Instead of a Cross, an Albatross

I am relieved that the research-based module 4 of my MA is now over.   I read alot of books – ‘Materiality: Documents of Contemporay Art’ is a brilliant eye-opener to concepts on matter and process.  I now have a fairly clear run until September to work through ideas and create for my final MA show.  I have been working outside for the first time since last summer in the February sunshine. Though cold, it has been wonderful to spread out and get on with new work.

I have become fixated by the plight of sea creatures, dying in large numbers from trash heap gyres in our oceans. I am particularly disturbed by images of Albatross chicks taken by Chris Jordan, a photography initiative at Midway, USA. Their stomachs get bloated full of plastic objects – sharp shards, lighters and bottle tops, fed by their parents mistaking the floating objects for morsels of fish. Their insides reveal a microscopic view of our trash.  My new piece is a response to this terrible reality, to be shown in a residency at Walcot Chapel, Bath, later this month (12-18 Feb).  I am linking the myth of the albatross in Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner (‘instead of a cross, the albatross’) with ideas of the crucifixion, using found objects including old steel nails, rope and plastic.

I had to make a 2 minute video of an artist between 1900-49 to present as part of Dexter Dalwood seminars at Bath Spa Uni.  I decided to make one about Graham Sutherland’s Green Tree Form: Interior of Woods.  For a first film, it turned out ok, thanks to my son Jack for his technical help putting it together.  Sutherland’s thorn series brought to mind the association of nails/thorns with the crucifixion for my new piece.

A couple of my pieces (below) will be shown at the Elemental Sculpture Park near Cirencester, Gloucestershire (The Paddocks, Somerford Keynes, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 6FE from 1st April to 30th September, 10:30 – 17:00, closed Tuesday and Wednesday, last admission 16:00).  Do visit if you are in the area.

I have started invigilating at Hauser & Wirth’s The Land we Live in – The Land We Left Behind.  The exhibition is a narrative about our relationship with the rural, featuring an incredible selection of artists including Archimboldo, Beatrix Potter (a lovely drawing of fungal spores which prompted me to investigate her innovative work on lichen and fungi), Samuel Palmer, Henry Moore, Mark Dion.  An intriguing show and so comprehensive, it is worth several visits.  As part of the exhibition there is an Honest Shop where local artisans can sell their work (£20 max).  I have some small copper items for sale – enameled lichen forms, keyrings, incense holder, balls and hearts!

Yesterday I visited Dorothy Cross’s Glance exhibition at The New Art Centre, Roche Court, near Salisbury. I was amazed by her carved marble Bed with its gently creased sheets and soft-looking pillow hollowed by an absent head. She manages to turn a traditional medium into something very contemporary.  Her body fragments – dangling feet and hand casts are also very beautiful.

Here’s to more February sunshine!

 

 

 

 

Material experiments, exhibitions and open studios

Hello to Winter and the festive season!

I am now in my second (and final) year of my MA Fine Art course at Bath Spa Uni.  It has been a great opportunity to reflect on previous work, find new ways of working and research.  I am still expanding and refining ideas, while continuing the thread of using reclaimed materials. This aspect relates partly to the issue of waste and energy – utilising and recycling.  It belongs to a wider subject of our relationship with matter, nature, and ourselves.  In the series ‘Wonders of Life’ Brian Cox explains that energy is eternal, transforming from one thing to another. There is a connection between everything that has ever lived, and an impact, as in the Chaos theory, or Butterfly Effect.  I see Vitalism as energy in all things, although in Science it is the vital force peculiar to only living organisms.

A mass of frass (insect excretions) appeared around tiny entry points in a piece of found wood (above) in which I had inserted glass tendrils as growths. The frass resemble decaying matter on a holdfast I studied. I find them intriguing, referencing life’s recycling, organic matter as bodily forms. These phenomena have been starting points to further investigations. They led to microscopic studies of frass. Microscopic hidden structures vital to our being reflecting the magnitude of life. These images could easily be rock formations – even meteors.

