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

Sense of achievement

Around this time I normally write a winter newsletter, but it feels like I’ve only just finished the autumn one!  Time has really flown by.  It’s been a very intense and challenging few months for me, full of achievements and not quite burnt out yet!  ‘step in stone’ – an ambitious art in quarries project I organised – took over my life for many months and is now over.  It was incredible seeing it through to fruition, and so fulfilling working with quality artists whose work I admire.

Overall, ‘step in stone’ was a tremendous success, very well received by an extremely varied and broadly based audience.  Combining the role of project manager and curator with that of being a participating artist was demanding.  Considering time constraints and my other roles, I feel I achieved a great deal, though disappointed that I could not fully explore more possibilities with my commissioned artwork for the project. ‘Cirri’ was intended to be more numerous, (based on Fossilised remains of ancient sea life forms).  I relished the opportunity to explore new concepts and media in my piece ‘Eviscerated Earth’ installed at Fairy Cave Quarry – recycled wax, cloth, scrim, paper and wire combined with found, rusty scrap steel collected from quarries.  It linked to the story of Fairy Cave: destruction of caves and beautiful (speleothem) formations within.  I would have liked to create more work for our Black Swan Exhibition – a beautiful show – but management of the project took over and time ran out.

step in stone catalogue pageEviscerated Earth recycled wax, cloth, scrim, paper and wire combined with found, rusty scrap steel

Now that the excitement is over, and I’ve reached the end of the arduous (but revealing) evaluation process for it, I’m starting to look forward to new ventures and getting inspired.

I visited Ai Weiwei’s exhibition at the Royal Academy, London recently.  It’s not often art brings tears to my eyes, but his work is so powerful, I was deeply moved.  The cell depictions of his sordid incarceration by Chinese authorities made me feel voyeuristic, angry and amazed at the brilliance of them.

A fortnight ago I sold my Nestling Cocoon to Mark Owen of Take That for an anniversary present to his wife Emma.  I drove from Somerset to North London to collect the piece from Maureen Michaelson (Gallerist), then to Sussex where I delivered it, then back to Somerset, in time to teach my evening art classes… all in a day!

I’m currently working on a life-size steel Bishop commissioned for the gardens at Bishops Palace, Wells, and will then start on a new commission for garden designer Sarah Eberle’s Artisan Garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2016, to create a 4 metre square woven canopy.

Bishop design

Other opportunities in the pipeline include showing with Maureen Michaelson again next year for Chelsea Fringe.  In the immediate future, I have been selected to show at the The Grant Bradley Gallery, (1 St Peters Ct, Bedminster Parade, Bristol BS3 4AQ) as part of a mixed show entitled ‘Bristol Green Capital in the Frame’. Celebrating and reflecting on the year that Bristol was voted The European Green Capital, it embodies a green theme: recycling, the importance of green spaces and wildlife.  The exhibition runs from 5 Dec ’15 – 2 Jan ’16.  You’re welcome to come along to the Private View: Fri 4 Dec 6-9pm!

In case you’ve tried viewing my website gallery pages – apologies!  There is a plug-in issue due to server updates, so some images are failing to open.  Hopefully it will be sorted soon!

 

Autumn News

step in stone

An update on a few projects I’m involved in, which may be of interest.

An exhibition I took part in via Maureen Michaelson Gallery at GROW London this summer has led to a commission to create a large woven canopy piece for Chelsea Flower Show ’16 as part of Gold award-winning Designer Sarah Eberle’s ‘Floating Gardens of Mekong’ theme.  I am starting to formulate ideas and very excited by it!

I’ve also been commissioned to produce a life size steel Bishop for Bishops Palace Gardens, Wells and hope to have this made and installed by the end of this year.

The excitement and momentum of my main project this year step in stone is building up to a crescendo with its third and final step, which will embrace three more venues to make up the final six.  Part of Somerset Art Works Festival 2015 and Momentum programme, step 3 launches on 3rd October to include Black Swan Arts, Frome Museum and the magical Fairy Cave Quarry.  Special performances and events will include Frome-based Artmusic’s ‘ECHO’ sculpture and sound installation at Fairy Cave Quarry (3-18 Oct, weekends, 11-4).  This will be animated by live performances of Artmusic’s BLAST (Sats 3, 10, 17 Oct, 2-3pm).   Bristol Poet Ralph Hoyte has created a poetic ‘sound intervention’ for visitors perambulating around Fairy Cave Quarry’s amphitheatre.  For the Westdown/Asham quarryscape, Ralph has created a downloadable GPS piece for visitors to listen to as they walk through.  The aural word-symphony needs to be downloaded onto your smartphone from Ralph’s website before you go to Westdown (ralphhoyte.com – click “SIS link to QR”).

