Diary of Ingruttati Palermo, Manifesta12

I was delighted to have been selected for the Ingruttati Palermo workshop and exhibition, a collateral 5x5x5 event organised by Hydrocity as part of Manifesta12, the European nomadic arts biennale. Manifesta12 acts as form of ‘urban acupuncture, providing interventions in key city spaces’.  I was kindly supported by Bath Spa University’s Enterprise Showcase Fund.

The aim of our workshop, involving experts and international students in art, architecture and geology, was to work collaboratively, researching the underground qanat (aquaduct) network at territorial and local scales to produce a collective installation and publication. The Manifesta12 theme ‘The Planetary Garden’, a vision where citizens are responsible gardeners caring for their environment, was at the heart of our work.  I was interested in developing the aspect of my practice involving collaborative art projects in the community on an international level.

Palermo’s historical significance (‘gateway between East and West’ leading to numerous invasions, mafia violence, renaissance) and its ancient qanat networks used for garden irrigation make it a fascinating, multicultural city.

DIARY

I made a diary, documenting my research and thought process (now exhibited in the Ingruttati Palermo exhibition):

 19/7/18:  Arrival in Palermo. I was struck by the melange of sights, sounds and smells; wonderful and ironic contrasts of dereliction next to grandeur, the mix of architecture, glimpses of Arabic domes through dark grubby alleys, exotic planting, washing hung out across streets, the heat and humidity. Visited a Manifesta exhibition (tribe ritual film by Yari Antonio in a dark chapel), the splendid Quattro Canti, skirted the seafront of La Cala, and rested in the wonderful gardens of Villa Giulia, surrounded by a cocophany of screeching cicadas.

20/7/18: Introduction at University of Palermo.  Metfellow participants. A series of fascinating talks by specialists revealed the real and symbolic relevance of underground water networksto urban regenerationand community life.  Sara Kamalvand (co-director) explained the qanats’ origins, how they help us understand the city’s archaeology, a potential provision of water in the future. ‘The line can become the figure: a reading device’; I imagined 3-d linear drawings.  Pietro Todaro (geologist, Sicily’s qanat expert) charted the history of qanats, how they spread from Iran. The Conca d’Oro was cultivated with citrus fruits, now overbuilt. Through diagrams and maps he showed us various systems, explaining the physics: water communication, importance of slope and height for energy. Qanats intercept the water table by gravity and hydraulics.  Danisinni farm has been irrigated by the same water for 1000 years.  A narrative of washing and laundry is linked to the area. Fra Mauro (Franciscan priest at Danisinni) described his long term project for Danisinni, an isolated, depressed rural area, his ‘dreams of garden, water flowing all around’.  People didn’t know about Danisinni until recently. Through water, he sees new life, a transformed community.  Fra Mauro’s goals are for art, beauty, engagement, food, peaceful relationships with humans and animals. Danisinni is under threat of being turned into a carpark.He believes this workshop might be important in spreading the word.

Visit to Manifesta12 Research Studios to see the Augmented Palermo Exhibition – beautifully executed projects by local and international architecture students, led by the Dean of Architecture, Maurizio Carta.  Alively archive of city, imagined and real, past, present and future, inspired by the planetary garden and OMA Atlas. Renzo Lecardane gave us an animated explanation about his students’ projects.  I particularly enjoyed the projects that included an element of play.

21/7/18:  Day visiting Manifesta12 events.  Bought the OMA Atlas – a reference gem on Palermo, covering its history, politics, urbanisation; a ‘tool of mediation between the city and Manifesta’.  I loved Chiesa Santa Maria della Spasimo, a stone church bombed in WW2.  A tall tree grows up through the internal structure of the inner courtyard to the open sky. The roof was never built – one of many unfinished buildings.  In the rear garden, ‘Cooking Sections’ is an open-top brick wall installation, which revisits the Jardinu Pantesco: an ancient open-top dry-stone tower invented as a single-tree citrus garden.  ‘Like the church ruins, lacking a roof enables a microclimate through a passive cooling effect… instead of traditional drystone walls it uses… alveolar blocks to allow air flow.’  Following this concept, in the Giardino dei Giusti vast swathes of yellow netting surround and shade citrus trees, echoing the draping laundry above. Trees recur as a symbol.  At Orto Botanica (such diversity of exotic plants) the extravagant aerial roots of ficus trees struck me.  A limestone corridor depicts photographs of ancient fossilised plant forms unearthed from coal-mining sites (Michael Wang, ‘Carboniferous’, 2018).  They highlight the contrast of inorganic modern materials originally created by organic swampy forests. The patterns imitate trees and ferns still growing in the garden.