I have since experimented with annealing and beating copper over molds I carved in wood, based on frass forms. My copper project – exploring the materiality of copper and what happens to it under different conditions – included an experiment with copper electrolysis. The alchemic process is fascinating, I have learnt a little more chemistry and made copper hydroxide as a pigment. Two scrap pieces of copper were connected to a low voltage battery charger, with opposite charges. The electricity splits the ions in salty water. A complex chemical process ensues, involving copper hydroxide, chlorine and hydrogen bubbles. The effects of disintegration and patination are wonderful. The harnessing of elemental energy could become an artwork.

I recently visited the exhibition ‘Italian Influences, British Responses’ at Estorick, London. It was interesting to see current artworks alongside the anti-consumerist 60’s group Arte Povera, who broke with tradition believing art should be inclusive.  In their resolution to fuse life and art, nature and culture, they used everyday materials, often incongruous juxtapositions of mundane manufactured with organic. Their work was about energy and the elements. The exhibition included a piece by Mona Hatoum.  She uses everyday objects arranged to signify displacement and confinement.  In her work domesticity becomes ‘menacing’ (Van Assche).  In a Youtube film she explains her intuitive response to materials. She incorporates body parts eg nails, skin, hair, creating modest hair balls, or hair grids. Through these bodily excretions she transforms materials and meaning.

I also saw Damian Ortega at White Cube Gallery and watched him online. He playfully takes apart and re-assembles components, dealing with fragmentation of objects, time, materiality.  It is a philosophical discourse involving material and message.   I like his encyclopaedic geodes made from old maps, which he layers as shells, suggesting geological time, and his visual essays, which question truth, mass media’s effect on our perceptions and judgements. ‘Learning Scheme’ indexes small thumbnail clay pieces according to their similarities. Some forms are similar in different groups/lines. Like convergent evolution, they seem to morph, some are organic, others more mechanical.  Since then I have been working in clay a little.

Last week we opened our MA studios to the public.  I created an installation for it inspired by the organic forms I have been studying, using found and reclaimed materials, some transformed by me. It was a great gathering and the deadline helped me focus on one thing for a while.

On a more commercial note, to make ends meet, I have just updated my Etsy page: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/FionaCampbellArt. Do have a look – there are some possible gifts for Christmas!

Have a lovely one!

 

Walcot Chapel Residency

Finally completed my piece for the Walcot Chapel MA residency after a week making and installing.  There’s lots of other work too – come along tomorrow 6-8pm for our Open Eve!

Interconnectedness of all things DSC_0060 WalcotChapelOpenEvening

For more information about my MA work visit: fionacampbellblog

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.

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

 

 

Collaboration

'Flock in Flight' All Hallows Prep School group work

Each project brings with it new challenges. Sometimes several projects run alongside each other and the art of juggling can be a challenge in itself. Some of my roles overlap or interlink. This can be a good way to function, ‘killing 2 birds with 1 stone’ (though I hate killing), easing the problem of having too many things on the go, but isn’t so straightforward if you don’t want to compromise the work, and it can create a bottleneck time-wise, amongst other complications. I’ve enjoyed working alongside other artists/makers of all ages. I like collaboration – at its best, combined effort multiplies output and result, it’s more fun and creatively, one can learn so much from working with others.

The past month has been full-on. With a bit of time to reflect now, here’s a look at what went on in my little creative world (in the bigger world – all I can say in a nutshell is PLEASE CAN WE UNITE AND STOP KILLING).

Teaching, Workshops, Talks, Demonstrations

On 12 June I spent a day at the Hidden Garden Art Show (Maureen Michaelson Gallery, Hampstead), part of Chelsea Fringe Festival where my sculptures were on show with other selected artists, demonstrating my work process, running a drop-in workshop and giving a talk about my work to visitors.  Although it poured with rain all morning, the sun brought a magical shimmer and quite a crowd in the afternoon, including Tim Richardson – founder of Chelsea Fringe.

Drop-in workshop at Hidden Garden Art ShowWorkshop participant's beetleMe talking to Tim Richardson (leads Chelsea Fringe)

I teach 2 evenings a week at All Hallows Prep School and as I’ve been involved in the Secret Swans Art Trail (one of Black Swan Arts’ 30th anniversary events and part of Frome Festival), I devised a project to involve the children in the Trail.   We created a flock of flying swans in wire, which were installed on the exterior wall of Black Swan’s historic Round Tower.  Inspired by my recent trip to Sophie Ryder’s exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral, we used her ‘scribbly’ technique to add more black areas.  It was an effective solution given time constraints.  The final lessons getting the work completed was a mission as some children were absent due to end-of-term activities.  Thankfully others stood in (special mention: Ellie West and Nick Somerville!). The swans looked like faint drawings, quite lovely and ethereal, though visitors had to look hard to see them.

