Time To Move On

My intense 2-year MFA course at Bath Spa Uni has now come to a successful end.  I threw myself into it mind and body, so the past few weeks have been a strange time of re-adjustment and reorganising, sadness, but also hope for exciting work ahead.  Time to move on.  Below are some images of the 3 works I presented for the final module and MA Show – thanks to John Taylor for some of these photographs. Through the MA, my practice has undergone a series of shifts; it has developed more integrity, an expansiveness, but also a paring down in approach.  I was happy with the results and delighted with my grade.

Some info about the pieces:

Inspired by reading ‘Planet of Slums’ (Mike Davis) – rich/poor divide, precarious lives, cruelty to humans/animals; watching ‘Our Daily Bread’ (Nikolaus Geyrhalter) – factory farming; ‘A Plastic Ocean’, and grief over the death of my dog, my response is a form of suturing.

Concerned with waste, ‘Glut’ is a set of wrapped, woven and stitched tentacular entrails, viscous hybrids transformed, suturing trash into treasure, both seductive and disgusting. The materials (especially personal items) speak of past lives, loss, textiles, craft. In contrast, the organic forms symbolise death, violence, but also vulnerability and renewal – the duality of horror and tenderness. ‘Accretion’ is an accumulation of many parts. Its evolution, the labour-intensive process of its making is an important element in the work. It is an abject object.  It has connotations of the intestine, a metaphor for waste, excess and recycling, and other tentacular forms.  Like pulling hair out of a plug, it is repulsive, ambiguous.

We are all of the earth; the earth is flesh and bone. ‘Of Bones’ demonstrates a relational play of human-made and organic materials. The juxtaposition of fragile, translucent parched ‘bones’ against metal and wood sets up dynamic tensions. Cast branches as limb-like forms are playful abstractions. It references Picasso’s Crucifixion series inspired by Matthias Grunewald. Christ’s tortured hand is interpreted from the cast of a found piece of gnarled wood. The work also references Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ series and Mark Dion’s trees. Regarding humanity, Christ’s words from the cross: ‘they know not what they do’ resonate.

Since re-entering the outside world I have been catching up on loose ends, establishing new connections, working on a commission, running workshops and other bits and bobs.  In a one-day workshop at Beckington First School (via SAW) working with tinies aged 4-9 years old, we made a whale, fish & other sea creatures. Every child in the school took part in making the sculptural artworks using recycled materials, especially plastic as an environmental project highlighting waste.  It was linked to the story of Jonah and the Whale to tie in with the school’s current theme Retell, Reused, Recycled.  After I fixed all the components together, the sculptures were installed in the school grounds for permanent display.

One morning I taught acrylic painting to a group of 17 U3A adults.  They all produced lovely still life paintings – a few illustrated below.

I was commissioned to make a set of copper bird feeders for Horatio’s Garden, Stoke Mandeville. Some commissions are more interesting than others. This one has increased my understanding of copper and the process of annealing.  I love watching the colours change through application of heat. Copper expands when hammered into a sunken mould. For moulds I used found steel objects and carved a couple in wood, thanks to Nick Weaver. Quite a long process but a fascinating transformation.

I am using these copper processes for a range of shop Christmas decorations (Fosse Beads and Friends, Frome).   Next commission is to make a 1 metre Great Crested Newt for Carymoor Environmental Centre using recycled materials.  It has a lovely backstory, which I will relate in another blog soon.

Yesterday I sold a large sculpture made a few years ago to a lovely couple, who I know will give him a great home. ‘Man Models Himself On Earth, Earth On Heaven’ (my longest title to date) will be added to as a site-specific residency, returning to my original plans for him to be more densely woven.

I occasionally invigilate at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.  I am elated that Berlinde de Bruyckere is now showing there with her Stages & Tales exhibition.   During my MA I researched her work, which became a key influence to my practice.  Her new body of work is more abstract: in her powerful series Courtyard Tales, she uses layers of decomposed, torn blankets as a metaphor for bodies, intimacy, decay, shelter, vulnerability, lust and war.  There is a duality of love and suffering.  I burnt my thumb badly with a glue gun the other day, and the scarred fleshy wound reminds me of details in her work.  It was fantastic to have the opportunity to speak to Berlinde at the opening.

