(All images in this post (c) Adriana Hartley and Katharine Scarfe Beckett 2009-2011. All rights reserved.)
Around two and a half years ago, I started working with a brilliant sculptor and medieval scholar, Adriana Hartley, in Geneva. We agreed that she would make abstract modern smoked ceramic sculptures playing with relationships between rectilinear forms and curves, rough surfaces and smooth planes -- and then I would paint fourteenth-century-style miniatures on them.
I got very excited by the relationship between form and surface, two dimensional representative art and three-dimensional space. I tried to paint so that the third dimension was always a necessary element in the miniature, and so that the story in the miniature related closely to the form and 'feel' of the piece and drew the viewer's eye to the individual beauties and characteristics of each shape.
Our work process was great. Adriana sculpted independently of any considerations about what the painting might be, other than to include some smooth areas as part of the form of the sculpture. When each sculpture was a complete piece and fired safely, we met and discussed what its qualities were and which way (roughly) the theme of the painting might go. The final stage was for me to go ahead and develop a miniature painting on the sculpture, and Adri left me to create that as a new independent stage of the work.
(In fact either of us had veto power on something we truly felt we couldn't live with that the other was doing -- but it was used only once during the creation of nineteen large pieces and around thirty tiny ones -- and used to good effect.)
We exhibited our pieces in Galerie Marianne Brand in Geneva as part of the Carouge Art7 festival. The response was amazingly positive and we sold a lot too, which was a very welcome affirmation of the work.
I was struck by the way visitors responded to the combination of sculpture and miniature as a pictorial object in a three-dimensional space. They got up close and stuck their noses in the hollows, used magnifying glasses to see the details, walked round and round the pieces to get the flow of the story. The picture and sculpture together were interesting to the eye and mind in a way that either, independently, might not have been. We had achieved our goal -- a synergy of surface and volume, decoration and structure, fiction and presence, figurative and abstract.
To our great delight, the prestigious Musée Ariana purchased our most ambitious (and largest) piece. I hope to return to Geneva in 2012 and go with Adri to see it on display.