Arc of Practice
Arc of Practice 3
Intense engagement with craft and physical process feels like an essential layer of my practice, as it gives rise to connections that help me develop and refine my ideas as well. In many ways, this body of work, created in the second half of Year 2 toward the final assessment, allowed me to synthesize labour intensive methods with the more conceptual, investigative approaches that have informed my recent work.
There is an unprecedented amount of surveillance occurring today, much of it through our attachment to our devices, and nearly all of it beneath our conscious awareness. It is everywhere and nowhere, an abstraction with tentacles in ever more private corners of our lives. Viewed in another way, these unseen, overfamiliar (and often inoperative) objects might also stand for the unseen powers-that-be that would have us monitor, censor and condemn ourselves. Questions of how we frame perceptions of threat and safety, privacy and freedom, the real and the virtual also come into play. With this series, I aimed to create work that is rich in reference and association yet avoids being circumscribed by any one narrative.
I am interested in the ways materials and meaning converge, and often experiment with several mediums at the same time. With this work and the untitled sculpture (in progress) below, I knew that I wanted to approach this uniquely contemporary material in a labour intensive, traditional way. Bronze, a slow, weighty form with connotations of permanency and even reverence, seemed the ideal way to begin. For my Year 2 final assessment, I exhibited four of these bronze cameras in a small entrance hallway. This transitional space created subtle sense of containment or kettling that I believe enhanced the impact of the installation.
I also wanted to cast this sculpture in a way that suggested transparency. Glass wax is an unconventional material to use for this kind of work, and I was not sure it would work, but I was intrigued by its history as the material of choice for fashioning stage props. The medium proved surprisingly well-adapted for the effect I was trying to create. The addition of light provided another way to render the inconspicuous conspicuous.
Glass Wax CCTV Cameras
illuminated Glass-wax heads
Glass Wax, Bronze
As with the previous work, I chose to approach this contemporary material using traditional methods and forms that reference classical sculpture. I wanted to explore our ambiguous and complex relationship with an entity that is almost mythic in character – multifarious, larger than life and seemingly indomitable. I cast this work first in glass wax in preparation for working in bronze, which will be the sculpture’s finished form.
illuminated Glass-wax heads
Arc of Practice 2
This series of sculpture and installation work that initiated Year Two reflects my growing engagement with three-dimensional work, along with a conscious effort to expand my practice into new territory. It required willingness, as I explored new strategies and ways of thinking about art, to see uncertainty and doubt as natural ground for an artist. Feedback from a group exhibition, along with intensive collaborative work as a Raftonaut, opened my practice to the possibility of creating work that is, in essence, a collaboration with the viewer. Working with these questions in mind led to a shift in my approach that has been liberating, one that emphasizes what I most want to understand and investigate, more than what I want to communicate or depict.
Lime Light Sculpture Mud Roc / White Gloss
I created this sculpture for Index, a site-specific group show at the St Pancras Crypt Gallery, and the experience and resulting feedback would prove a turning point in my practice. I wanted to further develop the inroads I had made toward three dimensional work in Year One, and reflecting on wider connotations of vigil, burial, and concealment, I began to see ways this distinctive site and my research might connect. Aiming for an effect that hovered between the human and the apparitional, I experimented with materials before settling on mud roc, which retained enough subtle texture to suggest the layers underneath. I worked for a long time on the shape and positioning of the hands in relation to the camera, wanting to encourage openness of interpretation depending on the angle of viewing.
While making this kind of sculpture was new ground for me, I was still clinging to familiar territory in my approach, both in terms of practical methods and the exposition of ideas. The criticism I received, while not wholly negative, made me realize that I needed to evolve in order to develop my subject matter in a less literal, laboured – and less familiar - way. After Index, I would re-evaluate my practice, even my conception of art, in a way that would lead to a marked shift in my work for the remainder of the year.
