My part-time MFA course at Bath Spa Uni continues to challenge and broaden my art practice, taking it in new directions which I am finding exciting!  Recent work has resulted in an immersive installation piece (images above) for the MA Degree ShowBath School of Art & Design, Sion Hill, Bath, BA1 5SF, 23 – 27 Sept, 10am-5pm.  Private View 22 Sept 6-9pm.  This will be an interim show for me, being my first year of two.

I have been installing several other exhibitions that run simultaneously this autumn in very different venues.  I was invited to show a selection of my outdoor sculptural pieces in ‘Form and Fascination’ at Courts Garden National Trust alongside Ian Turnock’s work.  Both inspired by structures in nature, our work is set in the beautiful gardens that feature water, intimate, formal and wild areas:  Holt, Nr Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA14 6RR, 9 September – 15 October (closed Wednesdays; last entry to garden 5pm).

Somerset Art Weeks Festival is coming up soon, this year themed ‘Prospect’.  I am showing with Angela Morley in 2 venues spanning East and West Somerset.  We have transformed the Round Tower Gallery, both inside and out, for ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’ (Venue 3), Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB.  Our exhibition has already started (a week earlier than SAW): 16 September – 7 October, 10am–4pm, Mon to Sat, (open Sun 1 Oct); Preview Fri 22 Sept 6-8pm.  At Clayhill Arts, Clayhill Farm, Charlynch Lane, Bridgwater TA5 2PH our large outdoor sculptures will be on display in the landscape to launch their new centre, 23 September – 8 October, 11am-6pm, Wed-Sun.

As part of Somerset Art Weeks we will be running workshops:

Black Swan Arts: ‘Organic Forms’: Wed 4 Oct, 1-3pm (Angela Morley); Sat 7 Oct, 10am-12noon or 1-3pm (me); book via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Clayhill Arts: ‘Organic Forms Found Materials’ Sun 8 Oct, half day or full day (me); or ‘Organic Forms Willow Weaving Sun 8 Oct, half day or full day (Angela Morley), or combination of each: book via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Summer Sculptures, Glastonbury Abbey grounds, Somerset, BA6 9EL, continues until 1 October (normal admission applies)

I hope you can visit some of these exhibitions!

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…

Cocoon for Fresh Air

I completed a new piece ‘Cocoon’ last week for Fresh Air ’17.   Inspired by the puss moth cocoon and pupa, it is a drawing in space, welded, woven and wrapped.  The exhibition starts this weekend and runs until 2 July.

 

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.

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

Collaboration

'Flock in Flight' All Hallows Prep School group work

Each project brings with it new challenges. Sometimes several projects run alongside each other and the art of juggling can be a challenge in itself. Some of my roles overlap or interlink. This can be a good way to function, ‘killing 2 birds with 1 stone’ (though I hate killing), easing the problem of having too many things on the go, but isn’t so straightforward if you don’t want to compromise the work, and it can create a bottleneck time-wise, amongst other complications. I’ve enjoyed working alongside other artists/makers of all ages. I like collaboration – at its best, combined effort multiplies output and result, it’s more fun and creatively, one can learn so much from working with others.

The past month has been full-on. With a bit of time to reflect now, here’s a look at what went on in my little creative world (in the bigger world – all I can say in a nutshell is PLEASE CAN WE UNITE AND STOP KILLING).

Teaching, Workshops, Talks, Demonstrations

On 12 June I spent a day at the Hidden Garden Art Show (Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead), part of Chelsea Fringe Festival where my sculptures were on show with other selected artists, demonstrating my work process, running a drop-in workshop and giving a talk about my work to visitors.  Although it poured with rain all morning, the sun brought a magical shimmer and quite a crowd in the afternoon, including Tim Richardson – founder of Chelsea Fringe.

