Time To Move On

My intense 2-year MFA course at Bath Spa Uni has now come to a successful end.  I threw myself into it mind and body, so the past few weeks have been a strange time of re-adjustment and reorganising, sadness, but also hope for exciting work ahead.  Time to move on.  Below are some images of the 3 works I presented for the final module and MA Show – thanks to John Taylor for some of these photographs. Through the MA, my practice has undergone a series of shifts; it has developed more integrity, an expansiveness, but also a paring down in approach.  I was happy with the results and delighted with my grade.

Some info about the pieces:

Inspired by reading ‘Planet of Slums’ (Mike Davis) – rich/poor divide, precarious lives, cruelty to humans/animals; watching ‘Our Daily Bread’ (Nikolaus Geyrhalter) – factory farming; ‘A Plastic Ocean’, and grief over the death of my dog, my response is a form of suturing.

Concerned with waste, ‘Glut’ is a set of wrapped, woven and stitched tentacular entrails, viscous hybrids transformed, suturing trash into treasure, both seductive and disgusting. The materials (especially personal items) speak of past lives, loss, textiles, craft. In contrast, the organic forms symbolise death, violence, but also vulnerability and renewal – the duality of horror and tenderness. ‘Accretion’ is an accumulation of many parts. Its evolution, the labour-intensive process of its making is an important element in the work. It is an abject object.  It has connotations of the intestine, a metaphor for waste, excess and recycling, and other tentacular forms.  Like pulling hair out of a plug, it is repulsive, ambiguous.

We are all of the earth; the earth is flesh and bone. ‘Of Bones’ demonstrates a relational play of human-made and organic materials. The juxtaposition of fragile, translucent parched ‘bones’ against metal and wood sets up dynamic tensions. Cast branches as limb-like forms are playful abstractions. It references Picasso’s Crucifixion series inspired by Matthias Grunewald. Christ’s tortured hand is interpreted from the cast of a found piece of gnarled wood. The work also references Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ series and Mark Dion’s trees. Regarding humanity, Christ’s words from the cross: ‘they know not what they do’ resonate.

Since re-entering the outside world I have been catching up on loose ends, establishing new connections, working on a commission, running workshops and other bits and bobs.  In a one-day workshop at Beckington First School (via SAW) working with tinies aged 4-9 years old, we made a whale, fish & other sea creatures. Every child in the school took part in making the sculptural artworks using recycled materials, especially plastic as an environmental project highlighting waste.  It was linked to the story of Jonah and the Whale to tie in with the school’s current theme Retell, Reused, Recycled.  After I fixed all the components together, the sculptures were installed in the school grounds for permanent display.

One morning I taught acrylic painting to a group of 17 U3A adults.  They all produced lovely still life paintings – a few illustrated below.

I was commissioned to make a set of copper bird feeders for Horatio’s Garden, Stoke Mandeville. Some commissions are more interesting than others. This one has increased my understanding of copper and the process of annealing.  I love watching the colours change through application of heat. Copper expands when hammered into a sunken mould. For moulds I used found steel objects and carved a couple in wood, thanks to Nick Weaver. Quite a long process but a fascinating transformation.

I am using these copper processes for a range of shop Christmas decorations (Fosse Beads and Friends, Frome).   Next commission is to make a 1 metre Great Crested Newt for Carymoor Environmental Centre using recycled materials.  It has a lovely backstory, which I will relate in another blog soon.

Yesterday I sold a large sculpture made a few years ago to a lovely couple, who I know will give him a great home. ‘Man Models Himself On Earth, Earth On Heaven’ (my longest title to date) will be added to as a site-specific residency, returning to my original plans for him to be more densely woven.

I occasionally invigilate at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.  I am elated that Berlinde de Bruyckere is now showing there with her Stages & Tales exhibition.   During my MA I researched her work, which became a key influence to my practice.  Her new body of work is more abstract: in her powerful series Courtyard Tales, she uses layers of decomposed, torn blankets as a metaphor for bodies, intimacy, decay, shelter, vulnerability, lust and war.  There is a duality of love and suffering.  I burnt my thumb badly with a glue gun the other day, and the scarred fleshy wound reminds me of details in her work.  It was fantastic to have the opportunity to speak to Berlinde at the opening.

There are crossovers between Berlinde de Bruyckere’s work and Takesada Matsutani’s adjoining exhibition ‘A Drop in Time’. It has been mesmerising to watch the stages of transformation since Matsutani performed the piercing of the bag of ink suspended over a wooden ball.  Over time, single droplets fell repeatedly onto the ball causing remarkable splatters of ink, making an eclipse, flowing to the edges in its own way.  The piece has developed over time. I find his work very beautiful.  I love the simple gesture, the aspect of time and timelessness, the gestural hand-made labour-intensive process with graphite pencil marks on paper, canvas and wood.  Like de Bruyckere, the work refers to the ‘endless cycle of life and death’.

I am pleased to now be a small part of the education team at the Holburne Museum, Bath. Next month I will be running a Life Drawing session for A’ Level students linked to the ‘Rodin: re-thinking the fragment’ exhibition.  It may well re-ignite my own life drawing passion from years ago.

I am allowing myself some head space before properly starting new artwork.  Meanwhile this website is being changed (watch this space).

Next exhibition coming soon ‘Line and point’, will be at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol (25 Oct-1 Nov). If you didn’t get to the MA Show, this exhibition features work by a group of MA alumni and final year postgraduate fine artists, including me.  Contemporary practices across installation, drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed media, objects and digital work is tiered with connections relating to the theme ‘line and point’.  My piece ‘Glut’ will be on show: Line and Point, Centrespace Gallery, 6 Leonard Lane, Bristol BS1 1EA.  It runs from Saturday 27th October – Wednesday 31st October, open daily 11am – 6pm.  Preview, Friday 26th October, 6pm – 9pm – all welcome!  http://www.centrespacegallery.com

Hope you can come along!

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!