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…

Time to create

Things have gone a bit quiet for me on the creative front while I’ve been somewhat immersed in organising and fundraising for a new major Art in Quarries project I’m organising called step in stone.  Thanks to generous donors we are half-way to our goal on the IdeasTap crowdfunding site.  With a few other successes raising funds since July, I’ve spent the past month just on one application… the massive G4A Arts Council form.  Now submitted, I feel light-footed, light-headed and ready to embark on some new artwork for next year.  Below is one idea for step in stone:

Design for step in stone - inspired by tumbleweed, hairy seeds, neurons and solar systemsWestdown quarry - one possible site for step in stone

Apart from this project, I’ll be featuring in GROW London 2015 – a contemporary Garden Fair, so it looks to be an exciting year ahead.

 

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

Engaging projects

Over the past few weeks I’ve been on a mission to open myself up to new ideas and approaches, inhale more of what’s going on in the current art scene, explore less charted veins in my work and re-define my practice.

In early November, I volunteered at the Engage International Conference in Cardiff ‘Landing Place: the local in the international’ for 2 days. The highlight for me was chatting to artist Sonia Boyce. Debate amongst galleries, curators, artists and educators centred around the importance of cross-fertilisation between ‘local’ and ‘international’ art, with speakers sharing experiences.  There were some inspiring projects presented.  I visited Artes Mundi and G39 – helping in a breakout session at the latter, and was blown away by Cardiff’s vibe.

Closer to home, I attended a couple of SAW sessions this month – one about curating and one to showcase my work for future projects.  Just as writing an artist statement helps focus the mind, my powerpoint presentation on different strands of my practice gave me a chance to re-assess what I’m doing.  (In September I had to present to over 30 primary school teachers about cross-curricular links via art, so my powerpoint skills are rapidly improving!)

This week I also visited Spike Island, Bristol (such a dynamic contemporary art centre) to discuss doing an MA with Roy Voss and see the Ivan Seal exhibition.  In between this thinking, I’ve been doing some teaching, making and marketing.  As a result, I have some exciting prospects for next year and the challenge of seeing through an ambitious concept I’m developing for an indoor gallery space, around the theme of love, loss and renewal.  Initial doodles below – further details soon…

 

 

Gorgeous summer venues

I recently drove to the other side of the country – almost into France – to install some work in Godinton House & Gardens contemporary sculpture exhibition ’12, Ashford, Kent TN23 3BP.  An annual exhibition in a very grand setting, the gardens are extensive and beautifully landscaped by Head Gardener, Viv Hunt.  It was a long round trip, but probably worth the effort to show in such a gorgeous venue.  The show runs until August 12th, open daily 2-5.30pm.  (Entrance £5 per adult,, children free).  Yesterday, I set up at another great venue in the opposite end of Southern England – Binham Grange, Old Cleeve, Minehead, Somerset TA24 6HX.  Below are details of the Binham Grange Exhibition.  A mixed exhibition by Gallery4Art (of which I’m a member) set in two large barns and gardens filled with a range of contemporary art, it’s a visual feast in a lovely location – well worth a visit.

Update 19/8/12

Having been manning the show and running a workshop there last week, I took some pics of Gallery4Art’s Summer Exhibition at Binham Grange:

 

 

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.