A few of us are running workshops as part of step in stone‘s Finale and Artist Talks include an insight into the work of internationally celebrated Tessa Farmer, whose fantasy worlds of tiny malevolent fairies, insect wings and taxidermy create an intriguing contrast to the largescale environmental installations by Sally Kidall and weathered stone works of Duncan Elliott.

step in stone is open now and continues until 18th October 2015.  I attach an invite to the step 3 Preview at Black Swan Arts and Finale Do at Somerset Earth Science Centre. 

Hope you can visit one or more of our venues!

A4 Step 3 Finalfinal bsa A4

Curating, making and installing for Step 2 – step in stone

It’s been an incredible few weeks, unleashing inner reserves of energy I didn’t know I had! Thank goodness for the unyielding patience and support of partner Nick Weaver, helping me to pull off the installation of Step 2 for ‘step in stone’ (a project I’m running), while finishing off artwork, getting signage done for 2 venues and co-ordinating it all.  In between, I have been keeping things going at Somerset Earth Science Centre (our Step 1 venue), and maintaining my diatoms, which have been taken over by birdlife and getting mucky in the process!

Halecombe and Westdown/Asham quarries are now open daily for all to visit – see Duncan Simey’s wonderful selection of pics from a very rainy Friday.  Jack Offord filmed us for the project documentary – looking forward to seeing the results of that at our Preview evening, 2nd October at Black Swan Arts, Frome.

Below is a selection from our Step 2 installation days and a couple of photoshoots by Duncan Simey taken since.

Signage step in stone groupSuzie Gutteridge with Felted RockDeciding on Christina White's photographsArtmusic birdbox speakers being installed by AlastairJack Offord - our filmmakerNick Weaver helping Bronwen install her etched plateMe at work on 'Cirri'Filling Sally Kidall's mini tents on a rain deluged dayChristina White installing at HalecombeNick Weaver installing our collaborative 'Ligna' (stick) pieces at Halecombe

Finished work by some of the artists at both venues:

Amanda Wallwork Deep Time Portals in the Eastern MendipStuart Frost - Pavimentum - limestone dustTessa Farmer Out of the Earth (ii) (detail)Christina White Carboniferous Timeline Photograph at Halecombe

My work:

Fiona Campbell, Vertical III, reclaimed steel copper wire and nitrate (detail). Photo Duncan SimeyFiona Campbell 'Cirri' recycled and found materialsCirri'Cirri'Cirri at Westdown/Asham quarry

My main pieces – ‘Cirri’ (last images above) are based on crinoids (see the making process)!   These are ancient sea creatures whose fossilised remains are common in carboniferous limestone and whose descendants can still be found living today. Crinoid tentacles (cirri) are reminiscent of branches, tendrils, feathers or the microscopic pattern of neurons. They cling to the seabed (some now vertical rock faces) by long spiny stems, others are without a stalk but have tentacle legs or long arms, which enable them to drag themselves along.  I’m inspired by the tenacity and diversity of life and similarities of form that occur in different organisms.

Sadly a couple of heavy steel springs (components of my work) have gone missing and other parts tampered with at Westdown – if anybody spots these lurking in the bushes there, do contact me, they might be from my work!

The past fortnight was filled with our workshops, guided walks and talks, held at SESC, Westdown and Halecombe Quarries.  The guided walks, in collaboration with Rosie and Pippa from Somerset Wildlife Trust, were really well attended and greatly enjoyed.  Workshop participants of all ages explored a range of creative approaches related to the project, Sally Kidall’s talk was much appreciated and I was chuffed that my talk for 27 Active Living members received a wonderfully receptive and enthusiastic response.

Guided Walk in Westdown QuarryBronwen's bookmaking workshop - I took part and loved it!Tanya Josham's stone carving workshopChristina White's Cyanotype/Van Dyke photograph workshop at HalecombeMy Guided Walk at Westdown

Last week culminated in a very inspirational performance at Westdown/Asham: Artmusic’s ‘ECHO’ sculpture and sound installation on Saturday 22nd August was animated by live performances of Artmusic’s ‘BLAST’ – a theatrical response to the rock and mechanics of quarrying, with specially composed trumpet music being played from locations which echoed around the quarry.  We had a great turn out and the audience seemed to really enjoy the unique show and setting. “A delightful melange of live and recorded fluttering trumpets grab our attention this way and that while butterflies flit among the stones…. As they move slowly up the valley from stone to stone, always edging closer to melody, we begin to follow, or not, or meander above and below. ..”  Caroline Radcliffe

People brought picnics, dogs, cameras, sketchbooks and the sun was scorching all day!