Drop-in workshop at Hidden Garden Art ShowWorkshop participant's beetleMe talking to Tim Richardson (leads Chelsea Fringe)

I teach 2 evenings a week at All Hallows Prep School and as I’ve been involved in the Secret Swans Art Trail (one of Black Swan Arts’ 30th anniversary events and part of Frome Festival), I devised a project to involve the children in the Trail.   We created a flock of flying swans in wire, which were installed on the exterior wall of Black Swan’s historic Round Tower.  Inspired by my recent trip to Sophie Ryder’s exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral, we used her ‘scribbly’ technique to add more black areas.  It was an effective solution given time constraints.  The final lessons getting the work completed was a mission as some children were absent due to end-of-term activities.  Thankfully others stood in (special mention: Ellie West and Nick Somerville!). The swans looked like faint drawings, quite lovely and ethereal, though visitors had to look hard to see them.

Student's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansStudent's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansMy contribution to 'Flock in Flight'Installation on Round Tower, Black Swan Arts Centre

Preparations for Priddy Festival included some ‘birdy notes’ as we called them.  A team of Mendip Creatives made them from wire and paper, for marquee decor.  A large willow hog was also made, led by Angela Morley.

I worked with a couple of schools recently (Bishops Wordsworth & North Town) making wire figures and mini creatures.  Bishops Wordsworth was a 2 day slog over to Salisbury in a hire car (my truck was broken) giving 4 x powerpoints/making sessions to 128 children in fairly swift succession. The short sessions of 2 hours per group had limitations, but it’s amazing what children can do when focused!

North Town Primary students making Giacometti-inspired figureNorth Town Primary student making Giacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureWire Fish by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Dragonfly by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Seahorse by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Crane by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Woodlouse by Yr 13 helper - Bishops Wordsworth School

Volunteering Roles

Secret Swans badge (illustration by Belinda Brownlee)

I continue to be very involved in the Black Swan Arts centre as a trustee, especially this year, with its 30th anniversary.  We have held several special exhibitions/events to mark the occasion, which have so far been a ‘resounding success’ (Christina Oswin), with great feedback, overwhelming support from the public, serious funds raised, heightened the BSA profile and engaged the community.
1000 Postcards attracted over 1000 postcard-sized artworks (including 2 of mine) for a massively popular exhibition with over £10,000 of sales so far and visitors galore.  Unsold postcards can still be bought online.  Preparations for the Secret Swans Art Trail, which followed straight after, grew more intensive.  30 artists in 30 venues around Frome.  I made a piece, ‘Resurrection’, (using reclaimed steel, copper wire, tar, rope and scrim) and sited it by the river.  It only recieved slight damage, easily rectified and many positive comments, so am grateful to most Frome residents for their respect!  In addition I worked on the All Hallows piece, helped Nick Weaver with the organisation and was largely involved in the PR for these events.  They are great examples of a huge team effort by Black Swan volunteers.

Sketches for my Secret Swans work'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' detail 'Resurrection' detail Secret Swans piece (detail) by Edgar PhillipsSecret Swans piece by Tessa Farmer (detail) Secret Swans piece by Alicia Merret Secret Swans piece by Angela Morley - detail Secret Swans piece by Annie Fry

I’ve been involved in various Somerset Art Works meetings, a couple for an exciting new project that might come off next year with Anna Best, and for Somerset Open Studios ’16 (17 Sept – 2 Oct).  As Rep for East Mendip, I’m keen to make sure we do Somerset proud.  I’m part of a cluster group in my area called The Mendip Triangle; we have a specially designed map (by Michel Linthorst) to help direct SAW visitors to our lovely rural Studios in September.  Looking forward to seeing this year’s SAW guides being delivered next week!

SAW flyer 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel LinthorstSAW flyer (back) 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel Linthorst

New Work, Exhibitions

I made a new Nest and Mini Dung Beetle & Ball for the Maureen Michaelson Show, in addition to existing work.  ‘Resurrection’ will be sited at the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront from 23 July – 4 Sept, and I am now curating our forthcoming step in stone exhibition touring to Salisbury Art Centre (18 Aug – 24 Sept), with Amanda Wallwork’s help. 2 of my main outdoor pieces will be on show.  If you missed any step in stone artscapes last year, try to visit!

