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!

 

 

 

 

Autumn news

My part-time MFA course at Bath Spa Uni continues to challenge and broaden my art practice, taking it in new directions which I am finding exciting!  Recent work has resulted in an immersive installation piece (images above) for the MA Degree ShowBath School of Art & Design, Sion Hill, Bath, BA1 5SF, 23 – 27 Sept, 10am-5pm.  Private View 22 Sept 6-9pm.  This will be an interim show for me, being my first year of two.

I have been installing several other exhibitions that run simultaneously this autumn in very different venues.  I was invited to show a selection of my outdoor sculptural pieces in ‘Form and Fascination’ at Courts Garden National Trust alongside Ian Turnock’s work.  Both inspired by structures in nature, our work is set in the beautiful gardens that feature water, intimate, formal and wild areas:  Holt, Nr Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA14 6RR, 9 September – 15 October (closed Wednesdays; last entry to garden 5pm).

Somerset Art Weeks Festival is coming up soon, this year themed ‘Prospect’.  I am showing with Angela Morley in 2 venues spanning East and West Somerset.  We have transformed the Round Tower Gallery, both inside and out, for ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’ (Venue 3), Black Swan Arts, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB.  Our exhibition has already started (a week earlier than SAW): 16 September – 7 October, 10am–4pm, Mon to Sat, (open Sun 1 Oct); Preview Fri 22 Sept 6-8pm.  At Clayhill Arts, Clayhill Farm, Charlynch Lane, Bridgwater TA5 2PH our large outdoor sculptures will be on display in the landscape to launch their new centre, 23 September – 8 October, 11am-6pm, Wed-Sun.

As part of Somerset Art Weeks we will be running workshops:

Black Swan Arts: ‘Organic Forms’: Wed 4 Oct, 1-3pm (Angela Morley); Sat 7 Oct, 10am-12noon or 1-3pm (me); book via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Clayhill Arts: ‘Organic Forms Found Materials’ Sun 8 Oct, half day or full day (me); or ‘Organic Forms Willow Weaving Sun 8 Oct, half day or full day (Angela Morley), or combination of each: book via www.eventbrite.co.uk

Summer Sculptures, Glastonbury Abbey grounds, Somerset, BA6 9EL, continues until 1 October (normal admission applies)

I hope you can visit some of these exhibitions!

Exhibitions: Black Swan Arts, Fresh Air and 50 Bees

Just a brief update on a few exhibitions and events that I’m taking part in this Spring.  I hope you will be able to visit some of them.

‘The Future Can’t Wait’, recently opened in the Long Gallery, Black Swan Arts Centre, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB, 18 March – 5 April (see attached poster/invite).  A show of exhibits from 30 Bath Spa MA postgraduate students across four disciplines – ceramics, fashion and textiles, fine art and visual communication.

I’ve been involved in linking this up with BBC’s get-creative-weekend.  On Saturday 8 April, from 2-4pm, Black Swan artisans will be offering drop-in taster workshops for adults and children over ten years old, and MA artists will work with young people offering activities for children of all ages, exploring concepts of their current exhibition.  I will be doing one of the workshops.

I’m still working on my piece for Fresh Air ’17.  Too large now for my studio, I am making it outdoors.  Spring weather is helping a lot!  Quenington Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5BN, 11 June – 2 July, open daily 10am-5pm, (£5 Adults, children free).

I’m also making a small sculpture for Fifty BEES: The Interconnectedness of All Things, at ACEarts, Somerton, 1-22 July, open Tues – Sat, 10am-5pm.  The topic is close to my heart.

Have a lovely Spring!

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.

Materiality

My MA course at Bath Spa is all-consuming.  I’ve been engrossed in research and explorative studies, leaving little time to add new posts here.  To see what I’ve been up to, here is a blog/journal, which logs my progress and an image of a drawing I’m working on at the moment:

https://fionacampbellblog.wordpress.com

Wire and paper drawing with linseed oil added for transparency and skin-like quality in progress Wire, paper, linseed oil drawing - in progress (detail)

Egg Sacs and Louise Bourgeois

Eggs on wire grid drawing

The arrival of Louise Bourgeois’ exhibition at Hauser & Wirth, Somerset, coincided with the first weeks on my MA course.  I had been looking forward to visiting her show, being a huge fan.  A few days before, I had been looking at my collection of ‘finds’ (all sorts of natural phenomena) for inspiration.  A dried up fish swim bladder and a sponge-like form found on the beach grabbed me as starting points.  I want to investigate similar forms in nature, sometimes micro in scale – their form and function.  I’m also interested in drawing more – whatever shape that takes – 3-d and 2-d.

Bourgeois’ work struck a chord.  Of course I love her Maman Spider, crouched eerily, over-powering the first barn.  I was hoping for more sculpture, but strangely it was her etched drawings of plant forms, bodily parts and egg clusters that fascinated me most. Largescale and awkwardly drawn, they have real emotion, enhanced by repetition.

Her forms resonated with my ‘finds’.   I have since looked up my sponge-like object on the internet.  It seems to be whelk egg sacs!  Serendipity, though not so surprising that I was drawn to Bourgeois’ seductive egg sacs.   So I have been drawing the sacs with a view to creating 3-d pieces (drawings?) with wire, paper pulp, fibres and other mixed media based on them.  Relic of little lives, now entered into the greater cycle.

Whelk egg sacsLouise Bourgeois Swaying 2006

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…