Working with Perspex & Spray Paint.

Perspex purchased in 2mm flat sheets.

Clear Perspex broken and assembled together using screw fixings and drilled with fine drill bit.

Working area where the broken Perspex pieces were assembled. Graffiti Montana spray colours on table.

Montana graffiti spray paint applied to clear Perspex and hung to dry.

The gloss graffiti paints took several days to dry.

Bolting system to attach painted Perspex panels.

After I started to explore polythene I found that it was also possible to work with Perspex in a similar way. I purchased 10 4ft x 3ft 2mm thick clear Perspex sheets which are used as glazing alternatives in order to experiment with processes to see what I might be able to develop sculpturally. I had been interested as mentioned in a previous post with the industrial materials and non objective inventive structures Gary Webb had created and this was my first attempt to work with a solid industrial based plastic.

I was unsure how to work with Perspex initially and I tried a number of cutting tools before finally finding a tile cutting knife that seemed to give a clean break along a defined line without the entire sheet cracking. I began to experiment with the heat sealing gun that I had used on the polythene and I found that Perspex was able to be moulded into shapes once heated although doing this with bare hands was a problem as the Perspex conducted heat well along its surface. If one used gloves Perspex has an annoying habit of marking very easily so this was equally a difficult option as any glove fibres can find themselves trapped in the melting Perspex like a fly in amber and thus ruin that part of the sheet.

I started to randomly snap the Perspex and to create slight bends and curves in it with the heat sealing gun. The curvature at the edges can be seen in a some of the photographs. I used this method to eventually create a curve for the base of my planned sculpture.

I had used graffiti paint before on wood and found it to be a very effective way to paint and to get good coverage. I purchased a range of Montana graffiti spray paints (seen on desk above) with a view to painting the Perspex shapes I was creating by breaking the Perspex panels by hand and then curving the edges to form interesting shapes.

As can be seen in the close up photographs of the Perspex pieces the result of spraying with the gloss graffiti paint was very impressive. The paint took very well to the surface although it was very easy to mark and picked up any dust or air particles very easily. I learned at this point why cars are sprayed in sealed environments as dust is a major problem when trying to get a clean finish. The fumes from these spray paints are harmful to health so a breathing mask and full ventilation were necessary making keeping dust out of the working space even more problematic. I eventually placed a large fan facing the ventilating door which would hopefully keep air circulating but also keep dust from blowing in.

The gloss paint took a long time to dry on the Perspex and indeed the surfaces were still tacky to touch 48 hours after spraying. This was an entire process of learning what worked and what didn't.

I initially designed a small sculpture which I will discuss in a later post which was assembled through heat melting the Perspex so that it would join to other small pieces. In the examples here I was using much bigger Perspex panels and carefully joining them via a system of screws and bolts as shown in the bottom picture.

This process of experimentation with polythene and Perspex that was driven by my interest in manufacturing materials took about 3 weeks of my project time. I had felt that my ways of seeing project might be usefully reflected by utilising materials in ways other than those for which they were initially designed for thus highlighting the idea of altered perception. I also felt that much of what I was doing in this regard fitted very well with the artistic references and the books I was reading. The colour scheme of my Perspex piece was derived from an Ellsworth Kelly painting and the idea of altered non objective forms felt part of my strong interest in Abstract Expressionist painting.

The fractured pieces were also very reminiscent for me of the work of Steven Perrino (someone who I will write of in a later post) in his collision of painting and sculpture and his debates with the boundaries of that form. I was trying to condense a lot into this piece without really having the skills necessary to make it work. I was anxious however in the final part of my Foundation year to really do some hands on making and construction and get involved directly in the process of creating an object from scratch.

I felt sculpture was the medium I wanted to work in and explore and would be something I would be looking to undertake more fully at degree level but I think I was surprised just how difficult it was to make even these small structures and the length of time and cost involved in using commercial industrial materials and spray paints. I was very happy to learn and explore and certainly feel better equipped and I enjoyed the process of transference from clear flat Perspex sheet to what I eventually ended up with.

I intend to discuss with my tutor what might be a useful choice for my final piece and if this might be something worth pursuing beyond the initial small sculpture constructed which I will discuss in my next blog post. I do have to understand timescales though as it would perhaps take an additional full 7 day week or more to construct all the elements of another sculpture or add to the existing one and as one gets taller with the sculpture the stress on certain points may become to load bearing and the Perspex might shatter. Again these are matters of learning as one works with new materials.

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