In Palazzo Butera’s ‘Wishing Trees’, 2018, stories of 3 trees connect human histories and nature: ‘..through contemporary stories of conflict, migration and feminist anti-mafia activism, the roots of these trees reach into the present’.  Films are used to retell the stories.  Pipes also recur. Rayyane Tabet’s ‘Steel Rings’, (2013–ongoing) depicted rolled, engraved steel pipe rings replicating segments of the original Trans Arabian oil pipeline that crosses 5 borders from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon.  I am fascinated by the remnants of ancient clay pipes embedded in the old citywalls. These once provided drinking water to residents.  With reference to the garbage strewed around Palermo, and its history, collections of objects are explored in Khalil Rabah’s ‘Relocation, Among Other Things’, 2018, ‘an archaelogical site of contemporaneity, …the trivial… a research into …Palermo’s poorest material culture’.  Stacks of stuff including utensils, bed frames and cables fill the room, while museum vitrines sit empty.  In another exhibition near Quattro Canti, collected objects are displayed for their value or significance to site. Banners, too, are a strong theme in exhibitions, alongside processions, highlighting use of craft, text, campaign, activism.

Numerous exhibitions are set in the faded elegance of old churches and palaces, providing a rich contrast to contemporary artworks.  After the group dispersed, I made a beeline for Chiesa di Santa Venera to see work by an artist I’ve been studying: Berlinde de Bruyckere.  Hidden away, the church has been restored after a century of abandonment, like many buildings in Palermo.  In the cool interior, after the blazing heat, I was offered a chair to peacefully view Mantel I and II – a homage to Francis of Assisi, referencing Christian symbolism and the core of human existence. Layers of wax built up on torn blankets that form a crucifix pose, with open scars as wounds on a slashed wooden backdrop.  In her work, blankets once represented the genocide in Rwanda. In Mantel I and II, they are deteriorated, worn thin, referring to the habit of San Francesco.  I was given a sample of her work to feel, such a privilege!  It seemed serendipitous that her work references the Fransiscan order, and our local focus was Danisinni, run by a Franciscan priest.

 

In the evening we introduced ourselves and discussed our thoughts for the project.  I’ve been thinking about: vertical/horizontal; communication through sounds; collaboration/public participation; qanat as mycelium, part of nature; Franciscan community; scars; garbage, which reflects an attitude of waste.

22/7/18:  Visit to Danisinni, our local case study, where a wonderful social projectlinking water source,community and sustainable farm has developed under the wing of Fra Mauro, bringing everyone together.  Here, time slows down. Situated just beyond the old city gate, a turning downfrom the busy main road leads you into a basin, where you immediately feel calmer, as though time has done a u-turn.  Local expert Enzo Patti and Pietro Todaro showed us 3 water sources demarcating the journey of water.  2 (now dried) rivers surrounded Palermo – likened to 2 brothers with opposite characters – one fast, prone to flooding, 1 slow, associated with disease and pestilence.  Both gave life and benefits, but also had their dangers.  Danisinni was built in a swamp basin created by an ancientquarry. The laundry industry developed there and as papyrus grew, so did their paper industry.

We discussed keywords: water, life, production, human, urban. Also: narrative/message, poetry, layers, investigation, metaphor/symbolism, washing/laundry, sounds, trees/roots, lines, networks, pipes, flow, fracture, archive, communication, walking.

Visited bell tower and caves of Beati Paoli – grim!

In the evening, co-director Paulo Cascone (Co Design Lab) gave a talk about his sustainable design projects.  In Mali, a building made of adobe became part of the landscape.  Each year the rain destroys it so the people get together and reconstruct it, in favour of a permanent building – the community gathering is important to them. Fabrizio Vatieri showed his archive cabinet idea for our fabrication.  He suggested we give each other tasks to open up the collective dialogue.  My thoughts: water is the source of life; soil is also a critical resource. Clay could be dug up from3 levels, systematically comparing them, linked to terracotta pipes.  Possibly combine with paper (papyrus).  The blockage of the qanat is a metaphor for the severage of links with the natural world. The precariousness of Danisinni reminds me of a book I’ve read ‘Planet of Slums’, by Mike Davis.