Trumpeter Jack Vincent by Cirri Artmusic's BLAST at Westdown Quarry Artmusic's BLAST with trumpeters John Plaxton and Jack Vincent, photo by Christina White Artmusic's BLAST, trumpet John Plaxton

Can’t wait to download Ralph Hoyte’s GPS Soundwalk ‘ANTICLINE‘ – now available for your smartphone before visiting Westdown.

Ralph Hoyte with his GPS smartphone app

 

I’m now working on the next stage for Step 3, which opens on 3rd October at Black Swan Arts, Fairy Cave Quarry and Frome Museum.  Hope you can visit step in stone soon (www.stepinstone-somerset.co.uk)!

Convergent Evolution

The New Year often brings with it an awakening of new (and old) ideas.  Having always been interested in the way life forms so often repeat themselves throughout the macro and micro natural world, I was interested to recently discover the term ‘convergent evolution’.  This describes the independent evolution of similar features in different species – structures that have a similar form or function.  The ability, over time, of insects, birds, reptiles and some mammals to fly is one example.  David Attenborough’s new “Conquest of the Skies” series illustrates this beautifully.

I’m fascinated by certain primal structures, which are echoed everywhere, from tiny microbes to nervous and planetary systems.  Lately I’ve been focusing on spheres, branch-like forms and ‘cirri’ (tentacles, tendrils, hairy filaments..).  Many natural forms combine all these in varying degrees.  Through my recent investigation into quarry environments for step in stone, I have been discovering more about ancient sea life forms that existed over 350 million years ago.  Locally, in the Mendips, the most dominant rock is carboniferous limestone, which is full of fossiled skeletons, particularly an abundance of crinoids (sea lilies) and corals (e.g. rugose).  Although both marine creatures, they are from completely different families, yet have strong similarities, as do diatoms (marine micro-organisms).

Nature’s tenacity and persistence is reflected in disused quarry sites.  Silver Birch seeds blow in and take root almost immediately and in no time at all, vast cavities of scooped out rock are covered with a multitude of life forms.  In addition to fundraising, I’ve been doing some drawing and thinking about possible site-specific work to install in these spaces for step in stone later this year (see below).  At the moment, I like the idea of making 2 metre tumbleweed-like forms that relate to crinoids and rugose corals. They will entail a great deal of work, but an exciting prospect!

Crinoids and Coral Rugose Coral Tumbleweed ideaErnst Haeckel's Rugose Coral Sea Pen - Ernst Haeckel

We received well over our crowdfunding target for ‘step in stone‘, have received more funds from a local trust since and now awaiting news from the Arts Council bid – fingers crossed!

Happy New Year!

BBC Radio interview

A couple of weeks ago I did a radio interview with Martin Evans at BBC, Bristol.  Zoe Li (SAW) and I went up for an interview to plug Somerset Art Works Open Studios Family Friendly weekend, which we did.  Martin then suggested a separate interview about my work.. so here it is – live for 7 days..!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0287hwn

Crowd funding campaign launched for step in stone!

I have just launched a crowdfunding campaign for step in stone on IdeasTap:

http://www.ideastap.com/crowdfunding/project/stepinstone

The link leads to full details about my planned step in stone project, together with a short related film, made by Jack Offord.  Please visit and support. We hope to be successful in raising our target amount for an exciting project!

It’s All Happening In Somerset

Somerset Open Studios ’14 is now in full swing, we had a great open evening doo to kick off and I’m happy to say our venue (140 – Cranmore BA4 4RH, shared with Nick Weaver) made several sales this weekend.  With over 52 pieces on show in the garden alone, it was a big job setting up (and clearing up my studio ready for the event).  I ran a brief workshop for several art students from Wells Cathedral Junior School and will be running similar taster workshops on the next 2 Sundays (11.30-12.30).  Please book if you’re interested: (01749) 880394.

