Reading: The Cathedrals of England by Clifton-Taylor

Clifton-Taylor, A., 1986. The cathedrals of England Rev., London: Thames and Hudson.

I want to understand Cathedrals more – their history both architecturally and culturally. This seems like a good book to start.

“Not until the development of iron and glass for building purposes were Englishmen to see still vaster spatial envelopes” not partitioned by supporting walls. Cathedrals were, for hundreds of years, the tallest buildings in England.

A cathedral is a building in which the principle man in the diocese, the bishop, has his chair of office. It need be neither large nor fine… England has always favoured large diocese, and not many of them; this made the cathedral, as the mother-church, a natural focus… and so enabled it to grow both in size and power.

P.15

Most cathedrals were built from the middle ages onwards and range greatly in style of architecture.

‘Romanesque’ was the style of art which came before the ‘Gothic’

Pages 34 & 35 – two photos of Norwich Cathedral and Ely Cathedral. The main roofs are strikingly different. Norwich Cathedral has delicate fan vaults which flow up and onto the roof, carrying the eyes up across and back down again in a sweeping glance. Ely Cathedral has columns on both sides that stop abruptly on reaching the ceiling, and the ceiling instead of being curved, is made of three flat angles and detailed flat decoration on the ceiling. Ely Cathedral may be just as tall as Norwich Cathedral, but Norwich Cathedral has so much more energy and magic.

Exeter Cathedral looks amazing. It is the longest church roof in England. P.150

The glory if Exeter us beyond doubt the vault. The effect has often been compared to an avenue of stately trees.

P.153

P.160 Wells Cathedral: The Lady Chapel vault – geometric and converging at single point in middle. Reminds me of Cassell’s sculptures. Lots of really useful images in here that I can use when designing my sculptures.

Wells Cathedral in Somerset – want to go.

P.176 – Image looking directly up at Lincoln central tower vault – Looks so much like a simpler version of one of Emma Kunz’s drawings! This is great inspo for my next design which I want to be influenced by her work, and this.
This type of tower is called a ‘polygonal corner-butress type of tower’.

P.182 – Another incredible tower called The Octagon (!!) at Ely Cathedral.

P.231 – Best example of fan-vaults yet at Peterborough Cathedral. Good image of looking directly up. This is the work of gothic architect John Wastell.

P.242 – I should make a trip to St.Pauls Cathedral when I am next in London, the interior dome is very like those heavenly paintings and baroque architecture I saw in central Europe (not very tree like but STILL).

Thoughts

I hoped this book was very much focussed on the architectural details of each Cathedral in England, but not so much on cultural or historical details. The images will be useful in considering shapes in my own designs. It just made me want to go see some of these cathedrals for myself!

I keep expecting to look at this architecture and have some breakthrough with my project and work. But I’m not. I’m thinking cool they look good, they’re amazing etc etc but not, wow this is really affecting my practice. Perhaps that is because these are pieces of architecture not paintings or sculptures! I have a few ideas of artists I want to look at, perhaps I should return to fine art more now, I have had lots of architecture inspiration, but I’m making fine art so that’s where I’ll be.

Architect: Antoni Gaudí

A Spanish architect who made the designs for the Sagrada Família in Barcelona. I realised I need to look at cathedral architecture more closely if I am to base my sculptures on them.

I listened to a podcast episode on the Sagrada Familia and how Gaudi came to design it. It discussed how Gaudi was very inspired by perfect structures in nature such as the tree, this was because he believed all these objects had been perfectly designed by God, and so he should use these shapes in his Cathedral to celebrate God’s designs.

Book: Solà-Morales, I.de. & Gaudi, Antonio, 1984. Gaudi, Barcelona: Poligrafa.

I picked this one because it includes lots of photos of Gaudi’s sketches and finished works, I want to know what else he designed and how his sketches translate to a finished work.

An essay the beginning of the book describes Barcelona at the time Gaudi started designing the Sagrada Familia:

Any relationship with nature had become difficult and remote, while the dynamism of the urban world was chaotic in its constant change. All security and order seemed to have vanished, giving place to an aggressive, competitive atmosphere, in which no amount of decorative magnificence could conceal the disturbing presence of the uncontrollable, the irrational and the contradictory.

P.7

This is interesting – the link between Gaudi’s architecture, nature and (urban) society.

Gaudi’s plans for a hotel in New Yorks towards the end of his life are magnificent! This incredible dome shape at the centre with smaller domes around it. Inside great cavernous rooms with dendriform shapes throughout. If it was ever built it would have been monumental.
The dome shape of the building is similar in style to my structures – in their tall height and dome shaped top.

