Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Funaki guest posts on materiality 2: Steel

Last winter during the early pandemic days of 2020, the physical gallery space closed, Funaki's artists were invited to create guest posts in Instagram, about anything we liked. Here's my second entry on materials I use and love (please also see the previous blog post about enamel). 

Let’s talk about STEEL. I love steel. It’s a metal that’s been with me from the start, for practical and aesthetic reasons. 

First, I love the applications of steel in our urban environment: The intricate metal structures and tall cranes at construction sites; huge diggers like strange animals; ships and sea containers, the battered back doors of trucks. I love the ordinariness of this material and the divinely beautiful way it surrenders to its environments, accepting scratches, stains, rust … the marks of time, never losing its integrity. 

I can weld steel, making jewellery pieces and vessels structurally safe while subjected to high heat in the kiln for enamelling or colouring. Soldered seams will reflow and collapse in temperatures over 800 Celcius whereas welded connections (metal joined to itself with electricity) remain intact. Anyone who works with steel also knows it can be temperamental as it rusts (maddeningly!) easily and is harder to cut and clean than precious metals. Sometimes its sharp edges make you bleed. But all is forgiven for its amazing scale of expression: I love the deep blues of heated mild steel, the chemical, snowflake-like zinc patterns on galvanized surfaces and the elegant grays they turn into when heated (although this process is toxic.). 

I love the shine. precision and strength of stainless steel, as well as the warm rusted tones and quiet stories told by old, abandoned pieces. I love the way stained steel sometimes looks like silk, sometimes like a landscape–but always still like steel. 

Images: Inari Kiuru 2008-2020, Mild and galvanized steel 


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