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Stanley Cursiter


I came across this little known Vorticist (well he tried it for a few paintings) in the Aberdeen Art Museum.

The Sensation of Crossing the Street (1913)

Text from the exhibition:

“This hectic scene of people and trams rushing through one of the main thoroughfares of Edinburgh, the junction of Shandwick Place, Lothian Road and Queensferry Street, may seem like an impossible dream to current residents of this city, but for Stanley Cursiter in 1913 this location offered a golden opportunity to put the newest movement in art – Vorticism – to the test. The Vorticists tried to capture a sense of movement and to show modern life in a dynamic way, using bold lines and vibrant colours. Cursiter has broken up the composition into blocks of colour, all of which are patterned in one direction, so as to suggest speed and movement.

Cursiter produced just a few Vorticist paintings, quickly abandoning the style and moving to a more realistic idiom, which he developed in numerous portraits and in landscape paintings of his home, the Orkney Islands. However today it is his very rare Vorticist works that are most highly prized.”


Poser Graphs


I’ve been working on a new model called Repetitive Strain Injury. Last year while over-using the computer my shoulder started aching, so I’d exercise it, in a circular action, which it struck me would make a good model.

Using Poser and manually trying to make the circle proved difficult as you can Twist, Side-Side or Bend each limb. It is rarely obvious which way the mouse will move each limb as you are doing this in 3d and the motion often becomes a jerky mess.

The solution was to use the Poser Graphing Tools. Rather than manually moving the limbs through a flight path you can create anchor points and then apply Bezier curves to these to get smooth motions. To create a circular motion I had to square off two sin waves in the side-side and bend for the right shoulder.

Because limbs in Poser are connected, moving one thing alters another and the head above was unsatisfactory (but more realistic). So I went in again and artificially graphed the head from Side-Side and removed the Twist and Bend. This gave the visual effect I wanted.

After doing this I realised I was allowing aesthetic decisions to supercede realism. Given the projects shortcomings in this department why not go further and play around with the possibilities of these graph tools – creating smooth motions which would be impossible to achieve as a mere human. Perhaps a series of superheroes exercising…?

Futurism at the Tate Modern


I’ve decided to continue with this blog, on which I described my MA progress at Camberwell College of Art up to 2009. The main focus here will continue to be the artistic depiction of motion, covering my own and others work, both historical and contemporary. This blog will form one part of a personal website hosting all my projects. I’ve decided to continue blogging as I’ve built a small audience, and it serves to promote my work and enables me to contextualise my work. I’ll be re-organising the front end over the summer.

Futurism at the Tate Modern

This was a good show, but perhaps not so good for the Futurists as it over emphasised pre-war painting. Where the Futurists really shone (and fulfilled their name) was in alternative new media – manifestos, graphics, photography, theatre, poetry, performance, and sound art. They applied their dynamic philosophy to all aspects of their life releasing bizarre manifestos on food, clothes and artistic revolution. In this show, painting wise, the Futurists are outshone by other more focussed movements; the Cubists, the Rayonists, the Cubo-Futurists, and even the unfairly maligned Vorticists. However the cross pollination between all these groups gives a good impression of the artistic ferment of the early twentieth century. Many works overflow with fragments of urban life and the expressions of simulaneity and dynamism are ever present. These paintings excite in the same way the city excites.

I’m specifically interested in the attempt to capture motion (or conversely the space passed through) and I’d like to analyse the different approaches to painting motion, largely invented by the Futurists. Did they succeed?

Multiple Frames

The Futurists transferred chronophotographic techniques to painting – displaying several frames from a particular motion in the same pictoral space. This can clearly be seen in Gonchorova’s The Cyclist (1913). This can be easily read as an attempt at portraying movement – but can be criticised (and was) because the eye never actually sees this kind of multiple image. It is more like a crude diagram of movement. There’s a naivety about this method, multiple feet look humourous, and it is the kind of effect used a lot in comics.

Force lines

The more advanced version of the above blurs all the frames into a single swirl of motion. The multiples become abstracted into geometric patterns trailing the leading pose. Taken to graphical extremes this can make for some striking paintings, for example Russolo’s The Revolt (1911). The Futurists hoped these paintings would galvanise the audience into action, literally sweeping the viewer into revolutionary acts or at least into seeing the world in a new way. These sort of geometric paintings are often sited as good examples of expressing movement. The eye is supposed to vigourously flow around the painting – I wonder – the eye may move around the canvas, but is always contained by the frame, and the gallery, and the next picture along and so on. Movement is curtailed by the schematics of the design. Occasionally this can work, for example Nevinson’s Bursting Shell (1915) which he painted while on Ambulance duty in Britain in WW1. Here the motion is supplied as a kind of optical illusion.


