VIRTUAL MIRRORS PROJECT
the painted mirror and the use of space
The use of a mirrored surface creates a space within a space. By using a mirror a real useable object, instead of a traditional canvas surface, allows for interaction and juxtaposition between the painted surface with the smooth, sleek reflection and an unreal space and a real space. The painted surface is a space which has been placed on top of a reflected surface that automatically creates a space. Both the painted space and the real space that is now on the other side of the mirror are all reflected, spaces within spaces.
In relation to Foucault’s metaphor of a mirror acting as heterotopia I use the painting to act as a heterotopia. The real space that the viewer occupies is connected to the unreal space within the mirror and ultimately the painted space. All these spaces intersect with each other and the viewer. A mirror is an accessible object; you can see whatever is reflected: yourself and the environment that the mirror inhabits, the viewer can easily enter the space and the space which is duplicated can grow and seep into the real space. The painted area on the reflected surface turns this object void, which in turn makes the space on the other side of the mirror inaccessible to the viewer. The painted mark conceals the mirror from the viewer to see the unreal space projected through the mirror. This concealment makes the audience to interact with the surface, moving from side to side to recognise a sort of peephole or an entrance into the space within the mirror. Even if that entrance is distorted with line, form and colour.
The image that is painted on the reflected surface is an abstracted view of a location that has been reworked. This location; The Black Country has a history and wealth of industrial heritage and still holds the 19th Century imagery of a dark, dingy landscape “where furnaces continually smoke, steam engines thud and hiss,” (Shaw, 2013) Taking forms and motifs from maps and aerial views of this location I explore to re-interpret the area that I have been surrounded by since birth, using vivid bright colours to juxtapose with this dingy landscape. By looking down onto this environment, instead of studying what is physically around me, my own perspective of this location changes. The view and sensations of walking through an estate or a public garden is totally different compared to looking down at a 2D map. That estate I have just walked through or the public garden I walk my dog across every day is dramatically simplified into a shape that you could not visualise within that area. The motifs that have been transported from the maps on to the intended paintings are originally from my selected location however, when re-arranged with other forms and colours the imagery becomes generic. The location studied could be situated anywhere, this generates the notion that the viewer can relate to this real and unknown space. Which could also make them raise questions like; what is this space? Am I in this space? Do I know this space?
Some compositions are layers from different maps from different eras. These paintings can also be established as a heterotopia of time. For instance the Museum, which is analysed by Foucault, contains artefacts from different times and places, one can literally travel through time in one place. In these paintings motifs have been selected from a specific area alongside motifs from maps approximately 100-200 years previous from the same location. In addition these motifs have been abstracted and painted in a contemporary style and space. These pieces can suggest the development of the ever changing landscape around us.
These mirrors have been arranged in a few compositions on walls and have been arranged with installations. Selected colours (taken from the paintings) of wool have been stapled and fixed within the area of mirrors, the wool is zig zagged from one end of the space to the other. Also the acrylic moulds that I have been working with in my paintings have been attached on to the wool. This gives the illusion that the lines and motifs found in the mirror paintings are travelling and entering into a real space. This painting installation moves beyond one space and moves into another, the composition seems to depict a likeness of a 3D map that one could enter. The installation element integrates with the paintings to create a whole to represent the in-between state of reality and abstraction, the materials and paintings are reflected from one mirror to the next. This gives the impression that the work has no starting point, no end point which allows the work to continually evolve within the space.
I have tried to explore different ways of incorporating the installation in my work. Some compositions are comprised with the wool zig zagging from one wall to the parallel wall this limits the audience to certain spaces in the work and can only study the paintings from a certain distance. In addition, I have attached the wool to the floor which jumps back up to the wall; this makes it more difficult to even step in to the installation and study the paintings. This composition gives the impression of a James Bond type location with lasers and beams guarding a prized possession. Also, I have experimented with attaching the wool to the walls then to the ceiling, up above, wrapping the wool around beams or missed nails. This allows for more of an interaction with the whole work, the audience tend to get more close to the paintings and study the colours, shapes and their own reflection in the work.
OUTSIDE OF THE MIRROR: INSTALLATIONS AT THE WREN'S NEST NATURE RESERVE
This piece of text examines the experiments of bringing my installation work out of interior spaces into different exterior environments.
The first experiment, I worked outside in my garden. I wrapped wool around one tree, using the bark and the many branches and leaves then hung two circular mirror paintings to the tree. The environment of the garden relates to the writings by Michel Foucault’s of heterotopias, when he analyses this real space and can also be a heterotopia. It was interesting to see the reflections of this exterior heterotopia inside the space of the mirrors surface. Throughout this experiment a light breeze pick up in the garden, which caused the mirrors to slightly rotate back and forth. I found that this allowed the heterotopia space within the mirror to grow, catching different angles and areas in my garden. Not only was the space of the garden captured in the mirrors, the sky which is another space was also reflected. This displacement of this everyday space but also untouchable seemed to be more at reach in the garden, earth and sky temporarily flipped in reverse. The other materials; wool and acrylic moulds also play a part in this never ending reflection, displacement installation. The materials give the illusion that the lines and motifs found in the mirror paintings are travelling and entering into a real space. This painting installation moves beyond one space and moves into another, the composition seems to depict a likeness of a 3D map that one could enter. The installation element integrates with the paintings to create a whole to represent the in-between state of reality and abstraction, the materials and paintings are reflected from one mirror to the next. This gives the impression that the work has no starting point, no end point which allows the work to continually evolve within the space.
The next exterior experiment I investigated was at the Wren’s Nest Nature Reserve nearby the estate I grew up on. I chose this environment because many of the maps I worked from in my paintings were mainly of the Wren’s Nest. So I thought it would be interesting to bring my work in to the environment that basically created the abstract maps in my work. The first piece I created was in one of the trees nearby the Wren’s Nest rocks, which was similar to the garden piece. However, this tree was very old and had a lot of dead branches that have naturally spiralled around the bark of the tree. I tried to incorporate these in the work by wrapping the wool and acrylic moulds around the branches. Using the natural environment in the work I find brings a manmade object together with natural creations. With all my outside installations I always try not to disturb or damage elements in that environment. The next piece was within a wooded area just off one of the many dusty paths. I used the same process as the garden piece however I spread out the mirrors from tree to tree and then zig zagged the wool from high and low areas in the foliage. I found this was piece was very subtle, this was because the mirrors seemed to camouflage themselves in the green and brown tones of the wood. The mirrors, the painted surfaces and the foliage reflected back to each other creating a larger and unknown space within the surfaces. The mirrors adapted to their environment.
The last piece I experimented in was on the rocks of the Wren’s Nest, one of the most important geological locations in Britain for its well preserved fossils. During the Industrial Revolution the site was extensively quarried for building stone and lime production. For this piece I chose to present the three mirrors differently, by placing them against the rocks. I found the images from this space created another displacement against the sandy tones of the fossil landscape. The clear blue skies from that day appear on the ground, the above place has seeped down into the landscape. Being abstract objects they seem to be at home in this outside environment, seemed to give off an outer space, moon-like atmosphere.
BROKEN HETEROTOPIA SERIES
This painting series aims to question Foucault’s metaphor of the mirror as a heterotopia. Does the mirror remain as a heterotopia? Is it a broken one? Or do the individual pieces of the mirror create different sites for different heterotopias to grow?
While creating the last pieces for Virtual Mirrors I wanted some way to work back with the canvas. This series started by accident, one of my mirrors became damaged, probably from being transported around and getting accidently knocked a few times causing hairline cracks to appear. This mirror was no longer acceptable for presenting or safe, instead of disposing the broken mirror I felt that this could be developed into a route back to painting on to canvas.
I thought it was interesting when I looked into the mirror I noticed a disturbance in my reflection, the hairline cracks created a slight interruption of the flowing reflection. This made me ask whether the heterotopia had also been interrupted. I wanted to delve more into this interruption with a new series of paintings.
In this series of paintings I wanted to bring back the use of the gesture. Inspired by Fiona Ackerman’s paintings of her studio space as a heterotopia, I painted selected shapes and patterns found within my studio space, in a lively gestural way. In the style that I have painted in before, inspired by the Abstract Expressionists especially Joan Mitchell. Suggesting the ever changing space that my studio is, these gestures and geometric shapes became the starting point for this new body of work. Once the structure of the painting I felt, could no longer grow or develop, I began to layer the painting with sections of the broken mirror. A mixture of reflected and painted surfaces began to float on the painted canvas but somehow once in a composition the pieces seemed to submerge into the painting itself.
This submergence I felt became very interesting to witness, the mirrors are not that noticeable once studied properly. This would be lease expected to some viewers; I could imagine someone walking by looking at the work and then see their selves in the painting for split second. This would cause the viewer to look back at the work, investigate the other space within the painting.
This initial experiment (3ft by 3ft) led me to work on to some smaller square canvases. At first I found it difficult to work on such a small scale, but I found the end result to be successful, they look to investigate heterotopia on smaller scale. I used quick gestures and applied quick shapes, with these pieces I didn’t want to think about the composition as much, just experiment with movement, colour and gesture. I like how simple these paintings turned out and how subtle the pieces of mirror are.
I feel that new heterotopias are created in the paintings; the original heterotopia (mirror) has broken apart and has been placed in a new composition on to different, separate surfaces. I find that the original heterotopia still exists somewhere with elements of this new heterotopia created through the different perspectives of reflections and painted composition.