such as water.
I find these more precious stones to be particularly more interesting as they carry a meaning with them, giving them even more importance to some as a material and object. Of course stone in these forms are not the most common, not used for building and so on - which again in my eyes can make them more interesting.
Stone as a material goes through many many processes and changes forms, over a very long time - this is what fascinates me in particular.
Additionally, gravity can be seen to have great importance on stone and its many forms. Such as gravity compressing stone and rock, it leading to erosion in coastal examples, and even the way stone structures and buildings change over time under the influence of gravity.
Stronger igneous stone, such as granite and basalt are used for structures that need to be strong and supportive; such as that of arch-work and columns. Igneous rocks being strong and durable infers that it does not usually have any permeable qualities, and is not as easily affected by sub-aerial weathering such as rain – which can in some cases lead to erosion and great structural damage (which is of course not wanted).
Sedimentary rocks such as limestone and sandstone are more porous by nature, as they follow igneous rock sediments which usually are then compacted, then under heat and pressure become stone. These stones are still viable for building but are much more prone to erosion and damage due to the way the rock is formed. As well as this, the pressure the layers of sediment are put under sometimes creates very visually interesting stripes of stone (known as stratified stone). Limestone particularly has many uses, from the usual building uses to more medicinal.
Furthermore, metamorphic stone is when sedimentary rock is put under further pressure and heat, below the Earth’s crust where it is able to melt and become viscous enough to be a liquid. This rock is very close to the asthenosphere, where magma rises up in volcanic forms. The lava on the Earth’s surface is hardened by either the ocean or air depending on where it has arisen. Because these rocks have been softened and then had to re-harden, they are more fragmented and fracture; such as slate and shale. These stone-types are used for roofing and are good at resisting weathering and erosion.
APPLICATION OF MATERIAL TO AN ABSTRACT SCULPTURE:
ABSTRACTION OF STONE
Abstraction is defined as “freedom from representational qualities in art, an abstract work of art”, and abstract means “relating to or denoting art that does not attempt to represent external reality, but rather seeks to achieve its effect using shapes, colours, and textures”.
In essence, to create a piece of art that is representational, not truly denoting the reality of something but yet the characteristics and ideas of it. Stone in this sense would mean representing its varying qualities of strength, porosity, colour and so on. Initially, I find the idea of exploring all three forms of stone in a combined sculptural model to be very interesting – representing the journey stone goes through and the how each form is unique in its own way.
This image (above) shows some of my favoured images when researching into basic stone textures, forms and colours. Beginning to form the basis of my research and development of my abstract sculpture.
I especially like the bottom right texture as it is one of the most unique looking stones, looking almost translucent and being very uniquely coloured. This led me to want to look into more precious and unique stone aesthetics.
Upon discovering these images and many more like them, I found myself wanting to focus on these rock types - in terms of aesthetic value; yet create a piece that can represent stone in its many forms. This will hopefully create a piece that represents the synthesis of stone and a very unique, abstract piece.
Antithesis of stones' qualities:
I then considered the ideas that would completely contradict the qualities of stone, especially that of gravity which is a very determinable force. Ideas such as an outwardly-looking stone texture that floats instead of being set deeply into the ground, or varying the natural colours of stone and making them more abstract and irrational. Making people really consider a material we are surrounded by and to some extent founded on (i.e. stone age).
After this consideration I researched into work that would inspire this train of thought, looking for varied designs and approaches to what I was looking for until I found a very niche style that grabbed my attention immediately, and I am still completely captivated by.
Following this online research, I began to sketch and develop some designs and ideas of my own.
The whole time considering what materials I could use to mimic stone in its many forms and textures.
I then did some initial sketches of images I had seen that had interested me.
Following this, I then revisited some research I did on the suggested sculptural artists and designers; choosing work from theirs that I liked and felt I could relate my project to.
Looking at sculptors' work was interesting as it allowed me to see and understand what could be perceived as abstract.
Artists such as; Do Ho Suh, Henry Moore, Anish Kapoor and Eduardo Chillida had created sculptures that interested me.
They are dynamic and engaging, which I suppose is the very essence of an abstract sculpture - to make a passerby momentarily think and consider what it was meant to mean.
Revisiting the idea of the 'antithesis of stone', ironically using stones natural qualities - such as stone that seems to float upwards towards the sky, yet still looking heavy and solid.
CONSIDERATION OF 'EMOTIVE MAKING':
When researching deeper into this method of designing I came across a company called 'Emotive Brand' who very clearly laid out what this term means and how I could apply it to what I am wanting to design and make.