On p.26 there is an amazing image of scale models for the Chapel of the Colonia Guell (which was built). These models look SO LIKE the ink structures I was making last term!!! A link to a similar image online:
https://en.wikiarquitectura.com/building/crypt-in-colonia-guell/#cripta-colonia-guell-modelo-estereostc3a1tico
The finished chapel doesn’t have quite the same dramatic structures as the model, but you can still see the dendriforms and canopy shape.

The idea of centralism is Gaudi’s spaces was a theme which grew to be more insistent as his architecture matured. However, the centre which his forms of architecture needed to specify was not, according to academic tradition, a geometric site defined by abstract symmetry. On the contrary, his utilisation of space is the result of an effort to aim programmes and structures in the direction of that cosmic and stable order which a centre has represented in almost all cultures. For Gaudi, the church had to be the site of centralism and of hierarchy.

P.27

Gaudi’s buildings as living organisms.

Gaudi was always interested in “the vertical development” of his buildings.

‘Parabolic dome’ the dome shape I made in my clay sculpture. Turns out there are lots of different names for different dome shapes! There’s a wikipedia page with the dome types listed with images, I’ll use this page when I’m thinking about structure designs in the future.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dome

The Palacio Güell in Barcelona built by Gaudi has a gorgeous dome ceiling with small concentric hexagons going all the way to the top, with concetric holes in some of the hexagons and a bigger window and the top of the dome. The hexagon shapes remind me of Ross Bleckners paintings. I wonder if I could incorporate these ideas and shapes into my sculptures more?

Image no.67 in the book has a lovely simply roof that looks so organic and could easily be sculpted in clay. Shows how a simple, clean design can be very effective.

1st Clay Sculpture

I decided to do a clay sculpture, to experiment with building an armature and then adding clay on top to create more intricate shapes than I have ever made before. The design was influenced by :
– the columns and ‘fan vaults’ I had seen in cathedral architecture, with peaks and troughs.
– Ink sketches I did in my big sketchbook last week of simplified leaves of canopies which I wanted to represent in marking the clay with little dents.
These two influences create the design of my first attempt at combining trees and architecture into these shapes.

Building the armature

I used wire, masking tape and tin foil to build a supporting structure that the clay would be put onto. The wire was a little thin, but still did the job.
The tin foil wrapped around the wire is there because clay doesn’t adhere to clay at all, using tinfoil bulks thickens the lines and I can do some initial shaping (creating rough curved shapes) but also the rough texture of the crumpled tinfoil is a good base for the clay to stick to.
I used a donut shape of tinfoil to support the structure. In retrospect this tinfoil support wasn’t symmetrical and so the symmetry of the finished experiment suffered, that is definitely something to bear in mind in the future.

Working with the clay

I then began to build up the clay on top of the armature. Building the rough shape first and then using a selection of tools and my hands, keeping the clay wet and malleable. This was SO ENJOYABLE. Sculpture is so tactile and absorbing and way less frustrating than wire! Hmm.

I then added the in-between sections of the four main columns in the sculpture. I should have made the armature for these bits at the start before adding any clay! But alas. I just made my job a little bit tricker. So I added the sections, and completed this side of the sculpture.

I’m happy with the outcome of this sculpture as it is, for my first clay sculpture in a fair while! I have only done this side of the sculpture, and that is all I can do until the clay dries. I do want to work on the other side though, at least on the bits you can see from the side.
This shape is designed to be turned upside down and be the inside of the structure that can only be seen by standing inside and looking up. So the outside roof which I haven’t worked on would be just as important. I can’t decide whether I want to work on the outside on a new sculpture and leave this one, or finish this one as much as possible… I’ll think on it.

What works well

Having gaps in the ‘roof’ / sculpture. This would allow the sky / canopy to be seen through it.

Concentric shapes – having a point in the centre of the shape that everything points towards. Even in a flat photograph there is a suggestion that the shape recedes backwards in the centre.

The symmetry – okay so the shape isn’t perfectly symmetrical, but you can see the design was intended to be. For example having random shapes on one side but not the other would definitely not be as effective, the feeling of a grand shape wouldn’t come across and it would feel more whimsical instead.

Details! Having all the lines in the centre meet up and make sense. Having ridges separating parts of the sculpture, defining them. Refining the shapes makes a difference.

What doesn’t work

The shape isn’t exactly symmetrical because some legs of the shape are longer and wider than others! This has two causes:
– the wire was quite thin so would easily bend out of shape as I was shaping the clay
– the donut shaped base made of tinfoil I used to rest the sculpture on wasn’t even on all sides, so the sculpture was pushed out of symmetry whenever it rested on the base.