There are crossovers between Berlinde de Bruyckere’s work and Takesada Matsutani’s adjoining exhibition ‘A Drop in Time’. It has been mesmerising to watch the stages of transformation since Matsutani performed the piercing of the bag of ink suspended over a wooden ball.  Over time, single droplets fell repeatedly onto the ball causing remarkable splatters of ink, making an eclipse, flowing to the edges in its own way.  The piece has developed over time. I find his work very beautiful.  I love the simple gesture, the aspect of time and timelessness, the gestural hand-made labour-intensive process with graphite pencil marks on paper, canvas and wood.  Like de Bruyckere, the work refers to the ‘endless cycle of life and death’.

I am pleased to now be a small part of the education team at the Holburne Museum, Bath. Next month I will be running a Life Drawing session for A’ Level students linked to the ‘Rodin: re-thinking the fragment’ exhibition.  It may well re-ignite my own life drawing passion from years ago.

I am allowing myself some head space before properly starting new artwork.  Meanwhile this website is being changed (watch this space).

Next exhibition coming soon ‘Line and point’, will be at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol (25 Oct-1 Nov). If you didn’t get to the MA Show, this exhibition features work by a group of MA alumni and final year postgraduate fine artists, including me.  Contemporary practices across installation, drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed media, objects and digital work is tiered with connections relating to the theme ‘line and point’.  My piece ‘Glut’ will be on show: Line and Point, Centrespace Gallery, 6 Leonard Lane, Bristol BS1 1EA.  It runs from Saturday 27th October – Wednesday 31st October, open daily 11am – 6pm.  Preview, Friday 26th October, 6pm – 9pm – all welcome!  http://www.centrespacegallery.com

Hope you can come along!

Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios and Swans auction at Bishops Palace

It’s that time again – Somerset Art Weeks Open Studios (15th – 30th Sept) starts soon,  highlighted by hundreds of yellow SAW signs around Somerset to indicate artists’ venues and arts events open to the public.  I’m at Venue 10 (West Cranmore BA4 4RH).  I’ve formed a cluster group “The East Mendip Collection” with 5 other artists from my area (David Brayne RWS and Jane Brayne, Christine-Anne Richards, Thea Dupays and Sally Jacobs) to encourage visitors get round to each of us:  SAW Cluster flyer ’12

My SAW venue will include an exhibition of large sculptural work in my garden and smaller work/sketchbooks/drawings/prints etc in my studio.  I’m also offering lunchtime wire workshops each Sunday (16th/23rd/30th, 12-1pm) – booking advisable (01749 880394).  For updates and images please see my Facebook page.

Some of my sculptures are currently on show in the Bishops Palace Summer Exhibition, Wells (’til 30th Sept), which coincides with the SwansofWells Swansong auction preview weekend (15/16th Sept) – also in Bishops Palace gardens.  This features over 60 decorated Swan sculptures – including my swan ‘Candela’ (sponsored by All Hallows Prep School), which I decorated with help from pupils, using colourful recycled materials.

Candela has proved a hit with children – her encrusted beak and body adorned with exotic and everyday collected objects including gogos (miniature luminescent toys), beads, buttons and wire cranes – made by children in workshops at All Hallows.  Her name originates from the Latin word for ‘Candle’, which features in the All Hallows motto:  ’Sancto cuique sua candela’: ‘for every saint there is a candle (light).’  Every child is a potential saint and they too have their lights.  It also relates to my design of flame-like linear patterns overlaid with vivid, interwoven materials and luminous paint.  Hoping the auction at Bishops Palace on 29th September will fetch a handsome figure for Candela (funds go to local charities).  Ideally, it would be lovely if it returned to All Hallows, where it was created.  Alongside this, SwansofWells have a Swans photographic competition – one of the prizes will be a wire workshop with me.

In addition, a series of my hanging “Nests” will be on exhibition at the Quartz Arts Festival, Queens College, Taunton TA1 4QS (26th Sept – 6th Oct).  See Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions for further details.

Here’s hoping for a lovely Indian Summer this September…