My time inside comes to an end by Fiona

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Cells Residency

May was an exhilarating month for me, dominated by my solo residency/exhibition in the incredible atmospheric Cells, Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge.  My exhibition ‘Offenders’ (9-31 May) was the culmination of an art residency there in April.  Set in historic holding cells for suspected offenders (the grand magistrates court is on the floor above), the show may have offended some, but alludes to a question ‘are we all offenders given the state of our world?’ The work was a response to the site and to the horrors that we are facing - plastic oceans, factory-farming, animal extinctions.  The labour-intensive process of my work - weaving, wrapping, sewing - is a form of suturing, a cathartic attempt to repair in response to world destruction. I created a range of large and small works, installing as I made them.  Ironically, it was such a pleasure to be unrestricted in the cells spaces, free to test out new ideas and take risks.

Tongue  330cms (l) x 158cms (h) x 135cms (w)  Reclaimed and found materials. Photo by Tchad Findlay.JPG
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Tongue, 2019,    330cms (l) x 158cms (h) x 135cms (w)   Recycled and found materials: fabric, old clothes died with avocado pits, foam, sponge, copper wire, steel, wax, twine, blankets, duvets, pillows, cushion, towels, wool, leather, plastic, rubber, thread    Photos by Tchad Findlay

Tongue, 2019, 330cms (l) x 158cms (h) x 135cms (w)
Recycled and found materials: fabric, old clothes died with avocado pits, foam, sponge, copper wire, steel, wax, twine, blankets, duvets, pillows, cushion, towels, wool, leather, plastic, rubber, thread

Photos by Tchad Findlay

My larger works - a body-sized Tongue sculpture (above) and 3 rickety ladders - filled the 3 main cells.  Fragile and exposed, Tongue activated the space. Like a wounded body, its vulnerable softness was juxtaposed against the harsh surroundings, repulsive but seductive. The ladders were precariously balanced, with wrapped soft sculptural entrails made from recycled materials weaving through them, and dangling from cell bars.

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Photos by Tchad Findlay

Photos by Tchad Findlay

Other works became interventions in smaller spaces and in the corridors.  The work included a sound piece - a new direction for me. I made a series of Spiderweb drawings - ancient neglected spider webs captured from dusty corners of the Victorian cells.  To become acquainted with the space I spent time creating a large graphite rubbing of a decaying section of brick wall, and some imprints on fine handmade paper, which I oiled, transforming them into skin-like parchment. In the loo, large stone spheres that have been incongruously left on the floor inspired an installation of interconnected cellular/planetary forms like a constellation. The stone balls remind me of these ancient ones.

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Spiderweb drawings

Spiderweb drawings

Cellular/Planetary structures - installed in the cell loo  Photos by Tchad Findlay

Cellular/Planetary structures - installed in the cell loo

Photos by Tchad Findlay

As part of the residency, I invited various community groups to engage through debate and collaborative making.  I had some great conversations with visitors about the work, which expanded to discussions about human use and abuse of materials and wider issues about the state of our world.  I really appreciate all the visits and am grateful to those who supported me. Towards the end, I engaged the community in make a growing artwork for the exterior fencing outside Town Hall Arts. As a finale, I joined forces with artist Katryn Saqui (also exhibiting at Town Hall Arts) on Saturday 25 May, to create a colourful Street Sculpture ‘Bahuli Entrails’.   It was a wonderful way for members of the public to engage with art while having a bit of fun. All sorts of people dropped by to contribute to the work as a social activity, it attracted more people to enter inside the formal town hall to see the exhibitions, (several who don’t normally go to art exhibitions).  I have grown fond of friendly Trowbridge and was particularly charmed by a man Peter, who spent hours making a long finger knitted woollen piece for the display.


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Workshops

I took part in a spectacular Jack in the Green event organised by The Old Stores Studio, Evercreech. My role was to run a rag cloak-making session, with community help. The event celebrated the release of the spirit of summer.  At Bruton School for Girls, 50 students made cellular/planetary structures with me (based on the work I made in the cells) using recycled copper wire, twine, wool, plastic netting, printed handmade paper and oil.  The ethereal forms link to the 50 year anniversary of the first landing on the moon. Each piece will eventually interconnect with others to become part of a whole room installation at the school, to be exhibited as part of Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2019. At the Holburne Museum I ran a ‘masterclass’ with 11-16 yr olds creating self-portrait paintings - I was so impressed with their outcomes.

I will be running workshops at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge in August making carnival headdresses: 13, 20, 27 August, 10am-1pm. Book here.

Current exhibitions

My piece Accretion has been selected to feature in the Bath Open Art Prize at 44AD, part of Fringe Art Bath. The exhibition runs until 9 June, 11 - 6 daily (until 2pm on last Sunday).  4 Abbey Street Bath BA1 1NN.

