Drawing Comes First_A landscape of Colour Fields
Pearl Ting Ting Ho
The studio prompt was “MINIMUM NUMBER OF LINES / MAXIMUM NUMBER OF THINGS”. I was trying to find a different kind of minimalism, a minimalism that didn’t simply mean clean white spaces and crisp lines. It was about one main idea that operates on different scales.
Site: Rye Lane of Peckham, London
(an intensely active retail strip in South London appropriated by successive waves of immigrants, and shared with established residents)
Taking from the kinked and curved line in the Leonidov Rockclimbs drawing, the line is translated into a boundary that varies in its solidity, to divide a linear building into a public marketplace and a private daycare for children. Being on either side of this line yields significantly different qualities of spaces. Like the previous drawing, the continuous Line makes use of its turns to create pockets of spaces that attracts other collections of things sprinkled about – on the market side, temporary food-carts and stalls for local sellers, and on the daycare side, unique and intimately sized play spaces. The Line is sometimes a solid wall, sometimes a corridor to be occupied, sometimes a diaphanous line of columns, and sometimes just a textured path marked on the ground. The building ultimately relies on the minimum number of lines to negotiate between the maximum number of things.
Zooming in on the cubed spaces, there are moments of pause marked by domes along the way. Beneath these domes are ceilings that drop down like bellies and onto the columns that support them. Each bellied space is shaped differently, depending on the configuration, height, size and number of columns. This quality of space is taken from earlier physical artifacts made as material explorations of seemingly gravity defying drawings. The Line is then experiences on a children’s scale through hanging objects from the ceiling. These hung elements are a smaller version of the Line, so that children can understand with their own bodies another dimension of what the curving, kinking line can achieve in space. The line holds colourful objects, allowing the wonder and variety of sprinkled confetti to suspend in space and time. Light and ethereal, they contrast in verticality with the heavy and grounded material columns. The glass-blown artifact is a 1:1 model of one of these Hanging Lines. The colours and materials are borrowed from the language of children’s crafts and playthings to enhance their encounters with them. The building also shifts in scale to accommodate public and private, adulthood and childhood, business and play.
Who influences you graphically?
The dreamlike worlds of Madelon Vriessendorp, Yayoi Kusama and Magritte are some artists who have influenced my work lately, and I enjoy browsing through the paintings of several contemporary colour field artists. I always admire the impeccably composed playgrounds of Aldo van Eyck and Sophie Tauber Arp’s sculptures and puppets that inspired them. There is often a childlike sensibility in my appreciation of the images around me.
What was your thought process when moving from the medium of the drawing to that of the model? What dictated the materiality, form and choice of colours?
The ‘Leonidov Rockclimbs’ drawing pulled its colours from the rainbow spectrum of rock climbing wall elements, and the simplistic and pure geometries of Leonidov’s Socialist Settlement at Magnitogorsk, behave like a map of a rock climber, intertwined with Eisenstein’s film diagrams. But the narrative does not matter, the drawing was about constellations of shapes in relation to each other, full of vibrant colours scrambling upon different swooping line types, floating in an abstract white space. I hoped to achieve a similar quality in the Artifact. The Artifact is a 6’ x 2’ solid white plaster surface with colourful PVC bubbles emerging from it. The “bubbles” were thermaformed over pieces of plaster that I had cast into spandex to achieve their lumpy figures. So the plastic is fluidly shifting in balloon form, with simple coloured shapes distorted on its surface, and the mirrored finish behind the plastic produces a deep space reflected beyond. The Artifact therefore, takes the dynamic graphics of the drawing a step further by translating it into a scaled effervescence that the body must react to in space.
There is an evident shift in colour palette from drawing to drawing how does this go to talk about these new spatial sensibilities in diverse ways?
I approached many of these drawings as though they were colour fields, hoping to envelop the viewer. Hues and values were adjusted constantly as I added new colours to enhance or diminish others. Some drawings were about softness, where larger swathes of colour would be employed in gradation. Other drawings had to convey athletic energy, so I would play with a diverse range of bright colours, but in smaller concentrations diffused across the page. The drawings are a testing ground for how my colours would behave in three dimensional space.
To what extent can the landscape be the architectural drawing where you then situate yourself?
The architectural drawings do not try to be more than what they are – they are self-consciously themselves and stand as a representations of certain qualities that are difficult to at first imagine as real space. They are graphically experimental, but do speak to different kinds of character and visual affect. The next step in the studio is to translate it into an architectural project. The studio works uniquely in that it recognises that what we do as architects is ultimately drawing, modeling, and renderings, etc – they are representations of what we think we want to build. So rather than approaching the project by “designing the building” and then figuring out how to represent it, we are developing qualities, atmospheres, natures, and then inventing how an architecture can embody those characteristics.
How restrictive and/or liberating is the grid? Whilst in certain images it is particularly evident in others it is less present, what is the reason for this?
The grid started off as confining but in many cases was liberating because as soon as I understood the logic it became simple to populate the drawing in a somewhat consistent rhythm. Within these drawings the limits of the grid were tested, and I found that the grid is ultimately never restrictive, but defines a set of finite relationships that then could expand infinitely.
This work was completed by Pearl during her final year at Yale school of Architecture under the guidance of Sam Jacob and Sean Griffiths, ex FAT partners.