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!





Crowd funding campaign launched for step in stone!

I have just launched a crowdfunding campaign for step in stone on IdeasTap:

The link leads to full details about my planned step in stone project, together with a short related film, made by Jack Offord.  Please visit and support. We hope to be successful in raising our target amount for an exciting project!

Photography and Film-making

I’m becoming more and more aware of the importance of using film well to document work, explore ideas, present and attract a wider audience and even, perhaps, make a few extra bucks on the internet!  I try to take good photos of my work in diverse settings, but when I’ve used a professional photographer, the results are usually much better.  I realise we can’t do everything well.  I went to ’35mil’ in Frome recently to try out their expert eye/lenses/lighting on the start of some new work, in the hope that the images would be good enough for some new PR.  The results were great and I’ll definitely return for more, when my series of Vertical pieces is finished:

A photographer friend and co-member of Gallery4Art, Nic Wingate, recently photographed one of my Earth Worm pieces as a 360˚ image.  This has great potential for products which need to be seen from all angles.

V-J Ultra made a film of my work once, and I’ve since been meaning to make my own.   Whilst I was a member (and co-founder) of the Scraptors, S-J of Whitespace Productions kindly produced a wonderful film (gratis) of our Stourhead Sculpture Trail.  We used it to good end in our fund-raising appeal and it remains a lasting reminder of the trail’s success.  Recently, my teenage son and I have been to a couple of animation/film-making workshops via Somerset Film, as he’s interested in this media.  We took part in making a Bridgwater Carnival film and made simple animations.  It reminded me of doing animation as part of my Art Foundation course years ago, which I really enjoyed.

So now with a taste for it again, I plan to make some “how to make…” films, stick them on Youtube, get millions of hits and make big bucks.  That way I can carry on sculpting into ripe old age..!  Watch this space…

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: