Art-St-Urban is settled in the beautiful rural Switzerland. Each day you hear the bells of the nearby abbey. Having never been to Switzerland, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I am surrounded by lush forests and fantastic architecture. The air smells like freshly cut grass and fertilizer. The landscape reminds me of East Tennessee with its mountains and rolling hills, until that one hour in the day when I can see a snow-capped mountain off in the distance and I am reminded of how hot it is back home.
We spent our first day grinding rust off of metal and adding patterns with the angle grinder to then enhance with coloration from a heat treatment.
We also added texture to metal with the arc welder. It was very difficult for me to purposefully make bad welds to create these different textures, as I am used to producing much cleaner works.
We have only been here for a week so far. Yongchao Chu, a Chinese artist at the residency, is a painter of realistic animal portraits and has never sculpted until he arrived here. The past days we have been in the studio working with materials and techniques Heinz Aeschlimann utilizes in his work. These include bitumen, a material used in asphalt, basically the black binding element used to hold the gravel and sand mixture together similar to tar. It acts almost as a sticky glue holding everything you pour it on together. Bitumen has a lot of waxlike qualities, and it produces very similar results when poured onto objects or into water. Heinz showed us the effects of pouring it onto glass, Styrofoam, rocks, sand, and paper. The process also has me thinking of metal casting, and I am interested to see if there is a way to cast the bitumen into a form. Another material, PBD is a thicker tarpaper used as a liner for roofs, except made out of polyester and bitumen.
Using a torch we were able to heat the surface of the PBD enough to make it tacky and able to stick to itself. PBD has to be my favorite of the materials so far, as it allows me to make woven forms with a lot of structure.
I am still getting used the routine and how the systems work at Art-St–Urban. The time change also makes it difficult. I am getting up at 5:30am, it is not even midnight in the States, to have coffee before going to the studio. It has taken some adjusting but I am starting to figure out how to maneuver the daily obstacle course. Everyday we meet Heinz in the studio at 7am, and most days we work for about 10 hours. Heinz is a very busy person, running multiple businesses, so he will discuss a few things with us and leave us to work all day, and then check-in throughout. We have stayed busy and are working hard. Even with its challenges I am looking forward to the rest of my time here at Art-St-Urban and watching how Chu and my work develop during this experience.
By Cassidy Frye