Persistence - The Strength behind the Beautiful

On the Opening night of Love Letter: Be With You , my Mum raised an interesting critique on my ballet slippers in the exhibition. (You can always rely on parents for that. Haha.) 

She asked: Why do the shoes appear to be so strong and borderline bulky? Why aren’t they more like the soft satin slippers that ballerinas use, elegant and exquisite – characteristics they’re known for portraying?
 

I wondered if anyone else had similar questions, so I decided to write up a more comprehensive context to the makings and concept behind the glass slippers.

love letter exhibition persistence glass ballet pointe shoes installation
4 ballet dancers persistence glass pointe shoes sculpture installation

For me, this is a work on the persistent strength of character. I’ve always seen ballet dancers as warriors, which I guess could be strange to think about at first but it’s more to do with their stoic attitude to physical pain and transformation of the mental limits into seemingly effortless grace. It’s also about the unseen struggle of the dancer who keeps silent about her pain to the audience. Ballet for me is an intensely feminine but strong type of art, it shows the mettle of feminine endurance.

I had made them out of glass, because glass has an indomitable and wild nature, especially during its casting stages. But there’s also an element of sensitivity and transparency and this is the effortless elegance that holds its spectators captive. When we see the finished product, we don’t see the weeks of effort that goes into each piece but only of the intrigue it presents itself in. That’s art. Beauty with Depth. But it’s a depth we can only feel.

Photo by Tyler Shields

Photo by Tyler Shields

I have included ribbons but excluded the feet. Even though it’s the physical body that keeps the shoes aloft and full of life, why is it missing? Is it just because it is more beautiful that way? Perhaps. But you would only be half right if you answered so. It’s because you never see the feet of the ballerinas on stage; you only see the soft satin that wraps like a medal around them. The slippers represent the prestige of being on stage, in the spotlight, in front of the audience. The slippers also represent what shields the audience from seeing what it took to get there. In a way, my shoes are trying to represent what is missing rather than what is there.                                                                                     

It’s a piece that depicts the struggle of the artist. Of any artist in any field. Because it is a battle for every artist to get there: on stage, in front of an audience. It is a battle to believe what you’re trying to do matters, to get up again every time you take a fall and it’s a process of saying, “This is not the end!

 

The quiet before the opening. Dancers watching each other. Tension and energy in the air.

The quiet before the opening. Dancers watching each other. Tension and energy in the air.

Photo taken on the Exhibition Opening Night by Mark Jones

Photo taken on the Exhibition Opening Night by Mark Jones

I would like to thank everyone who came to the exhibition on the opening night and afterwards. It was truly a pleasure to meet all the new faces and get reacquainted with familiar ones. :)

I would also like to thank my Mum for inspiring further attention to the context of this series.

 

Each piece was developed to have its own character in the ribbons and colour scheme, allowing it to bring a different energy when it interacts with the rest of the “dancers”. Did you have a favourite?

 

 

Edit: Udee Online Magazine has done a feature on the Persistence series! It has been a pleasure getting to know Laura La Rosa (editor of Udee.) and talking more about the future of my artistic trajectory. 

Persistence 0 - The Humble Beginnings of Adopting the Artist Growth Mindset

This is just one of the stories behind the Persistence series of how it began and what I learnt from the process.

The series has empowered me by making me really adopt the practice makes perfect mindset; the growth mindset. The first glass cast was a complete failure, I had graduated from art school and hadn’t cast anything for at least half a year and my first cast Persistence 0, did not work

In my first mould the core was made out of paper pulp, which I was used to using while I was at art school. But while I was observing overnight the entire kiln started smoking. I knew it was because it was burning all the carbon out, however, I didn’t want to ruin the kiln. There was no more safety net of being a student and in my panic, before it had even reached 300°C, I took all the glass and mould out as fast as I could (once you take it out you can’t put it back in), everything cracked.

I was alone at 3am in the morning with a smoking and cracked mould, I was devastated! There were cinders everywhere, the studio was covered in cinders! I felt so bad for everyone around me because their work was covered in cinders too. And although Kate Banazi who works upstairs was really gracious about it and Kate Baker, my mentor, was really reassuring as well... I felt like a failure. The first one...the first cast had failed.

But the whole idea of Persistence and the reason why I named it that was to keep going, so I did keep going and made my second mould.

Persistence I base glass ballet series.JPG

Aaand that didn’t quite work out either, the glass had started to leak when I checked it at top temperature. My stomach dropped and thoughts like ‘oh damn there is not enough glass to even cover the ribbons!’ raced through my mind. But, in the end when I had found the glass did, in fact, reach the ribbons it was just the tip that missed out. I was ok with that. I was just so happy that something came out! Later I managed to salvage it by creating a base especially for it.

Since then, I’ve been recording my process for each cast. Documenting the materials I use, the temperatures I go up to and how long I keep them there. Each time I find myself gaining more and more confidence and being bolder about experimentation. Each successive cast has added to my knowledge base and helped me improve my technique. I think I’m really getting to finesse that casting process of complex forms (there’s a future project on the horizon that I’m really excited about, which I’ll talk about in a later post).

I feel like I’ve grown into a person with more depth and confidence through this project. I’m not so willing to give up anymore. I used to have so many doubts about all sorts of things but all these failures have taught me that failing isn’t as scary as I thought it would be, in fact, they’re just obstacles and there are so many ways of getting through them.

It’s only a small bump and it’s not a slide straight to Hell (though it may feel like that at times). It’s even rewarding because you grow so much. I really love what I do. This process has developed me and given me a stronger outlook on life than I had before. I’m more willing and more proactive about how I approach problems.

Persistence     I     Lesson: Not there   yet, but we'll get there. :) Recommendations: Read  Mindset  by Carol Dweck

Persistence I

Lesson: Not there yet, but we'll get there. :)
Recommendations: Read Mindset by Carol Dweck

Introduction : The Linear Story

Here I'll be posting updates on my current and past projects as well as insights on my process as I produce more work. There will be old and new concepts of the same project layered on top of each other as the project takes a life of its own or adopt the artist's through the stages of its creation. Many of the projects that I develop earlier in my career are very ambitious in scale and technique, not necessarily because I believed I had the ability at the time but because those are the abilities I wanted to achieve and for me those projects would propel me to learn as much as possible. There have been many obstacles along the way, but I have come to realize that they are the way.

My greatest ambition as an artist is to achieve Mastery; to have the versatility and ability to realize whatever vision or concept I have conjured up in my mind and put it out there to share with the world. 

The Human Spirit is a subject that I am constantly trying to capture in my works. Through themes of love, desire, failure, persistence; and what is most important to me is the theme of potential and evolution. My artworks also document my growth as an artist and a human being, telling a story when they’re read chronologically.

“Icarus” is about ambition, it was my graduation piece cast from my own torso with wings too heavy and delicate to fly. 

“Breath” is ironically about asphyxiation, it is the solidification of the air around the face unable to enter because of panic, of lack of serenity and ability to see oneself clearly. 

And my ballet series, “Persistence” is my answer to what came before, to the trials and failures I’ve had since starting on my artist career and deciding even if I do fail a cast or two (or more), I can still get back up and make it into something beautiful.