Other Artists

B-Wing, Contemporary Art in Unexpected Places by Fiona

Making one of my giant ladder forms. Photo by Jason King

Making one of my giant ladder forms. Photo by Jason King

I’ve been focused on the lead up to B-Wing, an ACE-funded arts project in Shepton Mallet Prison I’m co-curating with Luminar Star, alongside 6 other artists.  Fuelled by the idea of presenting art in unexpected places, the prison’s cavernous B Wing will be transformed into an immersive experience.  Curation has been all-consuming, involving a huge amount of fundraising, planning, management, PR/radio chats, meetings…  In tandem, I’ve been making artwork for it. 

The practicalities of making large-scale work is challenging with limited studio space.  Thankfully, we had a good summer, enabling me to work in the garden on sculptural pieces.  I’m grateful to Shepton Mallet Prison for allowing me to take up residency in B Wing’s Servery to develop my artwork, and thanks to Nick Weaver for use of his wood workshop facilities and technical assistance.

Fiona Campbell (co-curator:artist)  working on her giant ladder.  Photo by Jason King.jpeg
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Fiona working on her installation in the B Wing Servery.jpg
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I’m making large-scale site-responsive sculptural installations involving dysfunctional rickety ladders, referring to the game snakes and ladders.  Interacting with the space, one will be suspended high up in the skylight of B Wing.  Piranesi’s Tavola VII (The Bridge), from The Imaginary Prisons series, resonates with my concerns around freedom and confinement, the endless human cycle of desire, striving, greed, suffering, and human imposition of nature.   Recycled and found everyday materials - wood, fabric, paper, cardboard, wire, twine, wool - are being transformed into drawings in space.


My skeletal ladder structures refer to precarious lives, dreams, escape.  ‘All realization of potential’ Bachelard observes, ‘is conceived as elevation… depicted as a rising curve.’ Ladders are the imaginary stairways of spiritual ascension, dating back to genesis.  I want mine to appear winglike and bonelike, reminiscent of flight, and extinct animals hung in museums.  They will be translucent in parts, ghostly, dreamlike, surreal.  Layers of reused monochrome collaged newspapers add a frailty, evidence of our consumerist world. In contrast, flesh coloured handwoven and wrapped entrail forms will dangle and entwine around ladders, bewailing the heavy realities of violence, destruction, waste and suffering around us.

The work raises questions - are we all offenders given the state of our world today?

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We have numerous free workshops, talks, tours and performances, many come with free get-into-prison tickets. Collaboration is key.  We’ve been engaging community groups making work to be featured as part of our exhibition.  I worked with Whitstone School and adult groups creating collaborative pieces, based around possessions, identity, marking time, time as value, bound. ‘Conversations became the threads that made our connections.’  

Saturday 28th September is B-Wing’s action packed Special Events Day from 10-5.  It will be opened by John McCarthy, renowned writer and broadcaster held hostage in the Lebanon.  The day includes a performative Join in the conversation with Lou Baker and me, Lucy Large’s artist talk, a performance by Luminara Star and Rosie Jackson’s poetry reading.  It will be a day to meet the artists and celebrate. Please come along!

 On National Poetry Day, Thursday 3rd October, 2-4pm, poet Rosie Jackson will lead a poetry performance, 18 Poets in B-Wing, featuring poets from the South West.  On Saturday 5th October, 10-1, I'll be running a family friendly sculpture workshop.  See attached posters (designed by Chris Lee ) and visit: www.b-wing.weebly.com  & social media: @bwing2019

B-Wing opens during Somerset Arts Weeks Festival, 21st September - 6th October, daily 10am-5pm. Reduced entrance (exhibition and prison): £10 adults, accompanied children free.

I’ll be posting about my other projects soon!

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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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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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Ready Steady Go by Fiona

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Welcome to my new website - it’s had a major makeover, thanks to Dave Meehan!

After an amazing Christmas holiday in Kenya visiting family and canoodling with baby orphaned elephants, I feel refreshed. This January has, naturally, been a month of beginnings. Having pulled together my reserves I’ve begun to take on the wealth of opportunities that have come my way.  I managed to sell a few pieces of work and almost finished a sculpture commission for Carymoor Environmental Trust. It represents a great crested newt using recycled components - deadline end of the month.

In between, I’ve attended the first inspiring weekend session of an Outdoor Arts Development Course, delivered by Arts by the Sea, Activate Performing Arts, B-side and Outdoor Arts UK. It was great to meet other art practitioners working in different disciplines. Most exciting is the fact that I was selected for a Gilbert Bayes Award by the Royal Society of Sculptors, and have been to the first session in London to meet the other selected artists and learn about photographing sculpture from Anne Purkiss. I am so impressed by the strength of work in the group and look forward to exhibiting with them at the end of the year.

In February I am taking part in a multi-site, multi-disciplinary group exhibition ‘Incendiary’, curated by Patricia Brien.   It spans one week, and is packed with all sorts of exciting happenings.   My work ‘Glut’, concerning waste, will feature in the show at Stroud Valley Artspace (SVA), Stroud, 6th - 10th Feb.  Lou Baker and I will be inviting the public to ‘Join in the Conversation’ at SVA - a performative discussion about our work on Saturday 9 February, 11-12.  Come and join in! 


In my new role as part of the education team at the Holburne Museum, I ran a workshop with a mixed age group of schoolchildren. They created Double Portrait drawings linked to Hockney’s Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy, on show at the time. I’m scheduled to run some masterclasses at the Holburne later this year.

