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.

 

Latest Trips and Exhibitions

I have been very remiss with blogging – too many balls to juggle!  Recently I took a short 2-day break to Yorkshire to visit the Sculpture Park, an astounding place, and walked across the moors to the house that inspired Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books.

As summer blasts upon us (hooray!) I have a flurry of work and exhibitions coming up from tomorrow.  I hope you will be able to visit some of them:

I am still working on a large Cocoon piece for Fresh Air ’17 (see below), due to be installed in a week and still some way to go before completion!   Quenington Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5BN, 11 June – 2 July, open daily 10am-5pm, (£5 Adults, children free).

In between making this I have been working towards an imminent MFA module at Bath Spa Uni, to be assessed next week.   Clashing deadlines, late nights, but nearly ready!

I’ve made a Nests piece for Fifty BEES: The Interconnectedness of All Things, at ACEarts, Somerton, 1-22 July, open Tues – Sat, 10am-5pm.  A lovely project with great ambitions.

I am also taking part in the following:

Wylye Valley Art Trail, (see below) Venue 16, The Hive Artspace, 93 Boreham Rd, Warminster BA12 9JY. 26 May – 4 June opening with a Private View this evening.

Bradford-on-Avon Sculpture Garden ‘17 (see attached), Lynchetts, 15 Woolley St, Bradford-on-Avon BA15 1AD.  25 June -2 July 11am – 6.30pm (closed Mons). Opening night Sat 24 June, 6-9.30pm (tickets £6, inc. wine + live music).

NGS Open Garden, College Barn, Benter, Somerset BA3 5BJ, 23 July, 10am-5pm

Summer Sculptures at Glastonbury Abbey, 1 July – 1 October

‘Form and Fascination’Courts Garden National Trust, Wiltshire, 9 September – 15 October.  I will be showing a selection of work alongside Ian Turnock.

Somerset Art Weeks Festival ‘Prospect’, ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’, Round Tower, Black Swan Arts Centre, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB, 16 September – 7 October, 10am–4pm, Monday to Saturday, (open Sun 1 Oct) and Clay Hill Farm, Bridgwater, 23 September – 8 October. I will be showing alongside Angela Morley.

I am also really looking forward to a mini break away to the Venice Biennale soon.

Have a lovely Summer!

 

 

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.

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

SAW ’16 ends MA begins

I’ve started a part-time MA Fine Art course at Bath Spa University.  It’s never too late!  I’ve wanted to do one for many years, but the time never seemed right.  Now it’s as right as it will ever be.. so I took the plunge and applied belatedly in early September, amazed that I was accepted onto this year’s intake!  It’s been a bit of a jolt to the system, but am getting the hang of research methodology and all the mouthfuls that go with it.

This was going on around the time of preparing and running our Somerset Open Studios event.  I shared my venue with Nick Weaver, whose wood pieces harmonised well with my work, especially in the “magical Alice-in-Wonderland like garden/sculpture park” (as one visitor put it).  Other visitor comments: “Brilliant – most lovely and surprising and innovative visit of the day“; “Wonderful, positive views of life in all respects”; “Remarkable, inspiring exciting”; “Magic!! An oasis of inspiration! Thanks”; “Absolutely stunning“. Our Open Studios event went well – plenty of new enthusiastic, friendly visitors who loved our exhibition, a very wide demographic and several sales.  I ran some workshops with a local school, home ed children and adult group, including A’ Level Art students.  It was busy but rewarding!

Me putting up the canopy (from Chelsea Flower Show)Nick Weaver helping install Lichen Sculpture in the garden - Somerset Open StudiosVisitors enjoying Nick's boatSculpture in the garden - Somerset Open StudiosSculpture in the garden - Somerset Open StudiosWorkshop in the gardenTaster workshopTaster workshopResult in an hour!School not put off by the rain!Bee by 9 yr oldSchool visitSchool workshopCat face by 9 yr oldSculptures in garden

 

 

Autumn Events

Somerset Open Studios invite

It’s been a wonderful summer. I often feel a little sad at the end of this season, but what makes it more bearable for me is that autumn is beautiful and in UK we tend to have ‘indian summer’ weather in September. Tied in with that is Somerset Open Studios running 17 Sept – 2 Oct (see invite). It’s something to look forward to and work towards. I will be showing my work alongside Nick Weaver (elegant, organic wood furniture and sculptures) in my rejuvenated garden and studio. Our work compliments each other – we both use reclaimed and found materials that harmonise within natural surroundings. If you missed seeing our focal pieces earlier this year in the Mekong garden at Chelsea Flower Show, which received gold and best artisan awards, we will have these on show during Open Studios. I’m also looking forward to visiting a few other Open Studio venues when possible.

