Action!

 

Jackson Pollock - photo by Hans Namuth

Jackson Pollock – photo by Hans Namuth

Lately I have felt the need to reconnect with less traditional techniques, and to be a bit more spontaneous in my approach. In my “side-gig” as an art history instructor in our Jewellery Programme, I had been looking at the work of the Abstract Expressionists, namely Jackson Pollock. The photographs and film of the painter shot by Hans Namuth in the early ‘50s show Pollock at work. In these iconic images, Pollock is seen moving about the large canvas laid on the floor, leaping and dripping or throwing paint right from the can. He appears to be totally immersed in the act of painting, an intense, gestural process; at some point, saying: “A painting has a life of its own; I let it live”. I watched this clip over and over again and knew that I wanted to work in a more instinctive manner, to respond to the metal as it moves and shifts, to be more engaged with it. I needed to put the “action” back into my work. I should also mention the paint-splattered shoes and the dangling cigarette, oooh, so cool. I wanted that too, or whatever the equivalent is for a goldsmith (minus the cigarette, of course).

Jackson Pollock - photo by Rudy Burckardt, 1950 - Smithonian Institution

Jackson Pollock – photo by Rudy Burckardt, 1950 – Smithonian Institution

Taking Pollock and the Action Painters, and their direct and immediate approach to painting as a point of departure, I decided to tackle a series of brooches (brooches, being less constraining and offering a larger “canvas” so to speak). I would riff on a few abstract shapes and create three-dimensional forms based on them. Copper, a very ductile and malleable metal, was the perfect candidate. It also lends itself well to patinas and will take on rich colours, sometimes even quite painterly.

 

Detail of patina on corrugated copper.

Detail of patina on corrugated copper.

 

Bonny Doon Engineering micro-fold brake #115090

Bonny Doon Engineering micro-fold brake #115090

Using corrugation and fold-forming, techniques that are fairly quick and hands-on, I was able to shape the sheets of metal rapidly, in a gestural and energetic manner. I recommend Patricia McAleer’s book Metal Corrugation, Surface Embellishment and Element Formation for the Metalsmith, 2002, Out of the Blue Studio (ISBN: 0-9715242-0-3), a very thorough and handy manual on corrugation. Fold-forming, a technique developed by Charles Lewton-Brain (several excellent publications available, see: Brain Press Publications) is a process that is both technical and playful, where the material is folded and unfolded repeatedly to form three-dimensional structures. Both techniques only require a few tools and simple equipment. For corrugation, I used the Bonny Doon Engineering micro-fold brake #115090 (available at riogrande.com). Fold-forming does not require any special equipment other than a rolling mill. Free tutorials are available on ganoksin.com.

 

D.Brechault, Crane No 6. copper, heat patina; corrugation, fold-forming

D.Brechault, Crane No. 6, brooch, copper, heat patina; corrugation, fold-forming

 

D. Brechault, Pod No 3, brooch, copper, heat patina; corrugation, fold-forming.

D. Brechault, Pod No. 3, brooch, copper, heat patina; corrugation, fold-forming.

D. Brechault, Zip No. 5, brooch, copper, heat patina,; corrugation, fold-forming.

D. Brechault, Zip No. 5, brooch, copper, heat patina; corrugation, fold-forming.

So, this is what I have been doing so far: These brooches are a sampling of a series of impromptu sketches or studies in metal. Rather than cleaning the metal by pickling it after annealing and soldering, I have left it in its natural state, oxidised, covered with a patina of warm, earthy colours. For me, this is a bit like Pollock’s paint-splattered shoes – evidence of the process of working the metal.

Rolling, folding, unfolding, shaping. Action!

Pollock's shoes - photo courtesy Pollock - Krasner House & Study Center.

Pollock’s shoes – photo courtesy Pollock – Krasner House & Study Center.

Acknowledgements: Thank you for your research, Andrew!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Action!

  1. Robert

    Ah,I do love organic spontaneity, which seems a contradiction in terms, but it comes deep from within us as organisms–the need to create with some freedom, some burst of spirit, some will beyond our willing. But how often, like your inviting corrugated brooches, our creations echo the organic all around us.
    A most human and humane post. Thank you.
    Bob

    Reply
    1. metalandmettle Post author

      Welcome back, Bob! Thank you for your insightful comments. I love your description: “some will beyond our willing”. This was exactly how it felt – a deep urge to play and interact with the materials and a strong curiosity to see where they would take me.
      Are you out and about yet? I hope you are feeling much better. Take care.

      Reply
  2. galeriaredelius

    Beautiful pieces, so intriguing! The Zip No. 5 makes me think of a book or leaflet, a place where stories are told (or perhaps rather “unfolded”, in this context?), the “different sides of a story”, etc.

    Reply
    1. metalandmettle Post author

      Gunilla, I really appreciate your comment. I confess that I did not have much of a plan before I started working on these shapes – I let things happen. But I’m so glad this piece resonated with you. “Unfolding of stories”, I love your poetic and dynamic interpretation. Thank you so much.

      Reply
  3. artdoesmatter

    Ahhhh! to be a working artist in that 1950s era of both Pollack and Lee Krasner! I do wonder how exciting it would’ve been, especially as folks in both the art world (and not) seemed to overreact to the “outrageous-ness” of Pollack’s process, throwing paint around and knocking his paint can over, and just letting the liquid paint take motion onto the canvas. How you’ve taken that free-flowing spirit and re-imagined that into your new brooches is really amazing. I am really taken by your “Crane No. 6” piece, mainly because the folds are going in three different directions and the color contrast on the one side as opposed to the other is really stunning. These pieces are so sculptural and are way too exciting-looking, to call them just brooches, in a way! Lovely work, Dominique, as always.

    Reply
    1. metalandmettle Post author

      Patricia, I love how you describe Pollock’s process. Yes, I was quite taken by the outrageousness of it all, and feeling a bit rebellious too, I guess. I am so glad that you think I managed to instill some of his “free-flowing spirit” in my brooches. Although I had a lot of fun working on this series, it was also a bit of a challenge – trying not to have a plan and control every step of the process, letting the folds of the metal “fall as they may”, while keeping the piece as three-dimensional as possible. Thank you very much for your feedback, Patricia.

      Reply
  4. passajer

    This made me think about many things – good post! I love the patinas it’s possible to create on copper and I have been wondering where to start. This has given me some thoughts – thanks🙂
    (Pollock’s shoes – made me smile)

    Reply
  5. metalandmettle Post author

    Thank you for your comments. Copper is such a wonderful metal to work with. And when it comes to patinas, there are so many possibilities – even with limited equipment. If you don’t have a torch, you can put your piece in an oven (regular kitchen oven) and “bake” it at 350F for instance, for 10 minutes, or more or less, depending on the colour you want to get (orange, pink, magenta, etc.). Boiling water and coarse salt does wonders (for red, purple), as does vinegar (green). Try it, have fun! And please share the results on your blog…

    Reply

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