Without finishing either the jacket piece or the garden labels piece (see last entry) I’m back making watercolours of the specimens in jars in the wet zoological store at the University. One thing stood out: necessary to have a moment of panic and a degree of wrestling with the image if it’s going to ‘bear fruit’ .
Here are a couple of takes on the ‘no label’ specimen of a couple of entries back. The one on the left is drawn with a glue gun. I’m doing more of these.
Also looked at the wonderful sailor’s knot of an octopus below - only 15cm high. Jacket and garden label pieces will just have to ferment until the way forward becomes clear.
This week: ask Leonie Robinson to identify this specimen; do glue drawings over vein type screen prints; wax and plaster models of ‘no label’. If I put it down here then it has to happen doesn’t it?
Had a visit from Professor Terry Russell just before Christmas. We talked about the lack of colour in the stores, also children, teaching and science, dissection, drawing, vacuums, liquids, printmaking, research questions and how to write them up, sealed micro ecosystems. Prof Russell heads up the Centre for Research in Primary Science and Technology based at the University. We met at the print studios at the Bluecoat. I’m hoping his input will continue.
I’ve been thinking about labelling. My gran produced a beautiful garden plan. I have screen printed it onto both sides of these plastic plant tags. As a flat sheet, they remind me of postcards. Separated they make me think of germinating seeds. Will continue to fiddle until something happens.
Also playing with red and blue veins / tributaries / fractures / root systems. Have printed a number of these to be backgrounds for drawings (on paper). Also screen printed this onto the lining of a beautiful white jacket: reverse side. Have partly detached from the jacket and turned inside out. It reminds me of a flayed arm in the Heritage Collection and an engraving by William Cowper I saw in an exhibition (The Quick and the Dead) at the Hayward in the 1990′s.
Just back from the stores and still trying to warm through.
Another thought-provoking visit. Spent most of it in the ‘wet’ room (11º c) amongst the specimen jars. Drew, placing the drawings in glass as I went. Another small intervention, a distraction really. The real organisms and animals ‘in vitro’ split into two visually: either they look to be ‘in utero’ (the vertebrates) or they look marine i.e. somehow natural in liquid.
Still struggling to direct my thinking. Here are drawings of an unlabelled marine creature, which took me off towards classification, notation, the need to organise, to stucture, to draw order out of chaos. Also drew cynthia papillosa, which led me to the World Register of Marine Species online. It turns out that this can be almost tangerine coloured when alive. Lack of colour in both wet and dry stores is significant.
The ‘wet’ collection doesn’t get out much. Without strict temperature control evaporation is a threat, changing the strength of the formalin-water mix. Formaldehyde is believed to be carcinogenic and an alternative liquid used in these containers – alcohol – is a fire risk. Thus re-location is hazardous. Am thinking ‘what would happen to the ink drawing if immersed in formalin mix… could I make replicas of this specimen in wax?’ etc..
Cold inside and out today, or at least it feels it. Drew and thought in the windowless stores all morning. Leonie was there, also two biology students. Went back to the human skulls and stains. Made a list of stains to research. Thought this double injection specimen would make a fantastic screen print. May have a go at making it later this week.
Drew from the skulls without producing anything of note. Lots of ideas though: how to create something similar to bone i.e. full of holes, what would I put into the cranal cavity if I were to remodel the skull in tissue nest for my own purposes? Will make a few models and upload.
Created a small intervention in the dental area of the main store room using an x-ray light box from the collection and a drawing of mine. This was something I tried to put together in August but I didn’t have the right light box. The drips are egg white. Will leave this where it is until my next visit – see if there is any response…
Met with Leonie Sedman. Leonie curates the ‘Heritage Collections’ at the VG&M i.e. all but the Fine & Decorative Arts objects. Fresh from having installed a new display on the Hittites.
Quick tour: a number of linked rooms, underground. As you move through the space the lighting flickers on. The temperature is controlled throughout. So much to take in but I was immediately drawn to the wet and dry zoological collections, the anatomical collection. This includes very large-scale anatomical drawings and the original sink from the University’s old dissection room.
Items stored in transparent glass, white plastic boxes, bubblewrap and tissue paper. In one box a wax model of a brain, within a human skull, within a nest of tissue paper really caught my imagination. Something to do with the juxtaposition of plastic, tissue, bone and wax, all similarly lacking in colour. Got me thinking about materials and combinations of organic / non-organic, or substances with shared qualities and jarring differences.
The zoological rooms were also lacking in colour although near the sink (formaldehyde on side) I noticed a long list of minerals / chemicals titled ‘For Use as Stains’. Possible parallels with use of chemicals in printmaking?
Stayed for 3 hours. Am absolutely fizzing with ideas. Cannot wait for next week. Remember to charge camera battery and take drawing stuff.