We sensed that some residents, understandably, are resentful of us.  A bottle of water was thrown at us as we left Danisinni by a lad on a bike. This later became a prompt for my final idea.

23/7/18:  Fieldwork/research trip to the Timpone di Sirocco mountains and Gabriele qanat in a convoy of cars to see water sources that flow from the mountains.  Fabulous views across Palermo, nestling between mountains and Conca d’Oro (now mostly covered by poorly planned concrete urban expansion) and the sea.  It was awesome to climb inside the Gabriele underground cavern and see pure water bubbling up from the ground.  Outside the Gabriele water source are examples of different widths of terracotta pipes used inmedieval households. At the water plant, pipes and papyrus seem an interesting poetic contrast. Water is extracted from an electric pump.  I collected specimens of rock, silt (from qanat), an abandoned nest made from papyrus, a plastic pipe.  Mapping with found objects linked to site.  Are all my collected objects about decay?  Trying to retain the concept of collaborative work but the project seems to be veering towards individual projects.  Visited the Capuccino Catacombs, where I had time to sit and draw.

24/7/18: Love the free bus, saves my aching feet. Group session indexing with keywords to devise categories.  My words: linear networks, roots, cycle, pipes, community.  After discussion, I went in search of a vessel on wheels for my work.  I was hoping to use found and recycled objects. I found a man who offered me his home-made wooden trolley for 10 euros!  Found string and wire to pull the trolley and some trashed old books, one with incredible human anatomical illustrations, the topological layers of veins and organs reminded me of qanat networks.  Did a rubbing on the pavement of an amazing crack (it looked like Palermo set between the 2 old rivers).  Final idea: to pull my trolley around Danisinni neighbourhood, collecting discarded plastic water bottles.  Then fill them up at top water source (filmed), take them (in a crate) to residents (communication network) and offer to them for watering their plants/gardens (aka Planetary Garden).  Also, make collection of objects from significant sites.  We visited an exhibition High Series & Walls and Experimental Jetset at Ore 18 Gallery space.  A thoughtfully conceived presentation of the art of typeface alongside prints and photographs.

25/7/18:  Some visited the Scribene qanat and Sirocco room, while a few of us remained at Danisinni to work on our project.  Renzo suggested we look at the church crypt as a possible venue for our exhibition.  It’s perfect – a beautiful, atmospheric space, with a highly relevant backstory.   Clay relics and mosaics are displayed, and human skeletons found in the ground are kept in a carefully dug out cavity under the centre of the crypt floor.  You can look down onto them through a glass window!  Legend has it that a young girl fell into the swamp.  The whole community prayed in anguish to the holy family for her life. As she was resurrected from the water, a pillar was erected at that exact place to honour the miracle. Life revealed through water.  I performed the first half of my ‘Gift of Water’ piece, with Nick filming. Deadlines are upon us and a panic has taken hold.

Ended up in the depths of the Gesuitico di Casa Micciulla qanat, out of the city, with Karolina, Pierangelo, Renzo, Lucas, Lisa Wade from Manifesta and others.  Clad in wellies, waterproof jackets, trousers and helmet with head torch we descended a vertical shaft ladder about 15ms into a horizontal qanat. Water was calf height, the sound of pouring water overpowering.  Wonderful limestone/sandstone formations.  Some sandstone blocks carved to fit together as arches. Built around 16thC. Amazing to walk through underground watertunnelsmade by man.  Imagining the people who spent endless hours, days, weeks, months, years in the dark digging these out.  How did they navigate in the dark underground, how did they know which way to go and dig such a gently ever-decreasing slope down?  Families passed on skills/knowledge generation to generation.  We walked for a long time through narrow, winding tunnels, water dripping, gigantic mosquitos, shell fossils and clay.  Saw vertical wells, rectangular (for water wheel) and circular (for collecting debris). Climbed down into a lower well, water level up to knees/thighs, got very wet!  Terracotta pipes carry water and there’s an upper level.  Evidence of digging marks on the ceiling. Thanks to Renzo Lecardane for the car lifts.  Finished 9.45pm – long day!