Wire workshop with juniors from Wells Cathedral School Laundry Cottage on show SAW '14 - Nick's stools and my Nest SAW '14 SAW '14 - Found Now Missing on show

Last weekend I visited Hauser & Wirth’s new Gallery space in Bruton for their Private View of Piet Oudolf’s newly created garden.  Phyllida Barlow’s work inside provided a tactile (though you can’t touch), raw and quite spectacular use of the barn buildings.  Her work seemed to celebrate the space: multi gigantic pompoms suspended and massive colourful structures reaching into roof voids.  It was invigorating, while Oudolf’s garden was soothing.  Luckily we could touch his wonderful, feathery grasses – it would have been torture not to.  And it was a treat to see one of Louise Bourgeois’s Spiders (much smaller than the one I saw at the Tate Modern, but still great!)

Louise Bourgeois' Spider Piet Oudolf's garden Piet Oudolf's garden (detail)

Fundraising is not my forte but I’ve had to do it as part of a major project I’m organising entitled ‘step in stone’.  The film we’ve been making for a crowdfunding platform is now ready to launch on IdeasTap.  This will go live in the next day or so, and I hope we will have some success through it.  We have now made the final selection of featured artists, and it is all getting very exciting and absorbing!  More news of this project soon…

Glastonbury Abbey – Orchard Sculpture Trail

Glastonbury Abbey are running their first ever ‘Orchard Sculpture Trail’ this summer, in which I am showing 2 pieces – originally created for last year’s SAW/NGS Abundance commission.  Lichen and Giant Nest were both created from mixed media (recycled and found materials) as part of a larger set of work entitled Garden of Eden.  The work took nearly 4 days to install around a tree in the orchard, and are on exhibition from now until 28th September.  Other featured sculptors include Penny Hardy, Tom Clark, Serena de la Hey and Anthony Rogers.

Lichen - installed at Glastonbury Abbey's Orchard Sculpture Trail

I will be talking about my Abundance work at the Create, Make, Cultivate Symposium this Saturday (12th July) during the Abundance Pecha Kucha (between 3.30 – 4.15pm).  For bookings please contact: 01458 253800 or info@somersetartworks.org.uk.

Summer Exhibitions

My blog writing has suffered in the past few months as demands on my life expand.  It can be said of many of us, life seems to be getting busier.  Trying to take time out to simply enjoy can be a challenge!  The past month has certainly been a massive effort for me to manage, but I seem to have done it fairly unscathed.  Planning and running workshops at different schools, drawing and making large sculptures for new exhibitions, transporting and setting them up, endless admin and meetings for new roles and plans (to be divulged soon) and of course personal life, son, garden, home blah blah…!  So, here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in terms of exhibitions and projects I’m involved in this summer.

I’ve been working towards several summer shows at seaside venues and in some lovely gardens in London, the South West and Guernsey.

Starting next week is my solo exhibition entitled ‘Found, Now Missing’ at Contains Art, Somerset, as part of their ‘Voyages’ programme.  My largest piece (image above) will be sited on the roof of a shipping container/gallery overlooking Watchet marina and Bristol Channel.  It will be seen from the West Somerset steam railway line above, too.  See the Private View invite below for further details – please come along if you can.

On 7th June, I’ll be running a drawing workshop tied in with the exhibition.  Do drop in!

From July to September I will be showing work in Glastonbury Abbey’s grounds for their Abbey Orchard Sculpture Trail and participating in the Devon Recycled Sculpture Trail ‘14.  (See current and forthcoming exhibitions for dates.)

My work is currently featured in The Hidden Garden Art Show as part of Chelsea Fringe and the National Garden Scheme until 8th June and at Art Parks International Sculpture Festival, St Martin, Guernsey GY4 6SG until October.  I also have 3 pieces on show until July for Sidcot Arts Centre’s Outdoor Artist Programme.

Various workshops in schools include recently making crane sculptures with All Hallows students linked with the Great Crane Project – soon to be filmed by Whitespace Productions in the making.  We made a 2 metre high Tree at Watchfield Primary and this month I’ll be constructing a large nest for children’s litterbugs to live in as part of a Litterarti project, which will feature in Bristol’s forthcoming Big Green Week.

On 12th July, I will be discussing my SAW/NGS Abundance work at the ‘Make, Create, Cultivate Symposium’ – a weekend celebration of some recent innovative creative projects in Somerset.

Then I’m off to Florence for a short break, which I’m sure to enjoy!

I hope you can visit some of these events and wishing you a happy, hot summer ahead!