Other Futurists used pattern to break apart an image and force the eye all over the canvas to express the vibrancy and motion of an event. Again the eye is moving and not the subject of the painting. There’s a puzzle like quality to the work Severini’s The Dance of the Pan-Pan at the “Monico” painting (1911). The eye flits from shape to shape.

Boccioni’s States of Mind

By limiting the formal experimentation to a square frame, perhaps potential ‘kinetic’ energy has been dissipated. This is one reason why Boccioni’s Double Triptych States of Mind seemed to me the most exciting work on display (apart from his other undoubted masterpiece Unique Forms of Continuity in Space which seemed oddly isolated in this show – his death aged 33 in WW1 was a huge loss for Modernism). By looking at a single event from three different perspectives – a train leaves Milan station (people exchange farewells, some go, some stay) – Boccioni opens up the space between the paintings setting up multiple contrasts. After visiting Paris Boccioni then reworked the triptych in a more Cubist inspired style which sets up another layer of comparisons across time, space and artistic stylisation. Individually several of the 6 paintings are beautiful compositions of fleeting parts of trains, buildings, trees and passengers – exactly the type of thing seen through moving windows of a train journey compressed over time. The double triptych multiplies this dynamism many times over.

These triptyches are exactly the type of starting point I need for a series of planned digital prints which take a London location as a focal point and compress a series of short video sequences into single images, by algorithmically recombining the frames (for example scratching them through each other). Working on several different perspectives should help give a structured framework to work against. Boccioni’s horizontals (leaving), verticals (staying), and swirls (farewells) may be a useful initial formalisation – I was thinking of allowing the broader movements of color blocks across the videos to determin the finer trajectories of the combinations. The resulting images are hard to explain in words, and Boccioni’s work is something like what I had in mind. As I make these works I’ll post the results and explain the programming in more depth.

End of Year Show


The end of year show was a great success with over 3000 people attending during the week. Andy Stiff, the course tutor, said the show was very professional and I think everyone had a good time. My sculptures were really well received and there was a lot of interest in all the Digital Art work on display.

Here are some photos taken during the week of my two sculptures:
The artist falling off a plinth.
The artist vaulting over a balcony.

Scaling Up


In many ways the last year of my project has been about scaling up my voxelisation method. Click on the image below to see it fullsize. You’ll have to attend the end of year show to see the final life-sized sculpture.


Digital Arts MA09

Private View :
14 July 6-9pm

Exhibition Continues:
15–17 July 10am–7pm
18–19 July 11am–4pm

The Basement
Camberwell College of Arts
Wilson Road

For more information and map go to the show website.

Vaulting 3


I’ve block painted the model with help from Nicola, and have made an important decision which is not to try and make the colouring realistic. The reason for this is that the form itself has a certain crudeness (due to inevitable misalignments and the low resolution of my process) and to add a realistic face on top of this would look strange, and pull the sculpture in a punch and judy direction. The face has been roughly modelled and I quite like the lumpen-ness of it all.

As i was painting one thing that I noticed was that the wet paint bought out the form more, as the contrast is greater, for example the right black leg below. I may do some experiments with varnish next week.

Incidentally there was a huge lump of sculpture in the same space as mine last year, of a sort of toe. Half figurative half abstract, it was one of my favourite pieces in the show. I can’t remember the name of the artist, but it was someone from TRAIN research group at Camberwell.

By keeping the painting crude and not adding realistic features to the face, I hope that the line between figuration and abstraction will be emphasised. As people walk up the stairs below the sculpture I hope that the coloured lump comes to life as a vaulting man.

In terms of balance I did a trial last week downstairs, using boxes for support and I it seemed easier than I’d anticipated. Given the hands joining the balcony is strong enough I think that all the weight will be supprted on the one leg with just a single wooden strut to stop it from tipping sideways.

For now, back to tidying the studios in preparation for build week.

