Abundance Commission

I am very happy to have been selected for the Abundance project, and excited to have a creative challenge to work towards in the coming months.

Part of Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2013 (21st September to 6th October), ‘Abundance’ is a programme of exhibitions, events and a series of site-specific contemporary art commissions, set in a wealth of cultivated garden landscapes in Somerset. The programme is organised by Somerset Art Works, in partnership with National Garden Scheme (NGS), supported by Friends of SAW and funded by Arts Council England Lottery Funding. It aims to connect the wider public with the creativity between the cultivation of gardens and art making in Somerset.

8 of us have been selected to create new work, using different materials and approaches in response to the theme of ‘Abundance’ in a wider context. We are encouraged to use locally sourced materials in response to the landscape, culture and knowledge from each of our allocated gardens.

March:

It was great to meet and catch up with fellow artists and SAW organisers last week at the Spring Soiree and Abundance launch.  I have been thinking about how to develop my initial ideas for the installation at my allocated garden at Esotera.  Having taken a few photos when I first visited the garden in February, I’ve since made some rough sketches which are gradually evolving.  I’d like to create an element of surprise, use found and recycled materials related to the garden and make something large and challenging.  Below are a few images of ideas:

A scraptor at heart, I am on the lookout for scrap items such as small wheels, springs, copper bits, clear lightbulbs (old style), glass baubles, nuts, bolts, washers, screws, nails, horseshoes, chicken wire, copper wire and pipes, twine, netting, old steel tools, balls.. for the project.  Please contact me if you are local and have any of the above available that I can collect: (01749) 880394

April:

An article in Country Living (May ’13) features Esotera – the garden I’ve been allotted, with a mention at the end about SAW’s Abundance project and my forthcoming work at Esotera.  Seeing it here in full bloom, with all the shape and colour at its peak, I am even more excited about the prospect of creating something special for the Abundance project.

My ideas have moved on to something a little more ambitious.  The work will be time-consuming but fun to make!  My thoughts have lingered on Genesis’ Garden of Eden – the most abundant garden where plants, creatures and humans grow and roam freely in complete harmony.  It is the first Utopian concept, explored by many including Plato, Thomas More etc… Utopian ideals encompass world peace, enlightenment, labour, arts and science, fulfillment, harmony between man and nature,  all needs supplied by the abundance of nature.
Esotera means ‘of the earth’.. esoteric means ‘mystical, unusual, rare.’  The garden symbolises a love for the land and relationship with the earth, the owners at Esotera work hard together to create from nothing an idyllic garden (Eden), make a huge contribution to society (Utopian), build things from found materials – including houses of various sorts, the garden is very harmonious with nature, rich in wildlife, creatures everywhere.   Nature has repossessed, like a return to Eden.  ’Eden’ is almost tangible at Esotera…
Next week I’m revisiting the garden to get more of a feel for it, discuss my ideas with Shirley and Andrew, see the garden blooming and arrange practicalities.

May:

Today was a perfect day to revisit Esotera.  My first visit with Zoe was on a grim winter’s day.  But today blazing sunshine had brought out new flowers from bulbs, ferns were unravelling, ducks, chickens, fish and a very sociable cat ‘Gengis’ were all glorifying our brilliant 1st of May.

As I wandered around, I could understand why Esotera gets so many visitors who stay for hours.  The owners and garden envelop you into their world – a place at peace with itself, whilst buzzing with the magic of life and I found it hard to leave!  Undecided about the exact location of my installation, with several possibilities, I took plenty of photos and absorbed the ambience.   It helped to confirm my ideas for the project, and 3 hours later I left, armed with a load of reclaimed materials for my work there, generously donated by the owners Shirley and Andrew.

I’ve been gathering scrap materials from pockets of Somerset to use in my work at Esotera.  Dragging rusty barrels from woodland walks, corrugated steel fences no longer required for guinea fowl and rummaging through skips and scrapyards to add to my collection of materials, in line with the ethos at Esotera of utilising found and recycled items.