"Emotive design is a component of emotive branding that engages people in a focused way that strives to evoke the specific feelings the brand seeks to own. Using colour, lines, shape, form, texture, light... designers create experiences...Emotive design is not overtly emotional design. Operating at a subtle and subconscious level, these design cues work to reinforce and enhance other dimensions of the way people interact with the brand [in this case, sculpture]."
This helped me to further understand what was meant by this term and how I could approach the design discipline, such as creating something unique and engaging that people want to take time to look at; something unusual and ethereal perhaps. Using intriguing textures and tactile design that continues to draw a person in.
I then believe that going down the path of more 'ethereal' design of stone would be much more interesting; by this I mean unique colours and more mythical, unnatural forms that mimic that of stone but are clearly not - and are much more representational.
In terms of 'emotive making' then, I believe I am headed in the direction of creating something that could evoke a lot of intrigue and mystery. This sculpture looking to be quite mystical and magical, it may even make people feel excited (in a not superbly dramatic manner) in a sense of the unknown and an object that resembles something perhaps seen in a film on a distant planet.
All of my research, sketching and designing has led me to find the aesthetic and possible outcome I will end up creating. I of course realise that I will not exactly end up creating these designs picture-perfect but something of a very similar look.
I am hoping to use materials such as expandable foam, concrete, hot glue and some additional items that could replicate the many textures and forms stone is found in. All put into one sculptural piece that is representative of stone and its physical journey as well the more spiritual connotations it can hold (precious stone especially).
I also hope that by the end of the process I am able to find a name for the sculpture.
THE PROCESS OF MY SCULPTURAL PIECE:
To begin with I needed to create a base for my piece and then decide on the appropriate materials I could use for each of my designed elements.
Next I decided I needed to create the concrete columns I had decided would be a part of the sculpture. After some consideration I chose to use two different sized columns that would hopefully balance the piece as well as create a more interesting structure in terms of composition.
I got this off-cut of wood from a shop and painted it white, as to create a high contrast with what I hoped my sculpture would be.
It was a very watery pain so after the multiple layers had dried I decided to cover it in a layer of PVA glue as well, to prevent the white wearing off as I attached more elements to the board over time.
The image of the concrete setting in the bottles shows that I oddly decided to use a cling-filmed potato to place into the bottle as it set - this was to create a concave slope.
Once they had fully set, I once again PVA'd the surfaces to create a nicer, glossier finish. As well as it helping the application and adhesion of the expandable foam I was planning on using.
These solid stone columns are meant to represent compact, sedimentary stones - quite similar to Chert which is smooth and grey like the columns I have created. This is one part of the rock cycle and explores the concept of compaction and solidification under many different pressure that are exerted on sediments.
After the columns were once again fully dried I used hot-glue on the bases to secure them in place on the board. Meaning I could then use the expandable foam.
I knew as I was planning and sketching the design before the actual making process that it would be extremely hard to properly be able to envisage what I would be able to make; as the expandable foam is almost organic in the way it freely forms.
Knowing this, I tried to carefully create shapes
I wanted and general forms that I
had previously sketched. Leading
me to this design that I felt was
a good representation of
what I wanted initially.
I then had to let the foam fully dry before I could apply paint and pressure or it would ruin both the design and my materials and equipment.
Overall I am very happy with the design I created - even if it was partly out of my hands at this point.
To paint the foam I was initially lucky enough for it to be light enough so that it did not need a base-coat; so I began using my acrylic paints straight onto the foam.
I referred back to my original planning and mood-boards I had created that discussed colours I wanted to use and designs that I thought captured the right aesthetic I was aiming for.
The expandable foam is meant to represent magma and lava in the igneous and metamorphic portion of rock formation.
As it emerges from the sedimentary
rock in a liquid-like motion.
I also ensured that some of the sculpture was painted orange to reinforce the imagery of lava.
Additionally the colours I painted overall were to represent precious stones and gems that are less recognised in the rock's cycle.
As said before, precious stones are formed in the same way as the three stone types, but include a lot more water in some cases - in fact, they are formed under the same pressures as normal stone but are rather more unique due to the combination of the time taken, the ingredients involved, amount of pressure, temperature and the physical space available.
Using a drill with a wood-drilling component I carved a hole out of the taller 'bridge-like' section I had made.
To create more features
found in/on stone I
decided to use egg-
carton inserts that looked like
stalagmites that form in caves.
I hot-glued them onto parts of the sculpture, and then knew I would have to make them look more cohesively a part of the sculpture - so decided to papier-mâché them onto the expandable foam.
