This first week has involved taking some time to engage and explore Corris, taking walks along the mountains, fields and through this quaint village. The large quantities of slate slabs of walls and fences, and slate pieces abandoned outside houses, the side of streets are fascinating; a material that seems to be taken for granted considering its history and due to its current presence. I’ve selected a handful of small pieces that I’ve found during the week and wondered how I can inforce further relevance to this object? Referring back to material transformation and the destabilisation of materiality; my fascination with repetition or multiples led me to think about casting this piece of slate again and again. However when thinking about the choice of material to produce this slate cast I had to consider the reasons and the relevance of this act; referring to the idea of deconstruction and reconstruction I began to wonder about the strength and purpose of slate and its existence in welsh industry. My practice has involved using wax as a focal material in previous works, and thinking about its qualities and properties I decided to cast the slate in wax to produce multiple castings. The process of creating a mould and repeating an object as a cast whilst changing its original material becomes a crucial part of the work; an action and object of repetition. Wax as a material has two states of liquid/solid, soft/hard; and therefore disrupting the original piece of slate involves a loss of confidence in its original material form.
slate process (Corris series)
David Bestue’s practice as an artist and writer extends into an enduring nature of stuff in his work that might be considered part of a longer reaching philosophical inquiry. His piece A and B (Fragment from where someone was born and fragment from where that same person died) is a semi-translucent cylinder draped over a metal rod nailed to the wall; however its prime material is resin mixed with dust gathered from two specific places: the room where someone was born and the room where that same person died. The delicacy of its placement expresses a simple fragment of life and death whilst compressing and conflating time; demonstrating Bestue’s capacity to convey a piece that emphasizes form and structure.
Stiwdio Maelor’s rural location, its scenery and rustic appearance led me to think about body and landscape. The artist Ana Mendieta’s work exists at the intersection of performance and sculpture, her tendency was to frustrate the ideals of beauty that has traditionally informed the representation of women. Mendieta produced a series of earth-body works;
Through my earth/body sculptures I become one with the earth, I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an extension of my body. This obsessive act of reasserting my ties with the earth is really the reactivation of primeval beliefs, [in] an omnipresent female force, the after image of being encompasses within the womb, is a manifestation of my thirst for being.
Imagen de Yagul, 1973 / Untitled (Body Tracks), 1974
Her focus on body and earth as sculptural mediums enforces an organic presence of combining performance as an action to produce multiple series with the four basic elements of nature. This research led me to question my relationship with the landscape and my current surroundings as artist in residence; raising questions into how I can expand my practice into creating site-specific works with a visible thread of continuing to work with installation and sculptural methods.
I’ll be spending three weeks as artist in residence in the Attic Studio at Stiwdio Maelor in Corris, North Wales. Having spent the last few months isolated from my practice this residency is an opportunity to research, engage and focus my work. I continue to struggle with the sense of no belonging in a place; questioning the enduring nature of ‘stuff ‘ and ‘objects’ that has previously amplified my work. Prior to the residency I re-visited previous artists and came across Joseph Cornell’s Boxes of Delights where he focused on stuff such as twine, marbles, plastic toys, photographs, small glass bottles; Wanderlust magnifies Cornell’s fantasy world and obsession as a hoarder. It’s curious how his found objects became the raw materials of his art, with great delicacy and precision Cornell would select items and arrange them alongside others inside the glass fronted “shadow boxes.” Therefore using minute glass jars, items, objects, raw materials that may have influenced a response, a memory or a reflection of my time on the residency. This work could become an ongoing journal or a documentation of my practice captured on a small and focused scale.
The human body has and continues to play an influential part in my practice and choice of materials; how can I continue to explore the uneasy relationship between the organic and the abject. ‘A fleshy expansion of minimalist forms into unruly organics’ (Frieze No.189 September 2017) which could be further explored as an interesting element of probing the power of absence. I came across the artist David Bestue whose distinctive handling of material ‘emphasizes not so much its potential for formal articulation as its capacity to convey the ‘meaning’ we attribute to it, a capacity that extends beyond – or rather through – form and structure.’
Helen Chadwick’s practice describes a mode of luxuriant existence between, with, around and across contradictions. Chadwick was keen to underline this sense that this sublime aesthetic of contradiction opened up to life; art becomes a glorified act of atrocities of existence, to heal oneself of the burden of existence. Her work highlights the opposites of the seductive/repulsive, organic/man-made and continuous use of visceral materials; I’ve particularly began to focus on her pieces Loop my Loop and Carcass due to the organic material choice that result in decomposition, a process of decay visible to the viewer. Loop my Loop is a display of pigs intestines and human hair looped to create a controlled, elegant pattern. Since immersing myself into this studio space and outside environment I find myself surrounded with heritage, culture and community. This has focused my thought and making process, re-visiting certain materials from previous works such as human hair and soil (earth); using these elements I’ve begun to create a line series made up of piles of earth (mixed with lawn seed) found during my walks of Corris. The work is an ongoing, site-specific response to a daily routine of action.
Corris (earth series)
This led me to the welsh artist Tim Davies whose practice is focused on creating meticulous, repetitive and time-consuming installation works, continuously making connections between things such as the desiccation of the mining industry in Wales, war and industrialisation. His installation piece Capel Celyn, 1997 was made up of 5000 wax casts of nails placed in Oriel Mostyn, Llandudno; the mass of material transformation and delicacy of placement focuses yet destabilises the viewer’s attention from its current state of multiple wax casts to the original objects purpose and hard material properties. I’m curious to explore site-specific works, and how we occupy our environment or space. Over the last couple of days I seem to find myself developing multiple threads in my practice; my presence as a welsh, Lebanese, female artist has begun to cause an uneasy and unconfirmed presence; some may argue the relevance or importance of highlighting the fact that I am ‘female’ is unnecessary but this residency period has begun to question my sense of belonging.