June:

The aim is to create a mass of giant growing forms, inspired by lichen, linked to the Eden concept and utilising found objects.  It involves hours of weaving, wrapping and forming, using soft and hard materials together, which is relatively new for me and occasionally  I wonder if I’ll ever get it finished.  Anyway, it’s becoming a daily activity and no matter what else the day holds, I try to spend a few hours on the Abundance work.  I’m hooked on what I’m making, and what I would really like is to have no other interruptions but life isn’t that simple..

Earlier this week we went to Esotera again to measure the installation area and confirm a few details with Zoe.  A landscape designer friend, Jason, came along to help work out where the grass might be allowed to grow a little, in order to create more of an enclosure for the work.  Owners Andrew and Shirley have been very accommodating with this.

July:

Not there yet, but here are a few photos of my progress over the past few weeks.  I think the correct term is ‘hoarder’… my garden’s been taken over and going a bit wild, but the good news is I have enough scrap steel now!  I would still love to acquire some more copper – especially in sheet form.   Will soon be embarking on using my new plasma cutter, which should make the job much easier.  There’s still lots to do.  The real art will be to bring it all together successfully…

August:

I have struggled to keep up with my own self-inflicted deadlines for the making stages, especially during this school summer holiday, although there is progress.   With September nearly upon us, I’ll need to accelerate in order to get it all completed on time.

My large ‘fallen nest’ is coming along ok and I hope to complete it in the next week.  Other parts to the lichen-inspired installation have now been shaped and patinated using reclaimed copper and lead.  I have a couple more items to make, and will then set it all out again in my garden as a mock up.  It’s been great fun exploring techniques and finding new ways of working with materials.

September:

A very busy month has finally reaped the fruits of my labour – see Garden of Eden post.   For fuller information about the project, please visit SAW Abundance blog

My work has relied on the kindness of numerous local donors, who have given me recycled materials and/or their time.   A huge thank you to the following:  Sam Garland, John Shepherd Feeders, Ridgeway Garage, Station Road Garage, Pete Reakes, Fon Cosens, Somerset Earth Science Centre, Andrew and Shirley Harvey, Vicky Grinter, Georgia Grinter, Caroline James, Jason Nosworthy, Nigel Evans, Peter Osborne, Denise Campbell, Nick Weaver, Adrian Candy.

 See also press page

Press 2012

Wincanton Window – Casespace – Solo Exhibition at Bruton Museum, Feb ’12

Western Gazette – Casespace, Bruton museum, Feb ’12

Somerset Guardian – Precious and Primal, Feb ’12

Wells Journal – Casespace Exhibition, Feb ’12

Country Life – Precious and Primal, Feb ’12

Somerset Life – Scraptors, crowd-funding for Magdalen Project, Feb ’12

Western Daily Press – Scraptorzoic Era planned for Magdalen Project ’12

Western Morning news – Scraptors’ plans for Magdalen Project ’12

Create Centre – Green Capital Artist in Residence 2012

Big Green Week Workshop – Arnolfini

North Somerset Arts – Big Green Week involvement

SculptSite.com – Big Green Week involvement, April ’12

SculptSite.com – Floating Diatoms and forthcoming Shows, June ’12

Ecojam – Big Green Week and Family Mash Up workshop

This is Somerset – Highly Commended for Green Capital Residency work

Arnolfini Arts Pinterest – Featured Artists

Sculpture & Installations Pinterest – Featured Artists

Sir Harold Hillier’s Art in the Garden ’12 – Spider featured

Garden Art & Whimsy Pinterest

Swans of Wells – Swan Artists

All Hallows Prep School – Candela

This is Somerset – Candela Swan for Swans of Wells 2012

Metro UK Press site photo – Candela at Bishops Palace, SwansofWells auction preview, Sept ’12

