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.
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?
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!