design

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!



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