Tentacular

At the start of this month, I went to a Somerset Art Weeks Symposium in Taunton ‘Prospecting: new directions and territories for artists’ practice’.  It was an invigorating day, albeit condensed, making connections and thinking laterally.  I particularly enjoyed catching up with SAW artists and meeting new practitioners. One of our tasks to bring to the event was a ‘This is Me’ profile for a group wall display.  Mine (below) reflects on the tentacular nature of my practice:

The talks highlighted inspiring examples of socially engaged practice and collaboration.  In workshops with Kerry Harker and Lydia Catterall we discussed the imperative for resilience, forging artist-led initiatives, and finding interesting spaces to show our work.  With this in mind, I’ve been planning a few interesting ventures for next year.  Two happen to involve prison cells.

I’m excited to be mulling over ideas for a residency culminating in a solo exhibition in the basement cells at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, in the Spring.  Alongside the show, I’ll be delivering some related workshops with the young and elderly.  I am also in early stages of organising a joint art project and exhibition with Luminara Star and the Rubbish Art Project in Shepton Prison (the oldest UK working prison – now vacant until it gets developed into residential homes).  The cells are still in tact.  Both sites are unique, intriguing spaces for site-specific work, full of dark, sad histories, appropriate for creative responses to current society and environmental issues.  On a sunny day, light through the windows, steel bars and grids casts dramatic linear shadows. The prison, now silent, has great acoustics – one can only imagine the sounds of its past. We hope to include other artists, possibly sound, film, performance and installation and will engage the community in the making process.

A recent tweet about a bull elephant being shot because it broke out of its fenced enclosure in South Africa made me fume.  Almost as bad as poaching and trophy hunting.  It turns out they did not maintain the fences adequately, and all he was doing was naturally pushing boundaries, exploring, roaming beyond barriers – human imposed after all.  Why shoot him? Because he wasn’t towing the line we impose for our own humancentric logic.

Inky the Octopus, a hero in 2016, broke out of his aquarium tank in New Zealand National Aquarium, slid/crawled across the floor and down a drainpipe to the ocean.  Amazing intelligence and agility, but as this article points out, for many reasons beyond our own intelligence. Octopuses are so very different to us – ‘aliens’ apparently.  What’s fascinating is that ‘octopus literature is full of such flights to freedom’. The escape and how he did it remains a mystery. I was in awe watching an octopus in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet (Green Seas episode) trick a shark and escape by very cunningly and swiftly covering itself with a coat of shells. Picasso and his contemporaries were intrigued by ‘The Octopus’, 1928, a film by Jean Painleve, which led to Picasso’s octopus-like women.  Octopuses also remind me of the interconnectedness of life:

The tentacular are… fingery beings like humans… squid, jellyfish, neural extravaganzas, fibrous entities, flagellated beings… swelling roots… The tentacular are also nets and networks… Tentacularity is about life lived along lines… a series of interlaced trails’ (Donna Haraway, 2016)

So, this creature – a symbol of our great and mysterious oceans- inspired my design for a giant octopus lantern to lead 2018 Shepton Lantern Parade (see top).  I am making the chicken-wire structure, then working on it with the community and the Rubbish art project in workshops at the Art Bank,Shepton Mallet, using recycled materials, especially plastic.  Workshop dates: Sat 24 Nov 11am-1pm, Mon 26 11-1, Mon 3 Dec 7-9pm, Thur 6 Dec 4-6pm + more… To take part in a workshop email lucy@therubbishartproject.co.uk   The Octopus will be lit by led lights and paraded on 22 December with the Shepton Lantern Parade. Please come along!

Creature and environmental concerns continue to engage me, as does the blurring of boundaries.  My thoughts are currently meandering around concepts of confinement, caged animals/humans, factory farming, obstruction, barriers, walls within walls.. and I’m sure there will be an element of the tentacular.

Other news:

I received the official results of my Masters in Fine Art this week and delighted to have passed with distinction!

In between tidying up my studio so it’s fit for purpose, I’ve started working on a 1 metre Great Crested Newt as a commission for Carymoor Environmental Centre in memory of Hamish Craig, whose amazing contribution to Carymoor was instigated by great crested newts found there.

Last week I ran my first workshop as part of the Holburne Museum education team.  It was an A’Level life-drawing session linked to ‘Rodin: rethinking the fragment’. It encouraged me to do some of my own life-drawing beforehand and prep on Rodin’s link with the Pantheon sculptures, which all helped.

The class did some fabulous drawings:

Forthcoming exhibitions include: Residency and Solo Exhibiiton (title TBC), The Cells, Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, April – May; Incendiary, Landsdown Gallery and SVA, Stroud, 4-10 February 2019; Marks Hall Sculpture, Essex, 20 July – 1 September 2019; Reformation, Bishops Palace, Wells, July – October 2019.  More info to follow.

 

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My website is undergoing a complete rehaul and a much needed paring down.  Watch this space!