My work is currently on exhibition in ‘step in stone’ at Salisbury Arts Centre until 24 Sept. Curated by Amanda Wallwork and me, the exhibition tells the story of last year’s art-in-quarries project. Selected artworks by all 14 artists include re-created dioramas by Tessa Farmer and a GPS soundscape around the grounds by Ralph Hoyte. You can download this on your smartphone via this link.

I will be taking down my work from the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront this weekend, so if you’re around that area before Saturday evening, take in a beach stroll, fish and chips and a look at the artworks before they disappear!

In October, I’m taking part in the Quartz Festival’s ‘Outside In’ exhibition (Queens College,Taunton), 5-15 Oct, with over 40 other South West artists and makers working in different media. The theme is the natural world.

I have decided to donate my Giant Spider sculpture to Carymoor Environmental Centre, (Castle Cary) where I know it will have a great permanent home. Originally created for Glastonbury Festival’s Greenfields ’10, it has travelled to various shows around UK since. Look out for it if you visit.

I hope you’ll be able to make it to one or more of these events – have a great start to autumn!

Secret Swans

I am currently working on a new piece for Black Swan’s Secret Swans Art Trail.

In celebration of the Black Swan Art Centre’s 30th anniversary, the Trail will be part of Frome Festival and Open Studios, running from 1-10th July.  A free event, it involves 30 swan-themed artworks in various media and styles.  Sculpture, drawing, textiles, ceramics, light and other surprising forms will be on display at venues around Frome, such as shops, cafes, public buildings and outdoor locations.  An opportunity for families, art lovers, school groups and adventurers to discover and buy intriguing collectable pieces by selected artists, ranging from silver jewellery, etched and linocut prints to large willow, steel and glass garden pieces.  Visitors can make secret auction bids for the work at each trail venue and the winning bidders will be notified at the end of the festival.  Badges will also be available for everyone who identifies all 30 artworks and there will be the opportunity to enter a prize draw at the Black Swan.  Artists involved include Tessa Farmer, Edgar Phillips, Ian Marlow, Bronwen Bradshaw, Chris Lee, Alicia Merrett, Nina Gronw-Lewis, me, Nigel Evans, Caroline Walsh-Waring and Angela Morley.   I will also be working with pupils from All Hallows School on a group wire piece for one of the trail artworks.   
 
The Secret Swans Trail hopes to raise much-needed funds – sales being split between the artists and Black Swan. Trail leaflets will be available from Black Swan and Frome library during the festival.  Organiser Nick Weaver says: ”It’s been wonderful to see the variety of interpretations of the swan theme and the quality of work by some great artists.  Visitors are in for a treat!
Hope you can come and visit!
Secret Swans poster

Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions 2016

I will be involved in the following exhibitions this year:

The Viking Cruises Garden, RHS Chelsea Flower Show , Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London SW3 4SL; 24-28 May ’16.  I am creating a large woven canopy as a focal piece for Sarah Eberle’s garden, inspired by Cambodia’s floating gardens and artisanal fishing techniques in the Mekong River region

The Hidden Garden Art Show, Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead, London; 4 – 12 June.  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. www.maureenmichaelson.com or www.chelseafringe.com

1000 Postcards, Black Swan Arts Centre, Frome; 18-28 June (Preview Evening Fri 17 June, 6-8pm).  Sale of 1000 Postcards (original artworks), many by famous artists and celebrities at an affordable £30. Exhibited anonymously (signatures on back), with list of contributors displayed. Funds will refurbish the historic Round Tower

Secret Swans, Frome (trail as part of Black Swan’s 30th anniversary celebrations and Frome Festival); 1-10 July.  Trail of 30 related artworks in various media/scale displayed at indoor and outdoor public venues around Frome. Information sheets/list of artists/venues available at Black Swan.  Secret auction at each venue

Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront; 23 July – 4 Sept.  My new piece ‘Resurrection’ will be on show alongside a range of other artworks

step in stone‘, Salisbury Art Centre; 18 Aug-24 Sept, open Tues-Sat, 10am-3pm. Private View Fri 19 Aug 6-8pm.  The artscapes-in-quarries project I ran last year goes on tour.  This exhibition tells the story of a unique event held in the summer and autumn of 2015.  14 local/international artists created site-specific artworks in response to the nature of quarries and their place in the environmental, cultural and industrial heritage of the region

Somerset Open Studios 2016, Laundry Cottage, 13 Cooks Lane, West Cranmore, Somerset BA4 4RH; 17 Sept–2 Oct.  Showing with Nick Weaver.  I will be running a Taster Wire Workshop, Sun 25 Sept, 11.30-12.30.  £6 pp. To book contact: fionacampbell-art@sky.com
Quartz Festival 2016, ‘Outside In’, Queens College, Trull Road, Taunton TA1 4QS; 15-22 Dec.  Collection of work based on the natural world from over 40 artists and makers from South West UK