26/7/18:  Met at 9am to finish performing/filming my piece ‘A Gift of Water‘ (see stills below). Enrica (translator) and Nick (filming) collaborated with me.  We explained the concept and offered them a bottle of water for their plants. Loved the way they engaged, played along, appreciating the manner in which it was intended.  Enrica’s charming manner really helped.  It was a success, we gave away most of the bottles and managed to reach different demographics in age and gender, some at work, some at home. Karolina did a great job patiently editing the film. Difficult as it was taken in both landscape and portrait format. Late dinner in city. Looking forward to the Opening!

I was pleased with the film, apart from the poor sound quality (should have used mic).  The homemade style adds to its charm as a spontaneous social gesture.

27/7/18:  The exhibition came together after some hairy moments when we realised we had no working TV or cables for the project.  Nick Weaver (friend) helped with sanding, sawing and signage.  I used part of a reclaimed trashed wood bed for my shelf of found objects and diary, sanded and fitted into one of the crypt enclaves matching the other exhibits.

Other works by fellow participants include a video of water, stamps and banner, conceptual and underworld mapping, library of waters, curtain of video stills, booklet, study of commons, playful study of cracks.  Together, these balance research with strong creative concepts.

7.30pm: ‘Ingruttati Palermo’ opened in the Crypt of Chiesa Parrocchiale SantaAgnese, Piazza Danisinni, 90134 Palermo, Sicily with a feast from the biblical garden (thanks to the Danisinni community) and a full red moon.  It was a wonderful evening celebrating our intensive workshop,a good reception to our show, a huge success after some wobbly moments in the week.  My film made people smile.

The show runs throughout Manifesta12, 27 July – 4 November 2018

28/7/18  Morning off to explore Palermo.  Visited Ballaro market, Palatino Chapel, Palazzo Reale and Royal Gardens. The chapel is awesome, never seen anything like it. An overwhelming palette of glistening gold Byzantine mosaics fill the flamboyant space depicting biblical stories, fused with an immensely intricate Arabic carved ceiling. Floor and wall panels inlaid with marble and mosaic. Carved totem pillars.  Exceptional example of the cultural synthesis between Norman, Byzantine and Islamic cultures.

Later we compiled documentation for our website, going live soon.

In the evening we visited a Manifesta12 collateral event Soundwalk Collective, an otherworldlyexperience consisting of overlaid echoing soundsfrom 8 speakers with UV light casting the church in a blue/purple glow, based on Ulysses. Recordings, slices of conversations, menacing voices, seemingly disembodied.  Also came across an installation by Roberta Baraja outside Chiesa di Santa Catarina d’Alessandria, using fabric and wrapping to suggest fertility and abundance of plant life- right up my street!

29/7/18:  After a clear up in Danisinni, we all went for a fancy lunch in central Palermo and then dispersed.  Went up Chiesa di Santa Catarina d’Alessandria, amazing view of Palermo, domes, roofs, mountains, and drew. Best view of the city!  Our final goodbyes were on the beach later that evening – the end of a shared adventure!

It’s been fantastic working with the other participants: Karolina Majewska, Enrica Consiglio, Pierangelo Scravaglieri, Andreas Mallouris, Mariana Mañon Sepulveda, Manolo Larrosa, Félix de Rosen, Elke Reinhuber, Lucas Bartholl, Deborah Westmancoat, Anne Arnbjerg, Dario Annolino, Chiara Buscemi, Sefy Calcaterra, Rosy Marino, Gabriele Lupo and Sara Kamalvand, director of HydroCity who initiated the project.  Many thanks also to Pietro Todaro and Renzo Lecardane for their enthusiastic sharing of expert knowledge, the invaluable translations by fellow Italian students, the artistic input from Paulo Cascone and Fabrizio Vatieri, and support from Nick Weaver.

To produce an exhibition of new work in 10 days in a foreign city with strangers on a relatively unknown topic was an exciting challenge. The project was about so much more than an outcome.  Working collectively alongside participants from across the globe and from different disciplines, broadened my experience, outlook and methodology. It was helpful to discuss ideas with experienced professionals in art and architecture.  I gained an insight into alternative ways of viewing, researching, gathering, debating, mapping, sharing and displaying.  We learnt from each other, a generous way of creating a collective intelligence.

My work took an unexpected turn.  From my natural leaning towards 3d work, it became time-based and interactive. My interest in public participation and concerns over waste led me to explore the nature of gesture as a way to connect with local Danisinni residents.  ’A Gift of Water’ is a performative piece, documented as a short film, using locally sourced recycled objects and water from the Danisinni source. It evolved into a collaboration between me, other participants and some of the Danisinni community.

