Pointy Clouds

Before my formative assessment I made laser cut card models of the sculpture I wanted to build. I ended up like the models and so moved into using sheet steel to realise my sculpture outcome. During the build of the sculpture I slotted together 11 steel triangle units and then suspended it from the ceiling next to my large sculpture. I was immediately struck by how it looked hanging in space so here I am returning to that idea with my card models to experiment further. 

I have been thinking about formalist and constructivist art and how to use their  principles that I am inspired by with digital technologies. A way I have thought of to do this is to make large sculptures or structures which encompass large volumes of space,  using modules or units to create small forms that then reside scattered through a space, like clouds, suspended. Then perhaps a sense of a larger volume or defined space can be felt or seen. In this small model I have used thread to suggest a three dimensional object/space defined by the triangle clouds. Let’s see how this all plays out…..


Formative Assessment

I let the blogging slide before Christmas, and I made quite a lot of work that I want to show here. Only problem is there’s quite a lot to show. I think the best way for me to cover that time span is to do a long post of pictures with captions in making order as much as possible, and then more detailed posts for things I want to go into detail more on. I generally take quite a lot of photos so I selected the best and as few as possible to present or document the process. I will throw in the odd paragraph where I think its needed, most of that content will be from notes I have kept at the time of making etc.

At the time of my pitch for my ideas for my degree show body of work (October) I wrote that my pitch had gone ok-ish. Ingrid said to me at the time that the context, concept was there but the nub and the physical starting point was not. In my pitch meeting it was suggested that I take something whether visual, concept, data, a subject and use it to make some form. I was not to worry about the subject or connotations of the start point , as it was just a device to get started making the types of forms I wished to create. The starting point does not become what the work is about but rather just a part of the works process. In my pitch I described being inspired by Olarfur Eliasson’s library of forms, a goal we set for me was to begin my own library of forms using ‘fast’ materials and just prototype and develop form ideas that interested me.   The main points to then come out of my pitch presentation were:

  • An exploration of form.
  • I should investigate formalism, minimalism, the post digital aesthetic, microscopic forms, post modern and contemporary architecture.
  • Explore a combination of scanned and modeled form…approach the same form from two different aspects.. the digital and the hand crafted.
  • Am I specifically interested in working with a digital aesthetic or a non digital one?

As my formative was approaching I was to get decided to make some ‘fractal’ triangle forms that I had been experimenting with in card and laser cutting. After discussions with Pip and Zoe I decided to make this form as large as I could from a sheet of 8″ x 4″ mild steel. Soon I was well into making a steel ‘triangles’ sculpture and semed to forget all else (hence why I am writing this now).

IMGP3330 IMGP3335 IMGP3338 IMGP3343 IMGP3351 IMGP3353 IMGP3361 IMGP3364 IMGP3368 IMGP3369 IMGP3378 IMGP3385 IMGP3386 IMGP3387 IMGP3390 IMGP3393 IMGP3396 IMGP3405

On the 10th of December straight after my formative assessment I wrote that it had gone well. I wrote that I needed to continue my library of forms (currently doing) and to start scanning them as well as my triangle sculptures to create the ‘skins’ of these objects. This could be done by collecting object point clouds and then using the point clouds to make objects. The objects can then be produced as rapid prototypes. Another more immediate and physical way to do this is to stretch thick stretchy cotton over my forms.

My verbal feedback for my formative assessment happened on the 11/01/2016. Here Ingrid suggested I should be thinking about how my viewer will see my work. Are my works phenomenological forms? a collection of modernist sculptures? what are the contrasts, relationships between the collection of forms, how do the pieces inhabit space? Am i trying to prove anything?

I have a lot to do, a lot of ideas to make, a context to cement and a show to make…

Prepping 3D model for laser cutting.

For a quick experiment and to work out a work flow for making strange forms that I create in Rhino quickly in reality so that I have a physical model to consider and experiment with. The first I create something in Rhino, with this example I was inspired by Tara Donovan’s (See my post) ‘Untitled Molecule sculpture. So I quickly boolean unioned together load of randomly placed spheres of random sizes. This is just a test.

Once created I then ran the model through a couple different programs to get it to where I can go about laser cutting a quick, low resolution version of the model I designed on Rhino.

Below the steps are illustrated via a series of screenshots of the process.

rhino boo

Rhino was used to really quickly produce a form.