Lime Light/Sculpture Mud Roc / White Gloss
Can We Talk/Linocut Prints
This work, along with my installation ‘CCTV’, highlights a new area of development in which I was testing and expanding the boundaries of what I thought art could be. Adapting an image from an earlier oil painting, I made a series of small (30 x 40 cm) and large (50 x 60) lino-cut prints, experimenting with different colours and working quickly, so the finished prints resembled fresh underground posters created in a hurry, or conversely, frayed and faded relics of a bygone movement. Finally, I experimented with layering fragments of text over the image. My goal is to eventually present the work in a public, non-gallery space in a way that invites participation of the viewer through interaction (for instance, adding or changing elements) that might circumvent habitual patterns of response. After monitoring the installation at a site where I could retain some control of the process, I intend to apply the results of my research toward creating public art that continually evolves through interaction with viewers.
Although the final form this work will take is still in development, the project itself signposts the beginning of a significant expansion in the way I view my role and territory as an artist.
Can We Talk/Linocut Prints
For my Year 2 Interim Assessment, I created an installation comprised of a non-functioning but realistic security camera, wall-mounted in the studio/exhibition space as if for surveillance purposes, with a noticeable red sensor light and prominent black wiring leading through a mounted box to simulate live connection to a power source. It took some time to find a camera that was convincing but not too discreet to be noticed, and I was glad to discover that the one I chose made a faint but audible electric whir when it moved.
Certainly, shifts in privacy and technology are affecting us more than we realise and understand. As my practice is concerned with imaginative processes of perception and dissociation, this work was a way of posing a question and listening for the collective response, then responding in turn by further developing my work. What effect would the installation have on viewers’ perception of this private space, of the artwork within, of their own creative work? What is it like to engage with and evaluate an artwork that takes this form?
Although the camera element first appeared in my previous sculpture, Lime Light, this installation marked a leap into uncertain conceptual territory that stretched my idea of what art can be. I maintained a doubtful internal debate throughout the process, but ultimately the experience opened up new questions that influenced the way I approach my practice, and continued to exert its influence even as I included more process-based methods in the work that would follow.
Arc of Practice 1
This series of work from year one comprises painting, screen-printing, mixed media and installation work, all linked by recurring formal and thematic elements. They are concerned with perceptions of identity in relation to power and authority, and have been selected as they represent key developments in my practice that spurred me to refine my research question and extend my practice into unfamiliar territory, both conceptually and practically. At this stage in my practice, I drew mainly on personal and biographical material, although studying the methods of American artist and printmaker Jasper Johns had a strong influence on my process.
On the Edge
This large painting, went through a series of permutations from oil, watercolour, screen print, and photo-etching, and while I did not show these at a public-facing exhibition, they would form an important part of my research for subsequent work.
This installation, which I created for a small hallway exhibition, comprised multiple box canvases of different sizes screen-printed with the same image, then arranged to suggest a layered, multi-level surface without a clear reference point. I used contrasting dark and light panels and and variant print effects to create a sense of edges and boundaries that resist definition. An overlay of Perspex depicting features of a world map created a further boundary for the viewer to penetrate in order to comprehend the image
Still working in familiar territory of screen printing, painting, and mixed media, the piece was a significant step in moving me toward the 3-D lightbox installation work that I would submit for my Year 1 assessment.
Box Canvas installation
I like to work on several projects concurrently, as I’ve found that one feeds another, creating threads of meaning and a communication between distinct works. Often one element will carry over to another work, formally or conceptually changed in some way. The image that formed the basis for my 2015 mixed media work ‘Twilight’ had been through several permutations as an oil painting, watercolour and photo-etching before it was adjusted and recast as a small screen print for use here. The two wooden panels were joined with hinges in a way that might evoke heavy tablets, or perhaps a door. Although the text throws a particular light on the work, the words are fragmented and illusory, as are the floating, slightly luminous figures that dominate the foreground. The intended effect is of a moment in time, and of a limited and dissolving chance to see both image and text clearly
Mixed media / screen print
The work that I created for the Year 1 assessment developed, in part, from an earlier box canvas installation, and it reflects a shift in my practice toward three dimensional work that would continue through my second year – although painting and printmaking would remain a central part of my research process. The hands, moulded from my own, are left rough rather than detailed and individualized, working against our natural inclination to label and file away what we perceive.
While the piece was praised for aspects of its conception, skill and impact, constructive criticism suggested that the presentation was a bit too slick and composed for its subject matter. This feedback proved extremely useful as I moved toward new modes of presentation in my second year.