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.

Materiality

My MA course at Bath Spa is all-consuming.  I’ve been engrossed in research and explorative studies, leaving little time to add new posts here.  To see what I’ve been up to, here is a blog/journal, which logs my progress and an image of a drawing I’m working on at the moment:

https://fionacampbellblog.wordpress.com

Wire and paper drawing with linseed oil added for transparency and skin-like quality in progress Wire, paper, linseed oil drawing - in progress (detail)

Egg Sacs and Louise Bourgeois

Eggs on wire grid drawing

The arrival of Louise Bourgeois’ exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, Somerset, coincided with the first weeks on my MA course.  I had been looking forward to visiting her show, being a huge fan.  A few days before, I had been looking at my collection of ‘finds’ (all sorts of natural phenomena) for inspiration.  A dried up fish swim bladder and a sponge-like form found on the beach grabbed me as starting points.  I want to investigate similar forms in nature, sometimes micro in scale – their form and function.  I’m also interested in drawing more – whatever shape that takes – 3-d and 2-d.

Bourgeois’ work struck a chord.  Of course I love her Maman Spider, crouched eerily, over-powering the first barn.  I was hoping for more sculpture, but strangely it was her etched drawings of plant forms, bodily parts and egg clusters that fascinated me most. Largescale and awkwardly drawn, they have real emotion, enhanced by repetition.

Her forms resonated with my ‘finds’.   I have since looked up my sponge-like object on the internet.  It seems to be whelk egg sacs!  Serendipity, though not so surprising that I was drawn to Bourgeois’ seductive egg sacs.   So I have been drawing the sacs with a view to creating 3-d pieces (drawings?) with wire, paper pulp, fibres and other mixed media based on them.  Relic of little lives, now entered into the greater cycle.

Whelk egg sacsLouise Bourgeois Swaying 2006

Convergent Evolution

The New Year often brings with it an awakening of new (and old) ideas.  Having always been interested in the way life forms so often repeat themselves throughout the macro and micro natural world, I was interested to recently discover the term ‘convergent evolution’.  This describes the independent evolution of similar features in different species – structures that have a similar form or function.  The ability, over time, of insects, birds, reptiles and some mammals to fly is one example.  David Attenborough’s new “Conquest of the Skies” series illustrates this beautifully.

I’m fascinated by certain primal structures, which are echoed everywhere, from tiny microbes to nervous and planetary systems.  Lately I’ve been focusing on spheres, branch-like forms and ‘cirri’ (tentacles, tendrils, hairy filaments..).  Many natural forms combine all these in varying degrees.  Through my recent investigation into quarry environments for step in stone, I have been discovering more about ancient sea life forms that existed over 350 million years ago.  Locally, in the Mendips, the most dominant rock is carboniferous limestone, which is full of fossiled skeletons, particularly an abundance of crinoids (sea lilies) and corals (e.g. rugose).  Although both marine creatures, they are from completely different families, yet have strong similarities, as do diatoms (marine micro-organisms).

Nature’s tenacity and persistence is reflected in disused quarry sites.  Silver Birch seeds blow in and take root almost immediately and in no time at all, vast cavities of scooped out rock are covered with a multitude of life forms.  In addition to fundraising, I’ve been doing some drawing and thinking about possible site-specific work to install in these spaces for step in stone later this year (see below).  At the moment, I like the idea of making 2 metre tumbleweed-like forms that relate to crinoids and rugose corals. They will entail a great deal of work, but an exciting prospect!

Crinoids and Coral Rugose Coral Tumbleweed ideaErnst Haeckel's Rugose Coral Sea Pen - Ernst Haeckel

We received well over our crowdfunding target for ‘step in stone‘, have received more funds from a local trust since and now awaiting news from the Arts Council bid – fingers crossed!

Happy New Year!

Time to create

Things have gone a bit quiet for me on the creative front while I’ve been somewhat immersed in organising and fundraising for a new major Art in Quarries project I’m organising called step in stone.  Thanks to generous donors we are half-way to our goal on the IdeasTap crowdfunding site.  With a few other successes raising funds since July, I’ve spent the past month just on one application… the massive G4A Arts Council form.  Now submitted, I feel light-footed, light-headed and ready to embark on some new artwork for next year.  Below is one idea for step in stone:

Design for step in stone - inspired by tumbleweed, hairy seeds, neurons and solar systemsWestdown quarry - one possible site for step in stone

Apart from this project, I’ll be featuring in GROW London 2015 – a contemporary Garden Fair, so it looks to be an exciting year ahead.