Student's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansStudent's work in progress - making the All Halllows swansMy contribution to 'Flock in Flight'Installation on Round Tower, Black Swan Arts Centre

Preparations for Priddy Festival included some ‘birdy notes’ as we called them.  A team of Mendip Creatives made them from wire and paper, for marquee decor.  A large willow hog was also made, led by Angela Morley.

I worked with a couple of schools recently (Bishops Wordsworth & North Town) making wire figures and mini creatures.  Bishops Wordsworth was a 2 day slog over to Salisbury in a hire car (my truck was broken) giving 4 x powerpoints/making sessions to 128 children in fairly swift succession. The short sessions of 2 hours per group had limitations, but it’s amazing what children can do when focused!

North Town Primary students making Giacometti-inspired figureNorth Town Primary student making Giacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureGiacometti-inspired figureWire Fish by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Dragonfly by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Seahorse by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Crane by Yr 7 pupil - Bishops Wordsworth School Wire Woodlouse by Yr 13 helper - Bishops Wordsworth School

Volunteering Roles

Secret Swans badge (illustration by Belinda Brownlee)

I continue to be very involved in the Black Swan Arts centre as a trustee, especially this year, with its 30th anniversary.  We have held several special exhibitions/events to mark the occasion, which have so far been a ‘resounding success’ (Christina Oswin), with great feedback, overwhelming support from the public, serious funds raised, heightened the BSA profile and engaged the community.
1000 Postcards attracted over 1000 postcard-sized artworks (including 2 of mine) for a massively popular exhibition with over £10,000 of sales so far and visitors galore.  Unsold postcards can still be bought online.  Preparations for the Secret Swans Art Trail, which followed straight after, grew more intensive.  30 artists in 30 venues around Frome.  I made a piece, ‘Resurrection’, (using reclaimed steel, copper wire, tar, rope and scrim) and sited it by the river.  It only recieved slight damage, easily rectified and many positive comments, so am grateful to most Frome residents for their respect!  In addition I worked on the All Hallows piece, helped Nick Weaver with the organisation and was largely involved in the PR for these events.  They are great examples of a huge team effort by Black Swan volunteers.

Sketches for my Secret Swans work'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' - ‘Black Swan’ is a metaphor for the impossible becoming possible. This piece is about hope, endeavour, yearning, striving for truth, purity (‘we will never know everything’), freedom from constraints, environmental pollution. Swans represent love, which ‘conquers all’, symbolised by the crucifix. 'Resurrection' detail 'Resurrection' detail Secret Swans piece (detail) by Edgar PhillipsSecret Swans piece by Tessa Farmer (detail) Secret Swans piece by Alicia Merret Secret Swans piece by Angela Morley - detail Secret Swans piece by Annie Fry

I’ve been involved in various Somerset Art Works meetings, a couple for an exciting new project that might come off next year with Anna Best, and for Somerset Open Studios ’16 (17 Sept – 2 Oct).  As Rep for East Mendip, I’m keen to make sure we do Somerset proud.  I’m part of a cluster group in my area called The Mendip Triangle; we have a specially designed map (by Michel Linthorst) to help direct SAW visitors to our lovely rural Studios in September.  Looking forward to seeing this year’s SAW guides being delivered next week!

SAW flyer 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel LinthorstSAW flyer (back) 'The Mendip Triangle' by Michel Linthorst

New Work, Exhibitions

I made a new Nest and Mini Dung Beetle & Ball for the Maureen Michaelson Show, in addition to existing work.  ‘Resurrection’ will be sited at the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail, Teignmouth seafront from 23 July – 4 Sept, and I am now curating our forthcoming step in stone exhibition touring to Salisbury Art Centre (18 Aug – 24 Sept), with Amanda Wallwork’s help. 2 of my main outdoor pieces will be on show.  If you missed any step in stone artscapes last year, try to visit!

