SAW

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.

 

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Exhibitions - Judy Pfaff, Frieze and more by Fiona

In September I attended Judy Pfaff’s talk and the launch of her new site-specific installation ‘Roots Up’ at Messums, Wiltshire.  Having previously researched her online as an artist of great interest to me, it was a real thrill to see her work in reality.  Pfaff sees her installations as ‘painting in 3d’.  ‘Roots Up’ fills the length and height of the huge tithe barn.  On entering, I was taken aback by the immensity of two extraordinary entwined tree root balls, which have naturally melded together clasping man-made stone blocks between their roots.  Monumental in scale, nature’s power is unequivocal.  Steel rods wiggle and writhe – their man-altered forms communing with the architecture and nature. Colourful concentric rings are encircled by 12 hovering vessels, a fantastical mix of green to pink sinuous melted plastic and expanded foam spilling out.  I was reminded of sundials, crop circles, the solar system and celtic patterns. The recognisable influence of Salisbury Cathedral is represented in a fluted architectural column reaching to the ceiling.  Pfaff’s work oozes, spews and flows with energy and vitality, which I love.

Earlier this month I visited Frieze London.  I was overwhelmed by the scale of it; seemingly endless compartmentalised spaces filled with art and hoards of people, which made me quite dizzy by the end!  Gallery Pillar Corrias created an incredible theatrical show of Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley’s work. The floor is integrated into the work as a stage set.  Floor, wall-mounted lightbox portaits and sculptural installations are all treated with the same black and white stylisation of a fictional narrative based on American World War II sailors' lives on a submarine.  I found it compelling.

Lee Bul’s ‘Untitled (Mekamelencolia – Velvet #3 DDRG29AC) incorporates human hair, paint, dried flowers and silk velvet.  Strands of hair furrow through the velvet pile as a drawing, particles of dried flowers embedded in the surface.  I’ve noticed human hair featured in several artworks lately.  There are so many everyday materials under our noses which we can utilise.  I like the unexpected mix.  I am experimenting with grass juice, feathers and ground coal, though hair may be added to the list!

Do Ho Suh’s ‘Main Entrance, 388 Benefit Street, Providence, RI 02903, USA’ is a beautiful, ethereal walk-through sculpture about memory of place.  Made from blue polyester fabric over thin steel pipes, it is immaculately crafted, simple and elegant.  Sarah Sze’s intricate maquette is a miniature version of her planetary installation ‘Triple Point (Planetarium)’.  ‘Her work challenges the static nature of sculpture.  She draws from Modernist traditions of the found object, dismantling their authority with dynamic constellations of materials that are charged with flux, transformation and fragility’ (Victoria Miro).

I've compiled a slideshow of the stages of my interim MA Show installation ‘Matter in Flux’ (which explored connections between line, growth and energy inspired by webs - see ‘Spider Web Safari’ - and other micro phenomena).  A short film taken by Nick Weaver also gives a flavour of the work.  I'm now working on research for my 4th module.

‘Anthill I’ is now happily installed in its new home, purchased at ‘Form and Fascination’, The Courts Garden, where I showed alongside Ian Turnock.  It was a joy to exhibit in such a National Trust gem.

When it came to taking down ‘Cirri’ from ‘Summer Sculptures’ at Glastonbury Abbey, I was delighted to find a lady absorbed in drawing the pieces. Julia from Edinburgh had been with my work two days in a row, finding them a great source of inspiration.

As part of our collaborative exhibition ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’ during Somerset Art Weeks Festival ’17 at Black Swan Arts, Angela Morley and I ran some workshops.  Mine involved participants ranging in age from 3 to adult making pieces using found and reclaimed materials.

1173 visitors came to see our exhibition, and we received some wonderful feedback. If you missed it, our collaborative piece 'Life Form' is still mounted on the Round Tower wall. There were 4 exhibitions at Black Swan Arts, including the beautiful and incredibly moving ‘Hinterland’ show by Gladys Paulus, so it was buzzing.   My ‘Cocoon’, exhibited during SAW Festival at Clayhill Arts, Bridgwater, is still on show to those who visit the centre by appointment.

I managed to visit a few other SAW venues.  I was particularly inspired by SAW's Muse project (artist responses to South West museum collections).  At Wells Museum Sean Harris' revealing, clever animation machines respond to the collection of ancient bones found in local caves including the Hyena Den.  Dorcas Casey's elevated crocodile at Bruton Museum is an amusing take on the collection's animal shaped jelly moulds. ‘Gather-ing', Somerset Rural Life Museum and Cotley Barn made use of the history and architecture of tithe barns.  They are such evocative spaces.

I am delighted that my Log Cast has been selected for the Black Swan Open, Frome, starting next week.

Time to move forwards with new ideas for my final MA year!

Autumn news by Fiona

My part-time MFA course at Bath Spa Uni continues to challenge and broaden my art practice, taking it in new directions which I am finding exciting!  Recent work has resulted in an immersive installation piece (images above) for the MA Degree ShowBath School of Art & Design, Sion Hill, Bath, BA1 5SF, 23 – 27 Sept, 10am-5pm.  Private View 22 Sept 6-9pm.  This will be an interim show for me, being my first year of two.

I have been installing several other exhibitions that run simultaneously this autumn in very different venues.  I was invited to show a selection of my outdoor sculptural pieces in ‘Form and Fascination’ at Courts Garden National Trust alongside Ian Turnock’s work.  Both inspired by structures in nature, our work is set in the beautiful gardens that feature water, intimate, formal and wild areas:  Holt, Nr Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA14 6RR, 9 September – 15 October (closed Wednesdays; last entry to garden 5pm).