Palermo is an enthralling city; I would love to return, even work there again!

 

Glut

For the past few weeks I’ve been working on ‘Glut’, a set of wrapped, woven and sutured forms made from found and recycled materials (fabric, plastic, sponge, twine, sisal, foam, copper wire, linseed oil, wax).   It’s first public showing will be at an exhibition ‘Continuum’, part of Fringe Arts Bath, an arts festival coming up soon.  The work relates to issues of waste, our relationship with matter, nature and ourselves.  Its labour-intensive process and use of recycled materials is an important element in the work. 

‘Continuum’ will showcase artwork by MA students from Bath Spa University.  Varied practices including sculpture, painting, installation and performance.  The exhibition addresses the issue of change.  During the exhibition, I will continue to make elements for the work in situ.

6 New Bond Street Place; 25 May (opening night) – 10 June;11am – 6pm daily.

I have also been making some small, temporary artworks for a curated environmental art project in Bath. ‘ABC Bath’ (Art Breeds Conscience) runs from 11 – 31 May in the Walcot area of Bath;  Initiated by MA Curatorial Practice student Beatriz Nogueira, the project aims to bring environmentally friendly art onto the streets and parks of Bath, in the hope that it will encourage its audience to question current issues – waste, factory farming, pollution of our air, land and seas.  Instagram – @abcbath; Twitter – @AbcBath; Website – bathabc.wordpress.com

‘Glut (ii)’ is made from recycled materials.  I dyed cotton, silk & linen naturally using avocado pits.  Other materials include sponge, twine, copper wire, wax.  I am concerned with factory-farming methods and animal welfare.  Animals are treated as commodities, over-crammed and over-produced.   I have been affected by reading ‘Planet of Slums’ (Mike Davis), and the film ‘Our Daily Bread’ (Nikolaus Geyrhalter).  

Do visit!

Instead of a Cross, an Albatross

I am relieved that the research-based module 4 of my MA is now over.   I read alot of books – ‘Materiality: Documents of Contemporay Art’ is a brilliant eye-opener to concepts on matter and process.  I now have a fairly clear run until September to work through ideas and create for my final MA show.  I have been working outside for the first time since last summer in the February sunshine. Though cold, it has been wonderful to spread out and get on with new work.

I have become fixated by the plight of sea creatures, dying in large numbers from trash heap gyres in our oceans. I am particularly disturbed by images of Albatross chicks taken by Chris Jordan, a photography initiative at Midway, USA. Their stomachs get bloated full of plastic objects – sharp shards, lighters and bottle tops, fed by their parents mistaking the floating objects for morsels of fish. Their insides reveal a microscopic view of our trash.  My new piece is a response to this terrible reality, to be shown in a residency at Walcot Chapel, Bath, later this month (12-18 Feb).  I am linking the myth of the albatross in Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner (‘instead of a cross, the albatross’) with ideas of the crucifixion, using found objects including old steel nails, rope and plastic.

I had to make a 2 minute video of an artist between 1900-49 to present as part of Dexter Dalwood seminars at Bath Spa Uni.  I decided to make one about Graham Sutherland’s Green Tree Form: Interior of Woods.  For a first film, it turned out ok, thanks to my son Jack for his technical help putting it together.  Sutherland’s thorn series brought to mind the association of nails/thorns with the crucifixion for my new piece.

A couple of my pieces (below) will be shown at the Elemental Sculpture Park near Cirencester, Gloucestershire (The Paddocks, Somerford Keynes, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 6FE from 1st April to 30th September, 10:30 – 17:00, closed Tuesday and Wednesday, last admission 16:00).  Do visit if you are in the area.

I have started invigilating at Hauser & Wirth’s The Land we Live in – The Land We Left Behind.  The exhibition is a narrative about our relationship with the rural, featuring an incredible selection of artists including Archimboldo, Beatrix Potter (a lovely drawing of fungal spores which prompted me to investigate her innovative work on lichen and fungi), Samuel Palmer, Henry Moore, Mark Dion.  An intriguing show and so comprehensive, it is worth several visits.  As part of the exhibition there is an Honest Shop where local artisans can sell their work (£20 max).  I have some small copper items for sale – enameled lichen forms, keyrings, incense holder, balls and hearts!