Nest detail'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

The garden and studio get quite a battering after big projects, so it’s time to tidy up!   My good intention of simplifying life, with less to clutter the brain is still in the development stage – I hope it will happen one day.  In the meantime, the juggling continues!

PRESS 2016

Frome Standard, March ’16 – Local Artists’ work focal pieces/Chelsea Flower Show story

Frome Times, March ’16 – Chelsea Flower Show commission

Fine Times Recorder, March ’16 – Bishop unveiling at Bishops Palace

Wells Journal, March ’16 – New sculpture unveiled at Bishops Palace

The Visitor Magazine, May ’16 – Somerset artists net Chelsea Flower Show commission

BBC Get Creative Day, April ’16 – workshops at Black Swan Arts

Bruton Town website – Chelsea Flower Show commission

The Fine Times Recorder – Chelsea Flower Show commission

Bishop commission – Country Gardener

Bishop - Country Gardener

Mendip Times, May ’16 – Bishop and Chelsea

Mendip Times May '16

Gardens Illustrated, May ’16 – Chelsea

Gardens Illustrated May '16

Sunday Telegraph, 29 May ’16 – Chelsea canopy

Sunday Telegraph 29 May 16

Viking Cruises brochure for Chelsea Garden, May ’16

Viking Cruises brochure for Chelsea Garden, May '16

Somerset Live – Chelsea artists return

Frustrated Gardener blog – Chelsea Mekong Garden

Garden Design Journal – Chelsea

Garden Design Journal

Country Life, Collectors’ Issue, 1 June ’16

Canopy and Boat, Mekong Garden, Chelsea - Country Life June '16

Chelsea Fringe website – Hidden Garden Art Show

Frome Standard, 9 June ’16

Frome Standard 9 Jun 16

Ham and High – Hidden Garden Art Show

Ham & High - Secret Garden Full of Gems Ham & High - Garden Events

The Artiscape – Gold and Best Artisan Garden Awards for Somerset Artists

The Visitor Magazine, June ’16 – Gold and Best Artisan Garden Awards at Chelsea Flower Show for Somerset Artists

Bruton Town website, June ’16 –  Secret Swans Art Trail

SculptSite.com, June ’16 – Secret Swans Art Trail Adds Mystery to Frome Festival

SculptSite.com - Secret Swans Art Trail

Frome Festival, July ’16 – Secret Swans Success Story

Somerset Cool Blog, July ’16 – 30 Years of Art – Black Swan Arts, Frome

Frome Standard, July ’16 – Secret Swans

Secret Swans - Frome Standard 21:7:16

Frome Times, August ’16 – Black Swan – Beacon for the Arts

Black Swan - Beacon for the Arts - Frome Times 28:8:16

Salisbury Journal, Aug ’16 – step in stone tours to Salisbury Art Centre

step in stone at Salisbury, Salisbury Journal 11:8:16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Fundraising success!

I was elated when news came through in January that my grant application to Arts Council England/National Lottery (via Grants for Arts) for step in stone was successful!  This is the icing on the cake after several hard-going months fundraising and a few other succcesses including our crowd funding on IdeasTap.   It’s really not my thing, so I feel a huge sense of achievement and relief!  I owe thanks to several people who helped and supported me, particularly Nick Weaver, for his patient editing.

Since then, work’s got even busier!  In between organising our step in stone Artist Research Trip (image below), doing step in stone PR and some art teaching, I have a commission I’m working on.  Once complete, I will post images.  It’s a new departure for me and I’m sworn to secrecy about it at the moment.

I was also delighted to be invited to join the Black Swan Arts Centre team as a trustee.  It’s a great honour, and I’m looking forward to getting more involved with the Centre.

step in stone Artist Research Trip, Jan 15

 

 

 

BBC Radio interview

A couple of weeks ago I did a radio interview with Martin Evans at BBC, Bristol.  Zoe Li (SAW) and I went up for an interview to plug Somerset Art Works Open Studios Family Friendly weekend, which we did.  Martin then suggested a separate interview about my work.. so here it is – live for 7 days..!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0287hwn