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.

‘step in stone’ revisited

We are gearing up to our ‘step in stone’ exhibition at Salisbury Art Centre, which I am curating with Amanda Wallwork. The exhibition runs Thursday 18 August – Saturday 24 September.

“This exhibition tells the story of a unique event held last summer in the South West.  Fourteen artists, all with connections to South West England (including two from Wiltshire) but from as far afield as Norway and Australia, created a collaborative and multidisciplinary series of site-specific artworks that fused art and the natural landscape in response to the nature of quarries and their place in the environmental, cultural and industrial heritage of the region.

The pieces were installed in six venues (three disused and working quarries and three related indoor exhibitions), and staged in three “steps”, the quarries’ natural history, ecology and geology inspired works in surprising forms. Aiming to link culture and the environment, the extraordinary artscapes gave over 8000 visitors a free opportunity to encounter contemporary artworks while exploring the spectacular, wild landscapes of abandoned and working quarries in rural East Mendip.

‘step in stone’ really engaged audiences, encouraging them to consider the environment around them, our place in it, how it evolves, the benefit we get from it, our impacts upon it and how nature responds and reasserts itself. It engaged a whole spectrum of the public, including school children, families and the elderly, many who had never visited these interesting spaces.”

Exhibiting artists include Artmusic, Catherine Bloomfield, Bronwen Bradshaw, Duncan Cameron, Fiona Campbell, Duncan Elliot, Tessa Farmer, Stuart Frost, Suzie Gutteridge, Ralph Hoyte, Sally Kidall, Caroline Sharp, Amanda Wallwork and Christina White

We’d love you to join us for the launch event on Friday 19 August from 6 – 8pm

http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=b2079d5a8ed14f73b9a18f049&id=c0be67ca0b&e=08ce98bbc4

I will be showing my large ‘Cirri’ pieces and sketchbooks:

'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

Other artists’ work will include the following:

Caroline SharpChristina White, Magnificent Meadows, Halecombe quarry - ST ST697474 Pigment Inks on St Cuthbert's Mil Somerset Photo Satin PaperSuzie Gutteridge Tessa Farmer The EmergenceAmanda WallworkDuncan Cameron Fairy Cave Cabinet

 

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

 

Back in the Swing

My blog is suffering under the weight of too many other things going on!  After a lovely trip to Kenya over Christmas, I returned with tonsillitis, which didn’t help my approach to January – one of my least favourite months. However, I have tried to get out, see some art and socialise despite the grotty weather. At the Holburne, Bath I saw the paper cut out piece by Nahoko Kojima (beautifully delicate, but felt it could have been hung lower) and visited Kurt Jackson’s ‘Place’ exhibition at Victoria Gallery.  Particularly loved some of his larger pieces, contrasts of misty, cold northern Britain and vibrant views of Glastonbury Festival. New Dimensions at the Museum of Somerset is intriguing, a great exhibition in response to the museum collection by fellow artists including Ralph Hoyte, who showed with me during step in stone. His postcard exhibits have a wonderful quirky humour and Chris Dunseath’s sculptural responses to cauldrons and skillets captivated me. A recent trip to Hauser & Wirth to see ‘Qwaypurlake’ and ‘Don McCullin’ with Mendip Creatives was also very inspiring – some of it mesmerising, questionable, extraordinary, heart wrenching, and I’m looking forward to attending the panel discussion with curator Simon Morrissey and participating artists this Saturday.

Louise Bourgeois at Hauser & Wirth

I’m still in the process of making a lifesize steel bishop for Bishops’ Palace, Wells – his completion imminent.  He is supposed to be killing a dragon that hasn’t been made yet.  Getting the posture right has involved a few sessions drawing and taking photos of friend Nick posing (once in the Bishops’s cope) and a vicar at Wells Cathedral, who didn’t seem to mind when I spontaneously asked him to pose for me in dragon-killing stance!

Bishop - just startedBishop - progressingBishop with faceBishop - getting there

Things are progressing with my Chelsea Flower Show commission, which I will be working on with Nick Weaver for landscape designer Sarah Eberle.   I’ve been experimenting with crochet and weaving samples and will soon be starting the 4 metre woven canopy, inspired by Cambodian fishing nets.

Canopy Design Team meeting; left to right: me, Nick, Robert, Sarah - photo by Angela Morley

As Trustee of Black Swan Arts, I’ve been getting more involved behind the scenes, and excited about our plans to make this year’s 30th anniversary a good one.  Also helping with education aspects including the Black Swan Arts Young Open – such a great opportunity for young people!

And by the weekend the dreaded tax return will be submitted… roll on February!

Crowd funding campaign launched for step in stone!