Yesterday I visited Dorothy Cross’s Glance exhibition at The New Art Centre, Roche Court, near Salisbury. I was amazed by her carved marble Bed with its gently creased sheets and soft-looking pillow hollowed by an absent head. She manages to turn a traditional medium into something very contemporary.  Her body fragments – dangling feet and hand casts are also very beautiful.

Here’s to more February sunshine!

 

 

 

 

Material experiments, exhibitions and open studios

Hello to Winter and the festive season!

I am now in my second (and final) year of my MA Fine Art course at Bath Spa Uni.  It has been a great opportunity to reflect on previous work, find new ways of working and research.  I am still expanding and refining ideas, while continuing the thread of using reclaimed materials. This aspect relates partly to the issue of waste and energy – utilising and recycling.  It belongs to a wider subject of our relationship with matter, nature, and ourselves.  In the series ‘Wonders of Life’ Brian Cox explains that energy is eternal, transforming from one thing to another. There is a connection between everything that has ever lived, and an impact, as in the Chaos theory, or Butterfly Effect.  I see Vitalism as energy in all things, although in Science it is the vital force peculiar to only living organisms.

A mass of frass (insect excretions) appeared around tiny entry points in a piece of found wood (above) in which I had inserted glass tendrils as growths. The frass resemble decaying matter on a holdfast I studied. I find them intriguing, referencing life’s recycling, organic matter as bodily forms. These phenomena have been starting points to further investigations. They led to microscopic studies of frass. Microscopic hidden structures vital to our being reflecting the magnitude of life. These images could easily be rock formations – even meteors.

I have since experimented with annealing and beating copper over molds I carved in wood, based on frass forms. My copper project – exploring the materiality of copper and what happens to it under different conditions – included an experiment with copper electrolysis. The alchemic process is fascinating, I have learnt a little more chemistry and made copper hydroxide as a pigment. Two scrap pieces of copper were connected to a low voltage battery charger, with opposite charges. The electricity splits the ions in salty water. A complex chemical process ensues, involving copper hydroxide, chlorine and hydrogen bubbles. The effects of disintegration and patination are wonderful. The harnessing of elemental energy could become an artwork.

I recently visited the exhibition ‘Italian Influences, British Responses’ at Estorick, London. It was interesting to see current artworks alongside the anti-consumerist 60’s group Arte Povera, who broke with tradition believing art should be inclusive.  In their resolution to fuse life and art, nature and culture, they used everyday materials, often incongruous juxtapositions of mundane manufactured with organic. Their work was about energy and the elements. The exhibition included a piece by Mona Hatoum.  She uses everyday objects arranged to signify displacement and confinement.  In her work domesticity becomes ‘menacing’ (Van Assche).  In a Youtube film she explains her intuitive response to materials. She incorporates body parts eg nails, skin, hair, creating modest hair balls, or hair grids. Through these bodily excretions she transforms materials and meaning.

I also saw Damian Ortega at White Cube Gallery and watched him online. He playfully takes apart and re-assembles components, dealing with fragmentation of objects, time, materiality.  It is a philosophical discourse involving material and message.   I like his encyclopaedic geodes made from old maps, which he layers as shells, suggesting geological time, and his visual essays, which question truth, mass media’s effect on our perceptions and judgements. ‘Learning Scheme’ indexes small thumbnail clay pieces according to their similarities. Some forms are similar in different groups/lines. Like convergent evolution, they seem to morph, some are organic, others more mechanical.  Since then I have been working in clay a little.

Last week we opened our MA studios to the public.  I created an installation for it inspired by the organic forms I have been studying, using found and reclaimed materials, some transformed by me. It was a great gathering and the deadline helped me focus on one thing for a while.

On a more commercial note, to make ends meet, I have just updated my Etsy page: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/FionaCampbellArt. Do have a look – there are some possible gifts for Christmas!

Have a lovely one!

