blank projects, Cape Town
13.10.2016 – 19.11.2016
Currently on show at blank projects, Kyle Morland’s ‘Assemble’ marks a significant shift in the artist’s practice. Known for his self-imposed guidelines and the strict constraints which dictated the direction of his sculptures (including complex titling conventions and colour coding), Morland’s latest body of work revels in breaking-off into freer territory. ArtThrob sat down with Morland to get the inside scoop.
ArtThrob: So as a starting point, let’s talk about this exhibition as a whole. Obviously in the past you’ve had very defined ways of working, titling conventions and with this show you’ve tossed all of that out. Was that departure a conscious decision before you began work on it or did it just happen?
Kyle Morland: It happened during the process of putting a body of work together, trying to figure out what to do for the exhibition. A new chapter, departing away from a previous chapter. Before it was quite a burden just to carry on working like that, everything was structured and it became quite heavy to carry on with that workflow. This show is the outcome of trying not to do that. So it was quite a weight off my shoulders in the sense of opening the scope up to more possibilities.
AT: One of the biggest departures is the covering of works such as Bind in cloth. Before, you had a colour-coded paint system.
KM: Covering the works came about from having to transport the sculptures. I’ve always found the process of wrapping these big steel structures in order to protect them quite weird. I was playing with that contrast of these delicate sculptures made from such rough materials. Bind was originally a sculpture which I presented last year, and then wrapped it inside the studio to take it elsewhere and it ended up living in my studio for a year without being unwrapped.
AT: I think I remember it from Cape Town Art Fair last year?
KM: Ja, it’s made from off-cuts from a set of pipes for another series of sculptures. Wrapping the sculptures actually started with those two big twisted works from [previous solo exhibition] ‘Node’. I used carpet underfelt to wrap around the painted surface to protect it from scratching in transit. It arrived in the gallery space and I wanted to just leave those on as opposed to unwrapping them. It sparked something in me not to keep things uncovered or ‘nude’.
AT: Conversely, your aluminium sculpture Glitch is ‘nude’ to the point of having measurements and markings still scribbled on it.
KM: The marks, fingerprints and writing came primarily from the suppliers who cut and bent the aluminium sheets for me. It arrived at my studio with my name written on the sheets, the sizes, and then the markings which I added (rivets, line marks for cutting and also the part labels). This thing is made up of 87 components, so it’s a matter of trying to join all of those pieces together like a jigsaw puzzle. Normally I would have rubbed those markings off, but I’m in the process of unlearning that now!
AT: It definitely has a kind of charm. The sculpture’s shape reminds me of those pyrite/fool’s gold formations. Where did Glitch’s form come from?
KM: I had a commission, which didn’t materialise, of making another large twisted bent sculpture. I had started using SOLIDWORKS this year (an engineering program used for manufacture). A friend had given me a very old computer to use and when I inputted the data, it didn’t have enough processing power to depict what I had inputted. It was supposed to render a flat bar with 37 bends in it, but it couldn’t output it, so it just made these large conjoined blocks with the parameters of the outside of those bent pieces. I took a few screenshots of that and tried to replicate the bizarre structure which it rendered in SketchUp (which is a far more amateurish program than SOLIDWORKS). So it’s a play on the programs too and the limitations of obsolete computers. That’s where the work’s title came from.
AT: There are a couple of photographs peppered throughout the gallery which seem quite separate from the sculptures.
KM: In a way yes and no, one of these objectives was to break up the scale from the larger sculptures. To create walking paths between the physical works and the small wall works. The subject matters of the photographs for me worked well, there are conversations between the two mediums, like materiality and so on.
This is really the first time that I’ve tried to incorporate my photography amongst the objects. All of these photographs were from between 2009 and 2010. I regretted not including a small photograph of a parking lot on that back wall over there in my last exhibition [2015’s ‘Node’].
AT: Let’s talk about this assortment of paperclip-like sculptures that you’ve called Still Life. The reference to a vase of flowers is clear; are the shapes based on anything in particular?
KM: Basically, I had a number of brazing rods in my studio which I accumulated over time for mixing the paints that I use with a hardener. I had bound the rods together and that bundle remained in my studio and grew on me, so I decided to reference it and make it on a larger scale.
The mixers take two main forms: one that’s just off a flat plane and then one that resembles a propeller; whichever design could mix the most paint at once. The shapes are there to give the mixers a wider surface area to stick into a drill and spin around. The two designs are optimised to help me to move the paint around in the two different types of containers which I use (either a cup with a smaller surface area or a paint tin, which is wider).
