Week Four: 21st Century Aesthetics
What do I find beautiful? Good question. Pass me a mirror…bleughhh, not that anyway! It’s an interesting question that I’ve never really considered. I know what I like – natural imperfections, patina, showing the history and use of the item – but I also like precision, accuracy and symmetry of human made items. Why do I like these, however? James May said that he gets ‘the fizz’ when he is in car that makes him happy, excited, emotional and all of those responses that can’t be pinned down. I tend to agree. I can’t tell you why I like the texture of wood – be it the roughness of the bark, or something sanded down to a glassy finish – or why I love the rusty age marks on an old american car, but I do. Perhaps it’s the story that it can tell; what has caused this ‘defect’, what has made this tree branc have wide growth rings near it’s core, what happened at that particular point in history to cause this?
Where do I take these thoughts to make something that would give me ‘the fizz’? What do I want to represent; what do I want make it out of? I ride motorbikes and would love to visually represent the feeling I get from riding them. I need to represent the sense of danger, that you need to have your eyes peeled all the time; I want to represent the feeling of motion, the speed, the freedom, the melding between man and machine. To break it down, we have man – natural – and machine – man made. The eyes, the ‘all seeing eye’; an eye, that’s the key part. I’ll make it out of wood to represent the natural, human part, but add in a few elements of man-made wood to show that we are not all natural anymore.
I took several pieces of scrap wood, arranged into a specific colour order – pupil, iris, etc – covered them in glue, and laminated them together overnight.
Next day, I cut the excess off using a bandsaw and then shaped it on the disc sander. I had the rough eye shape, but then needed to spend HOURS hand sanding it to the finished shape. From here, I varnished the eye several times. To represent the feeling of motion and speed, I decided to paint the iris part of the eye – I’d tried different paint consistencies on polystyrene balls first, to get the best paint splay – using blue to reflect my eye colour.
I strapped the eye to my bike, and just before setting off, I painted the iris and rode around for 5 minutes, allowing the bike to create the art. I then added more layers of varnish to seal in the paint.
How to present this, though? How to show the melding between man and machine? I decided the eye needed its retina part – the red, veiny, tendril part at the back of the eye, that connects to the body – and so took a load of metal strands, twisted them by hand into a cord like structure, and then twisted and contorted them into the a muscle looking, freeform structure. I then fed a central ‘nerve’ through the structure, which would connect directly to the eye, feeding the information, from machine to man. I then painted the structure, blood red, but deliberately left it patchey, to show the machine part coming through.