Next big project to focus on is a Cells Residency and forthcoming Solo at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge (April/May). I have some ideas to explore more fully in the studio, inspired by Berlinde de Bruyckere’s recent exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth Somerset and Palermo. I’m collecting various recycled materials; if you have any copper wire, wax or red wool, they would be much appreciated! This work will hopefully lead on to a collaborative art project I’m organising with Luminara Star in Shepton Prison later this year. We are about to start funding applications…

Things come in waves and I think I’m on a big one… Ready Steady… Go!

Tentacular by Fiona

At the start of this month, I went to a Somerset Art Weeks Symposium in Taunton ‘Prospecting: new directions and territories for artists’ practice’.  It was an invigorating day, albeit condensed, making connections and thinking laterally.  I particularly enjoyed catching up with SAW artists and meeting new practitioners. One of our tasks to bring to the event was a ‘This is Me’ profile for a group wall display.  Mine (below) reflects on the tentacular nature of my practice:

The talks highlighted inspiring examples of socially engaged practice and collaboration.  In workshops with Kerry Harker and Lydia Catterall we discussed the imperative for resilience, forging artist-led initiatives, and finding interesting spaces to show our work.  With this in mind, I’ve been planning a few interesting ventures for next year.  Two happen to involve prison cells.

I’m excited to be mulling over ideas for a residency culminating in a solo exhibition in the basement cells at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, in the Spring.  Alongside the show, I'll be delivering some related workshops with the young and elderly.  I am also in early stages of organising a joint art project and exhibition with Luminara Star and the Rubbish Art Project in Shepton Prison (the oldest UK working prison - now vacant until it gets developed into residential homes).  The cells are still in tact.  Both sites are unique, intriguing spaces for site-specific work, full of dark, sad histories, appropriate for creative responses to current society and environmental issues.  On a sunny day, light through the windows, steel bars and grids casts dramatic linear shadows. The prison, now silent, has great acoustics - one can only imagine the sounds of its past. We hope to include other artists, possibly sound, film, performance and installation and will engage the community in the making process.

A recent tweet about a bull elephant being shot because it broke out of its fenced enclosure in South Africa made me fume.  Almost as bad as poaching and trophy hunting.  It turns out they did not maintain the fences adequately, and all he was doing was naturally pushing boundaries, exploring, roaming beyond barriers – human imposed after all.  Why shoot him? Because he wasn’t towing the line we impose for our own humancentric logic.

Inky the Octopus, a hero in 2016, broke out of his aquarium tank in New Zealand National Aquarium, slid/crawled across the floor and down a drainpipe to the ocean.  Amazing intelligence and agility, but as this article points out, for many reasons beyond our own intelligence. Octopuses are so very different to us – ‘aliens’ apparently.  What’s fascinating is that ‘octopus literature is full of such flights to freedom’. The escape and how he did it remains a mystery. I was in awe watching an octopus in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet (Green Seas episode) trick a shark and escape by very cunningly and swiftly covering itself with a coat of shells. Picasso and his contemporaries were intrigued by ‘The Octopus’, 1928, a film by Jean Painleve, which led to Picasso's octopus-like women.  Octopuses also remind me of the interconnectedness of life:

The tentacular are... fingery beings like humans... squid, jellyfish, neural extravaganzas, fibrous entities, flagellated beings... swelling roots... The tentacular are also nets and networks... Tentacularity is about life lived along lines... a series of interlaced trails’ (Donna Haraway, 2016)

So, this creature – a symbol of our great and mysterious oceans- inspired my design for a giant octopus lantern to lead 2018 Shepton Lantern Parade (see top).  I am making the chicken-wire structure, then working on it with the community and the Rubbish art project in workshops at the Art Bank,Shepton Mallet, using recycled materials, especially plastic.  Workshop dates: Sat 24 Nov 11am-1pm, Mon 26 11-1, Mon 3 Dec 7-9pm, Thur 6 Dec 4-6pm + more... To take part in a workshop email lucy@therubbishartproject.co.uk   The Octopus will be lit by led lights and paraded on 22 December with the Shepton Lantern Parade. Please come along!

Creature and environmental concerns continue to engage me, as does the blurring of boundaries.  My thoughts are currently meandering around concepts of confinement, caged animals/humans, factory farming, obstruction, barriers, walls within walls.. and I'm sure there will be an element of the tentacular.

Other news:

I received the official results of my Masters in Fine Art this week and delighted to have passed with distinction!

In between tidying up my studio so it's fit for purpose, I've started working on a 1 metre Great Crested Newt as a commission for Carymoor Environmental Centre in memory of Hamish Craig, whose amazing contribution to Carymoor was instigated by great crested newts found there.

Last week I ran my first workshop as part of the Holburne Museum education team.  It was an A'Level life-drawing session linked to 'Rodin: rethinking the fragment'. It encouraged me to do some of my own life-drawing beforehand and prep on Rodin's link with the Pantheon sculptures, which all helped.

The class did some fabulous drawings:

Forthcoming exhibitions include: Residency and Solo Exhibiiton (title TBC), The Cells, Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, April - May; Incendiary, Landsdown Gallery and SVA, Stroud, 4-10 February 2019; Marks Hall Sculpture, Essex, 20 July - 1 September 2019; Reformation, Bishops Palace, Wells, July - October 2019.  More info to follow.

 

If you'd like to receive updates please follow me here or on instagram, where I add regular updates: https://www.instagram.com/fionacampbellartist/   

My website is undergoing a complete rehaul and a much needed paring down.  Watch this space!