The instructional artworks created for my project are inspired greatly by the works of Natalie Ratcliffe, who’s work “combines traditional printmaking techniques with contemporary practices such as computer-aided design” (‘Harmony Circus’, 2015).
The featured artwork: Woodland Wall Panel was very appealing due to it’s highly texturised nature and collage-like aesthetic.
When I was given the task of creating instructions for this project, I challenged myself to consider ways in which to use the paper other than to simply draw something on its surface.
I wanted to explore texture and tangibility through the instructional art, and allow my participants to create works that would differ from one to the next, yet still maintain some sort of coherent aesthetic.
Ratcliffe’s works reminded me of an art activity I used to do when I was younger. I recalled placing a piece of paper over different surfaces such as coins and embossed text, and then shading over the surface of the paper to reveal a texture underneath.
While her artworks are originally not instruction-based in their nature, the goal was to create a similar aesthetic by abstracting the work into a set of directions. This sense of reminiscence, as well as an exploration of texture and shape were elements that I wanted to capture in this project.
The instructions are as follows:
Cut an A3 piece of paper into 6 random sized pieces (using up all the paper)
Take one segment of paper and place it on any surface or object
Keeping on this surface, shade paper with a pencil, covering the entirety of the paper (right to the edges)
Repeat with each of the other 5 pieces of paper, each time on a different surface
Reassemble the A3 page and photograph
What was perhaps most successful about this project was allowing the participants to come up with different ideas regarding which surface they would use as well as how they would go about cutting up the paper. The process of creating this art required little to no artistic ability, yet still produced a result which was interesting and somewhat visually coherent.
Whilst Sol Lewitt described instructional art to be “mentally interesting yet emotionally dry”, I believe these pieces challenge this notion. They are certainly not highly aesthetic artworks, yet they have the potential to create emotion for the creator. This is because it allows the executor to explore their curiosity by observing their surroundings.
My participants reported that it was actually harder to find six different surfaces than they expected, which I believe lead to some interesting results. The indefinite, random and vague nature of the instructions meant that each creator interpreted them differently. The only other reported challenge associated with this project was assembling the paper again once it had been cut up.
In summary, I am pleased with the results of this project. I have abstracted an aesthetic from Ratcliffe (as was intentionally planned), but also explored a sense of individual curiosity in the process. Regardless of how many times the instructions are repeated, there will never be two artworks identical, even though a visual consistency is maintained. “Different people will understand the same thing in a different way”.