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Forthcoming exhibitions

Re-Formation: a summer exhibition at Bishops Palace, Wells, 22 July - 6 October, organised by Heritage Courtyard Gallery.   Private View Saturday 10 August, 6.30-9pm. I am making a large outdoor piece entitled Crown of Thorns, inspired by a mixture of myth and religion, using re-purposed materials.  Re-Formation calls for a new vision.  With our planet at risk, we need to re-think our belief system.

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I am thrilled that Traces has been selected for a book and exhibition: Drawing On Dorset organised by Dorset Visual Arts. The publication features 40 drawings linked to Dorset.  The exhibition will be at Fine Foundation Gallery, Durlston, Swanage 5- 17 July.  I made Traces in 2017 during my MFA. It is made mainly with copper wire on handmade paper, some elements 3d, inspired by whelk egg sacs found on the  Dorset coast.  In the work I was interested in blurring the boundaries between drawing and sculpture, so it expands into an out of form.

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Sculpture at Marks Hall 2019: outdoor exhibition of sculpture throughout the landscape of Marks Hall, Coggeshall, Essex, CO6 1TG, 20 July - 31 August.


B-Wing

B-Wing is an arts project I’m co-curating with Luminara Star in Shepton Mallet Prison, for Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2019.

It’s so great to have the support of several sponsors including Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Chrisi & Simon Kennedy, MJW Architects, Kelly O’Brien, Cameron & Daniella Scott, Cranmore Parish Council and 2 anonymous donors. Many thanks to all!  We are waiting on news back from our main funding applications. Meanwhile, we are still fundraising, so if you can contribute to our project that would be wonderful!  Sponsors will be mentioned on social media and our website. Thanks to Mark Adler (Mendip Times) and Giles Adams (Whats On Somerset) for fab features.


Talks

I’m taking part in a Pecha Kucha at Hauser & Wirth Somerset on June 11, part of a professional development day for Artist/Educators. Hauser and Wirth’s current exhibition ‘Unconscious Landscape’ is such a joy, with so many of my favourite women artists featured, including Louise Bourgeois and Eva Hesse.



Farewell to Spring, Hello Summer!



Cells, Prison, Protest by Fiona

Cells

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I’ve started my Cells residency ‘Offenders’ at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge and loving it. I’m using the residency to make new site-responsive work around notions of incarceration, suffering, human exploitation and factory farming.  In contrast, it’s been great to have much needed space, time and freedom to explore ideas in solitude with no constrictions and I’m very grateful for this opportunity. The work culminates with an exhibition in May - Launch Thurs 9 May 6-7.30pm. Come along!

One of the pieces I’m making is based on a tongue form. I’ve been layering and stitching patches of donated fabric onto a large steel and wire structure. Sketches are informing the sculpture.

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As I roam around the cells exploring dark corners, getting familiar with my new surroundings, I’ve felt the need to take imprints of decaying remnants.  I’ve made a large wall rubbing in graphite and have been capturing old black dusty spiderwebs on pasted fine handmade paper.  The tiny woven lines are mesmerising.

Rickety handmade ladders are forming part of the work. Ladders take us to places out of reach, symbols of our desire to escape; our ascension to Heaven. Is there such a thing as freedom? I’m feeling caught up in an endless cycle, an effort to strive, (in a sense escape the present), but disturbed by the mass of destruction and waste we leave around us, there’s an attempt to suture, mend. Thanks to Nick Weaver for his help and use of well equipped wood workshop. Along the lines of ‘Snakes and Ladders’, there will be weblike entrail forms dangling…

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B-Wing 

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Co-curating an arts in prison project ‘B-Wing’ with Luminara Star for September/October, we are currently fundraising and so grateful to those who have kindly pledged their support for B-Wing already: Hauser & Wirth Somerset & Chrisi and Simon Kennedy. Writing an ACE application has taken up a lot of energy and time, so really hope we are successful. Sponsors will be listed on our forthcoming website. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more or wish to offer support.

Shepton Mallet Prison, built in 1610, was the oldest working prison in the UK until its closure in 2013. 8 B-Wing artists will respond to this unique space by researching its architecture, historical narrative and related concepts: incarceration, crime, the ‘other’…

The prison is an ideal site to create art in unexpected places.  Sculptural installations, performance and collaborative mixed media works will transform the spaces, provoking debate and engaging the wider community in participatory activities and events.

The B-Wing team of 8 artists and writers had an inspiring day visiting the prison for an artist research trip.  We were given an official prison tour and an additional pot history from Ian Keys. While the prison is steeped in an oppressive history, the B-Wing space is extraordinary - vast, with incredible light and acoustics.

