Black Series, for “Heavy Metal” expo, NovaBelgica Art Gallery, 30 Sep – 6 Nov 2011

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Image © Trëz Orb
Skull I, 2005
Skull III (crow skull)
Skull III (crow skull)

All images clickable.

For the last weeks, with vacation breaks and other interruptions, I have been working on a little collection for a local exhibition here in Belgium.

I am very excited about this because of the theme and title, which is open to interpretation as if referring to the material or the music – both two of my great passions.
When I first heard about it I just had to ask Tim (gallery owner, whose blacksmith and sculpture work I really admire) to please let me participate! which he kindly did.

Skull X
Skull V (cat skull)
Radius and Ulna lariat
Venus Sigil

I have to say at first I had trouble coming up with designs. I was just too worried about it I think :D but that was just a temporary madness ;) as a main collection, I decided to go for a black series -and that is the very original title I am giving to it- and go back to a theme with which I consider I started to really find my own language, which is the skull (see Skull I above, from 2005), not so much because of the figure itself, but because it sort of set the tone for my work.

Skull IV

I decided to really focus on the skull itself again, and pick up where I left (after all I had only made two Skulls before!) and continue with Skull III to Skull X, and a few other sort of related subjects. You can imagine my delighted surprise when I saw the flyer for the exposition featuring a skull as well.

For this series I wanted to keep the work hours down and the pieces affordable, so I omitted more elaborate hand-fabricated settings. This also allowed me to produce more pieces in a relatively short time which I think kept the entire series quite consistent. I really, really enjoyed making these, most of all -no susprise there- the enamel work.

At the end of the day… I wonder why I have not made more pieces in this style, since it is actually the kind of stuff I like to wear the most :) this should be remedied and I think I will continue the series in the future.

Chalk Pentagram
TBC II, 2009
Skull IX (skull cup)
Skull VII (baby skull)

So, speaking about the enamel, I chose a white over black technique. This is against what we learned in school for vitrifiable paints (onglaze, china paints): build up darker colours over a white or light opaque background. Already back in school days, I remember making a little palette of the colours over opaque black, to see how it worked. It is certainly not possible to attain the same level of detail this way, especially with colour, but I think it is still valid, especially for certain subjects, in my opinion it fits these skull and bone designs pretty well.

I worked with a very oily mix on several pieces (for example Skull III, V, VII, X), which invites to paint more spontaneously, almost like with watercolour, and also allows a fluid line for symbols (Venus Sigil, Diabolical Sigil I), but then poses challenges when it comes to evaporating the oil and firing. I should make tests in the future with more volatile oils, but I am afraid the fluidity will also be affected.
A second or third fire with a mix heavier on the pigment helped achieve a little more detail here and there. I don’t think any of the pieces has more than 4 fires (after the initial opaque base of black, which adds 2 to 4 more fires) which must be a record for me :)

For other pieces (for example Skull IV, IX) I worked exclusively with a thicker mix, and I could achieve quite a bit of detail and subtler shadings.

I also experimented with white conté crayons (Chalk Skull, Diabolical Sigil II). I wanted to achieve a chalk graffiti effect, and the white conté crayon worked prefectly. I found three different fragments of crayon in my old school bag, and one of them worked much better than the others. I hope I can find this sort of crayon again in the future if I feel like using it again, although I think its use is limited. In my rather brief investigation as to the composition of the crayons, it may mainly be kaolin clay and wax.
I worked over a matte ground surface, then fired, and to my surprise the colour was fixed to the enamel, and kept part of its gritty texture.

Diabolical Sigil II
Diabolical Sigil I
Spine
group picture

For the necklace parts, I chose sterling silver patinated black and black glass to keep it monochrome, a combination I had already used for TBC II (which I will probably also show in the exhibition, together with TBC III, 2010). A few pieces have onyx substituting for black glass, and/or grey and black banded marble/jasper.

For a few smaller pieces I used only copper and non-precious metal chains to keep costs down.

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