The dotty indents. They don’t look bad, however I think the shape could look better with shapes that are more uniform and geometrically ordered.

Conclusions, thoughts, moving forward

How much tree inspiration do these shapes have to have? The small indents in the clay are inspired by looking up at a woodland canopy of leaves, but aren’t these shapes supposed to be inspired by the architecture of the trees and of the cathedrals, not of the textures and decoration inspired by trees. Using the indents reflecting trees takes inspiration from something that is important to my painting outside – the movement, texture, sound, light of the leaves, not the solid structure I paint on top.

Saying that, I still want to see what this shape in a painting. So next, before I move onto another sculpture I want to paint this one. See how the shapes transfer into lines on a drawing/ painting. This will allow me to discover how I could improve my sculpture for the betterment of the paintings.

What do I rest this shape on to present it? Wooden supports cut to shape and glued to a base? You could just having the sculpture resting on the wood so you would be able to see both sides of the shape. A smaller base that’s less ugly that the shape could be lifted up from?

I want to try another sculpture with more geometric folds and angles, like the one I sketched for the Kunz drawings. That should be fun – maybe wire vs clay one.
Also I want to add legs!!

1st Wire Sculpture

I made my first sculpture!
Made completely out of wire, with clay to support the feet and stuck to a board.
This is the first time I have worked with wire like this in a couple years, I am not very familiar with having to think about a work in 3D.

Reasons for making it

Based on this sketch in my sketchbook, which was inspired by trees I painted outside with the same curly ink shapes. This shape is neither symmetrical or precise, however I thought it would be a good starting place. because the shape has lots of freedom and was a chance for me to become familiar with the materials.

Also, the shape is such a contrast to the angular, precise and symmetrical sculptures I want to make next, I thought this piece would serve as an interesting comparison, and to make sure these free structures aren’t what I want to make more of.

What works

The thinness of the wire gives the structure a really delicate touch, which suits the curly shapes it makes. The thin wire also means that this sculpture would be easily paintable in the way I have done – white thin lines. The shape doesn’t take up too much space so painting underneath it wouldn’t be too covered up.

The dome shape works really well (instead of a flat roof or pointy one). They nod to cathedral domes.

The curly shapes look as good in the sketch as it does in the sculpture from the side. It suits the material very well.

The sculpture is separated into three bits, each with two legs that support each other. This means once the clay bases are stuck down the sculpture wobbles but is in no danger of collapsing.

What doesn’t work so well

The wire was so thin and delicate it has been hard to manipulate one part of the wire without disrupting the whole thing. I assume with thicker wire this would be less of a problem. But this was the first time I have worked with wire in aages so that’s worth baring in mind as well.

Linking with the above comment, not being able to isolate one part of the wire and manipulate it, meant it was really hard to get the wire to define an exact dome for the ceiling. There was one curl that I would manipulate into the right place, but then the rest of the wire would then be out of place, and it went on and on! HMM.

The lines are a bit wobbly. This is again down to the thickness of the wire I think. Thin wire is easier to move around and a slight move makes the legs of the structure not straight.

Taking a photo underneath of the structure and looking up reveals the shape if it were to be just a drawing. The curls are interesting; they look organic, but the shape from this angle is I think too abstract and not structured enough to even slightly resemble a cathedral interior. This proves that symmetry and more cleaner shapes will probably suit these sculptures more for my purposes.

Improvements if I were to work like this again

Try with thicker wire. This I assume would mean you could isolate parts of the wire without disturbing the whole shape more easily. This could mean straighter legs and smoother curves.

I could try soldering part of the wire together. This might make it self supportive, and join the three pieces together.

Better ‘feet’ – less ugly! Perhaps having the base made out of wood and making small holes in the wood for the wire to sit in, then glue filled so that the legs just appear out of the wood instead of being obviously secured down with clay.

Overall

This was a good starting point! I feel more confident moving forwards now, onto designing a second sculpture, this time with a design more relevant to cathedral interior roof and column shapes.

I want to try painting this sculpture into a sketchbook painting. Since this is the idea of these sculptures – that they are pieces in their own right but also tools for me to add better shapes into my paintings.

Reading ‘Cezanne’s Doubt’ by Merleau-Ponty

I looked at this essay for my art theory and was struck with how ideas about Cezanne’s painting process struck a cord with my own painting practice. I decided to read the essay fully and consider it in relation to my work.

Cezanne was abandoning himself to chaos of sensation… for example, the illusion we have when we move our heads that objects themselves are moving—if our judgment did not constantly set these appearances straight.

