Throughout this year, through painting, I have been exploring sites of transience. I started by labelling these as non-places however I have come to realise that this as a term is to narrow. They are more areas between space and place. Sites we pass through yet never actively occupy and therefore their spatial nature is often ignored, experience taking precedent to sight as they are a means to an end. This has encompassed a multitude of areas from parking lots to shopping centres and airports and more recently as gallery.
Marc Augé proposes that non-places are sites where people ‘break step’ waiting for something specific to occur however in most of the spaces there is not an opportunity to stop, one an ever moving passenger on a capitalist conveyor belt. When individuals come together places become organised however it is here that the paradox of supermodernity and non-places lies as both deal with individuals when entering or leaving the site. Though spoken to as an individual from further away a participant becomes part of a crowd, anonymity instigated despite the fact that people are brought together.
In non-places one is both inside and outside the system, party to but with no controlling hand in despite the fact that these sites strive to make all “exist as a single unity”. Rather than being there one becomes entangled in “the rumours of being”. Gaston Bachelard proposes that though there is a “thunderous noise” from these spaces the world as we know no longer exists, fated to “rumble on for centuries longer”, an echo of ‘meaningless’. Doreen Massey however suggests “the spatial organization of society is integral to the production of the social, history and politics”, space subject to the “ever-shifting geometry of social/power relations”. These sites therefore can never be fixed as they are constantly having to adapt to conform to new consumerist ideas and the advances of technology.
By abstracting these sites, I have been able to reduce them to bare geometric forms so that their spatial quality rather than function again becomes the focus. They are in a limited palette of colours without any definable characteristics so that each work has a relevance for every viewer. The spaces I am depicting have a set archetypal prototype, with many modernist connotations. In this sense virtually identical buildings litter the globe, the same features mirrored city to city the world over. Because of this what I depict as a supermarket could equally have a reference as a local station to a particular viewer, making one re-assess the non-places one associates with daily.
I also want to exacerbate the spatial quality in my work. As a starting point for this I separated out each of the geometric shapes from my paintings this year before printing them to create more of a free standing abstract space which encompasses all the areas I have been looking at. The piece works as an abstract version of parallel architecture and though I haven’t made a space the spatial components can be analysed in potentially a closer way than the paintings. A space is constructed without ordinary spatial values and I am considering using a similar structure in the degree show alongside paintings. Similar shapes could be cut out in Perspex and be hung in the centre of the room dividing two paintings, incorporating the geometrical components of each. This could take the form of a suspended oblong shape, the same in size to an architectural model or they could be more widely scattered around the space dictating how the viewer passes through it in a similar way to how movement is dictated in the spaces depicted.
Massey suggests that public spaces denote the “vesting of control over spaces in the hands of non-democratically elected owners” rather than the romanticised image of them as places of free speech. Once inside these spaces one has to adhere to their rules, actions such as loitering frowned upon so that there is a dichotomy between these spaces being the product of and dislocated by “heterogeneous and sometimes conflicting social identities/relations”. By extending into the space I can better control how the viewer interacts with the work. This shift between 2D and 3D plane would tie the works together, exacerbating their spatial quality whilst reflecting the mirror like nature of similar spaces the world over, each made up from identical parts.
This duality between 2D and 3D form has been explored in different ways by Toby Patterson and Ian Monroe. Patterson’s work stems from concrete landscapes, buildings and projects influenced by modernist architecture however he re-interprets rather than reflects spaces, abstracting environments both in paint and a 3D form. Where the paintings are more evocative of a set environment the Perspex reliefs are a response to a space rather than active representation, he wants to highlight the variety inherent in space, one twist creating a new environment.
Monroe on the other hand deploys a more specific version of perspective to challenge the viewer’s expectation of volumetric space both inviting and alienating. Idealised spaces from the office atrium, church and computer games world are discussed. All his spaces cater to or project onto us specific desires or lifestyles that maintain certain types of collective social myths. The play off between sculpture and painting bats the viewer back and forth between an experiential space and impenetrable surface, they stem from each other, the objects as if they have been extracted from the paintings but in a more abstract sense so that they are almost dematerialized. Because of this the paintings are rendered sculptural and the sculptures painterly, the perspective of the former enhanced and the latter flattened.
In opposition to this Lydia Okumura combines sculpture and painting to actively challenge the viewer’s perception of space blurring the line between two and three-dimensions. The site-specific installations use acrylic paint, cotton string and painted aluminium sheets, abstract geometrical compositions constructed that project into three-dimensional space from the walls and floor. Through subtle interventions, Okumura enhances one’s awareness of the exhibition space and one’s presence in it. By extending into the space I want to control how the viewer interacts with the work as Okumura demonstrates whilst using the relationship between sculpture and painting to enhance the spatial quality of each component as Monroe and Patterson highlight.
Soja coined the term Thirdspace to encompasses the ever shifting nature of spatiality, highlighting the fluctuation of events, meanings, ideas and appearances. Thirdspace is not limited by being solely a concept or construct rather a space where one can look, be, do and create. This reflects non-places, where concrete and mental constructs combine. Firstspace is said to be dictated by the real or material world and Secondspace the imagined representations of this spatiality, by combing the two in Thirdspace, Soja highlights how space in modern society can never be pinned down. Thirdspace brings together the abstract and the concrete and therefore the spoken and the unspoken. This ability to combine the “knowable and the unimaginable” (Soja, 19:56) appears to make Thirdspace a form of imagined reality, to many juxtapositions to be a concrete force, combining how one thinks something should be and how it is. By further abstracting my works the spatial nature can be enhanced.
For the piece itself I intentionally arranged the shapes in a fairly close proximity so that a cube like shape was formed for the overall piece. They are however slightly to densely backed as individual lines are hard to discern. Broadly speaking any work bigger than 2m2 becomes architectural dictating the space and how the viewer interacts with it. By spreading the shapes more widely round a room their spatial quality may be enhanced whilst tying more closely with the paintings as individual shapes will be easier to pick out and compare.