Geoffrey Mann


Geoffrey Mann is a Scottish Product Artist who graduated from the RCA a few years back. He has received a lot of acclaim for his Long Exposure models which share some similarities with mine but are rendered out of porcelain, plastic and glass. Geoffrey takes a film of a motion (usually moths or birds in flight) and then traces out each frame as a silhouette. These shapes are then passed into a 3D modelling package and are joined together to form a continuous model, these are then rapid prototyped and then cast in a fine material. By reducing the motion to slices he avoids all problems with watertightness and bad meshes. I should thank Geoffrey, whose work I discovered at the beginning of the course, and whose name long exposure sculptures I also used, as it was the most simple and effective way to describe what I’m trying to do. It is interesting that like Peter Jansen, Geoffrey has chosen to place these forms mainly within a craft & design context, something my hulking cardboard models are not suited for.

Flight Takeoff

Nocturne moth, Long Exposure series, Nylon, 2009

More recently Geoffrey has started to look at human forms in motion. This one is a forward hand spring of a gymnast friend of his, rapid prototyped in polymer.

Geoffrey has recently expanded his website with lots of great images and magazine articles.

The artist vaulting over a balcony


I’m half way through my final life-size model. Here is the initial sketch idea.

The piece was inspired by walking around the college and finding a suitable dramatic location. – the central staircase. A friend suggested the idea and I liked it immediately as it worked on several levels. Including referencing a famous photograph by Yves Kline:

I used the same method and filmed video footage and modelled this in Poser.

One of the problems of the piece was how do the hands attach to the balcony? This is a major point of weight distribution so has to be modeled accurately. Unfortunately Poser doesn’t allow you to fix hands in place across a pose, so after roughly fixing them by eye I had to export the model in two parts. The body and the hands seperatly. The hands could then be tidied in Rhino to fit the balcony and then added back into the finished 3D model.

I’ve decided to make this action continuous – or as continuous as possible (consisting of 80 frames). So all the space passed through is modelled. This creates a more fluid form, paradoxically also more static. I may paint this figure realistically too, so you can see the facial features. I’m pleased with the form – it reminds me of a flamenco dancer. This type of reading is not available to analysis until the sequence is actually modelled, which makes the process somewhat perilous, but at the same time exciting.

A big advantage of the continuous decision was that the slices for the model are much simpler to cut out although the large size has made it slower – the slices are larger than the card so need to be broken into segments – still 1 month of construction looks possible.

I built a maquette to try and figure out how to break the model down. It doesn’t balance on its own so I’ll have to consider some struts or suspension to secure it.

When making the model I’m considering several factors

1) Accuracy – I’m trying to make them as accurate as I can
2) Time – I only have 1 month per model
3) Weight – I need to be able to break apart, transport and rebuild the models.
4) Materials – I’m trying to waste less cardboard.
5) Strength – The model needs to be durable

The previous half-size model was made from solid layers of card. As this model is twice as large I’ve reduced weight and material usage by hollowing out the layers – and also on the really large parts missing out every other layer (using support strips instead). I’m confident that the papier mache will smooth over these gaps.

Cardboard, Paper and Papier-Mache


I’ve been enjoying using low tech materials to make my sculptures and think the contrast to the high tech digital concepts is interesting. I’ve been looking at other artists who’ve used cardboard and papier mache as mediums and who’ve accepted the resultant crude finish. Through the 20th century cardboard hasn’t featured that prominently – the Cubists and Kurt Schwitters used it in collages, but it’s not been used so much for its own properties – the art world probably sees these mediums as too impermament or craft oriented. A few artists do use ‘crappy’ materials for their own sake; for example Joseph Beauys and Colin Self. But more recently artists (perhaps green inspired) have been developing ideas specifically geared to these mediums.

Honorary mention should go to Niki Saint Phalle whose range of cheerful styles included papier-mache originally. She soon adapted to plaster and wire frames to enable the sculptures to get bigger, but the pieces still have that rough finish. Here’s her most famous piece ‘Hon’:

If you type cardboard artist into Google you will typically find two types of art:

1) organic forms – ironically often laser cut
2) decorative pattern based art

Good examples of these approaches would be the contemproary work of Tobias Putrih (which suggest gnarled up figures) and Mark Langan’s semi-reliefs. In both cases corrugated layering, and granular possibilities are the key design considerations.

