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Masters Degree Fine Art Exhibition Module – Project Space Plus, Brayford Pool

After nearly 2 years of thinking, questioning, re-thinking and a fair amount of doing the installation week for the final module, the exhibition module is upon us.

The first task was to install the tree trunk that is a key piece in my exhibition pieces. I have written about this piece before and it is really great to finally get it into the gallery space on day one and let it inhabit the space as the rest of the work goes on around it.

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It has been notable how many people have commented on the fact that he piece makes you look out into the sky.

I had planned to ring the tree with bark removed from it. This process was in part a way of revealing the wood, of referencing scarification, ritual marking, carving names into trees, an action of stripping and revealing, but unfortunately it has also become a health and safety mechanism to ensure viewers kept their distance.

I removed an amount of bark and it became clear to me that in this space it was not what I wanted to do. After cleaning away the bark from the floor I felt more confident in the piece but could not obviously undo the scarification on the bark.

I considered working in reaction to my feeling that I had damaged the tree by considering how to now protect it. This could of been with lime, white paint or other references to tree protection.

It is important to step back and reflect. It is important to accept things as they are, but I think you can work with something you deem an error too.

What I have learnt is to have a fixed idea, stay focused on your own intent, not be pulled into others ideas or opinions of your piece at the point of install, but be flexible to change. It is important to try to find time alone in the gallery space of a group show to collect your own thoughts. and this in itself is pertinent for this piece which I am titling Exhalation Point. All of my works are markers in time in a process. That process may be a physical one or a psychological one, but each work is an exchange with materials which I am using in order to bring meaning to my current thinking about who I am.

Exhalation Point, 2015. Sycamore tree from a local park, wedged between floor and ceiling, and stripped with a penknife in the gallery.

This piece is a marker in a personal journey of understanding the trauma of loss. Referencing an Inuit custom as quoted in Lucy Lippard’s book, Overlay

an Inuit custom offers an angry person release by walking the emotion out of his or her system in a straight line across the landscape; the point at which the anger is conquered is marked with a stick, bearing witness to the strength or length of the rage.”

The tree scales up my previous works with smaller sticks to be site specific to the Project Space Plus and to reflect my desire to show the importance of stating my presence in this moment, having moved away from the past and onwards to a future having assimilated to my new identity.

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The sound piece is also representative of reacting to final crits. The Dansette needed its flex updating and Pat. testing. I decided to put white flex onto the machine as per its’ original flex. I think that the white works well within the gallery environment, there are H&S considerations and the fact that our gallery sockets are hidden I think that the white doesn’t draw attention to this. But a couple of different people mentioned that it was “a shame” that the flex wasn’t black…..something this simple at the point of install is enough to send you into a spin! Also I expected to have the machine placed on the floor, ( my record player was always on the floor in my room ) but I was challenged to raise it off the floor in a crit. It is important not to dismiss trialling things out in order to confirm what you really want, and these experiments can often lead to new ideas.

The machine is now installed on the floor but raised up on a small platform which is not visible. This slight lift gives the piece a lightness, and feel of otherness but not enough to imply that it considers itself as sculptural.

The work is after all the sound piece on the record and the machine is the delivery mechanism for the work.

The desire to have the piece perpetually playing is also a concern and I did back away from this when considering the exhibition and decided to allow visitors to play the record for themselves. However, once I was in the gallery my intention to have the sound as a perpetual presence in the space was re-affirmed. Asking others to interact with a piece is quite a complex exchange and takes careful planning and consideration. The bolting on of this interaction juts up against the original intent and adds a layer of complexity to the work that doesn’t bring meaning or clarity. To have the machine playing continually means accepting that I cannot control the longevity of the piece as the machine may not withstand the constant usage.

 repeat to fade, 2015Spoken word, pressed vinyl record, Dansette.

I think this adds another layer to the piece that is formed from coming to terms with a situation where I had no control over my own life.

(The formation and creation of this piece is described in the previous text in this folder.) And so the final resolution being one where I again challenge myself to relinquish control over my own creativity seems honest, right and also playful.

