My name is Alice Martin and I am a contemporary artist currently based in Stirlingshire, Scotland. I am interested in the relationship between artists and museums and the role of curation in how we perceive artefacts.
I graduated from Gray’s School of Art, Aberdeen, in July 2017. After I left art school I moved back home and began to build my career. The transition from art student to professional artist was challenging but rewarding. The things that I relied upon in the past changed, so I had to regroup and adapt. Instead of slowing down, I spent the first year and a half making the most of the momentum I had built up from my Degree Show. I had to be proactive. This involved continuing to make new work and exhibiting regularly in group shows, as well as writing proposals, acquiring a new studio space, working on a graduate commission, creating new connections, self-promoting, and volunteering.
Then, in September 2019, I decided to undertake an MLitt in Archaeological Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands to inform my art practice. I always intended to study for a masters, but I was not keen on undertaking it straight after art school. I wanted some time to reassess the type of art that I make and to expose myself to life as a practising artist. I did consider pursuing an MA in Fine Art, but I liked the thought of studying a different subject, one which was more research-based and appropriate to my conceptual ideas.
Introduction to 3D
The use of 3D in my art has been a recent one and quite organic in terms of my thought process. My work is constantly changing, influenced by an awareness and response to contemporary culture. I would say that my path to 3D has been somewhat accidental, but also not unexpected as my art practice has become more and more dynamic. I started mainly painting and drawing but now I work across a range of different mediums including 3D printing and modelling, sculpture, installation, digital prints, and printmaking. I think that is the beauty of contemporary art: the development of work and the desire to express your point of view in a variety of different ways. 3D is still relatively new and because of that, it is only natural as an artist to be inspired and influenced by fresh ways of seeing and working. It is also exciting to repurpose or adopt something and then present it as an art form.
I was first introduced to a range of 3D technologies in the summer of 2016 whilst working as an intern at The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum. I learnt about 3D modelling via the museum’s links to the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions in Perth, Australia. Before this encounter, my work was object-based but not necessarily in a digital sense. I had no prior knowledge of the processes involved; 3D was an unknown concept to me. I was then tasked with creating a 3D model of an artefact from the museum’s collections using photogrammetry. I was also an Exhibition Assistant for The Lost Tomb of Robert the Bruce when I was at the museum. Through this experience, I gained a better understanding of 3D reconstruction and 3D printing. Something that seemed overly complicated soon became appealing. It never crossed my mind before to use similar methods within fine art until I witnessed them first-hand. Through interactions with those familiar with 3D and various online tutorials, I became much more experienced with new media.
Within my art practice, I focus on the themes of museology, heritage, archaeology, classicism, and art history. The approach I take is to examine certain processes and content within these themes and convey them visually. Through this method, I challenge the ideas of engagement, interaction, and experience using artefacts and imagery. One of my intentions is to question conventional ideas of representation with the hope of making the viewer less passive and more curious through altered narratives.
In terms of curation, I have the desire to bring pieces together that would not normally be displayed collectively, and 3D is a great outlet for this as it allows me to create different perspectives on the past. This collection of information is achieved due to a certain level of creative freedom I have, something which museums lack at times.
My exploration of 3D at art school consisted of photogrammetry, structured light scanning and 3D printing. For my Degree Show, I created a self-initiated project with Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums. The project consisted of loaning five artefacts from the museum’s collections store. The artefacts were scanned using an Artec Spider and then printed using a ProJet 460Plus Full Colour and ProJet 3510 SD Acrylic 3D Printer. These newly created replicas were displayed alongside the originals. The conditions in which I selected the artefacts was to concentrate on social history, the surrounding region and the overlooked. I love the idea of producing something digital and then turning it into a physical sculpture. The tactile yet unusual nature of 3D printing is what I find intriguing and 3D modelling allows me to get to that stage.
