Spring News

Now that the cold spell is over, I feel a Spring update is due.

In my week’s residency at Walcot Chapel, Bath last month as part of my MA, I made a piece (image above) in response to the site, current waste issues, and Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  It was inspired by the plight of 1000’s of albatross chicks dying from stomachs filled with plastic.  Entitled ‘Instead of a Cross, an Albatross’, it is a kind of altarpiece. The steel and copper components echoed the trees and shadows through the window.  Later this year I’m hoping to make work involving some participatory interaction with the public using waste materials.

Ongoing work is also being influenced by a book I’ve just read Planet of Slums by Mike Davis, which reveals horrific realities as a result of our rapidly growing worldwide poverty, rich/poor divide – cruel slumlords, neglect and harrowing deaths.  Factory farming (particularly a film ‘Our Daily Bread’) is also affecting my thoughts, and the loss of Tilly, our beloved boxer dog, who died at the weekend.  These experimental process pieces are all made from scrap materials.

On a lighter note, I continue to teach All Hallows Prep School students extra-curricular art.  I’m proud to see some of their work selected for the Black Swan Young Open, starting this Saturday.  Last week I ran a workshop with several groups of children Years 4-8 at Hazlegrove Prep School, making a 1.75m flying albatross sculpture out of recycled plastic and wire.

This Saturday, I’ll be running a collaborative workshop with Aya Kobayashi and Stephen Ives as part of BBC’s Get Creative event and Black Swan Arts Young Open exhibition, sponsored by Visual Arts South West.  It will explore the creative process – how to shape an idea into form – experimenting with sculpture and sound technology, combining found/reclaimed materials.

Book soon via Eventbrite (https://goo.gl/SNdgny) – spaces are filling up!

This season, I’ll be showing 2 of my sculptures in the The Elemental Sculpture Park, The Paddock, Somerford Keynes, Cirencester GL7 6FE http://www.elementalsculpturepark.com/ from 1 April – 30th September, 10.30am-5pm (closed Tues and Wed),  admission £5.

I’ve visited a few exhibitions locally including Messums Museum’s ‘Myth, Material & Metamorphosis’ (that’s a mouthful!) – fantastical sculpture by Kate McCgwire and Ann Carrington (image below), ceramics and narrative paintings with many surprising gems.  It’s always a joy to visit the wonderful tithe barn showing consistently high quality, exciting contemporary art.

At The Edge, Bath, the Jerwood Drawing Prize comprises some great pieces.  Amongst others, I loved the thick roll of paper covered in pencil – like a gleaming sheet of metal.

I’ve been invigilating at Hauser & Wirth Somerset for ‘The Land We Live In – The Land We Left Behind’.  It’s been good to be able to keep returning to study the exhibits (numerous artworks/artefacts of interest).  I’ve also managed to sell a couple of small pieces through the Honest Shop – part of the show.  I’m doing a talk for Hauser & Wirth’s Sound Bites programme on Beatrix Potter’s drawing of fungal spores entitled ‘Absidia’, Thursday 29 March, 2pm. Come along, it’s free!

Happy springtime!




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!





Material experiments, exhibitions and open studios

Hello to Winter and the festive season!

I am now in my second (and final) year of my MA Fine Art course at Bath Spa Uni.  It has been a great opportunity to reflect on previous work, find new ways of working and research.  I am still expanding and refining ideas, while continuing the thread of using reclaimed materials. This aspect relates partly to the issue of waste and energy – utilising and recycling.  It belongs to a wider subject of our relationship with matter, nature, and ourselves.  In the series ‘Wonders of Life’ Brian Cox explains that energy is eternal, transforming from one thing to another. There is a connection between everything that has ever lived, and an impact, as in the Chaos theory, or Butterfly Effect.  I see Vitalism as energy in all things, although in Science it is the vital force peculiar to only living organisms.

A mass of frass (insect excretions) appeared around tiny entry points in a piece of found wood (above) in which I had inserted glass tendrils as growths. The frass resemble decaying matter on a holdfast I studied. I find them intriguing, referencing life’s recycling, organic matter as bodily forms. These phenomena have been starting points to further investigations. They led to microscopic studies of frass. Microscopic hidden structures vital to our being reflecting the magnitude of life. These images could easily be rock formations – even meteors.

I have since experimented with annealing and beating copper over molds I carved in wood, based on frass forms. My copper project – exploring the materiality of copper and what happens to it under different conditions – included an experiment with copper electrolysis. The alchemic process is fascinating, I have learnt a little more chemistry and made copper hydroxide as a pigment. Two scrap pieces of copper were connected to a low voltage battery charger, with opposite charges. The electricity splits the ions in salty water. A complex chemical process ensues, involving copper hydroxide, chlorine and hydrogen bubbles. The effects of disintegration and patination are wonderful. The harnessing of elemental energy could become an artwork.

I recently visited the exhibition ‘Italian Influences, British Responses’ at Estorick, London. It was interesting to see current artworks alongside the anti-consumerist 60’s group Arte Povera, who broke with tradition believing art should be inclusive.  In their resolution to fuse life and art, nature and culture, they used everyday materials, often incongruous juxtapositions of mundane manufactured with organic. Their work was about energy and the elements. The exhibition included a piece by Mona Hatoum.  She uses everyday objects arranged to signify displacement and confinement.  In her work domesticity becomes ‘menacing’ (Van Assche).  In a Youtube film she explains her intuitive response to materials. She incorporates body parts eg nails, skin, hair, creating modest hair balls, or hair grids. Through these bodily excretions she transforms materials and meaning.

I also saw Damian Ortega at White Cube Gallery and watched him online. He playfully takes apart and re-assembles components, dealing with fragmentation of objects, time, materiality.  It is a philosophical discourse involving material and message.   I like his encyclopaedic geodes made from old maps, which he layers as shells, suggesting geological time, and his visual essays, which question truth, mass media’s effect on our perceptions and judgements. ‘Learning Scheme’ indexes small thumbnail clay pieces according to their similarities. Some forms are similar in different groups/lines. Like convergent evolution, they seem to morph, some are organic, others more mechanical.  Since then I have been working in clay a little.

Last week we opened our MA studios to the public.  I created an installation for it inspired by the organic forms I have been studying, using found and reclaimed materials, some transformed by me. It was a great gathering and the deadline helped me focus on one thing for a while.

On a more commercial note, to make ends meet, I have just updated my Etsy page: www.etsy.com/uk/shop/FionaCampbellArt. Do have a look – there are some possible gifts for Christmas!

Have a lovely one!