Make Slicer

The Rhino model is saved as an stl. file and imported into 123D Make. Here I played with the settings such as card thickness, dowel placement, slice orientation and scale. 

illustrator boo

From 123D Make with the file saved as dfx. format the sliced model was opened in Illustrator and fitted to art boards. The lines are a mixture of vector and raster (cutting and engraving). The file will be sent to the laser cutter from Illustrator. 

cura boolean

As a side thought I thought i would try a small 3D print, so the original Rhino stl. file was opened in Cura where I set up a quick print. This is an experiment to see how the Ultimaker copes with weird geometries. I am interested to see how the intersections between spheres turns out (probably badly). I also need to get used to support structures and how to use them.

Tara Donovan

Untitled, 2008. Styrofoam cups and glue.


The american sculptor Tara Donovan (1969) makes large scale sculptures and installations that posses a quality that excites and inspires me. The forms and structures that her large sculptures are composed of suggest biomorphic connotations. In the same instance her works appear to be both synthetic and organic all with their own strong characteristics. Some are undulating and bulbous like clouds, sea weed and fleshy entrails in clean, soothing, clinical whiteness. Others are sharper, static and aggressive with long thin protrusions clumped together in a spiky, almost hairy looking mass. They very much remind me of crystal structures, cell growths, geological processes like erosion, deposition, eruption. Some have a sense of growth and appear to want to keep growing, to take over the whole space they inhabit and climb the walls of the room, burst through doorways and windows to engulf the buildings exterior and the surrounding streets! Perhaps if I should see her works in person my opinion would differ…

Untitled, Plastic Cups. This piece in particular reminded me of Ai WeiWei’s work called ‘Straight’ which  was composed in a similar format only produced using straightened rusty Re-bar collected from collapsed buildings.

“Untitled molecule”, 2010.

She uses common manufactured material resources to produce her large, biomorphic type sculptures. The materials used include things like paper plates, scotch tape and polystyrene cups.”Known for her commitment to process, she has earned acclaim for her ability to discover the inherent physical characteristics of an object and transform it into art.” – Pace

I feel like Donovan’s sculptures and installations hold a quality that I want my work to possess, I am not yet sure whether this is due to the materials, the scale or indeed the vibrancy of the forms she creates, but I hope I can install a sense of the feeling that I get, when I look at her work, to my audience when they look at mine.

Sand in balloons 

Triangles Construction Model

In part of my research into making 3 dimentional fractals I decoded to start with a very basic geometrical from which when multiplied many times can slot together on each side of the shape. I eventually want to create a very complex form that may look like it is multiplying. I decided a fast way to experiment would be to laser cut cardboard and then build models. I am starting with the simple equilateral triangle that interlocks in a series of identical modules or components. 

Here it is cutting. 


As this is cutting a couple of things have occurred to me:

Firstly I should have set up a quick test print of just 2 triangles. Although laser cutting is fast, it can still take a while and I dont want to be getting big peices of work wrong – thats time wasted.

Secondly as the work is cutting I think I can see that the slots are too wide. Ill have to modify the file if I need to do it again. 

Thirdly I need to get more familiar with the laser cutters and their options.  The laser is making multiple passes over the same cuts when im sure its cutting first time!  I should be able quarter the cutting time if I can address this.

Depending on how this works out I intend to use thicker cards (corrugated 5mm) and perspex perhaps even plywood which can be 4mm thick. Its nearly done ill see how it is!



Grasshopper Training

Today I have been following a basic tutorial series (I completed it – around 13 tutorials) for Grasshopper – the parametric design plugin for Rhino. It runs alongside Rhino, and allows you to construct visual algorithms using blocks an components with visual and intuitive parameters to adjust and ‘play with’ to get your desired shape and form. I feel I am grasping everything I have tried so far. The next step for me is to take some of the data that I have been collecting and use it to start coming up with forms that I in Grasshopper which can then be ‘baked’ to Rhino and then hopefully fabricated. Tomorrow morning I shall set myself some practical tasks to complete as exercises and then in the afternoon choose one of the things I have made to make physical and solid. It should be exciting! If things don’t go so well tomorrow then at least I will be exploring the process of object from computer environment to physical reality and what is entailed in that process. I need to become very familiar with the process now so that I can quickly and reliably make something in the future without having to faff around.

Below are some screen shots of different things I have been doing today, they may not look like much, but it is this kind of leg work I need to do initially so that I can be ‘fluent’ in creating my forms in a couple of days time.

Tree with branches Range and function Objects after experimentation Geometrys for baking Finding Centre of any surface Circle and Extrude

Pitch Feedback Session with Zoe

Now that Ingrid has departed for the far side of the globe on her mission to new Zealand Zoe has stepped in to substitute, to advise and help over see us third years and our projects.

Today I received my feedback from my dissertation tutorial from Zoe and we then engaged in a conversation about the work, how I could improve my standing and the direction that my project is taking from here.