When I graduated from Gray’s, I no longer had the same access to cutting edge technology, expert advice, and professional connections, so I had to think of a new approach to working. Previously I was generating my own 3D models, but after undergoing research I became aware that I could also edit and rework pre-existing 3D scans from cultural organisations and individuals. The potential of this inspired a new body of work and continues to do so. I figured that if the material exists and is downloadable then I should take advantage of it. So, I went with cultural heritage objects that were available under an open license. Since then my research has focused on the value of the copy through the idea of an edited object/collection. For the past three years, I have been using open data to create 3D remixes of original works, presenting them as 3D models and as sculptural 3D prints. The fact that the pieces are original works adds a sense of authenticity to my art. This approach includes the superimposition of 2D imagery onto the surface of 3D models. Some of the first 3D models I played with were from the Musée Saint-Raymond. I connected with the museum through social media where I shared my 3D remixes, which meant that I could reach a new audience. In the past, the Musée Saint-Raymond has used examples of my work at several conferences to show how people reuse their collections.
In May 2018 I created a new commission entitled Copy in Context for the annual graduate exhibition They Had Four Years at GENERATORprojects, Dundee. For the show, I concentrated on the object Epichysis from the Musée Saint-Raymond. Epichysis is an ancient Greek jug which stored oil for funerary practices. Using Meshmixer and Adobe Photoshop, I manipulated the scans to include certain imagery. The projection of an image directly onto the 3D printed objects adds an unseen context, one that relates to the object’s function and period. For those who could not attend the show, I also uploaded my remixes to Sketchfab. Brooch Edit features the image of a Gold pediment-shaped brooch obtained from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met).
I am also a Committee Member of the art collective GOSSIP (Graduate Opportunities Supporting Sustained Independent Practice), located in Stirling. A project that I assisted with and took part in was GOSSIP’s contribution to Monuments in Monuments 2019 at The Engine Shed, Stirling, in September 2019. For the conference, we produced an Art film and exhibited our work at Crafting the Future Discovery Day. The Unicorn is Unified is an artwork I created in response to the themes of the events. I decided to remix the 3D model Unicorn I, Stirling Castle from Historic Environment Scotland, who kindly transferred the data. The 3D scan in question is a unicorn carving that sits on top of the roof of The Great Hall at Stirling Castle. The unicorn statue was reconstructed from existing etchings, so I wanted to continue this story of building upon the past. Also present at the castle, within the Queen’s Inner Hall, are seven recreated tapestries based on The Hunt of the Unicorn series. As the symbol of the unicorn reappears, I chose to combine both representations to create a new viewpoint. I did this by superimposing imagery from one of the original tapestries, The Unicorn in Captivity from The Met. Half of the figure is distorted to depict what is lost over time and the importance of conservation.
2D to 3D
A more recent way I have been making 3D models is by converting and modifying 2D public domain images into 3D, precisely Roman glass fragments. In November 2019 I had my first solo exhibition CTRL C which concentrated on the remixing of museum artefacts. At my show, I displayed a video of five cameo fragments as well as 3D printing them in colour. The small delicate nature of them formed an interesting contrast in scale. By creating models in lots of different ways, I am not limiting myself to one thing; just because I can do something does not mean that I should, there must be meaning to it. 3D is only one part of my art practice, but it has certainly enhanced my ideas. This may change in the future but right now it is working.
My latest 3D model on Sketchfab is a drawing remix of Shell Gorget (2342a3369) from RLA Archaeology. I replaced the colour texture with my pen illustration. The drawing is for another project, but I was curious to see how it would look as part of a 3D model.
Going forward I am keeping busy by doing freelance and project works. I also have an exciting commission that will take place from September so keep an eye out on my social media for more information on that nearer the time.
I think the biggest challenge was shifting my mindset from 2D to 3D, especially since my art training began with traditional processes. Learning 3D at first was a bit overwhelming but by throwing myself into it and embracing every opportunity that presented itself, things became much clearer. What I am understanding about 3D is that there is always something new to learn and I am looking forward to what is next as I have barely scratched the surface.
I use Sketchfab because it is an excellent platform to store all my 3D models in one place, making them easy to reach for the public and myself. I do enjoy the endless physical possibilities that come from 3D modelling but to upload my 3D artworks is a bonus in terms of an additional viewing experience, one which is interactive and accessible. It is useful to be able to share my 3D models via social media and to embed them on my website. Also, when it comes to searching for artefacts to remix, being able to filter for downloadable models is extremely helpful. I always catch myself coming across exciting objects every time.
Thank you to Abby, Mieke, and Jasmin for the chance to reveal a glimpse of my work.