Migrant Material and Perfect Imperfection
July 16 2017 PV 11-1pm at Gallery in the Garden
A complete departure from the usual finely rendered mimetic portraits, this body of work has been material and process led and maybe a turning point from realism to a more conceptual approach of questioning who we are.
Late 2015 I was asked to be resident artist for 12 months at Gallery in the Garden, Great Saling, in the heart of the Essex Countryside. An opportunity with time and space to respond visually and creatively to the garden and its surrounding land. Rather than be inspired by what could be seen, I was more interested in the unseen, the forgotten, the discarded or the ignored. So I dug beneath the lush lawn on a journey of discovery, instigating a rethinking and questioning of material and making, geology and displacement.
The act of finding, handling and scrutinising every exhumed object raised questions of how and why these materials got here.
Geological shifts and human intervention brought thoughts of farming, industry, settlements, displacement, mortality and consumerism.
Ultimately, a cycle of shifting matter, sometimes slow, sometimes rapid, but as I discovered, also inherently connected with not only us but the logical, the emotive - the immaterial. This subterranean excavation helped me to consider the importance of our need to connect directly with the waste and raw materials of our planet.
This project released me from the constraints of the measured accuracy of realism and impersonating life, I was free to experiment, discover and question creating totally new work and possibly a new way of thinking.
Migrant Material - Connecting Matter With Being
My last posted blog mentioned my plans for the future, one of them being to have a solo exhibition in London. Well for the past 6 months that is what I have been planning, and as of tomorrow, has come into fruition. Perfect Imperfection - The Art of Healing opens to the public at mid-day at Riflemaker, London W1F 9SU until Saturday.
I began my research, before Christmas, into finding a suitable venue to show my work to a London audience. I contacted a few small galleries to see if they hired out their space. I then caught the train to London to check out some of these spaces. All the galleries I looked at were very expensive, so I had to be certain this was the right thing for me to do. I have faith that my work is strong enough to attract a second look and for the viewer to question its aesthetic and I know it sells. The point of showing in London is to get my work out there in the London art scene, get a gallery interested in representing me and of course hope a few visitors begin a Billie Bond collection of repaired work. I open my own doors rather than wait for them to be opened for me.
After a few weeks of research I had shortlisted 3 galleries as a potential space to hire. One in trendy Brick Lane, one of Oxford Street and another in Beak Street, Soho. After much deliberation I chose the Soho venue in Beak Street. Riflemaker is a small rustic listed building with old dusty floorboards and layers of worn paint on the panelled walls. There was a visible history in this space - not the silent blank canvas you get in a typical 'white cube' style gallery. I connected with the gallery immediately and thought its aged interior a perfect setting for my portraits that also hold history in their altered and distorted surfaces. This was not only the smallest of the three galleries but also the most expensive. I spent a long time justifying this choice but as they always say - Location, Location, Location.
I was invited to bring a piece of work up to the gallery to see how it sat in the space. Inner Being 2 sat in the window looking out onto Beak Street, yes, this was the perfect setting.
I spent a while in the gallery planning in my head where each piece would be placed, got to be so careful not to make it look like a shop front.
Since January, I have made six new pieces from scratch to sit alongside six pieces already made. I spent a few days trying to come up with a title that covered the fact the work was about repair as well as destruction. Input from my husband and eldest daughter made the final cut of Perfect Imperfection - The Art of Healing.
Finally finished my Masters in Sculptural Practice, what a wonderful two years, here is a summary of that experience:
Critical reflection MA Sculptural Practice
On 23 June 1981, it was my sixteenth birthday and the last day of senior school. It was then, the happiest day of my life. I struggled academically, leaving with 3 CSE’s in art, home economics and biology. If I had known then I was dyslexic and not thick, I may have enjoyed those 5 years a little more.
34 years later and look at me now! I have just finished a Masters. Happy? oh yes but for totally different reasons. Happy for a sense of achievement I never imagined that day I walked out of school. Happy for my ability to learn and keep learning and yes I can now write ‘art bollocks’ – well that’s how it sounded to me before I came to Colchester Institute in 2008 to begin my BA.
I began this Masters in Sculptural Practice to underpin my work with a deeper sense of meaning and to justify my notions in an academic written language, supported by theory and an extended knowledge of the subject of portrait sculpture.
My original proposal was to research iconic self-portraits to understand the principles underpinning their production and reception such as composition, eyes and surface decoration. I now know that what I actually should have said (to put this into the language of an aspiring academic) that I am studying the ‘Academic habit and hierarchy of composition-contour-chiaroscuro-colour’ Batchelor, D. (2000) in that order. Here I discovered how colour and tone can alter perception. I now look at colour in a completely different light thanks to the publication Chromophobia by David Batchelor. I don’t see colour at the bottom of the institutional pecking order. I see it at the top.