P.3

‘Chaos of sensation’ – reminds me of my paintings, the colours and layers of brushstroke are chaotic, but they are based on the experience of being in the landscape, so ‘sensation’ feels like a fitting word.

Cezanne was always seeking to avoid the ready-made alternatives suggested to him: sensation versus judgment.

P.3

‘Sensation versus judgement’ – this certainly reminds me of my process when painting outside. I am marrying judgement of the depth, shapes, sizes, colours of the landscape with my sensations of movement around me, weather, comfort, energy of the space.

“But aren’t nature and art different?” I [Cezanne] want to make them the same. Art is a personal apperception, which I embody in sensations and which I ask the understanding to organise into a painting.

P.3

Cezanne did not think he had to choose between feeling and thought, as if he were deciding between chaos and order. He did not want to separate the stable things which we see and the shifting way in which they appear. He wanted to depict matter as it takes on form, the birth of order through spontaneous organisation.

P.4

Yep I think this nicely aligns with my intentions! I have just never expressed it in this way, but it makes a lot of sense.

Cezanne wanted to paint this primordial world, and his pictures therefore seem to show nature pure, while photographs of the same landscapes suggest man’s works, conveniences, and imminent presence… He wanted to put intelligence, ideas, sciences, perspective, and tradition back in touch with the world of nature which they were intended to comprehend.

P.4

I’m not sure how I feel about this ^. Photographs suggest man’s work yes, because the camera has been built my a person, taken by a person, and developed by a person. But how could a painting not also show a ‘man’s work’? If anything a painting suggests a persons presence more because the paint is a material recording of a person’s movement, gesture and process.
Perhaps by ‘man’s work’ Merleau-Ponty means more artificial human prescence. A painting is certainly purer and closer to nature than a photograph.

By remaining faithful to the phenomena in his investigations of perspective, Cezanne discovered what recent psychologists have come to formulate: the lived perspective, that which we actually perceive, is not a geometric or photographic one.

P.4

^ Yes! to the ‘lived perspective’.

when the overall composition of the picture is seen globally, perspectival distortions are no longer visible in their own right but rather contribute, as they do in natural vision, to impression of an emerging order, an object in the act of appearing, organising itself before our eyes.

P.4

The idea that paint is emerging into an order before ones eyes is interesting. The brain is trying to make sense of the shapes and define them into some natural appearance. With my work, I aim for the structures to define the space and height and depth of the painting – the structure is helping the eye to find ’emerging order’ within the painting. The scale of the painting means that the dimensionality has to be defined when you step back, and then the painting re-emerges as one steps closer or further away.
This is an interesting concept!

He would start by discovering the geological foundations of the landscape; then… The task before him was, first, to forget all he had ever learned from science and, second, through these sciences to recapture the structure of the landscape as an emerging organism.

P.6

Again, idea of growing form, I like. It fits with my work and the arranging of moving brushstrokes and colours really well.

he was not God and wanted nevertheless to portray the world, to change it completely into a spectacle, to make visible how the world touches us.

P.7

Ooooh.

Conclusions

Reading this text has been really useful for thinking about my work in a new way. I can better understand the purpose of the structure in my work and the abstract paint work, and better articulate my process.

Drawing on photographs

I wanted to try adding symmetrical shapes to this image of the woodland canopy looking directly up.

The first lines I added were digital, but I realised from this that digital lines, especially without a drawing pad are too controlled and slow going.

I then moved to using a ruler and white gel pen. This allowed me to be a lot freer with the shapes and add in curves. I did the drawings in order from left to right. I used images of baroque cathedral domes that I had taken in Europe last summer to inspire the shapes I chose to add to the photograph.
Turns out the cathedral I base my drawing on really affects the drawing I make! This suggests I should visit more cathedrals and churches in Lancaster to explore a variety of architecture, so far I have just been to the cathedral, but it would be interesting to see how the experience and drawing changes in different religious buildings.

The drawings were also inspired by Emma Kunz’s drawings, the concentric shapes to them and the linear shapes.

The most effective drawing is the centre-left one. This is because the design is simple and includes lots of white lines that move towards the centre. It really feels like there is depth to this drawing, and I am looking up at a building that is built underneath the trees.

I want to try these ideas on a bigger scale, and also play around with clay! Thinking about how I can translate these shapes into 3D.

One thing I’ve really learnt from this is that if I am thinking about shapes that reflect ceilings in a sculpture, I need to thinking about those shapes on a 2D surface and looking directly up and straight on to the designs. In the past when I have designed these structures I think about the shape from a side angle and looking up, but I never consider the design from standing directly underneath it.
Thinking about the shapes in this way will really improve these structures in my work, I’m excited to see where it takes me!

Layering Photos Digital Edit

I wanted to see if more of a unified pattern would emerge by layering multiple photos looking up at the canopy in the same spot but just rotating the camera.
There doesn’t seem to be too much of a pattern, but it does look more uniform than the single photo. I might try sketching it. AHH
I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m keeping going with it.

Photo References

First set of drawing done here in the woods outside of LICA. I’m really familiar with these woods, I do a lot of my painting and drawing here, and so space is familiar.

I also went to a woodland near my house – somewhere I’ve never been before! I found it refreshing to be in a new space, and I found these four trees that made a perfect canopy-dome shape. I want to return to that space again.

Video recordings are useful for re-visiting the space when I can’t be there in person.

I spun the camera around at the end of the video because I wondered what shapes and pattern would be made if I took an image of the trees on a long exposure so that the spinning blurred. I want to try this idea digitally, I might be able to find a pattern that I could use in a sculpture. Let’s see..!

Kunz’s drawings as sculptures: Visual Mindmap

Some sculptures that resemble the shapes in Kunz’s drawings, and appear to me as three-dimensional manifestations of her drawings.
What’s interesting to me is that looking up at a (linear) sculpture creates such symmetry and shapes that could easily be flattened into a drawing. But when you stand back from the shape and look at the same sculpture from the side, the shape of the sculpture is revealed and the impression of the lines as marks on a page are replaced with the build of the structure.
For example, the sculpture in the top right could be a flat drawing on blue paper, but if you stepped out from underneath, the height and build of the shape would be revealed.

The same experience can be said for cathedral architecture. When one stands directly underneath the architecture, it resembles a flat drawing, with symmetrical, cyclical shapes. But when you move, the build of the shapes are revealed, the dome shape and the support columns are revealed too.

The same thing can’t be said for woodlands? At least there is no geometry or symmetry when you look directly up at a treetop canopy. But I think it is the same when you move around in the space, the height and shapes are revealed.

So now I know I want my sculpture to have this quality:
– to be symmetrical when looking directly up at it
– to have ‘legs’/columns that define the height of the structure and create an inside space that is a mini version of the experience of these great woodland canopies and cathedrals interiors.

Artist: Emma Kunz

Kunz was a Swiss healer, researcher and artist. I saw her work for the first time at the Serpentine Gallery over Easter in the exhibition Emma Kunz – Visionary Drawings: An exhibition conceived with Christodoulos Panayiotou. I read about her work as we entered the exhibition and was immediately interested, and surprised, because I had not expected the drawings to be concerned with such issues! Here’s a quote from the exhibition description:

[Kunz’s] gift was an awareness of connections that contradicted both normal experience and scientific interpretations of the laws of Nature and art. This was a supernatural event, a miracle that, in revealing divine truths conveyed a secret impulse on a par with that of cosmic creation. Emma Kunz’s drawings are attempts to find a universal connection. They are the records of her concentration on the question of the Whole.

https://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/emma-kunz-visionary-drawings-exhibition-conceived-christodoulos-panayiotou

The idea that such simple tools – coloured pencils, a ruler, graph paper and sometimes a pendulum, can produce art about monumental issues is bold. Ideas of science, nature and spirituality aren’t the things I thought of when I saw the drawings. The exhibition didn’t have descriptions or names next to each work so there was no chance for impressions to be skewed by titles or descriptions. There was a free digital guide yey that had some information on individual pieces, but having the material paintings unaccompanied was great! It forced me to look at the drawing and the drawing only, with no distractions.

I took photos of my favourite drawings:

I really found my own meaning in these works. The ideas of spirituality and the whole universe etc didn’t come across to me, but I found the paintings interesting nonetheless. I do think the drawings have a mediative quality to them, the repetitive lines and simplicity made me think Kunz did these drawings as a form of moving meditation?
As well as this, I was immediately reminded of the structures in my paintings when I saw the drawings in person. These drawings felt to me like a colourful, more complex version of the structures I have been drawing. I imagined the Kunz’s drawings being the roof of structures, where I would stand directly underneath and looking up at the ceiling which was one of Kunz’s drawings.

I spent the time imagining how the lines and angles of the drawings could create 3D shapes, where points in the centre of the drawing point towards the sky or vie versa. I thought of this because all the drawings have lines that converge in one or multiple focus points. This to me appeared like peaks or troughs of a roof shape if looked at from another angle. This is a rough digital sketch of the kind of shapes I mean:

Seeing these drawings made me think about how I could push the structure shapes forward, using lines, and converging points for structures that are more complex than I have made before.