This is life…sometimes things fail.

imageThis series of plaster cast and hand manipulated bowls is the work which enabled me to fully recognise where I needed move my practice for the MA. Working in 3 dimensions rather than 2 allowed me to practice my research by playing with my understanding of embodied simulation, and the embodiment of meaning into objects. These bowls engage directly with loss, being and at the same time replicating the hypercathecting (the hyper-remembering) of grief and the hyper-doing of bereavement – the dissecting and disinterring of all you deem to be fact about you and your position in relation to others which has become a void. “The painful unpleasure” as Freud named it, of assimilation to an undesired but unassailably factual now is engaged with in physical terms through the replication of the object of loss as represented by the cereal bowl belonging to an “other”, and its repeated haptic, manipulation.

The casts occurred with no structure and no wider intent than to be in exchange with the process. The hand manipulation of each was not pre-empted but reactive and there was no successive forms created. A gaining of the temporality of the wet plaster and the setting points allowed an understanding of control to the point where the entire internal mass of the bowl could be manually removed and smoothed before setting point, but this process was not the successively replicated, rather each casting produced a stand alone enquiry representing that moment. All of the bowls created were made in my kitchen and are shown in the piece in no order or layout, merely unpacked and placed on the work table.

The exchange of enquiry and control, of temporality, and accrued learning, allowed me to have a manifestation of a hitherto psychological process. The manipulation of the forms gave me control and allowed me to truly begin to rid myself of my grief through physical action which progressed the process of bereavement. At the outset of the work the real object of the cereal bowl  strongly embodied the person I  was grieving for, by the end of the piece the bowl resided in my cupboard being used for ice cream and holding no emotional weight, just inert memory.

  The bowls are dumb ossuaries, holding the bones of the dead. They are silences by their forms full and closed, and transformed into new objects by my hands. The gaining of control.This piece was fundamental in affirming that repetition was intrinsic as a  mode for practice.  By consciously allowing the psychological processes of assimilation to be fundamental to all creation through replication of process.

This work more than my others, allows viewers to cast their own meaning onto the forms.

Feeling into, 2014-15. Plaster cast and hand shaped cereal bowls, trestle table. 

imageI disinter, unearth, local brick clay and process it through washing and sieving, then drying and kneading (wedging). I then make an unplanned number of palm sized pinch pots in the form of small cups or tea bowls, each one its’ own form, but each time I make one I learn something about making all of the ones before and the subsequent one.

Repetition is intrinsic to my understanding of loss and gain.

Whilst the repeated replication and interaction with the cereal bowl represented a version of me and my identity dealing with the loss of a significant other, and the loss therefore of my assumed role, the pinch pots represent gain.  Each varying load of clay makes an unknown quantity of pots. The hoard of pots once made is buried and the next load of clay taken up and the next lot of pots take form.

The pots embody time taken to make them, the logic of learning through technique. But they are a part of geological time, a time beyond my comprehension. I have sliced into the millions of years old clay and formed it into these vessels of my self for the blink of an eye.

Repetition can also be a mode for stasis. Dependent on the individual and their own process of assimilation to a new state, a new reality, repetition of movement, memory, behavior, can reflect a desire to deny the changes that occurred in this way the work could be read as a request for motionlessness, stability, inertia, continuity, stillness, and balance.

This project allows me to deal with notions of detaching from, or rather not attaching to, objects and people.

Upon reflection this work could be seen as my way of lingering in a place where I can deny future possibilities, and also control the past by attempting to keep it static in my psyche.

The decision to show this piece of work mid process is reflective of where I find my practice at the point of departure from the MA course. The piece allows me to have an ongoing process present within a fixed point (the assessment). I have spent time within the gallery making pots at the table and I intend to continue to make pots during the exhibition and bring them to the piece, however it is important to me that I do not “stage’ the piece as a work in progress or a studio within the gallery, as this feels as dishonest as it being presented as a finished piece. It is a process, a cycle of materials which has been relocated temporarily.

Lingering in a place, Clay pinch pots, table. 2015- ongoing.  Edited film on screen outside.

The edited film shown on the gallery external screen shows the burial part of the cycle of the pinch pots.

A full 13-minute version of this can be found on my blog.

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