AT: And those are the paint colours which used to demarcate the thickness of the steel in your previous work right?
KM: Yes, they’re also standard industrial colours straight from the tin; nothing is pre-mixed. They have names like Brilliant Green, Signal Red, Golden Yellow, National Flag Blue, etc.
AT: It’s definitely one of my favourite things about this show. Even though you’re breaking from your established modus operandi, the new works aren’t divorced from that ongoing dialogue of references and indexes. They just offer a fresh take on it.
KM: Another departure point was using found objects. Usually the works are totally constructed, whereas now I’m trying to bring other objects into the space. The aluminium slice at the bottom is an off-cut from the sheets for Glitch. I really appreciate how it exaggerates the depth of the vase, while also breaking the work away from the floor; almost floating it. There’s a lot of play, trial and error; especially with the materials, and which materials work in juxtaposition to each other.
AT: Is that juxtaposition where a work like Engaged enters the picture?
KM: That one just happened [laughs]. The contrast between the soft flexible rubber and the rigidity of the steel works wellfor me. The expanded metal is really interesting too, from one angle it’s quite an invisible translucent object, and as you walk around it becomes a solid surface.
AT: It really captures the playfulness of the show.
KM: And the colour too, purple is non-standard colour in terms of industry paint. When I dropped the raw steel off to get galvanized and painted they couldn’t understand why it had to be purple. They kept on trying to persuade me to use a colour that they had on a shelf. Purple is not regularly used in their industry so they had to order it in. It’s always tricky to try and explain to people that it’s for art’s sake.
AT: Speaking of material juxtapositions – I meant to ask you earlier – did the decision to drape fabric over your works happen before or after your collaboration with Igshaan Adams in his recent ‘Oorskot’ exhibition?
KM: It was actually quite a bit before our collaboration, towards the end of last year. But Igshaan did give me the rope which I used to tie Bind together.
AT: It was such a great collaboration, taking the strongest aspects of both of your processes and combining them into something completely different.
KM: There were two collaborative works in Ighsaan’s exhibition; there was the one on the floor (Stoflike Oorskot) and the one against the wall (Standpunt). The floor one was slightly different because it was a steel sculpture with a tapestry draped over it; they were two separate components. With Standpunt the rope was woven into the steel. One of Igshaan’s objectives was to bring the tapestries off of the wall. So that was a departure point for the floor sculpture. I really enjoyed the process of making those sculptures. That blue sculpture in the gallery’s second room is titled Standpunt again in acknowledgement of the collaboration.
AT: Is this the same supporting structure as the one in that work?
KM: Yes, I’ve just reconstructed it and finished the joins a lot more; the overall form is exactly the same. The other work Channel in this room was made at the same time. They were experiments in forms for making different looms for rope to be woven.
AT: Are there any plans for future collaborations?
KM: Ja, we both really enjoyed the process. We’re talking about something for the future. This collaboration however for me really stood out, both Igshaan and I had no real preconceived idea of what the final thing would be. It was a matter of making something with and without certain constraints over a period of time.
AT: There’s another wrapped work in this room titled Nude. It seems to re-enact the sequential vibe of Nude Descending the Staircase. Is that an intentional reference?
KM: Not intentionally in the making, but certainly after construction. This was actually a really tricky work to make. I had previously wrapped a sculpture comprised of rings in mutton cloth to protect it and I wanted to capture the way the mutton cloth interacted with that sculpture again. Unfortunately I kept finding mutton cloth that was wider in diameter and shorter tubes, so it wouldn’t stretch around these boxes in the same way; it was much looser and drapey. So finding the right fabric again was a mission unto itself.
I went to over thirty hardware shops in a course of a month just looking for that material, eventually finding it in a fishing tackle shop (they use it for packing tuna apparently). What really stands out for me with this sculpture is the rigid boxes and the negative spaces that the tights form when pulled over the mutton cloth; always curved as opposed to the rigid structure of the boxes.
AT: It’s a bit like the SOLIDWORKS glitch again, having these boxes as a continuous form.
KM: There are three layers of mutton cloth because the first one became quite translucent. There’s also a steel structure which holds the boxes in place, but the three layers of cloth conceals all of that and makes it more about the surface of the sculpture.
AT: Having gone down this route now, with all of these vastly different objects, are you going to continue in this direction, are you happy with the results?
KM: I am very happy and proud with this body of work! I have no idea where it’s going to lead, but it’s definitely a departure point for the future.
AT: So no going to back to strictly regimented forms?
KM: Yes, no? Well, probably not. Not for now at least
‘Assemble’ runs at blank projects until 19 November 2016.