plastic oceans

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!



June Projects by Fiona

June flew by for me with a host of projects on the go in tandem, allowing only snatched moments in our fantastic tropical weather – one of the best summers I’ve known in UK. Art in the community

I spent 4 days with PRU teenagers in a short residency at Bridgwater and Taunton College as part of Somerset Art Works Young ProspectUs Project.  We created mutant creatures inspired by insects and sea creatures, experimenting with reclaimed and found materials including aluminium cans, bottle tops, copper pipe, wire, found plastic and metal objects. It was a unique experience, great fun working with the PRU staff and students and hugely rewarding to see the youngsters lose their inhibitions to master skills like soldering.  ‘...turning down a mountain biking trip to do a second session soldering metal was what this project is all about: creating great artefacts with a professional artist ... within an environment they felt safe, providing an experience that strengthens their resilience as they move on from school to college’ (Lisa Robertson, Deputy Head of PRU Centre).  The work will go on display to Taunton Flower Show in August.

My last project with All Hallows students involved making headdresses for an exhibition ‘All the Fun’ at Silk Mill, Frome.  The theme was carnival and circus.  I worked with students in Years 4-8, making the sculptures from found, reclaimed and discarded materials, based on endangered wildlife, particularly sea creatures.  The project was inspired by the issue of waste, our plastic oceans, and the plight of creatures such as albatrosses and turtles who are suffering from the effects of our rubbish, ‘a stand against plastic pollution so we can see our sea creatures thrive once again’ (Tia West, Year 8). ‘Making my headdress was great fun!’ (Louis Roberts, Year 6).

I was involved in a recent Up Late event ‘Drawn to the Museum’ at the Holburne Museum (29/6) - a collaboration with Bath Spa University.  The event involved MA students, artists and speakers engaging with the public at the museum.   We set up pop up exhibitions of our work, focusing on drawing.  I attended an inspiring talk by Tania Kovats who makes drawings, casts trees, and explores water as her subject.  I also ran a life drawing session with a clothed model doing quick poses in the grounds, where members of the public and students joined in, it was fun!

I worked with The Rubbish Art Project and members of the Shepton Mallet community making a sheep out of reclaimed steel, chicken wire and various ‘trash’ materials as a community project for the town.

Plans are afoot for a Halloween Harvest Scrap Sculpture Community Project, based on harvest and the cycle of life.  I hope to created 3 large-scale metal sculptural works for a public event on Halloween, to be installed at Shepton Mallet market cross. The work may be filmed by a TV series Scrap Kings for Discovery.

Inspiring exhibitions

A couple of intense research trips to London were inspirational.  As part of my MA Degree course, a tour de force trip led by Andrea Medjesi-Jones (Bath Spa Uni MA course leader) introduced us to several new galleries including the smart spacious Marian Goodman Gallery.  An installation by Leonor Antunes (Portuguese) consisted of suspended ‘wormlike forms’ made of immaculately stitched leather, wrapped rope and brass tubing, interspersed with sculptural glass lights hung close to the ground.  The organic linear forms are repeated on both gallery levels, interrupted by reflective screens – all based on work by Anni Albers and Mary Martin.  Amongst others we visited Hauser & Wirth, Alison Jacques Gallery (Michelle Stuart: The Nature of Time), Herald Street Gallery and Maureen Paley (Oscar Tuazon: Fire).

I returned to London to see the results of the Tate Exchange project 'Inventory of Behaviours' at Tate Modern, a project in which I was invited to take part with a set of 'instructions'.  While there, I visited Lee Bul's, ‘Crashing’ at the Hayward – a mix of sculpture, installation, sound, film, and performances from the ‘80s.

Theatrical hybrids and fictional landscapes combining industrial and organic materials fill the spaces in a dramatic show.  Bul, from South Korea, confronts political persecution in her country, references disasters, questions cultural attitudes to the female body, and the pursuit of perfection through her re-appropriation of architecture and bodily forms.  She explores our ‘fear and fascination with... the uncanny’.   It was all fascinating, though I felt more affinity with her less glitzy other worldly soft sculptural monster works, especially ‘Monster Pink’, a reconstruction of a 1998 piece, and her stitched cocoons, made from various fabric.  In Scale of Tongue (2017-18) a hidden fan created a gentle motion in the fabric.

Sarah Sze’s ‘Image in Debris’ installation at Victoria Miro is extraordinary.  The darkened room is lit by a mesmerizing set of flickering moving images - luminescent blue satellite images of cities at night, reminiscent of bio-luminescent microorganisms, celestial imagery, a cheetah running in slow motion, the elements - layered on the wall and on small torn paper fragments supported by a delicate framework of thin rods.   Drips of dried paint catch the light. Everyday objects, particularly office supplies, are placed around the installation. This is all accompanied by sounds of clunks, gentle whirring, drips, clicks. The magnitude of our universe becomes a mad invention.

Berlinde de Bruyckere’s sculpture ‘Quan’, 2010, in Bumped Bodies at the Whitechapel Gallery is a contorted, bruised human figure buried in a cushion, built up from several layers of wax over an iron structure.  It makes one feel uncomfortable, even repulsed, but I was in captivated by the wax skin tones and powerful form she has created.

Closer to home, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset ‘Alexander Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky’, is a beautifully curated exhibition.  His delicate balanced mobiles and stabiles and their shadows fully occupy the space. Conversations between artworks, recurring forms and his upcycled jewelry, some seen in UK for the first time, offer scope for new ideas.

Participation in Manifesta12

I am very excited to have been selected to take part in a 10 day workshop in Palermo soon as part of Manifesta12, supported by Bath Spa University Enterprise Showcase Fund. The project ‘Ingruttati Palermo Planetary Garden’ research and fabrication workshop will involve a group of international artists, geographers, urban landscape architects and students who will be exploring the extraordinary hidden underground networks of the qanat waterways.  Metaphorically similar to the mysterious powers of mycelium – also an underground system, which can stretch thousands of miles within one organism, the waterways reflect science’s recent discovery of vast reservoirs of water contained hundreds of miles beneath earth’s surface.   This will be a wonderful opportunity for me to take part in the prestigious international art event, and to develop the aspect of my practice involving collaborative art projects in the community on an international level.

My website will be undergoing some changes in the next couple of months – look out for the rebrand!