rickety ladders

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!