Thursday, May 28, 2009

working in a series, revisited

There was a question on the QuiltArt list today about how many pieces it takes to make something a series. I guess, by definition, a series is more than one - so the answer has to be two. Right? But it is less a case of how many than of how you define a series. Style? Subject? If subject, does the style have to be consistent? Size? Color? Mood? Technique? I don't think there is any right answer.. Are they a series? If so, what makes them a series? Or if not, why not? This is a piece of fabric I have recently printed. Does it belong with the above pieces? Even though it is a smaller size (and not intended to be part of anything when I printed it), is it part of the (unintended) series that evolved over time? And what about this piece, which was on my design wall recently? Style totally different: subject the same. Is it part of this series? Depends on your definition. I think not - at least not as it stands - or stood - because I have dismantled it and may or may not revisit it in the future. And this one, which I made a decade ago and no longer own: is it, in retrospect, part of this series? If you were reading this blog two years ago, you may have participated in the terrific discussion about working in a series. If you didn't read the posts/comments, go to working in a series and click on it to see them. Then come back here. Take a look at your own inventory of work: what do you see as a series? Do some of those pieces fit into several different series, depending on what you bundle them with? This gets us into another topic, which is what constitutes a body of work? But maybe that's for another blog post. Meanwhile, let's talk!


Regina Dwarkasing said...


Like you suggested I reread the comments and Russ'comment and I jumped to this personal conclusion:
- there is indeed not only one definition of a series, it is not in the 'bible' so to say!
- as for me it would 'emerge'afterwards, cause I use to work in a spontaneous way, so without planning much, which excludes a planned series.
Nothing new I am afraid, but just some talk in between!! Interesting subject it is and will remain...

Eva said...

Probably it would limit the inspiration and put an undesirable pressure on the artist if (s)he tried to fulfill the demands of a "series". As Regina said, looking back may be the better direction to define a series. On the other hand, series are the natural result of a development. And they are valuable for the perception of your art, because they allow the spectator to understand this process through comparism. In a way, it is more the spectator or it is art itself that defines the "series", more than the artist.

Eva said...

As I just noticed, I cowardly escaped the definition of what is a series. Formal similarity... related content... things don't even have to be made in the same period of time to be a series.
Well, I think it is the visual similarity, because this is what makes the pieces appear as a series in the eyes of the spectator.

Helen Conway said...

I think series is another word for category. Which means you define it and it contains what you like. It also means it operates like Venn diagrams and things can overlap. So one quilt may belong in one or more series. In a way a series can be every work you ever did ( categorised as : my life work) or it can be at the moment just one quilt ( categorised as 'Jewish themed things I made on Wednesday mornings using Discharge paste applied with a red toothbrush whilst I was wearing green shoes and listeing to Bruce Springsteen... or some such specific definition.) I think like you regorganise and recategorise books you can reorder series as time goes on.

Rayna said...

Helen - you are so right. The Jewish themed quilt can also be the discharge series.

We've got to stay flexible, don't we?

Connie Rose said...

I think a series can be any number of pieces that fit together in any way an artist decides. Rayna, I think those top four pieces are a series, IMO. The last two could be a series, or the start of one anyway. Depends on how it develops.
But series can be defined in so many ways. Right now I'm working on a 2009 weekly series -- all are 10 x 10. I'm also working on a discharge series -- all different sizes but with totally or mostly discharged fabrics. I'm planning a series of quilts inspired by my daily collage pages. They may or may not be the same sizes.
I'm thinking of the concept of series as a way to embrace a particular area I want to explore, whatever that might be.
P.S. the newly deconstructed fabric you showed earlier this week are simply fantastic. You continue to be a prime inspiration of mine!

PaMdora said...

I think there are two ways to work in a series -- one is unintentional, the series erupts because the artist can't help but do it because it comes from within his/her subconscious or personality.

Then there's intentional, where the artist decides consciously to make a series.

Then I guess there are combinations of both in various degrees. Interesting, I never thought about it like that -- good question Rayna.

tiedyejudy said...

I tend to create series in my mind, kind of a 'to do' list. I have a Rock series, where the subject matter is based on rock formations I admire. Another one is 'scrap heap quilts', which utilizes fabrics I pull from my stash to create a design. I think it is in the eye of the artist, and my opinion is it should be intentional, but that's just how I view it. It has not put any pressure on my creative juices so far.

Anonymous said...

By intentionally saying "This is one of a series," we free ourselves from trying everything we want to do in one quilt. We can always try more ideas or variations of previous ideas in the next quilt in the series. We don't have to plan the series in advance, but let one composition inform us of what to try next.

Vivien said...

I think Pam makes a good point -- that series often evolve consciously or unconsciously. I never intended to make five quilts that featured hands in some way, but it happened. Perhaps a definition of a series for me is something I need to work out as an artist and hence, return to again and again. That means work may not be sequential in my output, but they have some consistent element that binds them together. As I mature as an artist (well, let's hope I mature!), it's likely that the categories of my artwork will shift as well. Certainly, there are changes in perspective and technique in many famous series, like Monet's waterlilies, but they make a cohesive whole, even though they span years in their creation.

This is really thought provoking, Rayna. Thanks! Looking forward to seeing how you re-categorize your work in your updated website.

Rayna said...

I agree, Vivien. For me, a series evolves over time, interspersed with other things - and I am not even conscious of it till it is done and I can see what it is.

I could never decide ahead of time that I was going to do a series on something: that would make me stressed and self-conscious. But that's ME.

Russ Little said...

I remember that previous conversation fondly, and the journal article that followed. This one is shaping up to be another good one.

I've thought a good deal about the issue of series. Sometimes positively and sometimes negatively. I agree that a series can be defined by process, by form, by artistic/personal intent, etc. But for me, perhaps the real test of a series is what you have done in your post: lay out a "series" of pieces, step back, see if it works. Does each piece relate to the others? Is there a logical sequence or do they go together in any order? What distinguishes one from another? What unifies them? That's the key word: unity. One of my goals for the next year or so is to produce one or more bodies of work that, when hung together, have cohesion. I've reached a point where one-off's are fun, but are not challenging me in the right way.

Thanks for continuing the conversation.