Somerset Art Weeks Festival is coming up soon, this year themed ‘Prospect’.  I am showing with Angela Morley in 2 venues spanning East and West Somerset.  We have transformed the Round Tower Gallery, both inside and out, for ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’ (Venue 3), Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB.  Our exhibition has already started (a week earlier than SAW): 16 September – 7 October, 10am–4pm, Mon to Sat, (open Sun 1 Oct); Preview Fri 22 Sept 6-8pm.  At Clayhill Arts, Clayhill Farm, Charlynch Lane, Bridgwater TA5 2PH our large outdoor sculptures will be on display in the landscape to launch their new centre, 23 September – 8 October, 11am-6pm, Wed-Sun.

As part of Somerset Art Weeks we will be running workshops:

Black Swan Arts: ‘Organic Forms’: Wed 4 Oct, 1-3pm (Angela Morley); Sat 7 Oct, 10am-12noon or 1-3pm (me); book via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Clayhill Arts: ‘Organic Forms Found Materials’ Sun 8 Oct, half day or full day (me); or ‘Organic Forms Willow Weaving Sun 8 Oct, half day or full day (Angela Morley), or combination of each: book via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Summer Sculptures, Glastonbury Abbey grounds, Somerset, BA6 9EL, continues until 1 October (normal admission applies)

I hope you can visit some of these exhibitions!

Latest Trips and Exhibitions by Fiona

I have been very remiss with blogging - too many balls to juggle!  Recently I took a short 2-day break to Yorkshire to visit the Sculpture Park, an astounding place, and walked across the moors to the house that inspired Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books.

As summer blasts upon us (hooray!) I have a flurry of work and exhibitions coming up from tomorrow.  I hope you will be able to visit some of them:

I am still working on a large Cocoon piece for Fresh Air ’17 (see below), due to be installed in a week and still some way to go before completion!   Quenington Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5BN, 11 June – 2 July, open daily 10am-5pm, (£5 Adults, children free).

In between making this I have been working towards an imminent MFA module at Bath Spa Uni, to be assessed next week.   Clashing deadlines, late nights, but nearly ready!

I’ve made a Nests piece for Fifty BEES: The Interconnectedness of All Things, at ACEarts, Somerton, 1-22 July, open Tues – Sat, 10am-5pm.  A lovely project with great ambitions.

I am also taking part in the following:

Wylye Valley Art Trail, (see below) Venue 16, The Hive Artspace, 93 Boreham Rd, Warminster BA12 9JY. 26 May – 4 June opening with a Private View this evening.

Bradford-on-Avon Sculpture Garden ‘17 (see attached), Lynchetts, 15 Woolley St, Bradford-on-Avon BA15 1AD.  25 June -2 July 11am – 6.30pm (closed Mons). Opening night Sat 24 June, 6-9.30pm (tickets £6, inc. wine + live music).

NGS Open Garden, College Barn, Benter, Somerset BA3 5BJ, 23 July, 10am-5pm

Summer Sculptures at Glastonbury Abbey, 1 July – 1 October

‘Form and Fascination’Courts Garden National Trust, Wiltshire, 9 September – 15 October.  I will be showing a selection of work alongside Ian Turnock.

Somerset Art Weeks Festival ‘Prospect’, ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’, Round Tower, Black Swan Arts Centre, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB, 16 September – 7 October, 10am–4pm, Monday to Saturday, (open Sun 1 Oct) and Clay Hill Farm, Bridgwater, 23 September – 8 October. I will be showing alongside Angela Morley.

I am also really looking forward to a mini break away to the Venice Biennale soon.

Have a lovely Summer!

 

 

SAW '16 ends MA begins by Fiona

I've started a part-time MA Fine Art course at Bath Spa University.  It's never too late!  I've wanted to do one for many years, but the time never seemed right.  Now it's as right as it will ever be.. so I took the plunge and applied belatedly in early September, amazed that I was accepted onto this year's intake!  It's been a bit of a jolt to the system, but am getting the hang of research methodology and all the mouthfuls that go with it. This was going on around the time of preparing and running our Somerset Open Studios event.  I shared my venue with Nick Weaver, whose wood pieces harmonised well with my work, especially in the "magical Alice-in-Wonderland like garden/sculpture park" (as one visitor put it).  Other visitor comments: "Brilliant - most lovely and surprising and innovative visit of the day"; "Wonderful, positive views of life in all respects"; "Remarkable, inspiring exciting"; "Magic!! An oasis of inspiration! Thanks"; "Absolutely stunning". Our Open Studios event went well - plenty of new enthusiastic, friendly visitors who loved our exhibition, a very wide demographic and several sales.  I ran some workshops with a local school, home ed children and adult group, including A' Level Art students.  It was busy but rewarding!

Me putting up the canopy (from Chelsea Flower Show)Nick Weaver helping install Lichen Sculpture in the garden - Somerset Open StudiosVisitors enjoying Nick's boatSculpture in the garden - Somerset Open StudiosSculpture in the garden - Somerset Open StudiosWorkshop in the gardenTaster workshopTaster workshopResult in an hour!School not put off by the rain!Bee by 9 yr oldSchool visitSchool workshopCat face by 9 yr oldSculptures in garden