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 myself, participants, and some of the Danisinni community.

We are hoping Ingruttati Palermo will tour to the prestigious A/D/O Gallery in Brooklyn, New York as part of Water Futures.

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

 

June Projects

June flew by for me with a host of projects on the go in tandem, allowing only snatched moments in our fantastic tropical weather – one of the best summers I’ve known in UK.

Art in the community

I spent 4 days with PRU teenagers in a short residency at Bridgwater and Taunton College as part of Somerset Art Works Young ProspectUs Project.  We created mutant creatures inspired by insects and sea creatures, experimenting with reclaimed and found materials including aluminium cans, bottle tops, copper pipe, wire, found plastic and metal objects. It was a unique experience, great fun working with the PRU staff and students and hugely rewarding to see the youngsters lose their inhibitions to master skills like soldering.  ‘…turning down a mountain biking trip to do a second session soldering metal was what this project is all about: creating great artefacts with a professional artist … within an environment they felt safe, providing an experience that strengthens their resilience as they move on from school to college’ (Lisa Robertson, Deputy Head of PRU Centre).  The work will go on display to Taunton Flower Show in August.

My last project with All Hallows students involved making headdresses for an exhibition ‘All the Fun’ at Silk Mill, Frome.  The theme was carnival and circus.  I worked with students in Years 4-8, making the sculptures from found, reclaimed and discarded materials, based on endangered wildlife, particularly sea creatures.  The project was inspired by the issue of waste, our plastic oceans, and the plight of creatures such as albatrosses and turtles who are suffering from the effects of our rubbish, ‘a stand against plastic pollution so we can see our sea creatures thrive once again’ (Tia West, Year 8). ‘Making my headdress was great fun!’ (Louis Roberts, Year 6).

I was involved in a recent Up Late event ‘Drawn to the Museum’ at the Holburne Museum (29/6) – a collaboration with Bath Spa University.  The event involved MA students, artists and speakers engaging with the public at the museum.   We set up pop up exhibitions of our work, focusing on drawing.  I attended an inspiring talk by Tania Kovats who makes drawings, casts trees, and explores water as her subject.  I also ran a life drawing session with a clothed model doing quick poses in the grounds, where members of the public and students joined in, it was fun!

I worked with The Rubbish Art Project and members of the Shepton Mallet community making a sheep out of reclaimed steel, chicken wire and various ‘trash’ materials as a community project for the town.

Plans are afoot for a Halloween Harvest Scrap Sculpture Community Project, based on harvest and the cycle of life.  I hope to created 3 large-scale metal sculptural works for a public event on Halloween, to be installed at Shepton Mallet market cross. The work may be filmed by a TV series Scrap Kings for Discovery.

Inspiring exhibitions

A couple of intense research trips to London were inspirational.  As part of my MA Degree course, a tour de force trip led by Andrea Medjesi-Jones (Bath Spa Uni MA course leader) introduced us to several new galleries including the smart spacious Marian Goodman Gallery.  An installation by Leonor Antunes (Portuguese) consisted of suspended ‘wormlike forms’ made of immaculately stitched leather, wrapped rope and brass tubing, interspersed with sculptural glass lights hung close to the ground.  The organic linear forms are repeated on both gallery levels, interrupted by reflective screens – all based on work by Anni Albers and Mary Martin.  Amongst others we visited Hauser & Wirth, Alison Jacques Gallery (Michelle Stuart: The Nature of Time), Herald Street Gallery and Maureen Paley (Oscar Tuazon: Fire).

I returned to London to see the results of the Tate Exchange project ‘Inventory of Behaviours’ at Tate Modern, a project in which I was invited to take part with a set of ‘instructions’.  While there, I visited Lee Bul’s, ‘Crashing’ at the Hayward – a mix of sculpture, installation, sound, film, and performances from the ‘80s.

Theatrical hybrids and fictional landscapes combining industrial and organic materials fill the spaces in a dramatic show.  Bul, from South Korea, confronts political persecution in her country, references disasters, questions cultural attitudes to the female body, and the pursuit of perfection through her re-appropriation of architecture and bodily forms.  She explores our ‘fear and fascination with… the uncanny’.   It was all fascinating, though I felt more affinity with her less glitzy other worldly soft sculptural monster works, especially ‘Monster Pink’, a reconstruction of a 1998 piece, and her stitched cocoons, made from various fabric.  In Scale of Tongue (2017-18) a hidden fan created a gentle motion in the fabric.

Sarah Sze’s ‘Image in Debris’ installation at Victoria Miro is extraordinary.  The darkened room is lit by a mesmerizing set of flickering moving images – luminescent blue satellite images of cities at night, reminiscent of bio-luminescent microorganisms, celestial imagery, a cheetah running in slow motion, the elements – layered on the wall and on small torn paper fragments supported by a delicate framework of thin rods.   Drips of dried paint catch the light. Everyday objects, particularly office supplies, are placed around the installation. This is all accompanied by sounds of clunks, gentle whirring, drips, clicks. The magnitude of our universe becomes a mad invention.