Under the ideas section for my pitch feedback I had a low basic score, I was a bit puzzled by this. I feel that although my ideas where not perfectly polished they were good, and that all the feedback I had been having prior to my pitch had been good. Certainly there was caution noted to me to fully consolidate my idea so that it was crystal clear but I feel that the nature of the work I am pursuing does not allow for an absolute picture, a clear vision, but rather that the work is a process with an uncertain or unpredictable result. I can see however that during a pitch situation this is not a good way to put across an idea. Zoe commented that I can speak about my ideas fairly coherently and competently in an articulated way. It is the lack of models and visual examples of this process of form making which is giving this low grade. The mark for context however was in the good range the comments from Ingrid included “You have a clear understanding of your context within an art historical sense, and have selected an appropriate process and material, now it needs to gain momentum…” and that is exactly it, I have all these ideas, fascinations, interests and desires and yet very little physical proof to show for it. This needs to change. 

So a synopsis of my discussion with Zoe was that I must think no longer and instead do. The what we next did was to search the ideas and context I had built up for a way into this. I expressed that I was to take data (at random from anywhere at all) as I discussed with Ingrid to start building forms in Rhino and Grasshopper (I also considered Processing today – I could utilise the skills I learnt in second year). Taking measurements, counts and just collecting ‘stuff’, arbitrary data I could now begin to build up some forms using the methods that I want to explore as a process. For Zoe, she wanted to understand why just random data as opposed to carefully chosen data. My response was to say that at the moment at least, what the data is will not matter – it is just a means to a form. In a perhaps formalist style approach I want to make forms or sculptures that are not anything, do not mean anything or require ulterior or higher purpose and meaning. Form for forms sake, produced in an interesting way, process and investigation becoming the subject.

At least to start with. We discussed the recording of the data collecting, so photographing and noting down the object and the conditions under which the data is collected. So that whilst the data is at the moment just data, there is an opportunity later to go back and if I so wish introduce narrative to the work should I feel it wants it. For example: The dimensions of my desk lamp are used to generate a form that I really like. This is then appreciated for what it is. Adding a title like ‘Desk Lamp at 7pm on a dark winter Tuesday’ gives the audience more, it is a narrative. The title and the object would most likely be at extreme abstraction from each other, but the data gathered from said lamp has been used to make an abstract sculptural object. Perhaps a series of these abstract forms can create a room or scenario or question or dialogue that would unify them or create an interesting dialogue. Maybe this idea is ridiculous and woolly… However it is one we discussed which I think could be a way into the question of ‘How do you give value to form?’ that Ingrid posed to me in my feedback notes. Whether this idea is explored or not will depend on how the work evolves and is a couple of weeks away.

Zoe talked about Ai Weiwei and his current show in the Royal Academy, London. She indicated that she felt a few of the pieces of sculpture would be very relevant to me and help me contextualise the formalist ideas further. Two pieces she mentioned in particular she felt I should look at. One called ‘Straight’ is comprised of a room which houses a long pile of steel beams on its floor that had been recovered from a earthquake struck building, the walls of the room are covered commemorative plaques of all the children that had perished in the building the steel beams were recovered from. The steel and plaques seeming act as a commemorative monument. How ever the steel is just a pile of long steel beams, a fairly innocuous and unassuming 90 tonne form. Scale is perhaps important here. I should very much like to see it.

So generating the data is my next step,then tomorrow onto Rhino and Grasshopper to use said data to generate a form and then to produce that form. This is the aim for the end of the week. Around that continuing to research artists and designers (especially in Architecture world) and to start filing a sketch book with visual examples and ideas of what sort of forms I want to achieve.

  • Collect several ‘chunks’ of data to play with. These will ultimately be numbers, I could randomly generate numbers but I could also gather it from objects as these objects can then also give me my parameters for what I can do with that data. For example I measure a range of diameters that can from a series of round objects these numbers can then be used in a simple algorithm controlling the output of a cluster of spheres along a curve to create a 3D form.
  • Once I have collected data what is it going to do? What parameters will assign it too? Axis’s? A fractal formula? The numbers for geometries that repeat in a pattern?
  • This then goes into Rhino and Grasshopper. Here I have to play with the forms and watch them develop, respond and react to what is created, where or how do I stop and know that I want to make what I’m looking at?
  • Then the object, what method do I use to produce it? 3D print? CNC? Hand build it in response to what I am seeing on the screen?

Hopefully the result of the next couple of weeks work will be a personal library of forms that I can critique, examine and reflect on.

Time to get cracking and on with the making.