 

Playing With Space

I visited the Venice Biennale last month and loved it.   Of course, Venice is beautiful: the canals, bridges, crumbling textured walls, astonishing architectural details.. and so much art.  The Arsenale is an awesome building.  Originally a naval dockyard, it is now filled with international contemporary installations, some more impressive than others.  My favourites are Yee Sookyung’s huge ceramic sculpture and Ernesto Neto’s woven tent with hanging pods, both filling vast spaces.  At the Giardini, Phyllida Barlow’s ‘Folly’ for the UK Pavilion greets you with huge bauble/lollipops, monumental towers jostle inside like gigantic elephant legs stretching upwards and pushing out of the building confines. ‘Folly’ is a playful maze challenging our perceptions of art.  I also loved Geoffrey Farmer’s water piece.  The Canadian Pavilion is unfinished, so his work utilises the space with a refreshing outdoor piece.  Steel structures camouflaged as wood planks with holes spray water into the air, playfully catching sunlight and casting rainbows.  In the Japanese Pavilion Takahiro Iwasaki has created incredible tiny 3d thread architectural constructions in unexpected places within the room.

I have been making my own glass tendrils with Sonja Klinger’s help.  I hope to use them within an ongoing installation (see bottom – work in progress).  My new interest in glass led me to the Glasstress Exhibition, also in Venice.  Ai Weiwei’s ‘Blossom Chandelier’ dominates one room with white glass swirling forms, a fusion of exotic flowers and his anti-authoritarian motifs.  In contrast, Josepha Gasch-Muche’s ‘T.30/12/07’ comprises fine slivers of transparent glass packed into a box-like structure.  Jagged but delicate, the edges become abstract drawings.

I’ve been inspired by Judy Pfaff’s work, which ‘seems to zoom into the organic then zoom out to the planetary.’ (Tim Higgins).  She creates installations and assemblages that fuse collage, drawing, painting and sculpture, a flamboyant mix of glass, tree branches, fluorescent lights, tar, melted plastic, expanded foam, plexiglas, steel, styrofoam, plaster and resin.  A recent TV series ‘The Art of Japanese Life‘ touched on the use of Ma in Japan: the spaces and lulls between things are as important as positives, often suggesting peace, silence.

Now in a temporary new massive studio at Sion Hill, Bath Spa Uni, as part of my MFA, I am enjoying the liberating space and opportunity to really go for it in my quest to explore line as form on a larger scale, drawing in space, treating line as object, taking lines ‘for a walk’ (Klee).  While still referring to the connection between line, growth and energy, I am trying to allow the work to unfold, working in a more immediate way and introducing unfamiliar materials to see what happens…

Exhibitions: Black Swan Arts, Fresh Air and 50 Bees

Just a brief update on a few exhibitions and events that I’m taking part in this Spring.  I hope you will be able to visit some of them.

‘The Future Can’t Wait’, recently opened in the Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts Centre, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB, 18 March – 5 April (see attached poster/invite).  A show of exhibits from 30 Bath Spa MA postgraduate students across four disciplines – ceramics, fashion and textiles, fine art and visual communication.

I’ve been involved in linking this up with BBC’s get-creative-weekend.  On Saturday 8 April, from 2-4pm, Black Swan artisans will be offering drop-in taster workshops for adults and children over ten years old, and MA artists will work with young people offering activities for children of all ages, exploring concepts of their current exhibition.  I will be doing one of the workshops.

I’m still working on my piece for Fresh Air ’17.  Too large now for my studio, I am making it outdoors.  Spring weather is helping a lot!  Quenington Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5BN, 11 June – 2 July, open daily 10am-5pm, (£5 Adults, children free).

I’m also making a small sculpture for Fifty BEES: The Interconnectedness of All Things, at ACEarts, Somerton, 1-22 July, open Tues – Sat, 10am-5pm.  The topic is close to my heart.

Have a lovely Spring!

Lead Lines

Months of research and writing for research methodologies on my MA  is now finally over and I am looking forward to focusing more on developing my practice.

I have been looking at worms.  I studied an earthworm through a magnifying glass.  Its semi-transparent body enabled me to view its internal organs which buckle and coil as it moves. I am intrigued by a pulsating deep pink artery that runs centrally through the length of their bodies, delineating this coiling movement.  My ideas are revolving around lead lines, reinforced with steel rod in parts, that suggest huge 3d worm forms, skeletal, with linear coiled pink innards made from copper wire, heated red glass, orange twine and plastic strands.  This may change, perhaps it will seem too representational, although the expansive forms meandering through space could be quite breathtaking.

Worm casts, graphite drawingStudy of worm's arteryLead lines

As an experiment, I have created a small worm colony in an old fish tank, with dead leaves for them to munch.  In a few weeks I plan to remove the worms by attracting them to the top, then cast their tunnels.  If it works, it will be interesting to see what their tunnels look like, how they interconnect.