Berlinde de Bruyckere’s sculpture ‘Quan’, 2010, in Bumped Bodies at the Whitechapel Gallery is a contorted, bruised human figure buried in a cushion, built up from several layers of wax over an iron structure.  It makes one feel uncomfortable, even repulsed, but I was in captivated by the wax skin tones and powerful form she has created.

Closer to home, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset ‘Alexander Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky’, is a beautifully curated exhibition.  His delicate balanced mobiles and stabiles and their shadows fully occupy the space. Conversations between artworks, recurring forms and his upcycled jewelry, some seen in UK for the first time, offer scope for new ideas.

Participation in Manifesta12

I am very excited to have been selected to take part in a 10 day workshop in Palermo soon as part of Manifesta12, supported by Bath Spa University Enterprise Showcase Fund. The project ‘Ingruttati Palermo Planetary Garden’ research and fabrication workshop will involve a group of international artists, geographers, urban landscape architects and students who will be exploring the extraordinary hidden underground networks of the qanat waterways.  Metaphorically similar to the mysterious powers of mycelium – also an underground system, which can stretch thousands of miles within one organism, the waterways reflect science’s recent discovery of vast reservoirs of water contained hundreds of miles beneath earth’s surface.   This will be a wonderful opportunity for me to take part in the prestigious international art event, and to develop the aspect of my practice involving collaborative art projects in the community on an international level.

My website will be undergoing some changes in the next couple of months – look out for the rebrand!

 

 

Spring News

Now that the cold spell is over, I feel a Spring update is due.

In my week’s residency at Walcot Chapel, Bath last month as part of my MA, I made a piece (image above) in response to the site, current waste issues, and Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  It was inspired by the plight of 1000’s of albatross chicks dying from stomachs filled with plastic.  Entitled ‘Instead of a Cross, an Albatross’, it is a kind of altarpiece. The steel and copper components echoed the trees and shadows through the window.  Later this year I’m hoping to make work involving some participatory interaction with the public using waste materials.

Ongoing work is also being influenced by a book I’ve just read Planet of Slums by Mike Davis, which reveals horrific realities as a result of our rapidly growing worldwide poverty, rich/poor divide – cruel slumlords, neglect and harrowing deaths.  Factory farming (particularly a film ‘Our Daily Bread’) is also affecting my thoughts, and the loss of Tilly, our beloved boxer dog, who died at the weekend.  These experimental process pieces are all made from scrap materials.

On a lighter note, I continue to teach All Hallows Prep School students extra-curricular art.  I’m proud to see some of their work selected for the Black Swan Young Open, starting this Saturday.  Last week I ran a workshop with several groups of children Years 4-8 at Hazlegrove Prep School, making a 1.75m flying albatross sculpture out of recycled plastic and wire.

This Saturday, I’ll be running a collaborative workshop with Aya Kobayashi and Stephen Ives as part of BBC’s Get Creative event and Black Swan Arts Young Open exhibition, sponsored by Visual Arts South West.  It will explore the creative process – how to shape an idea into form – experimenting with sculpture and sound technology, combining found/reclaimed materials.

Book soon via Eventbrite (https://goo.gl/SNdgny) – spaces are filling up!

This season, I’ll be showing 2 of my sculptures in the The Cotswold Sculpture Park, The Paddock, Somerford Keynes, Cirencester GL7 6FE http://www.elementalsculpturepark.com/ from 1 April – 30th September, 10.30am-5pm (closed Tues and Wed),  admission £5.

I’ve visited a few exhibitions locally including Messums Museum’s ‘Myth, Material & Metamorphosis’ (that’s a mouthful!) – fantastical sculpture by Kate McCgwire and Ann Carrington (image below), ceramics and narrative paintings with many surprising gems.  It’s always a joy to visit the wonderful tithe barn showing consistently high quality, exciting contemporary art.

At The Edge, Bath, the Jerwood Drawing Prize comprises some great pieces.  Amongst others, I loved the thick roll of paper covered in pencil – like a gleaming sheet of metal.

I’ve been invigilating at Hauser & Wirth Somerset for ‘The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind’.  It’s been good to be able to keep returning to study the exhibits (numerous artworks/artefacts of interest).  I’ve also managed to sell a couple of small pieces through the Honest Shop – part of the show.  I’m doing a talk for Hauser & Wirth’s Sound Bites programme on Beatrix Potter’s drawing of fungal spores entitled ‘Absidia’, Thursday 29 March, 2pm. Come along, it’s free!

Happy springtime!

 

 

 

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.