As mentioned earlier, when setting one of the columns I left a concave imprint. This was so I was able to create a water/lava pour-out from the column - likened to the crater of a volcano.
I used hot-glue for this as it was easy to pour onto the piece as well as it being transparent - yet slightly translucent which added the mystical and ethereal look I had already created.
I am very pleased with how it looked in the end - many people told me it was very alien-like.
Once the stalagmites and cave had set, I began to paint those as well - to either match the colours already in place or to paint new colours that would compliment the surrounding areas and composition already created.
Colour-matching didn't take long and nor did the setting of the
I was able to quite quickly finish painting the piece now that all elements were in place and set.
The colours I created with acrylics were surprisingly vibrant which I was very glad of, as it helped to create the type of sculpture I was hoping to create.
A final touch was that of small plastic gems I stuck into the sculpture by making small incisions with a knife. To create interesting light patterns on the sculpture.
These following images show the process of making the arch, it was quite hard to gauge the amount of pressure I could apply in terms of the drill - as I didn't want to rip the foam apart and destroy the structure created.
Luckily the drilling went fine, and I was able to use a file to smooth out the space.
I then decided to cover the exposed foam as explained below.
Click on next image to cycle through, and click on an image to enlarge it.
THE NAME 'GEMORPHOSIS' COMBINES THE CONCEPT OF METAMORPHISM WITH THE AESTHETIC VALUE OF GEMSTONES
BACK OF THE SCULPTURE
TOP-VIEW OF THE SCULPTURE
SIDE-VIEW OF THE SCULPTURE
ANOTHER ORIENTATION OF A SIDE-VIEW OF THE SCULPTURE
AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE SCULPTURE
THE NAME OF THE SCULPTURE
Deciding on a name for my sculpture surprisingly didn't take long - as I presumed it might have - the theme of metamorphosis has been very apparent through my entire process without me fully realising it. Metamorphosis is defined as "a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one", which I felt was very appropriate. As I wanted to explore the process and journey of stone through it's forms, 'transformations' and 'alterations'.
I do of course appreciate that at first glance my intentions would not be realised by a stranger or someone who has not read about my process. Upon asking family and friends what the sculpture looked like once completed I got a multitude of answers ranging from, "rainbow ice-cream", "a fish-tank decoration", to just "edible". I found it particularly interesting that a surprising amount of people said it looked edible and went straight to a food item - unsure if I should be concerned as this initial connotation. Regardless, people were always intrigued by the sculpture and to me that makes the abstract piece a success in terms of engagement.
Continually, though, if my thought-process is explained and/or read I do believe it is very understandable that I came to this outcome. I wanted to explore our interpretation of stone, it's rich historical and cultural importance as well as it's physical quantitative connotations. This sculpture does not really resemble stone and is very obviously abstract, as intended, yet I do think elements are noticeable. Especially the two concrete columns which are the only 'obvious' stone elements. However the expandable foam does look like lava, the colourful gems are similar to precious stones(which was a large part of why I chose these colours) - as are the colours the sculpture is painted in - and the hot glue resembles water (yet slightly viscous, again like lava perhaps) which is a huge influencing factor in the forms and the cycle of stone.
As well as this, I do feel my earlier planning, sketches and initial research is truly reflected in the final product. From the colour palette to the overall form of the sculpture, I was very lucky to be able to create what I envisaged. Nonetheless I of course would change some elements or wished that they had gone differently. Firstly the colour palette is quite 'busy' and I do wish I could have first tried a simpler palette of maybe three similar colours, in terms of tone - such as only using pink, blue and purple - still the model is aesthetically what I wanted to achieve so I am not superbly annoyed by this factor. I had done research on expandable foam but wish I had more time to practice and experiment with the material, this is hard though, as the nozzle is very hard to clean and I was concerned that it may be unusable after the first initial use so opted to do it all at once. This influenced the height of my sculpture as I had planned for taller, towering elements that I was sadly unable to achieve. Finally, I would have liked the hot-glue 'water' element to have a smoother top-surface; similar to that of water of course, but the glue was setting too quickly and left the visible lines of where I was putting the glue.
Overall, I am very pleased with my sculpture and believe my intentions have been realised. I feel that it is an abstraction of stone as a concept and as a reality of what stone is. The process has given me further material knowledge as well as an understanding of how to create a unique object that is carefully planned and followed through. It has also meant that I have had complete creative freedom and been allowed to express myself artistically and truthfully, which has been a very exciting process because of this.
That then is the creation of my abstract sculpture, exploring the material fundamentals of stone in a conceptual way, Gemorphosis.