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Prospect 15: Anne Macmillan
20 Oct 2012 – 9 Dec 2012
Contours of Near-Earth Asteroids: 2063 Bacchus
pencil on Mylar, 46 x 46 cm
Inaugurated in 1995, exhibitions in the Prospect series are intended to expose the works of selected Nova Scotian artists during the early stages of their careers.
Two notable features of Anne Macmillan’s work are the unpretentious materials, such as cardboard, Mylar and wood veneer, and the nearly abstract style of representation. The choice of materials emphasizes the artist’s valuation of process as opposed to purely aesthetic goals. The schematic iconography proposes artmaking as a form of inquiry, aligned with the scientific quest for knowledge.
Macmillan’s intermedia practice reconciles artisanal processes, such as drawing and hand-forming, with technological processes such as digital animation, 3-D modeling, 3-D scanning and laser cutting. Her process balances strict rules, quantification and machine-generated imagery with random factors and the inevitable accidents entailed by hand-crafting. At the centre of Macmillan’s project is the problem of representing visually the surface topography of irregular three-dimensional objects, using a limited set of scanning and measuring technologies and a restricted range of artmaking techniques.
The source imagery for Macmillan’s new drawings is radar data collected by NASA, representing near-earth asteroids. The mathematical conversion of reflected radio signals into geometrically generalized diagrams, via radar, is currently the main method of depicting asteroids with even moderate accuracy. To make the pencil-on-Mylar drawings in Contours of Near-Earth Asteroids 2012 the artist projected digitally animated asteroid silhouettes onto Mylar sheets. She traced the outlines of asteroids, pausing at every frame while they spun, in an attempt to inventory their silhouettes during a complete rotation. This effectively compresses a view of the entire surface into an instant. In these drawings the irregular, somewhat tremulous traces of the rotation of an irregular body exhibit the nuanced touch of the artist’s hand.
Having studied the NASA asteroid models, Macmillan decided to generate her own model of an asteroid. This resulted in the scored wood-veneer Box for a Hypothetical Asteroid 2012, which is partially flattened and mounted on the wall. The box or maquette is designed as a sheath to custom-fit an imaginary asteroid whose shape is generic enough to make its existence out there highly probable.
Subsequent sculptures along these lines have been produced in cardboard scored with a laser-cutter. Inspired by the notion of custom packaging, Macmillan has collected small rocks, which are similar in shape to asteroids, and used 3-D scanning to generate flat topographical schema (nets) that, when printed and formed, conform approximately to the shapes of the rocks. The wrapped-rock sculptures appear as specimens on industrial shelving. As in so much of her work, gaps in the cardboard signal failures in the software’s ability to replicate a complex shape.
PUBLIC DISCUSSION:When Math Meets Art
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