I have just launched a crowdfunding campaign for step in stone on IdeasTap:

http://www.ideastap.com/crowdfunding/project/stepinstone

The link leads to full details about my planned step in stone project, together with a short related film, made by Jack Offord.  Please visit and support. We hope to be successful in raising our target amount for an exciting project!

It’s All Happening In Somerset

Somerset Open Studios ’14 is now in full swing, we had a great open evening doo to kick off and I’m happy to say our venue (140 – Cranmore BA4 4RH, shared with Nick Weaver) made several sales this weekend.  With over 52 pieces on show in the garden alone, it was a big job setting up (and clearing up my studio ready for the event).  I ran a brief workshop for several art students from Wells Cathedral Junior School and will be running similar taster workshops on the next 2 Sundays (11.30-12.30).  Please book if you’re interested: (01749) 880394.

Wire workshop with juniors from Wells Cathedral School Laundry Cottage on show SAW '14 - Nick's stools and my Nest SAW '14 SAW '14 - Found Now Missing on show

Last weekend I visited Hauser & Wirth’s new Gallery space in Bruton for their Private View of Piet Oudolf’s newly created garden.  Phyllida Barlow’s work inside provided a tactile (though you can’t touch), raw and quite spectacular use of the barn buildings.  Her work seemed to celebrate the space: multi gigantic pompoms suspended and massive colourful structures reaching into roof voids.  It was invigorating, while Oudolf’s garden was soothing.  Luckily we could touch his wonderful, feathery grasses – it would have been torture not to.  And it was a treat to see one of Louise Bourgeois’s Spiders (much smaller than the one I saw at the Tate Modern, but still great!)

Louise Bourgeois' Spider Piet Oudolf's garden Piet Oudolf's garden (detail)

Fundraising is not my forte but I’ve had to do it as part of a major project I’m organising entitled ‘step in stone’.  The film we’ve been making for a crowdfunding platform is now ready to launch on IdeasTap.  This will go live in the next day or so, and I hope we will have some success through it.  We have now made the final selection of featured artists, and it is all getting very exciting and absorbing!  More news of this project soon…

Local to International

I’ve been selected to show work at this year’s International Sculpture Festival in Guernsey.  Whittled down from thousands of applicants from across the globe, there will be approximately 120 pieces on display throughout the summer (May 25th to the end of October), making it apparently the largest festival of sculpture held this year in Britain and a mecca for collectors, garden lovers, visitors and art enthusiasts.

In contrast, I’ve also been invited to show my work in the Hidden Garden Art Show as part of Chelsea Fringe in London.  Some of my smaller hanging woven wire sculptures will be displayed in a beautiful Hampstead garden from 24th May – 8th June.  The show will also feature in the National Garden Scheme on 8thJune.  Curator of the show Maureen Michaelson says:  “Our lushly planted hidden garden houses the smallest outdoor sculpture gallery in the UK.  We specialise in artworks for urban gardens and can commission works from a wide range of artists for all types of outdoor spaces: from balconies and courtyards to large spaces.”  The exhibition is open Sats, Suns & Bank Holiday Monday, 2-6pm.

More locally, I’ve been selected to create a set of new site-specific work for an exhibition at Contains Art, Watchet in June/July.  The three large shipping containers, situated by the harbour have been transformed by artists into gallery and workshop spaces, providing much interest in Somerset.

Entitled ‘Found, Now Missing’, my work for the commissioned ‘Voyages’ project is inspired by my collection of flotsam and jetsam from many trips to coastlines in UK and abroad.  Having made numerous voyages to Kenyan beaches and reefs over the past 5 decades, for example, I’ve become aware of the detrimental effects of collections such as exotic shells and tourism generally to coral reefs and beaches.  Over the years, I’ve witnessed a dramatic decline in its coral life, shells and resident sea creatures.  On top of pollution, our human desire to collect, own, trade, discover, colonise and capture continues to impact on the disappearing life and beauty in coral reefs.

I have started making a set of large sculptures to be sited in the courtyard and on the gallery roof at Contains Art of skeletal, exotic sea life forms based on shells, urchins, coral and starfish using scrap metal and found materials sourced locally, including the boatyard and beaches.  These exotic pieces will celebrate the wonder of sealife, hopeful of a better future for our environment.  My largest sculpture mounted on the roof will be visible from the steam railway line and viewing platform on the cliff.

The installation aims to convey my concern for environmental degradation.  What once seemed beneficial voyages of discovery by naturalists such as Ernst Haeckel (whose drawings I love) have, ironically, led to the current situation in which mass tourism degrades the environments, habitats and ecosystems, which inspire us to travel.

Related drawings will be on show in the gallery and I will be running a workshop on Saturday 7th June for members of the public to create shell drawings on postcards with environmental messages.  Visitors will be invited to send these out far and wide.