I chose to use myself as the model, mainly for ease and reliability rather than some narcissistic desire to look at myself or find myself. However, when scrutinising your own features over and over again, it can’t be helped that it will become self-indulgent and self-obsessed – it comes with the territory. But using myself gave me a grounding theory to base my research on – the theory of looking, looking at one’s self and seeing, seeing in the visual sense and seeing in the psychological sense.
This underpinning gave me the knowledge to subvert the traditional idea of commemorative portrait sculpture and to consider a more abstract and conceptual method of portraying the self.
Still relying on a mimetic representation of myself as the point of departure, I nurtured and manipulated the material rather that do a quick life cast, that would have relied on others to help me, then putting into question authorship of the self-portrait. No, I carefully measured and sculpted the clay, a metaphor for social nurturing. I then moulded and mummified - a protective shielding of deceit perhaps. I fired the work then smashed the work – returning to a concept I had explored before.
For me, one of my most successful pieces, and the one I spent hours pondering over, (in fact more hours of pondering than making) is Transition. It is about a previous state of mind that changed the direction of my life forever. I would not be sitting here now, writing this summary if it wasn’t for that time in my life.
The selected pieces for the final exhibition do not stand alone as individual objects. For me they have become an installation with sound, performance and digital film coming together to fill the gallery space and immerse the spectator in a very personal monologue
I am very excited about the future, sound, film and installation is a direction I wish to continue with. My internship at the Henry Moore institute has already given me new contacts with more doors to open. I shall be returning at some point to discuss the research.
Now that I have a focused body of work I shall consider a solo exhibition somewhere in London. My aim is to have a London gallery represent my work so I need to get out there.
The group dynamics have been perfect, we are all doing our own thing but don’t hold back on peer critiques. Terry, as usual has been passionately supportive and I thank him for that. Pete’s input helped immensely in defining a focused path and eliminating the drivel. And Martin Bridges, again, can’t praise him enough for his help.
My Research into Self-Portrait Sculpture has taken me on a journey of discovery through the mirror and the lens, with an obsessional self-scrutiny that I have not experienced before. Although attempting to view ones portrait from every angle imaginable I will never actually view the self as others do, I only ever see the other me. So self-portrait sculpture is really only about how I see me and not about how others see me, it is a personal exploration.
This body of work examines how eyes, composition and colour can affect the subject's projection and viewer's perception.
The portraits explore the inner being in an attempt to translate emotions as physical objects questioning what it is to be human.
Time has been an important element in representing emotional experiences of myself and had led to new ideas of kinetic portraiture, video and sound.
The final show will be at the Minories, Colchester end of July, details to come.
Another bit of exciting news is I have just been awarded a two week internship at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds to assist the curator with research into Self-Portrait Sculpture, can't wait.
This 12 month residency will allow me to respond to the walled garden and beyond to create some new work. Not a lot remains on the surface of the land as evidence of the garden's once productive lifetime, so I am venturing beneath it's surface to find evidence of its past to inspire my continuing exploration of the human condition. This new work and its journey will be presented with a solo exhibition in the gallery at the end of the 12 months.
Finally finished these by neatly framing them within their own 'proscenium arch'
This series of self-portrait sculptures investigate the painterly methodologies of the Great Masters. As part of my current MA in Sculptural Practice, I put myself face to face (as did the artist with his sitter or himself) in an attempt to see what they saw - I become an actor, not only playing the part of sitter but also the part of the artist.
The aim is to subvert the traditional idea of bronze monumental portrait sculptures commissioned to confirm status or commemorate heroes. As a former interior decorator and painter, I used colour everyday, and recently have missed the effect colour can have on mood and emotions:
Bringing colour into my latest series of portrait sculptures not only breaths life into an otherwise static form but creates a new energy in me as an artist. Bring on the next phase - sculpting with paint!
These sculptures will be exhibited at Gallery In the Garden Great Sailing, Essex, during the Dame Elizabeth Blackadder RA, RSA, exhibition 8th July-16th August, along with my fellow MA students' work.
Private view Sunday 5th July 2015
The work is now presented as one piece Masquerade (2015)
This self-portrait sculpture pose and composition has been inspired from a combination of classic portraiture and some of the Great Master's self-portrait poses which I have been studying for my MA Sculptural Practice. Next process it to make a silicon mould and experiment.
I have realised that my urge for colour experimentation on my sculpture must come from the withdrawal of colour in my life since I have been sculpting. Sculpting is all about light, shadow and form, there is no need for colour. However, with a 20 year career of creative colour works from painted toy boxes to walls with patterned wall papers and scenic murals, the sudden departure of colour to mono 3d portraiture is only now showing how much I am missing it. Painting with pigments is creeping its way back into my work, some of it onto sculpture and some onto canvas being informed by the sculptural surface. This has added an injection of vitality to my creative MA journey and who knows where it will lead.
My MA experimentations of painterly effects onto 3D plaster casts of my clay modelled selfie have inspired this painting onto canvas. The idea of re-presenting a portrait sculpture as a painting is to alter it's image further from it's original reality. This could then inform a new style of sculpting from the painting - reverting the painting back into a 3D form - maybe this will be the future of my work.