 

SpoonFed 5

I had a go at SpoonFed 5 on Sunday evening.  Run by The Collect and held at Spike Island, Bristol, it’s a fantastic micro funding event, developed for practitioners and audiences as a platform for sharing ideas.  At £5 entry per person, a pot of money is collected for the winner.  After a delicious borsch soup, organic bread and pastries, a few of us shared our projects.  With only 3 minutes each to deliver our ideas, time is of the essence.  My proposal was for a sculptural installation ‘Love, Loss and Renewal’, which I’m hoping I can turn into reality next year.

The presentation was a challenge in itself.  I made a maquette as a visual aid and some small prototypes for people to handle whilst I explained the concept and how the funding would help.  The other artists’ ideas were great and it’s a shame we couldn’t all win!  The pot of cash went to The Parlour Showrooms for their Light Box series, a Bristol-based scheme, which I liked very much.

I plan to develop my idea further and am looking into various options as venues, mainly in the South West.  Meanwhile, I have plenty of other projects coming up in the New Year, so must get making!

 

 

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…

 

 

Butterflies, bees and other bugs…

Now that most of my exhibitions are over for a while, I have a bit more time to focus on some drawings in between a couple of commissions.  After months of intensive sculpting, this is a gift – an opportunity to get new ideas rolling. Some edgy new work for gardens with a difference…  Ginger Fig Gallery has asked me to produce some work for their forthcoming ‘Birds and bees, butterflies and other bugs…’ exhibition – prompting me to visit some butterfly houses and get some inspiration.  Longleat and Cadbury Gardens are great resource centres for butterflies and cocoons, kindly giving me some dead ones for my collection.

I went to a couple of Private Views in Bath yesterday evening.  Duncan Cameron (love his work of collected creatures/bones and sketchbooks to die for – I even own a piece!) at Bo Lee Gallery and the Gillespie sisters at Beaux Arts.  I was very moved by Sarah Gillespie’s intimate charcoal and ink drawings of moths and bees… it seems many of us are on the same wavelength.

New ideas to follow..

 

Liking Lichen

It’s always great when things tie up, strands of ideas link and what seems random fits into place.  Pondering on where to go next in my work and exploring ideas, I picked up a vividly coloured twig during a dog-walk and was captivated by the microcosmic yellow, orange and green world of lichen growing on it.  Strangely, I’d recently considered using lichen as a backdrop to my website pages.  The colours and textures seem so fitting.  But I hadn’t looked closely enough at the amazingly sculptural formations of their growth.  Researching lichen back at home, I discovered it is a prime example of a symbiotic union between fungi and algae.  I love the whole concept of symbiosis in the animal and plant kingdoms.  Equal collaboration.  Wish we humans could do it more successfully.

Lichen occurs in extreme environments and illustrates life’s cycle and persistence.  It is also useful in our assessment of environmental pollution (as with diatoms – another fascinating subject I’ve looked at recently).  Zooming in on lichen formations, it struck me how closely the bulbous ‘cushion xanthoria’ relate in shape to weavers’ nests, coral and other forms I gravitate towards.  Nitrate coloured dome-like heads on tentacles enclose a cavity of rich orange.  And I’ve just returned from Rome where domes are huge and plentiful and the walls burn orange.  New work on lichen begins…

Nature’s cyclical persistence

A solo exhibition of my work is dawning soon at Casespace, Bruton Museum.  An intimate space enclosed in a glass case and one corner of the Museum, the exhibition ‘Precious and Primal’ will show some of my smaller pieces – including cocoons and new work I’m making at present:  New Beginnings is a series of egg forms with tentacles sprouting upwards.  I’m experimenting with the kinds of media I used years ago – bandage, wax, bristles etc… to achieve the textures I’m after.  

My ideas have been developing for a proposed show, for which I’d like to create a massive piece as the main focus.   Concepts of  ‘a network of threads weaving through all things’ and Nature’s cyclical persistence keep re-emerging.  Although one changes, develops and adapts in life – it’s strange how one keeps returning to old ideas.  It’s that ‘cyclical nature of things’ concept again (or I’m like a goldfish swimming around.. and around….)

Sonja Klinger (glass artist) kindly gave me some beautiful large pink glass baubles, which she considered scrap.  As I collect recycled materials she thought I could use them in my work.  In a way, I’d like to keep them just as they are – objects d’art in themselves.  They have been sitting decoratively in my garden over the winter, mulling over their next destiny.  But I have a plan for them now.  My Diatom drawings show the baubles encased as the heart within these sculptures.  Diatoms are phytoplankton from the Jurassic Era.  Significantly endangered, they’re responsible for over 40% of the ocean’s primary production – without which we all die.  When I recently learnt that information, my obsession with these fascinating microscopic phenomenon grew all the stronger.  We mustn’t kill them just as we mustn’t slaughter whales!  

My work with the Scraptors sculpture group is accelerating once more.  We are about to launch our IndieGoGo bid to help fund our next venture at the Magdalen Project and filming continues tomorrow to get our message across.  See our blog for details: scraptors.blogspot.com   S-J of Whitespace Productions has kindly made a shorter film version of our Scraptors’ Sculpture Trail at Stourhead to help with our IndieGoGo fund-raising launch.