Bishops Palace Facebook – Swansong Auction Preview weekend

All Hallows Prep School Chronicle 2012 article – Candela Swan

All Hallows Prep School Chronicle 2012 article – Extra Curricular Art

Culture and Anarchy blog – The Bishops Palace Summer Exhibition, ’12

Musiety article – Fiona Campbell sculptures, Nov ’12

This is Somerset – Sculptures make big impact… Nov ’12

Dragonfly sculpture workshops, Westfield Academy

An exciting day at Bristol’s harbour

It’s been great getting to know Bristol’s harbour – I feel quite at home there now.  Over the past couple of months, I’ve been finding my way around the harbourside as a Green Capital Artist in Residence, working occasionally at the Create Centre on a series of work for the Big Green Week (9-17th June), scouring the surrounds for retrieved bits and pieces for my sculptures, exploring new areas with my son and walking my dog there in between it all.  Saturday (9th June) was the culmination of months of preparation.  The final tweaking of my floating Diatoms in the harbour by the Arnolfini, Family Mash Up drop-in workshop at the Arnolfini, launch of our Artists in Residence Exhibition at the Create Centre, Cumberland Basin and Green Week party later in the evening, also at the harbourside.  Huge thanks to the Green Week, Create Centre, Arnolfini and Harbour teams for all their support.

Even parking was bliss!  I was allowed to park in the Harbour car park opposite the Arnolfini, normally restricted to Harbour officials, in order to unload and meet the little boat skippered by Miles from the Harbour team.  We needed to sort out 3 of my floating Diatoms – installed a few days earlier, but which had got tangled, turned uspside down or gone astray in the recent high winds.  It was the first day of Green Week and it was glorious sunshine at last!  With my son and Miles on board, we managed fairly swiftly to secure the Diatoms into position and have a little boat ride before I had to get to the Mash Up workshop I was running in the Arnolfini’s Light Room.  

I was amazed at the turnout for the workshop – a constant buzz of people actively engrossed in creating their own floating sculptures sparked off by some of my resources, various reclaimed materials I had compiled and their imagination.  There were loads of children – even some toddlers – making pieces.  Some families brought their own recycled stuff to use.  I had lovely helpers via the Arnolfini, who gave up their time voluntarily that sunny afternoon.  Looking out of the Light Room Window, we could view the Diatoms below in the harbour and relate it to the workshop theme of organic structures (and a bit of sci fi thrown in).  The results were wonderful!  (See article in Ecojam).

Across from the Light Room is the Reading Room, where my sketchbooks are currently on display, so I took a peak at them in their new special setting.

From there, all packed up, it was a neat dash to the Create Centre upstream to celebrate the opening of our Green Capital Artists in Residence Exhibition.   The overall Exhibition looks great, I think – a good mix of work by 8 artists working in very different media –  linked to eco ideas in some way.  With a couple of hours to kill before the evening doo, I wondered back down to the Arnolfini harbourside.  It was brimming with people out in the late sunshine, ballons flying above; boats and Diatoms floating in the water.  Bristol looked vibrant.   Later, we (Green Week Artists) met up at the Secret Green Pass Party at Jack’s Pavilion, Harbourside for the official Big Green Week launch.  Milo Newman, one of the Green Week Artists, was awarded a prize for his beautiful seed encrusted photographs.  I was very pleased that my work was highly commended.

Arnolfini Reading Room

Some friends, Michael and Geva, who came to visit me whilst I was sculpting at the Create Centre suggested I ask if I can display some of my sketchbooks in the Arnolfini Reading Room to tie in with my floating Diatoms, which will be exhibited in the harbour by the Arnolfini during Bristol’s Big Green Week.  I did, and the Arnolfini would like to show them.  So 3 of my sketchbooks will be on exhibition in the Reading Room from 6th June – 1st July, open every Wednesday – Sunday, 11-6pm.   It’s a foot in the door anyway!

Swan for Wells

I am very pleased to have been asked to decorate one of the Swans of Wells by All Hallows Prep School in Cranmore, a sponsor.  The project ‘will feature sixty, magnificently decorated, 5ft swan sculptures, one for each of the sixty years of the Queen’s reign. The flock will be displayed in public locations in and around Wells from June to September 2012. This eye-catching, high profile event is expected to bring thousands of visitors and vibrant contemporary art to the streets of England’s smallest city.’  Our Swan will have pride of place outside Bishops Palace.  I have just over a fortnight to do the work, which has a recycling theme and will entail 3-d materials collected by All Hallows and me, including some wire creations by children at All Hallows…  images to follow as the work develops.

