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!

 

Latest Trips and Exhibitions

I have been very remiss with blogging – too many balls to juggle!  Recently I took a short 2-day break to Yorkshire to visit the Sculpture Park, an astounding place, and walked across the moors to the house that inspired Wuthering Heights, one of my favourite books.

As summer blasts upon us (hooray!) I have a flurry of work and exhibitions coming up from tomorrow.  I hope you will be able to visit some of them:

I am still working on a large Cocoon piece for Fresh Air ’17 (see below), due to be installed in a week and still some way to go before completion!   Quenington Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester, Gloucestershire GL7 5BN, 11 June – 2 July, open daily 10am-5pm, (£5 Adults, children free).

In between making this I have been working towards an imminent MFA module at Bath Spa Uni, to be assessed next week.   Clashing deadlines, late nights, but nearly ready!

I’ve made a Nests piece for Fifty BEES: The Interconnectedness of All Things, at ACEarts, Somerton, 1-22 July, open Tues – Sat, 10am-5pm.  A lovely project with great ambitions.

I am also taking part in the following:

Wylye Valley Art Trail, (see below) Venue 16, The Hive Artspace, 93 Boreham Rd, Warminster BA12 9JY. 26 May – 4 June opening with a Private View this evening.

Bradford-on-Avon Sculpture Garden ‘17 (see attached), Lynchetts, 15 Woolley St, Bradford-on-Avon BA15 1AD.  25 June -2 July 11am – 6.30pm (closed Mons). Opening night Sat 24 June, 6-9.30pm (tickets £6, inc. wine + live music).

NGS Open Garden, College Barn, Benter, Somerset BA3 5BJ, 23 July, 10am-5pm

Summer Sculptures at Glastonbury Abbey, 1 July – 1 October

‘Form and Fascination’Courts Garden National Trust, Wiltshire, 9 September – 15 October.  I will be showing a selection of work alongside Ian Turnock.

Somerset Art Weeks Festival ‘Prospect’, ‘Ephemeral and Eternal’, Round Tower, Black Swan Arts Centre, 2 Bridge St, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BB, 16 September – 7 October, 10am–4pm, Monday to Saturday, (open Sun 1 Oct) and Clay Hill Farm, Bridgwater, 23 September – 8 October. I will be showing alongside Angela Morley.

I am also really looking forward to a mini break away to the Venice Biennale soon.

Have a lovely Summer!

 

 

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!

Bishop Unveiling and Chelsea Flower Show

My steel Bishop was unveiled on 7th April by Bishop Ruth of Taunton at Bishop’s Palace & Gardens.  The sculpture represents the local myth about the medieval Bishop Jocelyn of Wells, Somerset who slew the Dragon of Worminster, saving the people of Dinder from further ravaging of their children and stock. He is looking up at the huge Dragon (to be made later), grasping his crozier and sword, in the stance of imminent attack.

I was originally asked by Head Gardener James Cross to create a topiary structure – hence the style – but as it evolved it was decided the Bishop would remain purely a sculpture. He is, in effect, like a 3d linear sketch. I drew a friend, Nick Weaver, posed in the Bishop of Taunton’s cope, to help me obtain the right stance and movement of drapes. A vicar at Wells Cathedral also kindly posed briefly for me in his robes in Dragon-slaying stance, which amused him! As the Bishop is a ‘man of cloth’, I tried to devise ways of not being too anatomically figurative, so that the inner structure only hints at his body, and that the drapes of his robes, cope, cross and mitre are the focus.

His ethereal appearance means visitors may need to look twice when they come across him!

Below are a few pics.  To see how the work developed please visit my Art Facebook Page

Bishop (detail) steel Fiona Campbell. Photo by Jonathan SawyerBishop Ruth of Taunton unveiling the sculpture. Photo by Jonathan SawyerBishop Ruth of Taunton unveiling the sculpture. Photo by Jonathan SawyerBishop and me. Photo by Jonathan SawyerBishop and me. Photo by Jonathan Sawyer

I am now fully focused on finishing my canopy/net for Chelsea Flower Show’s ‘Viking Cruises’ artisan garden.  It took me a month and a half just to weave the net (in 25 sections) by hand with fine copper wires; it’s been more fun collecting materials and building up the coloured layers.  Fish skeletons and feathers are some of the interesting additions!  A few pics below show how it’s going so far.

Working outside on the Chelsea Flower Show canopyCanopy in progressCanopy in progress (held up)

 

 

Suddenly, it’s Spring!

Working on Bishop JocelynLoaded on my truckBishop Jocelyn installed at Bishops Palace Gardens. Base to be sunk.

I completed my steel Bishop last month (see images) for Bishops Palace Gardens, Wells – to be unveiled soon!  I was originally asked to create a topiary structure, but as he evolved it was decided the Bishop would remain purely a sculpture.  I created him as a 3d linear sketch.  He represents a myth about the medieval Bishop Jocelyn of Wells who slayed the Dragon of Worminster, saving the people of Dinder from further ravaging of their children and stock.  The Dragon will be made later.