The exhibition runs from 4th – 15th June, open Wednesdays – Sundays, 10am – 4pm at East Quay, Watchet Somerset TA23 0AQ.  The outdoor sculptures will remain on display until mid July.

 

The Garden of Eden

The last fortnight has been a rather mad whirlwind leading to Somerset Art Weeks Festival opening, managing both my SAW venues between other day-to-day commitments, testing my sanity.  Miraculously, the Garden of Eden (SAW Abundance Garden Trail) came together on time.  With the support and help of good friends and a few late nights finishing off, I managed to complete my 3  installations at Esotera (Foddington, Somerset TA11 7EL), set up at Thornreed Studio, Godney (venue 94), get to the Abundance micro feast at East Lambrook, do a talk and workshop on the first Saturday and thoroughly enjoy chatting to visitors for the past week.  Thanks to Pauline Watson and team, the Harveys (owners at Esotera) and Hicks & Don (wine sponsors) for their hard work, food and drink contributions to the private view, it was a lovely event.

I asked a photographer (from 35mil) to take some pics of the work.  We re-scheduled 3 times due to poor weather and it was third time lucky when the sun finally broke through after a dull, cold day.  Dappled sunlight heightens the enchantment on the largest piece – lichen-inspired work set in a copse of silver birch trees.  What’s really needed now is more sunshine to do its magic over this last coming weekend to encourage a wider, more abundant audience.

I’ve received many appreciative, insightful comments about the Garden of Eden and yesterday was a particularly good day at Esotera, with a large range of visitors of all ages.   A friend even made a visit from above in a glider.  Grass is starting to grow through my main installation, and although I regularly collect some of the leaves/debri that fall onto the work (especially after high winds last week), they almost enhance it.   The work is settling into the site – perhaps it should remain a permanent feature!   Gengis the resident cat/leopard is enjoying the extra attention and Scruffy – one of the free-roaming chickens – has an odd habit of pecking at visitors’ feet/legs!   Ahh sweet!

I am feeling positive about the whole experience, apart from poor weather at times bringing less visitors (and a few recoiling when faced with the NGS entrance fee).   It has been hard work, challenging, great fun, addictive even – and I think, successful.

Please see my Abundance post for further details about this project

Buzzy

It’s a funny word – busy!  It often means that things are going well but a bit hectic.  Sometimes it’s an excuse not to do what you don’t feel like doing.  Trying to balance all aspects of life, recently writing a post for my blog was relatively low on my list of priorities.  Too many other projects on the go, all vying for attention, and school summer holidays to boot!  Anyway, like the constant buzz of creatures in my garden at the moment, it’s been a buzzy time.

Below is a snapshot of some of my recent projects and workshops over the past few weeks:

Installed sculpture as private commission for an architect designed interior space:

Various workshops with young people:

Ongoing exhibitions ending this weekend:

Been working on a film via Ignite Somerset – link to be posted very soon.  Ignite Somerset also have a radio show broadcast via 10radio.  I featured in last week’s hourly programme with my son, which was fun.

Time is drawing near for Somerset Art Weeks Festival (21st Sept – 6th Oct) and I’ve been focusing on my Abundance commission work as part of this event (venue 55).  Installation will start soon, and I still have plenty to do before then.  I’m also showing at Thornreed Studio alongside Simon Ledson, Jane Peck and Jan Ollis (venue 94).  Please come along to both venues!

Summer events

The Abundance commission work has taken over recently as a daily activity.   I’m hooked and no matter what the day holds, I try to spend a few hours on making my lichen-inspired sculptural pieces towards a steadily growing mass of forms for my installation at Esotera during Somerset Art Weeks Festival. (See Abundance blog for further details).

Meanwhile, a succession of exhibitions, teaching and personal stuff is using up my remaining energy reserves.  Did the Sustainability Show yesterday in Taunton.  It poured with rain, but otherwise a great event!

Here’s an exhibition update on summer events I’m taking part in:

Bristol’s Big Green Week started at the weekend.  I’m showing some work in the Salvage exhibition at the Architecture Centre, next to the Arnolfini, Narrow Quay (15th – 23rd June).

My Artist on a Plinth exhibition at Black Swan Arts is up and running (until 4th July).

Frome Festival kicks off soon, along with Frome Artists Open Studios.  I will be showing in a group exhibition at ‘The Limes’, 45 Keyford, Frome BA11 1LB (venue 23 – private view invite below)

 

This photo of my work will feature in the Evolver Prize 2013 Exhibition, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton, Devon EX14 1LX (13th July – 31st August)

 

I’ll be taking part in the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail (20th July – 1st Sept) around Teignmouth seafront area

Art in the Garden, Lanhydrock National Trust Estate, Bodmin PL39 5AD (1st March – 31st Oct)

And as we draw closer to midsummer in UK, bring on the sunshine..!