Piercing the Surface

Cut, incise, prick, singe, burn – I have been revisiting ways in which the surface of a sheet of paper can be pierced and how this itself can be integral to the drawing process. Piercing allows light to pass through from one side of a drawing to the other. It can both interrupt and disturb its surface.  It hovers somewhere between creativity and damage. A form of scarification. Repetitious piercing can unify the plane. It takes something out in order to add something in.

Siân Bowen, detail from 'Shift' series, 2006, burn on paper - Click to enlarge Siân Bowen, detail from 'Shift' series, 2006, burn on paper - Click to enlarge

I first started using piercing in 2000 when I repetitively burned out fragments of handwritten words from a collection of found Florentine letters. Later I buried paper beneath the forest floor for a further series of works, the insects randomly biting away at its surface.

Now I am again looking at different possibilities for piercing the surface of my works. This has been in part prompted by the realisation that the display cabinets in which my residency drawings will be installed offer new possibilities for lighting the work. This is due to the fact that when suspended inside the cabinets, the works will be lit from two sources – one from behind and another less strong one, from in front. – This demands some new ways of both making and viewing the work.

I am trawling through all kinds of patterns in the collections – patterns for lace and needle work – pricked and pounced, drawn with iron gore ink which over the years has itself eaten away at the surface of the paper. Patterns of vellum with linen thread drawn through their waxy surfaces. Japanese textile stencils of the most intricate nature and the finest of detail – stencils which I have already described in a previous entry.

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I am working in pure silver across the surface of my new drawings – or sometimes palladium which I prefer because it reflects the light in more subtle and muted manner. The “ piercings” are taking two forms. Either tens of thousands of pinpricks or intricate incisions by use of a laser. The heat of the laser as it cuts into the surfaces leaves a lingering smell – especially on the occasions when I have used vellum. Unpleasant. The light passing through the tiny apertures from behind the drawing mixes with the light reflected off the silver and palladium. Something seems to be starting to happen.

Siân Bowen, detail from 'Gaze' series, 2006 - Click to enlarge Siân Bowen, detail from 'Gaze' series, 2006 - Click to enlarge

Click on thumbnails for larger versions.

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