I have cast some more 3d lead lines, using routed wood blocks as moulds, made with a friend (Nick Weaver)’s help.  The wooden lines were gouged with 4 different router cutters, so that I have a range of curved and v-shaped lines.  The process was slow, as the lead didn’t melt properly on my studio electric hob, until I directed a gas blowtorch flame into the hot pan too.  When I poured, the slag remained in the pan, so the lines were smooth, clean lead.   I am considering how these might become more 3d, or whether they don’t need to, and how to convey message with method and materials, creating forms that carry natural associations, bridging the gap between science and art.

Questionnaire

I have created a brief questionnaire as part of my MA research (see images below).  If you have the time to download the document (link below), fill it out and return it to me via email (e: fionacampbell-art@sky.com) by 1 January 2017, that would be fantastic!

To download click here: questionnaire

questionnaire-p1questionnaire-p2questionnaire-p3

(Photo credits:1: Yellowtrace; 2: Amanda McCavour; 4: Laurie Lax; 5: Tate) 

Thank you in advance!

 

Research

My MA continues to absorb me.  Research is a main focus this term, I have never got through so much literature in such a short time!  I am looking at the ‘expanded fields’ (Krauss) and blurred boundaries in drawing and sculpture, doing alot of thinking, writing, visiting exhibitions, listening to talks and making samples.  I love the alchemy.  Inspired by artists such as Eva Hesse in the 60’s who defied categorisation, Cornelia Parker (exploded shed; melts down and ‘draws’ the object/s (eg a lead bullet) into wire), Monika Grzymala (see image below: theatrical explosions with tape and paper), Chiharu Shiota (immersive stretched installations) and critics/philosophers e.g. Rosalind Krauss and Peter Osborne, new ideas are slowly formulating.

Monika Grzymala, Freeing the Line, 2010

This month, I will be taking part in the Quartz Visual Arts Festival ’16, ‘Outside In’, 15-22 December at Queens College, Taunton TA1 4QS.  This involves a collection of work based on the rural landscape and natural world from over 40 artists and makers in the South West.

quartz-visual-art-exhibitionquartz-visual-art-exhibition-2

I’ve been involved behind the scenes at Black Swan Arts, Frome.  The winter exhibition ‘30 Years/30 Artists’ is now running until 24 Dec, our final 30th anniversary celebration of 30 years at Black Swan.  Postcard artworks have returned to the Gallery (displayed on a strange pink/silver/pearl tree I cobbled together), this time in secret envelopes at just £10 each – Christmas bargain!

I am also working towards a large piece for ‘Fresh Air ‘17’ in Quenington, Gloucestershire.  More news on this later.

Very best wishes for a happy festive season!

Worms, Oil and Graphite

Egg sac inspired drawing/sculptureEgg sac inspired drawing/sculpture

Since finishing my egg sac drawing/sculpture (above), worms have been a recent preoccupation.  Last week I went on a worm hunt (in a harmless way) to photograph and draw them for my research. There’s a special technique for this: by vibrating the earth, they rise to the surface (apparently to seek mates in the rain – more important than the fear of being pecked by birds or moles).

wormswormsworms

This is a layer of research over my investigation into possible uses of graphite (and linseed oil) as a medium. Graphite, interestingly, is a form of carbon, which, I’ve recently learnt, is a primary element (4th most abundant in the universe) that comes from the beginnings of life – brought from the stars via buckyballs. All living things contain carbon in some form. Julio Gonzalez, when he first coined the expression ‘to draw in space’ was initially inspired by constellations and the points between them as a metaphor for drawing in space.  Graphite, due to its carbon property, is the thinnest medium and can stretch to only 1 atom thick, whilst retaining great strength.

Earth worms have been of interest to me for several years.

worm-drawing-graphite

I respect their status as recyclers and importance within the cycle of life.  I like their grey to maroon transparent skin tones (some with clearly visible red veins delineating their contours as they move) and their form that resembles many others – limbs, tree roots/branches, neurons, filaments…

I hope to create a series of works in 2-d and 3-d – drawings/sculptures/installations that could be immersive, possibly worm-like!  The drawings might start flat on oiled paper with graphite, leading to graphite as 3-d.  I need to explore other possibilities – perhaps using perpex to back the paper so it can arc into space.  It’s early days, and seems a little slow to get going, but I’m enjoying the process of investigation.