Nest detail'Cirri' created for step in stone, installed at Westdown Quarry, found and reclaimed steel, copper, aluminium, twine, wool, netting, rope, plastic. Photo by Duncan Simey

The garden and studio get quite a battering after big projects, so it’s time to tidy up!   My good intention of simplifying life, with less to clutter the brain is still in the development stage – I hope it will happen one day.  In the meantime, the juggling continues!

Viking Cruises Mekong Garden – RHS Chelsea Flower Show

My canopy at Chelsea. Photo by Sandie Roche

Just back from a stint at Chelsea Flower Show celebrating the success of the Viking Cruises Mekong Garden‘s gold and best artisan garden awards, Nick Weaver and I were overawed by the massive interest in our focal pieces for the garden, which appeared to have the wow factor.

A seemingly endless stream of visitors in their 1000s admired and appreciated the garden, designed by multi-gold award-winner Sarah Eberle.  People expressed how much they would love to lounge on Nick’s boat and chill, with the water gently lapping around them and visitors were charmed by the ‘ethereal beauty’ and colours of my canopy, many intrigued by its makeup.  Sarah Eberle described it in her BBC TV interview this week with Joe Swift as her best bit of the garden: “I love the canopy.. like a celestial beam.. wonderfully charming”!

Me working on the final stages of the canopyMe working on final corner of canopyCanopy finishedCanopy loaded on truckCanopy unveiling at Chelsea - checking fish skeletons are still in tact!Transporting canopy to siteNick and Fiona installing sticks at ChelseaInstalling canopy at Chelsea, May 15Fiona and Nick installing canopy at ChelseaFiona installing canopy at ChelseaViking Cruises Mekong Garden completeOur focal piecesCanopy rising above hoards of visitorsEndless stream of peopleGold and Best Artisan Garden Awards proudly displayedKate Adie giving an interview by our gardenOur garden - image supplied by Guardian GardensWire baskets I made for the showCanopy detailNaga (snake deities) carved by Nick WeaverJMP_VIKING_CHELSEA_15Me and Nick Weaver on the garden stepsMe, Nick Weaver and Sarah Eberle lounging on the boat

I was commissioned by Sarah Eberle to create the canopy for her Artisan Mekong Garden, inspired by Cambodia’s floating gardens, traditional fishing nets and silk weaving in the Mekong River region, following Sarah’s journey on board sponsor Viking Cruises Magnificent Mekong.  Nick made a lounger styled on a traditional fishing boat.

The 7 x 5m garden is entirely water with a small deck leading to the boat/lounger and cantilevered canopy suspended above. The beds follow the style of the region and contain an eclectic mixture of fruit, flowers and vegetables. Harvested hazel, other reclaimed woods and a plethora of woven wire, silk and found materials have all be used to harmonise with the planting.

I was approached by Sarah after seeing my installation piece “Lichen” at the Maureen Michaelson Gallery stand at GROW London last year.  The 4 metre textured fishing net/canopy I made by hand incorporates incredibly fine woven copper wires, fruit netting bags, twine, silk, wool and other surprising found and reclaimed materials like fish skeletons!  I also made 3 wire baskets used as props. It was a great pleasure and honour working with Sarah for Chelsea Flower Show and amazing to have achieved such highly acclaimed awards. The team involved many others, including Nigel Evans (paint effects on boat) and Angela Morley (supplied trombone squash), and we are grateful to all who have supported us, given materials and helped!

After over 4 months of hard work, I am a little exhausted but elated!

To see more photos of the Chelsea Flower Show work in progress visit my Art Facebook Page

Next show – The Hidden Garden Art Show, at Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead, London; 4 – 12 June.  I will be showing a range of my work, alongside other selected artists (see poster below).  On Sunday 12 June this Gallery is also hosting a day as part of Chelsea Fringe Festival, where I will be demonstrating my sculpting techniques from 11am – 5pm, with a talk at 3pm.  Do come along!

www.maureenmichaelson.com or www.chelseafringe.com

MMG Hidden Garden Art Show