More exacting is the work of Chris Gilmour who builds as accurate as possible life-size models of cars, bicycles and other machines. The chief aesthetic response to these would be Wow! (I suppose) I’ve always appreciated art that looks as if it has taken a lot of (boring) work to put together – even if the work is shared by a team, but can’t find much more in the objects. (edit) This is perhaps unfair as I haven’t seen any of the works in the flesh. The redundancy of making anything original is a theme which I have related to in the past.

My work seems to sit somewhere between painstaking effort and a playful crude finish. A good example of an art aesthetic like this (though not made from card) would be Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures of the 60’s. These reacted against what a sculpture should be – hard, marble, imposing, classical and also reflected the disposability of 60’s culture and the game like experimental happenings of the time – which these sculptures often served as props for. Oldenburg developed them further into larger and more permament, but still cheap looking, sculptures like the apple core below

Segal’s sculptures of the same period, which although made of solid stuff also share an unfinished surface which contrasted with the ‘modern’ settings he gave them. Another fantastical artist of the time, Ed (and Nancy) Kienholz used a wide range of materials (including papier mache) to make visceral dangerous assemblages which usually had some kind of melting or bespattered or messed up finish.

Both artists were predominantly figurative and suggested humans trapped or encased in the detritus of their times. The idea of a figure escaping from a pose, through movement, has been raised before in terms of my sculptures – also the idea of metamorphosis. Contrasting a moving human with a static backdrop is something I’d like to explore in the future. ( One simple ideas, which time allowing I may make, is a drunk falling off a bench. This would in a way triple with the other two balancing pieces in the show, and also allow me to explore the weather proofing of papier-mache. There’s a good location for this piece outside college on the benches. )

Papier-Mache has a history as long as the invention of paper. It is used in toy manufacture, craft and folk art to this very day. Here are some vivid examples from Venuzuela. The ease, low cost and flexibility of the medium lends itself to bizarre new forms like this comic centipede monster.

A recent Lincoln artist, Roy Ealden, has received some acclaim for his papier mache mulched sculptures. Although I find the treatment a little gaudy, what I like here is the use of semi-relief – I have ideas to make large scale images with hundred of small figures (made using long exposure techniques) snaking across city scenes – for example ‘exploding’ out of a tube station. One thing that is great about papier-mache is that people really understand it as a medium – it doesn’t frighten them. By allying this friendliness to a fairly abstract concept (motion in 4D) I think that an interesting conflict is set up, which leads the viewer into the piece to try and unravel its complexity of form.

Finally three artists who use not card, but paper in interesting ways. Thomas Demand shares with me a meticulous process whereby he models entire 3d scenes from colored paper. The scenes are often taken from media photographs of venues of some disturbance or historical note. The final model is then rephotographed – further displacing the viewer from the action. Below a TV studio set, which if I remember correctly (I saw the piece in Cardiff 2 years ago) was on air on German Television at the exact time of the Kennedy assassination.

Osang Gwon takes photographs of humans and then pastes these photographs to rough life-size models. The difficult concept of humans encased in their own media representation is in play, but the results are also just very ‘cool’ to look at, and his work is currently popular in media spreads, and does lend itself well to such use – I wonder if his method is protected?

Similar in style but much harder to produce are the 3D masks of Bert Simons These are made by creating a 3D digital approximation of a real face (you can do this crudely in Poser for example), and then printting a 2D geometry from the 3D model which can be folded back into 3 dimensions. Clever stuff.

Man Touching his Toes


Here are some images of my latest model. The process used was:

1) model a man touching his toes in Poser
2) export out 30 frames as OBJ files
3) run on data to get boundaries of all 30 OBJs
4) run to convert the object into a series of 100 Y slices on a BMP.
5) run to add a central square to use for aligning slices
5) project individual slices onto 6mm corrugated cardboard and trace outlines
6) cut out and assemble model (height 60cm)

I was really pleased with the final model, i didn’t check the union of the 3d files before making it so was suprised by the organic final shape.

The model doesn’t stand on its own feet so in the future i’ll need to consider how to fix that.
It took 2 days to build, but i think the process could be scaled up OK. A lifesize model would take maybe 2 weeks solid. I’ll be making several more of these at this scale – i’m interested to see what happens when you smoothly coat the surface – in paint or tissue, so i can color the models.

The shape was informed by a long exposure photograph which is a quick and easy way to get an idea for a shape: