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!

 

 

 

 

Looking back at Somerset Open Studios ’14

SAW signSAW sign

Taking down the yellow signs for Somerset Art Weeks often feels a bit like the end of a party.   Quite exhausted, tinges of sadness but ultimately happy to have met and even befriended so many lovely, appreciative people from the South West and beyond.  Looking back at stimulating conversations and comments left by visitors it’s great to know that they enjoyed themselves and were inspired.  Starting and ending on a high note, overall I felt this one went with a swing.

I shared my venue this year with Nick Weaver, whose reclaimed wood pieces really enhanced the show.  Thanks to his hard work helping to restore my garden to former glory and to an indian summer, the 52 outdoor sculptures glistened in their surroundings – described by one visitor as ‘reminiscent of arcadia’!

Bulrushes and Lignum amongst grasses Sculptures in the garden Workshop in the garden Found Now Missing

Good signage, SAW catalogues and successful PR (by all involved) seem to be the main ways to attract SAW visitors.  A focus this year was to appeal to a younger, wider audience.  Zoe Li (SAW Art Weeks manager) and I did a BBC radio interview in Bristol with Martin Evans to increase media coverage of the final Open Studios ‘family friendly’ weekend.   As it turned out, the last weekend was, in my view, a brilliant finale.  I manned at All Hallows School’s venue on Saturday, where some of my students’ work was on show.  Tied in with an Open Day their venue attracted far more family visitors than usual.  And on Sunday, as part of the Big Draw, I had 20 participants of all ages doing a taster wire workshop in my garden in addition to many other visitors – challenging but fun!

Visitors at All Hallows SAW venueWire Crane (detail) by a student at All Hallows Wire Cranes by my students at All HallowsSunday wire workshop in garden for family friendly weekendSunday wire workshop in garden for family friendly weekendSunday wire workshop in garden for family friendly weekendMother and daughter teamWire owl by workshop participantWire cat head by workshop participantWire beetle by workshop participant

Making sales is always a bonus, and happily we made some of those too!

It’s All Happening In Somerset

Somerset Open Studios ’14 is now in full swing, we had a great open evening doo to kick off and I’m happy to say our venue (140 – Cranmore BA4 4RH, shared with Nick Weaver) made several sales this weekend.  With over 52 pieces on show in the garden alone, it was a big job setting up (and clearing up my studio ready for the event).  I ran a brief workshop for several art students from Wells Cathedral Junior School and will be running similar taster workshops on the next 2 Sundays (11.30-12.30).  Please book if you’re interested: (01749) 880394.

Wire workshop with juniors from Wells Cathedral School Laundry Cottage on show SAW '14 - Nick's stools and my Nest SAW '14 SAW '14 - Found Now Missing on show

Last weekend I visited Hauser & Wirth’s new Gallery space in Bruton for their Private View of Piet Oudolf’s newly created garden.  Phyllida Barlow’s work inside provided a tactile (though you can’t touch), raw and quite spectacular use of the barn buildings.  Her work seemed to celebrate the space: multi gigantic pompoms suspended and massive colourful structures reaching into roof voids.  It was invigorating, while Oudolf’s garden was soothing.  Luckily we could touch his wonderful, feathery grasses – it would have been torture not to.  And it was a treat to see one of Louise Bourgeois’s Spiders (much smaller than the one I saw at the Tate Modern, but still great!)

Louise Bourgeois' Spider Piet Oudolf's garden Piet Oudolf's garden (detail)

Fundraising is not my forte but I’ve had to do it as part of a major project I’m organising entitled ‘step in stone’.  The film we’ve been making for a crowdfunding platform is now ready to launch on IdeasTap.  This will go live in the next day or so, and I hope we will have some success through it.  We have now made the final selection of featured artists, and it is all getting very exciting and absorbing!  More news of this project soon…

Hello to Autumn

I hope you’ve had a wonderful summer and feel ready for the fall.  I managed to get away for an inspiring trip to Florence and Pisa for a week in between working on various projects, teaching, commissions and exhibitions.  I sold some work locally and in Londonmade a tree in a day and very happy to have just learnt I won an Environmental Award for my work at the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail!

There’s plenty to look forward to this autumn.  I’ve been preparing for Somerset Open Studios ’14 as East Mendip Rep and exhibitor.  This year I’ll be showing work in my studio and garden with Nick Weaver (elegant wood pieces) from 20th Sept – 5th Oct, 11-6 daily (wire workshops each Sunday 11.30-12.30 – please book).  We’ve formed a small cluster group in our vicinity and have a Launch doo on 20th Sept (see below) – please come and visit us!

Fiona and Nick inviteSAW 14 Cluster poster

My energies have also been focused on organising a major project entitled step in stone – a collaborative holistic, multi-stranded Art Trail around 2-4 disused/working quarries in the East Mendips (planned for July – Oct ’15), with related exhibitions at Black Swan Arts Centre and Somerset Earth Science Centre, linking with Somerset Art Works.  Artists are being drawn from a range of disciplines, some selected from a callout.  Confirmed artists include Tessa Farmer – one of my favourites after seeing her at Saatchi and recently at Holburne.  The project relies on funding, so in addition to formal applications we’re running a crowdfunding bid on IdeasTap via their commission-free Accelerator platform (soon going live – watch this space) and making a film for it.  I’ll have curatorial mentoring from Amanda Wallwork (Sherborne House Art Director/B-Side Curator) and Zoe Li (SAW/Arts Council) – let’s hope it all comes to fruition!

Some other exhibitions I’m involved in over the next month or so:

Glastonbury Abbey’s Orchard Sculpture Trail, BA6 9EL (ends 28th Sept)

Art Parks International Sculpture Exhibition, Guernsey (ends Oct)

Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, USA – Second Time Around – The Hubcap as Art, LandfillArt (6th Sept ’14 – 1st March ‘15)

Have a great start to autumn!

Skips and scrapyards – a growing concern

I’ve been clambering over scrapyard heaps for about 25 years (on and off) and it still thrills me to go hunting in them.  My friends’ Dad, Mick, worked in a scrapyard in Cirencester decades ago and introduced me to scrapyard wonderland.  Mountains of metal in all shapes and sizes; colourful writhing wires, crying to be resuscitated.  Once upon a time it was a cheap way to find materials.  Skips aren’t quite as exciting, but they are cost free.

My scraptor exploits are getting a bit crazy of late.  I have a scrap zone in my garden, and it’s getting a bit out of hand.  When I co-founded the Scraptors group 2 years ago and subsequently became a Green Capital Artist in Residence for Bristol’s Big Green Week ’12, friends and the public donated numerous items, some of which I turned into sculptures for related trails and exhibitions.  Now a recent commission (Abundance) via SAW/NGS has given me more reason to go rummaging.   Recycled materials feature strongly in the pieces I’m creating for it.

Owners of the garden at Esotera, where my Abundance work will be installed in September, gave me a large pile of wire for the work.  Last week I returned to a skip I’d come across armed with snips to extract some springs from a dumped sofa (with permission from the owner).  I got some funny looks as I struggled to cut the steel, straddled on top..  Today I dragged back a large rusty steel barrel from a local quarry I frequent and have been avidly collecting bits on dog walks.   Let’s hope the resulting work is worth my garden turning into a scrapyard.  After this project I might sell the leftovers back to the yard, have a scrap free garden for a while and grow nice flowers.

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

Exhibitions 2012

This list has been added to over the months, together with images of the exhibitions:

‘Precious and Primal’ Solo Exhibition at Casespace, Bruton Museum, 26 High Street, Bruton Somerset BA10 0AA  1-29 February (Open Tues, Wed, Fri 11-1pm; Sat 11-3pm)

Black Swan Open Art 2012 Exhibition, Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge Street, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB  11th February – 31st March (Private View 10th Feb, 6-8pm)

Mercedes Pop-up Art Exhibition, Mercedes Showroom, Taunton  10th/11th March

Environment Exhibition, Hawthorns, 8-12 Northload Street, Glastonbury BA6 9JJ  21 – 29th  April (in support of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation – raffle to raise funds)

Delamore Arts, Cornwood, Devon PL21 9QT  1 – 31st May 2012

Showborough Sculpture Garden Exhibition, Showborough House, Twyning Gloucestershire GL20 6DN 3rd May – 17th June (open 10.30am – 4pm; Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun & Bank Holiday Mon)

Swans of Wells, Bishops Palace moat and surrounds, Wells May – September (decorated ‘Candela’ Swan for sponsors All Hallows Prep School)

Art in the Garden 2012, The Sir Harold Hillier Gardens, Hampshire  19th May – 27th October

Summers Place/Sotheby’s Auction, The Walled Garden, Stane St, Billingshurst, W.Sussex RH14 9AB 18th – 24th May

Green Capital Residency Exhibition, Create Centre, Smeaton Road, Cumberland Basin, Bristol BS1 6XN   6th June – 27th July and harbour by Arnolfini, Bristol   6-17th June

Reading Room, Arnolfini, 16 Narrow Quay, Bristol BS1 4QA 6th June – 1st July (sketchbooks)

Woodland Sculpture Trail, Goblin Combe, Cleeve BS49 4PQ 15/16/17th June

NGS Open Garden & Art Exhibition, East Burford House, West Compton, Pilton, Somerset BA4 4PA 24/25th June, 11-5

ArtsLink Summer Show, Newland Gallery, Old Hall, 101 Newland, Sherborne, Dorset DT9 3DU 29th/30th June

The Bishop’s Palace Summer Exhibition 2012, Wells, Somerset BA5 1UN  July – Sept

The Blue House Sculpture Exhibition (part of Frome Festival), The Bridge, Somerset, Frome BA11 1AP  6-15th July

Rubbish Art Project (work displayed on London waterways until the end of the Olympics, including Regent’s Canal Festival, Shoreditch Festival, Barbican, Angel Canal Festival, London Pleasure Gardens and London Wildlife Centre) 13th July – Sept   (For further details see London Canal Festivals post)

Devon Recycled Sculpture TRAIL, Teignmouth seafront, Devon 18th July – 2nd September

Sculpture in the Gardens 2012, Godinton House & Gardens, Godinton Lane, Ashford, Kent  TN23 3BP  21st July – 12th August, open daily 2-5.30pm

Binham Grange Summer Exhibition, Nr Minehead, Somerset TA24 6HX  11th August – 2nd September, open daily 10.30am-5pm.   Wire workshop Thursday 16th – for details see Gallery4Art website & to book contact me: (01749) 880394

Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios, Laundry Cottage, 13 Cooks Lane, West Cranmore, Shepton Mallet Somerset BA4 4RH  15th – 30th Sept

Quartz 2012, Queen’s College, Trull Road, Taunton TA1 4QS  26th Sept – 6th Oct

Black Swan Arts SMALL Exhibition, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB  1-24th Dec ’12

Ginger Fig Gallery’s 5th birthday themed exhibition ‘The birds and the bees’, 1b Bath Place, Taunton TA1 4ER  25th Jan – 9th Feb ’13

Scraptorzoic Era by the Scraptors, at The Magdalen Project, Magdalen Farm, Winsham, Chard, Somerset TA20 4PA   2013 onwards