New Black Swan 30th logoWinner in 8-11 yrs category - one of my studentsSome of the masks on display at the Young Open. Chuffed that all my students' entries were selected

I’ve been involved in work behind the scenes at Black Swan Arts as a Trustee. The current Young Open Exhibition required lots of preparation – an impressive show of young talent including some of my students from All Hallows and elsewhere.  Very proud that some of them were winners!  Celebrations for Black Swan’s 30th anniversary this year include some exciting events coming soon at the centre – BBC’s Get Creative Day (Drop-in workshops on Sat 2nd April, 2-4pm), 1000 Postcards (exhibition & sale of mini artworks by artists/celebs), Secret Swans (trail as part of Frome Festival) and 30 Plinths exhibition.  A chance to look forward to a great future for Black Swan and vital fund-raising.  If you’d like to help or take part do visit www.blackswan.org.uk.  We need 1000 postcard artworks by June!

Me & Nick Weaver coppicing hazel for the canopy structureNick and Fiona in Fiona's garden with samplesCanopy in progress, fishing net sections

My work for the Viking Cruises Chelsea Flower Show Artisan Garden, designed by Sarah Eberle, is now well under way.  It is inspired by Cambodian floating gardens and fishing techniques of the Mekong region.  I’m working on it collaboratively with Nick Weaver, who’s making the wood boat/lounger, while I’m making a 4 metre textured fishing net/canopy by hand (see image), incorporating fine woven copper wires, twine, silk, wool and other surprising found materials like fish skeletons!  I am avidly collecting lemon netting bags for it.  It’s a long process and an exciting prospect – I’ve not produced work for Chelsea Flower Show before.  I will be there on 24/25 May, so please come and say hello if you have tickets!  Updates about this will be added to this blog in due course or visit here.

This June I will be exhibiting works in The Hidden Garden Art Show at Maureen Michaelson Gallery in Hampstead, London (June 4-12).  On Sunday 12 June this Gallery is also hosting a day as part of Chelsea Fringe Festival where I will be demonstrating my sculpting techniques.  For more information about these events, visit www.maureenmichaelson.com or www.chelseafringe.com.

Looking ahead, ‘step in stone – the artscapes-in-quarries project I ran last year – will be touring to Salisbury Art Centre in Aug/Sept.  Artworks by all 14 artists will feature – a chance to see some of the work if you missed it last year.

Have a lovely Spring!

Tentacle making

After months of collecting and creating, I’m now in the final stages of my step in stone work for Step 2 at Westdown/Asham Quarry – with just a few more tentacles to make.  Time is short and tentacles are long but I think I’ll get there!  Ideally, I would have liked to have made more work but time has constrained.

Seeds were my starting point.  Just as they have blown in to fertilise these ancient deserted rocky environments I envisaged large tumbleweed-like structures rolling around, like old man’s beard seed heads growing there. Thoughts have evolved around life’s energy force, neurons, repeat forms in nature, nature’s persistence,  sea creatures (see previous post on Crinoids)…

Rusting machinery and discarded mattress springs left in the quarries, old horseshoes (thanks to Luke Ellis) and other scrap found locally and donated – fossils of the modern era, remnants of past, have provided most of my material to make the work.

Scrap donated by Chris Lee Crinoid fossil Old Man's Beard in foreground at Westdown Quarry Tumbleweed/neuron design Scrap Scrap for fossilMaking tentacles'Cirri' in the making Pile of tentacles Cirri structure'Cirri' half made. Photo by Duncan SimeyGathering tentacles in studio Colour sorting Making the Crinoid structureSkeletal structure Skeletal structure

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!

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.

Sunny June

I’ve had a lovely month, which started with setting up and manning my exhibition at Contains Art, Watchet – almost a fortnight of hot sunny days by the harbour, chatting to visitors and resident artists (and quite a bit of driving to and fro), followed by making a large Nest for children’s litterbugs in Bristol via Litterarti, running adult and children’s workshops and going on art trips with my All Hallows students.  A highlight for me was seeing Tessa Farmer’s fairy/insect works at the Holburne Museum, Bath – such amazing attention to detail!  I also sold 2 sculptures in my London show via Maureen Michaelson.

Sculpture on gallery roof at Contains Art - with views to the marinaSculpture on gallery roof at Contains ArtSculptures on show at Contains Art Sculptures on show at Contains Art Sculptures on show at Contains ArtIMG_8898Sculptures on show at Contains Art   Indoor Gallery exhibition at Contains Art   Sea Life workshop at Contains Art

For the last few days I’ve been concentrating on installing my Lichen piece around a tree for Glastonbury Abbey’s Orchard Sculpture Trail starting in a few days.  A scary storm of lightening and thunder stalled the process – copper, steel and trees don’t bode too well when thunder and lightening is cracking down at an ever increasing rate, but thanks to friend Nick Weaver’s help it is almost done and the sun’s now returned (just as Glastonbury Festival ends.. as is the norm!)

Setting up at Glastonbury Abbey

Plans are well underway for a new project I’m organising for 2015 – an Art Quarry Trail in the Mendips.  I have the support and partnership of Somerset Art Works, Black Swan Arts and Somerset Earth Science Centre.  More will be posted of this as it develops – just hope we get the funding…