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B-Wing with artist Lucy Large. Photo by Geoff Dunlop.jpg

Extinction Rebellion, London

Last week I took part in Extinction Rebellion, as I feel so strongly about the destruction of our natural world, death of species and arrival of the sixth mass extinction. There is no greater cause.  It was my first big protest.

I joined an XR Frome group and a few of us teamed up as artivists.  We made huge banners and I ran a headdress making session with the lovely artivists (using discarded & recycled materials).  On Day 1 of XR we went to London, and wore the headdresses at Waterloo Bridge.  It was great to see them in action.  My flamingo headdress strutted its stuff all day, worn by a couple of people and photographed many times.  Let’s hope the amazingly powerful and resilient rebellion, a massive effort and achievement by so many, turns governments’ heads to engage in positive negotiations and outcomes for the good of all. 

Other Exhibitions

I’ve visited London a couple of times to see exhibitions.  I really enjoyed navigating through Phyllida Barlow’s Cul de Sac exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts.  Her work completely inhabits the space and invites active engagement. Dynamic views through doorways, obstructions, sculptural objects sticking out from the wall, verticals & horizontals playfully interact, up through under over round beyond into out. Soft drapes contrast against hard straight structures. Grey with splashes of colour.

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Her blocks on stilts resonate with my ideas involving precarious ladders, related to slums and our world on tipping point.  Also visited Bill Viola/Michelangelo: life, death, rebirth.  I found Viola’s videos profound and totally absorbing, even cried a little watching Nantes Triptych. And such beautiful drawings of the human spirit & endeavour by Michelangelo.

More recently, I was inspired by Franz West at Tate Modern for his playful irreverence, participatory sculptures, scale & use of everyday found materials. 

‘Material: Textile’ is also definitely worth a visit at Messums, Wiltshire. The tithe barn is filled with a fabulous installation The Onion Farm, made from carwash brushes, balls, stretchy fabric and lights, by fashion designer/artist Henrik Vibskov.  

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Workshops 

Recent workshops have included one for primary school teachers: Creativity Counts, The Brewhouse, Taunton via Somerset Art Works InspirED programme fusing art and maths. Participants made colourful decorative diatoms linked to Ernst Haeckel using recycled and found materials.

I also ran a twilight sculpture session for teachers, a sculpture workshop for Bruton Art Society and a 3d wire workshop at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge.  The courtroom was packed with participants aged 6+!  I’ve never run a workshop in a courtroom before.

Coming soon:

I'll be running a Jack in the Green cloak-making workshop (free) at Evercreech Village Hall, Sat 4 May, organised by The Old Stores Studio. In the workshop we'll be creating a rag cloak for Evercreech Jack in the Green.  Come along to the Village Hall between 9.30 - 11.30am to get creative. At 11.30 the head and cloak will join the body at The Old Stores Studio for a big procession at midday.

All ages are welcome to join in, so please share this with anyone you think may be interested in having a bit of Spring fun!

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Offenders by Fiona

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In April I will be working in a residency at the Cells, Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, culminating in an exhibition in May.  I’ll be using the residency as an opportunity to test new ideas, responding to the unique site.  ‘Offenders’ will confront uncomfortable topics related to environmental exploitation using mainly recycled and found materials.  

Residency: 1-30 April, Exhibition: 1-31 May

Launch: 9 May, 6-7.30pm - all welcome! 

Open Mon-Fri 10am–4pm; Sat 10am-2pm

During the Easter holiday I’ll be running a 3d wire workshop, Tues 9 April, 10am-1pm, ages 6+ (£15 per adult+child; additional children £8 each; includes materials & drink),  Town Hall Arts, Market Street, Trowbridge BA14 8EQ. Book: www.townhallarts.co.uk

Talks and Workshops coming soon by Fiona

A couple of events I’m involved in - one tomorrow, Wed 27 Feb, do please join me if you’re free and in the Bath area:

Bath Spa Uni MA Curatorial Practice team presents their next salon PALAVR this coming Wednesday, February 27th.

Focusing on reconnecting people with their environment using stories, art and the humanities, we are excited to welcome special guests Owain Jones (Professor of Environmental Humanities BSU), Fiona Campbell (Fine Artist), and Priyanka Sutaria (MA Creative Writing, Poetry Performance).

From guests talks to performances, come join us and enjoy this intimate, open and free gathering for curators, artists, writers, designers and anyone who is interested in cultivating dialogue and collaborating with others within the various creative fields!

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And a workshop aimed at Primary School Teachers for creative maths!

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Juggling by Fiona

It’s a common phenomenon for artists to be adept jugglers, managing multiple balls in the air to survive. A book I’m reading ‘The Artist as Cultural Producer’ by Sharon Louden highlights 40 artists who do it very well. It’s been a dizzy time juggling different strands of my practice and feeling excited by opportunities that have come my way.

