June Projects

June flew by for me with a host of projects on the go in tandem, allowing only snatched moments in our fantastic tropical weather – one of the best summers I’ve known in UK.

Art in the community

I spent 4 days with PRU teenagers in a short residency at Bridgwater and Taunton College as part of Somerset Art Works Young ProspectUs Project.  We created mutant creatures inspired by insects and sea creatures, experimenting with reclaimed and found materials including aluminium cans, bottle tops, copper pipe, wire, found plastic and metal objects. It was a unique experience, great fun working with the PRU staff and students and hugely rewarding to see the youngsters lose their inhibitions to master skills like soldering.  ‘…turning down a mountain biking trip to do a second session soldering metal was what this project is all about: creating great artefacts with a professional artist … within an environment they felt safe, providing an experience that strengthens their resilience as they move on from school to college’ (Lisa Robertson, Deputy Head of PRU Centre).  The work will go on display to Taunton Flower Show in August.

My last project with All Hallows students involved making headdresses for an exhibition ‘All the Fun’ at Silk Mill, Frome.  The theme was carnival and circus.  I worked with students in Years 4-8, making the sculptures from found, reclaimed and discarded materials, based on endangered wildlife, particularly sea creatures.  The project was inspired by the issue of waste, our plastic oceans, and the plight of creatures such as albatrosses and turtles who are suffering from the effects of our rubbish, ‘a stand against plastic pollution so we can see our sea creatures thrive once again’ (Tia West, Year 8). ‘Making my headdress was great fun!’ (Louis Roberts, Year 6).

I was involved in a recent Up Late event ‘Drawn to the Museum’ at the Holburne Museum (29/6) – a collaboration with Bath Spa University.  The event involved MA students, artists and speakers engaging with the public at the museum.   We set up pop up exhibitions of our work, focusing on drawing.  I attended an inspiring talk by Tania Kovats who makes drawings, casts trees, and explores water as her subject.  I also ran a life drawing session with a clothed model doing quick poses in the grounds, where members of the public and students joined in, it was fun!

I worked with The Rubbish Art Project and members of the Shepton Mallet community making a sheep out of reclaimed steel, chicken wire and various ‘trash’ materials as a community project for the town.

Plans are afoot for a Halloween Harvest Scrap Sculpture Community Project, based on harvest and the cycle of life.  I hope to created 3 large-scale metal sculptural works for a public event on Halloween, to be installed at Shepton Mallet market cross. The work may be filmed by a TV series Scrap Kings for Discovery.

Inspiring exhibitions

A couple of intense research trips to London were inspirational.  As part of my MA Degree course, a tour de force trip led by Andrea Medjesi-Jones (Bath Spa Uni MA course leader) introduced us to several new galleries including the smart spacious Marian Goodman Gallery.  An installation by Leonor Antunes (Portuguese) consisted of suspended ‘wormlike forms’ made of immaculately stitched leather, wrapped rope and brass tubing, interspersed with sculptural glass lights hung close to the ground.  The organic linear forms are repeated on both gallery levels, interrupted by reflective screens – all based on work by Anni Albers and Mary Martin.  Amongst others we visited Hauser & Wirth, Alison Jacques Gallery (Michelle Stuart: The Nature of Time), Herald Street Gallery and Maureen Paley (Oscar Tuazon: Fire).

I returned to London to see the results of the Tate Exchange project ‘Inventory of Behaviours’ at Tate Modern, a project in which I was invited to take part with a set of ‘instructions’.  While there, I visited Lee Bul’s, ‘Crashing’ at the Hayward – a mix of sculpture, installation, sound, film, and performances from the ‘80s.

Theatrical hybrids and fictional landscapes combining industrial and organic materials fill the spaces in a dramatic show.  Bul, from South Korea, confronts political persecution in her country, references disasters, questions cultural attitudes to the female body, and the pursuit of perfection through her re-appropriation of architecture and bodily forms.  She explores our ‘fear and fascination with… the uncanny’.   It was all fascinating, though I felt more affinity with her less glitzy other worldly soft sculptural monster works, especially ‘Monster Pink’, a reconstruction of a 1998 piece, and her stitched cocoons, made from various fabric.  In Scale of Tongue (2017-18) a hidden fan created a gentle motion in the fabric.

Sarah Sze’s ‘Image in Debris’ installation at Victoria Miro is extraordinary.  The darkened room is lit by a mesmerizing set of flickering moving images – luminescent blue satellite images of cities at night, reminiscent of bio-luminescent microorganisms, celestial imagery, a cheetah running in slow motion, the elements – layered on the wall and on small torn paper fragments supported by a delicate framework of thin rods.   Drips of dried paint catch the light. Everyday objects, particularly office supplies, are placed around the installation. This is all accompanied by sounds of clunks, gentle whirring, drips, clicks. The magnitude of our universe becomes a mad invention.

Berlinde de Bruyckere’s sculpture ‘Quan’, 2010, in Bumped Bodies at the Whitechapel Gallery is a contorted, bruised human figure buried in a cushion, built up from several layers of wax over an iron structure.  It makes one feel uncomfortable, even repulsed, but I was in captivated by the wax skin tones and powerful form she has created.

Closer to home, at Hauser & Wirth Somerset ‘Alexander Calder: From the Stony River to the Sky’, is a beautifully curated exhibition.  His delicate balanced mobiles and stabiles and their shadows fully occupy the space. Conversations between artworks, recurring forms and his upcycled jewelry, some seen in UK for the first time, offer scope for new ideas.

