Today was my first sculpture session working alongside sculpture tutor Carla. The group had been working on a project for a number of weeks. They started by painting halved tyres to create a Loch Ness Monster that swims across the floor. They had then created the bodies and feet of tourists by painting and stuffing old clothes and shoes. Today we started on making the tourist’s heads using balloons and papier-mâché.
I enjoyed working in this medium because it is such a tactile material and can demand all sorts of different types of touch from the artists. I began by working alongside a participant I hadn’t met before, and I was really interested with the way she interacted with the papier-mâché. The gloppy wallpaper paste was great to scoop and slap onto the balloon using sweeping movements. Placing the paper onto the balloon demanded a gentler touch, to prevent the balloon popping. The paper needed smoothing onto the balloon, and this meant she used taps, sweeps and pats to smooth the surface. Often these movements became rhythmic which was fun to experiment with. It felt that the important of touch in this exercise was really exciting because if one or more of your senses are impaired, touch becomes incredible important.
Another participant who I hadn’t met before was working in this session. He began thinking up different words to describe the wallpaper paste, an activity that a lot of the rest of the group joined in with. I wondered whether this was a way to create a sense of the object through language rather than through seeing it, as he didn’t have any sigh, although everyone else was enjoying the words we came up with so much that it may well have been nothing to do with that. ‘Gunky’ was a favourite, as well as ‘Slimy’, ‘Sloppy’ and ‘Gloppy’.
As the class moved onto painting, this participant began asking about the colours he was using. His support worker described the colours not just through their name, such as ‘red’, but through a description, such as ‘a hot fiery red’. This was something I want to integrate into how I talk about colour. It was useful to someone who may not have much of a concept of colour as a visual thing, but even when working with people who use colour a lot, describing all colours in this way was really rich. It reminded me why we use colour in the first place. This was apparent in the work of this participant who used bold blocks of red and yellow in a very visceral final piece.
Observing the process of someone without sight working with visual art, I am interested in how we can make sure that visual arts are accessible to anyone who is blind or visually impaired. I think a lot of people think that visual art is of little value if you cannot see, which is a concept I would like to challenge.
In the afternoon I worked with a whole new group of people I hadn’t met yet. One of the participants used sign language to communicate and between her and her support worker I learned some very basic sign, and got my own sign name! This language is really exciting, and I’d love to find out more about it.