 

Update – 27/5

Over a month ago I was asked to decorate this Swan.  Luckily the deadline was postponed.  It’s been very absorbing and great fun, but incredibly time-consuming!  I’ve loved my residency creating the work at All Hallows Prep School (the sponsors), where I was supported by all.  The children added some bits (hand-made wire school crane emblems, patterns woven, painted and drawn, and a few stuck on beads, buttons and gogos) and they gave me loads of positive feedback.

We named our Swan Candela.  It has relevance in various ways:  The Latin word for ‘Candle’, it features in the All Hallows motto:  ‘Sancto cuique sua candela’ which translates as: ‘for every saint there is a candle (light).’  Every child is a potential saint and they too have their lights.  The Swan has a flame-like, glowing quality in its patterns, colours and bright, luminous objects.  The  recycled objects have been lovingly collected, donated and created by the children, (+ me and my son, Jack) – symbolic of their individual lights.

The process was more complex than I imagined, as I had to texturise the surface prior to sticking on the objects (all individually cleaned/de-greased),  then sand, prime and paint in between all the bits.  Varnishing was a huge relief – there was no return.  Although not perfect, I think it’s got a charm of its own.  The Swan was collected on Friday and will go on display with the rest of the flock next week (after 28th May).

Swans of Wells Launch – 28/5

Some of the flock were displayed on Wells Cathedral Green today for the media launch, including ours, and there was a brief appearance of them on BBC and ITV news.  All looked lovely in the sunshine!

See press: Shepton Mallet Journal, SwansofWells website, Jenikya’s blog

Update – 19/6

Visited Candela to give her a clean up.  Great to see Ian and the team were already doing some Swan cleaning.  Sadly Candela had her eyes plucked out + a few other bits.  I will be replacing the missing parts asap.  It’s encouraging to see members of the public trying to help by keeping an eye out for the Swans.  A note was found inside Candela, together with a missing part, retrieved by some kind person.  The good news is that Candela has a new sunny spot nearer the Palace entrance and is still attracting plenty of attention:

Update – 2/7

Gave Candela back her eyesight, replaced a few other bits that had been removed and another wash last week – so all gleaming again 🙂

Update 15/7

I helped on the first Swans of Wells stall this Saturday selling Swans merchandise to raise funds.  Also revived Candela with another freshen-up as the sun came out on Sunday.  Plenty of visitors in the sunshine:

Update 15/8
I’ve been back a couple of times to give Candela some TLC and clean her up from all the mud splatters after such heavy rain over the past month or so.  Today, plenty of visitors stopped to take pics and remark on Candela and the Swan flock.  They were intrigued to hear the background to her – some people even claimed she was their fav Swan.
Update 27/8
At the Moat Boat Race on Bank Holiday Monday; went to the SwansofWells stall for a bit – great to see more merchandise decorated with our colourful Swans.
Update 16/9
Candela is now preened and ready to be auctioned on 29th September.  Here she is at the Auction Preview weekend (15/16 Sept) at Bishops Palace with the rest of the flock:
Swans Auction – 29th September
I’m delighted that All Hallows have managed to acquire Candela through successful bidding at the Auction.  It was a very exciting evening. Candela achieved a healthy figure and will now return to her rightful place, where she will live happily ever after.  The amazing total of £111,500 raised from the Swans auction will go mainly to local charities.
I was asked to decorate one of two mini swans bid at end of the auction.  I decided to make a baby Candela – ‘Candelina’:
In permanent residence
Candela, now back at her resting place in All Hallows Prep School:
See FILM of the SWANS OF WELLS PROJECT made by S-J of WHITESPACE PRODUCTIONS.

Meeting deadlines

It’s a tricky thing knowing, in advance, just how much to book up in terms of work and exhibitions.  There are always last minute changes, new opportunities come along and some fall through.  A few projects of mine are now head-to-head and overlapping – I just hope I haven’t booked too much to handle!  The next few weeks/months are pretty packed –  see Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions for details.  In addition to my Green Capital Artist Residency I’ve recently installed work at some wonderful venues including Delamore (Devon) and Showborough (Gloucestershire) and working towards gaining funding for our Scraptorzoic Era at The Magdalen Project, where we (The Scraptors) will be showing samples of what’s to come at their Open Day on 29th April 2-5pm.

Green Capital Residency – Bristol’s Big Green Week

It’s been great focusing on one main piece for the past few weeks.  I’ve tried to avoid distractions (like social media sites/blogging!) to get ahead with a major piece I’m making for Bristol’s Big Green Week.  Selected as one of 8 artists-in-residence – all working in different media around sustainability – I’m now set up with a small but prominent space at the Create Centre, Bristol, and have officially started my 3 month residency as a Green Capital Artist.  I met Bristol’s Harbour Master on Tuesday, who has agreed to my Diatom sculptures (see info below) being floated in the harbour at Bush corner, by the Arnolfini, for Bristols’ Big Green Week in June.  I’m very excited about this!  I have decided to log the progress of the work I’m producing for the Green Week Exhibition (9-17 June) as it develops below.  (See links: Sculptsite article; Bristol BiennialArtists at Create)

‘Man models himself on Earth, Earth on Heaven’ will be approximately 4.5 metres tall.  Created mainly out of recycled steel components and copper wire, the piece relates to my interest in nature’s cyclical persistence and the network of threads weaving through all things.  The sketchy stretching human form, reminiscent of a tree, emerges from its cocoon, reaching upwards.  It represents the vital forces in nature and re-birth of humanity in a new, purer state.  We are all of the earth.  The piece is constructed in 3 separate pieces, which bolt together.   The concept was inspired by a Taoist line, echoed in the title.  Still in the making, here are some images of it so far (the last 3 were taken at Motorcade/Flashparade’s documentation day earlier in the week):

To help formulate my ideas, I made several studies of trees which have a similar sense of the inner cocooned trunk with wispy extensions – here are 2:

‘Diatoms’.    The idea of recycled floating diatoms stemmed from a design and prototype I made for a Scraptors’ project at an eco farm called Magdalen, inspired by Ernst Haeckel’s wonderful illustrations.   ‘Diatom I’ includes some tentacles added by fellow Scraptor Rachel Macleay, but was rejected due to its plastic content – unsuitable for the farm’s strict sustainability guidelines.  The rest are experiments from new designs.  These ideas will be adapted and explored further in new pieces for Magdalen using appropriate materials.  The sculptures will float on orange life buoys in the harbour beside the Arnolfini.  They will be approximately 1 – 1.5 metres in diameter, made of recycled steel, wire, plastic and other found materials.  Diatoms are microcosmic organisms, which are now sadly becoming endangered, yet essential to our survival – producing over 35% of our oxygen supply.  Beautiful, primal structures originating from the Jurassic era, to me they symbolise nature’s cyclical persistence, though threatened by man’s intervention.

Update – 7/6/12

Yesterday was the big day – installing all the work, both in the Create Centre and Arnolfini harbour.  As always, it took longer than imagined.  Floating the Diatoms took some organisation.  The Harbour team (Miles and Arabella) were a great help, but the weather was grim and it was hard to manoevre in the big Mariner boat, so placing the Diatoms was a struggle!  After a cold, wet 4 hours, all 9 are in situ!  As Miles (from Harbour team) said, they look a bit primordial floating there randomly.  Will need to take better photos when the sun’s out and we’ve managed to adjust their positions in a smaller boat – this Saturday, hopefully.  (See latest post: A constructive day at Bristol Harbour)

 

Spring

For me, winter is a good time to collect and hoard interesting found materials, gather ideas, catch up on admin and cast out my net for potential projects and exhibitions for the coming year.  It’s a chance to re-fuel and visit exhibitions too.  I saw Zarina Bhimji’s work at the Whitechapel, London recently (one of my favourite art venues), which encouraged me to think big.  Her evocative large scale films and photographs made me weep, with their haunting sounds and imagery – reminiscent of complex feelings about my own East Africa.  Anyway, my studio felt neglected until last week.  With several projects set up now and sunny spring in the air, I’ve sprung into action and creativity!

Using reclaimed materials isn’t new to the art world. Duchamp’s readymade urinal in 1917 was preceded by centuries of African Art utilising found materials.  I’ve been doing it for 30 years.  But the eco movement of today definitely embraces conservation, recycling and found materials more holistically in art – as in other areas of life.  As I said in a previous post, I’m excited that I’m a part of Bristol’s Big Green Week.  A new ‘world class festival of sustainability – celebrating the environment, art and culture’, my role as one of the selected Artists-in-Residence is to produce a series of eco sculptures, which the public can view in progress at the Create Centre and which will eventually go on show around the city in June.  Below are images of the start of my first big piece for it – ‘Man models himself on Earth, Earth on Heaven’:

It’s nice to be invited to show in Exhibitions.  Amongst others coming up, I’m really pleased to have been asked to feature in Delamore’s May Exhibition and the Bishop’s Palace Summer Exhibition (July – Sept) – both lovely venues.  For details of other projects and exhibitions I’m involved in, please see my post ‘current and forthcoming exhibitions’.  I can feel the busy period looming already…

Roche Court

Having wanted to visit Roche Court Sculpture Garden and New Art Centre, Salisbury for ages, I was very happy for the opportunity to accompany a group of students I teach from All Hallows Prep School on a trip there with Nick Somerville (Head of Art) this week.  An amazing collection of contemporary sculptures set in beautiful grounds, we were all the more inspired through our personalised tour by Jo and Alice from Roche Court, who initiated a series of drawing exercises for students to get the most out of work by sculptors such as Michael Craig-Martin, Barbara Hepworth, Julian Opie and Peter-Randall-Page.

We met resident willow sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon, who was installing her massive nest forms on the buildings there, ready for a forthcoming exhibition ‘The Nature of Things’.  I have a similar fascination with nest forms, and was intrigued by her process and scale of work.  Students learnt how to make a fish-knot using willow sticks and we all came away inspired and eager to explore new ideas.

Recycled Steel and Wire Sculpture at Carymoor… the Natural Way

On Saturday 25th September, Carymoor Environmental Centre (Castle Cary, Somerset) will be holding an Open Day featuring the premier viewing of a newly installed Carymoor sculpture, an exciting intergenerational art project I have been running over the Summer.  Art work from the workshops will also be on display at Carymoor’s Open Day as part of Somerset Art Weeks.  Combined with one of Carymoor’s quarterly nature days, entitled ‘Goats, Tigers and Elephants – a celebration of Somerset’s Moths,’ it should be a fascinating event!

Initially instigated by Somerset Art Works via ‘The Company of Voices’ project and inspired by the magic of Carymoor, I led a series of taster, workshop and sculpture sessions involving groups of volunteers from different age groups. In addition to making individual pieces, all participants contributed to the creation of a large recycled steel and wire sculpture depicting a dragonfly emerging from a nymph cast. This 3 metre piece will be suspended over the beautiful pond area in the Carymoor sensory garden. The sculpture will not only be a visual delight but will also help to educate future visitors of all ages about sustainability and the benefits of recycling that are at the heart of Carymoor’s philosophy.

The day also offers a beginner’s exploration of the weird and wonderful world of moths and their caterpillars, looking at which moths have arrived in the moth trap overnight, with a walk of the site to highlight the plants most useful to them. There will also be moth-themed family-friendly activities going on in and around the centre and fun quizzes for children.

A wonderful opportunity to visit the Centre, there will be refreshments available, including homemade soup from the gardens and Julia’s delicious homemade cakes.  The Centre will be open between 10am and 2pm. For more information email info@carymoor.org.uk or phone 01963 350143.  Check out our blog:  http://carymoorartproject.blogspot.com/