Carymoor - newt sculpture

I installed my Great Crested Newt sculpture in his new home at Carymoor Environmental Trust. Made from recycled and found materials, he sits on a grassy tussock by an old bomb incineration tank (now pond - home to great crested newts). Here he can oversee his live newt friends who hide underneath the sheet of corrugated steel.

The sculpture was commissioned as a memorial to the founder of the environmental centre Hamish Craig. He loved great crested newts and it was finding these on the old landfill site that sparked the beginnings of Carymoor - now a wonderful wildlife and education centre built over a site full of waste.

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MA graduation ceremony

Earlier this month I officially graduated with an MA in Fine Art at a grand ceremony in the awesome Assembly Rooms, Bath, celebrating with fellow graduates. It was a treat to meet our chancellor Jeremy Irons and I was honoured to be invited to give the valediction speech on behalf of our cohort. I managed to do this without tripping up. It was a lovely sunny day for photos - happy memories!

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Gilbert Bayes Award sessions

Since winning a Gilbert Bayes award from the Royal Society of Sculptors, I’ve been going to London for monthly development sessions. The last with Shelley James focused on writing about our work. The year ends with a group exhibition in London, which tours to Grizedale Arts afterwards - exciting! I try to maximise on my London day trips by visiting exhibitions or museums. I saw Anni Albers at Tate Modern and more recently strolled through the V&A materials and techniques sections, which is mid-blowing.

Outdoor Arts

I have spent 2 weekends on an Outdoor Arts Development Course in Weymouth (delivered by Activate, b-side & Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival). It’s been fun and informative discussing potential art projects, learning tricks of the trade and thinking up new ideas. I’m now working on a pitch for a potential project which will involve collaboration, to present soon for the forthcoming event Dorset Moon this summer (Luke Jerram's international touring project Museum of the Moon). I’ve made a mini rickety ladder as a maquette. If I don’t get selected I will at least have a cute little ladder for posterity. I quite like making small objects despite normally making huge pieces. A bit finickety but addictive!

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Incendiary

The wonderful multi-site exhibition ‘Incendiary’, featuring my work, came and went in full fiery mode. 25 artists responded to the firing up of industrial incinerators - a thought provoking exhibition curated by Patricia Brian. Lou Baker and I held an event ‘Join in the Conversation’ as part of it - we were delighted that we had a room packed with engaged people at Stroud Valleys Artspace, discussing our work in context with waste.

Glut at Incendiary. Photo by Mike Garlick

Glut at Incendiary. Photo by Mike Garlick

Cells residency

For my cells residency ‘Offenders’ at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge (April/May) I’ve made initial sketches, a collage and have started sourcing scrap steel for the skeletal form of a proposed huge Tongue sculpture. Working in the garden on sunny February days has been great. Confrontation with uncomfortable topics related to environmental exploitation will be a characteristic of this residency and exhibition. 

My work often involves sourcing, sorting and stripping wire. I’ve happily received donations of unwanted materials: pink clothes, towels, wire and fruit nets. Still looking for recycled wax, lead and copper wire. Please get in touch if you have any spare.

Forthcoming exhibitions

Other events coming up include a big group show ‘Re-formation’ at the Bishops Palace, Wells, Somerset for Summer 2019, organised by Heritage Courtyard Gallery. I have been developing ideas for this.

Fundraising for Prison Project - B-Wing

I’m currently writing an ACE application for a forthcoming project ‘B-Wing’, an arts event being held in the unique spaces of Shepton Mallet prison. Delivered alongside co-curator Luminara Star and several selected artists, we are making progress. B-Wing will involve 5 artists and 1 writer making site-responsive works leading to an exhibition and performances in the B-Wing section of Shepton Mallet Prison during Somerset Art Weeks Festival ’19. The project promises to be quite special and will be a nice follow on from my Cells residency work. We are looking for funds to engage the local Shepton community, schools and various other groups in the area and from afar. More news to follow.

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Copper bowls

I have made a series of little copper bowls for Fosse Beads and Friends, Black Swan Arts, Frome. Each one is annealed and hand beaten.

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Workshops

I had fun with tinies (Yrs 1 & 2) at Trinity First School, Frome the other day. Around 120 children made sea creatures in a day using recycled plastic and other found/discarded materials.

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I am running a few workshops over the next few months with places available. The next is a 3d wire workshop, Tues 9 April, 10am-1pm, ages 6+; £15 per adult+child; additional children £8 each; includes materials & drink. Town Hall Arts, Market Street, Trowbridge BA14 8EQ. Book: www.townhallarts.co.uk

If you’re interested in more, please visit this link.