Participation in Manifesta12

I am very excited to have been selected to take part in a 10 day workshop in Palermo soon as part of Manifesta12, supported by Bath Spa University Enterprise Showcase Fund. The project ‘Ingruttati Palermo Planetary Garden’ research and fabrication workshop will involve a group of international artists, geographers, urban landscape architects and students who will be exploring the extraordinary hidden underground networks of the qanat waterways.  Metaphorically similar to the mysterious powers of mycelium – also an underground system, which can stretch thousands of miles within one organism, the waterways reflect science’s recent discovery of vast reservoirs of water contained hundreds of miles beneath earth’s surface.   This will be a wonderful opportunity for me to take part in the prestigious international art event, and to develop the aspect of my practice involving collaborative art projects in the community on an international level.

My website will be undergoing some changes in the next couple of months – look out for the rebrand!

 

 

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!

The Garden of Eden

The last fortnight has been a rather mad whirlwind leading to Somerset Art Weeks Festival opening, managing both my SAW venues between other day-to-day commitments, testing my sanity.  Miraculously, the Garden of Eden (SAW Abundance Garden Trail) came together on time.  With the support and help of good friends and a few late nights finishing off, I managed to complete my 3  installations at Esotera (Foddington, Somerset TA11 7EL), set up at Thornreed Studio, Godney (venue 94), get to the Abundance micro feast at East Lambrook, do a talk and workshop on the first Saturday and thoroughly enjoy chatting to visitors for the past week.  Thanks to Pauline Watson and team, the Harveys (owners at Esotera) and Hicks & Don (wine sponsors) for their hard work, food and drink contributions to the private view, it was a lovely event.

I asked a photographer (from 35mil) to take some pics of the work.  We re-scheduled 3 times due to poor weather and it was third time lucky when the sun finally broke through after a dull, cold day.  Dappled sunlight heightens the enchantment on the largest piece – lichen-inspired work set in a copse of silver birch trees.  What’s really needed now is more sunshine to do its magic over this last coming weekend to encourage a wider, more abundant audience.

I’ve received many appreciative, insightful comments about the Garden of Eden and yesterday was a particularly good day at Esotera, with a large range of visitors of all ages.   A friend even made a visit from above in a glider.  Grass is starting to grow through my main installation, and although I regularly collect some of the leaves/debri that fall onto the work (especially after high winds last week), they almost enhance it.   The work is settling into the site – perhaps it should remain a permanent feature!   Gengis the resident cat/leopard is enjoying the extra attention and Scruffy – one of the free-roaming chickens – has an odd habit of pecking at visitors’ feet/legs!   Ahh sweet!

I am feeling positive about the whole experience, apart from poor weather at times bringing less visitors (and a few recoiling when faced with the NGS entrance fee).   It has been hard work, challenging, great fun, addictive even – and I think, successful.

Please see my Abundance post for further details about this project

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

Letting materials dictate

I’ve been having fun with a new piece.  It started as a clear idea, based on a dying spiky pod form I came across, which mesmerised me.  A familiar yet unfamiliar form.  I photographed and drew it.  Gnarled creases, mould growths and thin spikes on red skin; an hourglass shape ending in dried, dripping leaves held a history of growth and decay.  Ugly elegance.   I needed to explore this form by making it.  I gathered together a selection of my reclaimed copper and steel components, and one by one, they told me where they should go.  It’s been a collaboration between us, a journey with risks, but whether it succeeds or not, I’m enjoying myself!

I owe a huge thank you to John Shepherd Feeders in Doulting, who, over the years, have given me steel bits.  For this piece, John gave me a steel plate for the base.

When finished, the piece – which will stand tall with a large, delicate, woven wire butterfly perched on it – will be installed in Lanhydrock National Trust Estate, Cornwall from March – November.  You might like to visit it there!

 

Spring

For me, winter is a good time to collect and hoard interesting found materials, gather ideas, catch up on admin and cast out my net for potential projects and exhibitions for the coming year.  It’s a chance to re-fuel and visit exhibitions too.  I saw Zarina Bhimji’s work at the Whitechapel, London recently (one of my favourite art venues), which encouraged me to think big.  Her evocative large scale films and photographs made me weep, with their haunting sounds and imagery – reminiscent of complex feelings about my own East Africa.  Anyway, my studio felt neglected until last week.  With several projects set up now and sunny spring in the air, I’ve sprung into action and creativity!

Using reclaimed materials isn’t new to the art world. Duchamp’s readymade urinal in 1917 was preceded by centuries of African Art utilising found materials.  I’ve been doing it for 30 years.  But the eco movement of today definitely embraces conservation, recycling and found materials more holistically in art – as in other areas of life.  As I said in a previous post, I’m excited that I’m a part of Bristol’s Big Green Week.  A new ‘world class festival of sustainability – celebrating the environment, art and culture’, my role as one of the selected Artists-in-Residence is to produce a series of eco sculptures, which the public can view in progress at the Create Centre and which will eventually go on show around the city in June.  Below are images of the start of my first big piece for it – ‘Man models himself on Earth, Earth on Heaven’:

It’s nice to be invited to show in Exhibitions.  Amongst others coming up, I’m really pleased to have been asked to feature in Delamore’s May Exhibition and the Bishop’s Palace Summer Exhibition (July – Sept) – both lovely venues.  For details of other projects and exhibitions I’m involved in, please see my post ‘current and forthcoming exhibitions’.  I can feel the busy period looming already…