It’s been a few weeks since I last updated my blog; it’s been a busy month to say the least but I’ve had some exciting news and fantastic opportunities. Most recently I was selected as a member of The Royal British Society of Sculptors; this truly has given me the confidence to say,’ yes I am a sculptor’ which is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I have continuously referred to myself as a visual artist, when my work is plainly of sculptural appearance, language and aesthetic. As part of the RAMUS|EVANS Collaborative we had the opportunity to develop a new show and body of work for Spit & Sawdust Gallery, Cardiff; Dialogue: Detritus explores our relationship with materials, form and organic elements that feed into our daily dialogue and studio practices as MFA students. The show is open until July 31st. I then received confirmation that I would be showing ‘Maureen’ in SHE in London, an International Exchange Exhibition exploring the construct of femininity. ‘Baked Beans’ was also then chosen as part of the exchange in their partnering galleries in Texas, USA and Vietnam; this will take place at the end of July and I am truly honoured to be exhibiting work alongside such a diverse range of artists.

I’m now on the final stretch trying to overcome that hurdle prior to the MFA show; I’m at that stage where I understand what needs to be accomplished yet feel panic and a sense of resilience towards the work. What became a reoccurring question was whether the work was Sculpture or Installation? I struggle to answer that question and identify those qualities that reside in sculptural or installation based works. I recently listened to a panel at the Nasher Sculpture Centre, including artists Eva Rothschild , Phyllida Barlow and Michael Dean with Lisa LeFeuvre as the immediator of the discussion on Why Sculpture Now? It was interesting to hear sculptors and curators define sculpture as a discipline, discussing the conversations around sculpture and its ability to wrestle and go beyond material but to think about narrative. Can I call myself a sculptor? Rothschild explained that it had taken her years to call herself a sculptor as she was not confident in the understanding of sculptural language as a whole. We call ourselves ‘artists’ but often struggle to express that we may be for example, a painter, a photographer; however does this then put you into that box and then the problem of only allowed association with that discipline?

In my proposal for the show I originally would only proposed to have the steel tripod pieces but have now decided to exhibit a second sculpture. My research has led me to artists Monika Sosnowska, Robert Gober, Carol Rama and Gunther Uecker; the material assemblages, exploration and process involved in their work has influenced the second structure that is made of angle iron, and now latex will be introduced as a secondary material. Process and material is the core focus that surrounds the work, in my tutorial this week with Mark Gubb he mentioned how I need to be aware of other possibilities and narratives that may surround the work and that playing with materials is not the only element to consider. I have this desire to make things that will exist in the world; however my interest and use of organic elements or substances suggests a non-permanence, a vulnerability. But I see sculpture as a relationship, there’s so many physical encounters and a continuous battle with this uneasy companion. The scale that I am working on for my MFA show is the largest I have produced to date, its competing with me as a human being and is challenging my skills, ability and its response to the space. The question that I ask myself is whether I care about the encounter with the audience? Is my own personal encounter, experience or journey more important?


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What is my context? What is my position?

These have been reoccurring questions and issues in relation to my work and how I contextualize my practice within contemporary art. I struggle to focus on what my concerns are with my work and what am I drawing attention to with the sculptures or installation works. After my tutorial with Andre he asked very simple questions that would compile with my practice and its concerns; however I was unable to pinpoint my focus, context or position. Why? What is my work concerned with? ‘The quality of form within a space.’ What was I suggesting with this remark, does the form always have to possess a certain quality or does this rely on the nature of the space? My current focus is working on my pieces for the final MA show; therefore the next few weeks are crucial in understating the qualities and principals of the work. The concept of the work is to create a monumental experience for the viewer that is then juxtaposed against the physical experience and engagement that will be allowed.

Three free standing steel tripods that reside in an open space, emphasising the industrial nature and natural day light that will be a constant part of the work. I’m continuing to explore the jarring of relationships between the organic and man-made/industrial; what was brought up in the tutorial was how there seems to be an emphasis on opposites in my work, whether there is a tension or compatibility? Hard/soft, space/scale, organic/industrial, elegance/playfulness. The materials that I will be suspending from the tripods will involve an exploration of form using balloons and organic, fluid substances of jelly and water. This work in particular will involve a sensory experience of texture, smell, touch and the use of colour; an element that has never been a focal point in my work or of any previous concern. However, this has become an issue that has risen with observation of the materials and I do not wish for a ‘sensory experience’ to become the focus of the work but will likely become an element of the work. My focus now is to explore and produce the work whilst understanding and analysing my practice and finding a focus; how the viewer will engage and interpret the work is something that is out of my control.


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That physical touch and engagement that I have with materials is the driving force in my practice. This week I’ve been back in the studio playing. I started to think about how sculpture and painting coincide; and how I can explore using ‘the wall’ as the base to work from. The making and material exploration is key to my practice and existence as a female artist. I emphasise the ‘female,’ this has become a focal point of contact as a sculptor. My research has led me to Eva Hesse and her distinct, fragile and playful approach to her work. The visibility of process in her art and methods of making she used to create such uncontrollable forms. Those organic qualities that had crossed over in my work previously came into play with this work using stained string and wax. I began soaking long pieces of string in the hot wax, draining the excess before draping onto the wall where pins were randomly placed for discreet support. The clear wax enhanced the colour of the rope, once hardened in position the work possessed a painterly aesthetic. The work suggests a continuous line, a drawing, a form that suggests physical presence, flesh, a sense of control, the loss of control; the allowing of material to determine its form.

This work has the potential for further development and play on how the form will develop; what is the work? What are the components? Why am I using these materials? The wax disturbs the texture of the rope, however forms a thin layer that allows the form to solidify and maintain its shape. When I start to play with materials or objects there is no initial plan or idea at first; I allow the material to discover its qualities and possibilities before my touch can begin to understand and create work. I had never thought of exploring three dimensional forms that incorporates a 2D aesthetic; this is a new area to explore and develop in the studio.


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Mona Hatoum’s exhibition and artist talk at Tate Modern showcased a broad range of her practice and relationship with performance, sculpture and installation; how she addresses key themes and her choice of materials. What she focused on was how work doesn’t reveal clearly or directly and that the meaning of work can change with its context. Hatoum frequently deals with confrontational themes such as violence and oppression; she focuses on referencing the human body, its vulnerability and resilience. Her focus is now on sculpture and installation whereas her earlier works involve performances and video works. Looking closely at her works, there is a strong essence of confinement, composition and a phenomenology with materials; the exploring and juxta-positioning of materials to create jarring relationships. She discussed how a lot of her work is inspired by place, location and environment; I can relate to that quality and how work can be a continuous circle when working out of a studio space. One of my favourite sculptural pieces is Cellules, mild steel cages that contain blown red glass forms that are trapped yet still look as if they are emerging from their cages. The simplicity of form, use of grid lines and colour explore minimalism, the physical approach to making  and that jarring of materials that explore texture.

Mona Hatoum, Cellules.

Maps are an abiding motif for Hatoum and Present Tense that was in the exhibition explores the raw, organic use of materials where 2,400 blocks of olive oil soap from the town Nablus, North of Jerusalem sits on the gallery floor in a grid format. The surface has been embedded with tiny red beads that depict the map of the 1993 Oslo peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. For me the work has such a strong presence and sense of the artists touch, all blocks vary in size and shade of colour which presents a human presence and context. This piece was difficult to conserve, the difficulties of preserving the quality of the soap as the surface would mottle over time were apparent and a continuous battle.

Mona Hatoum, Present Tense. 1996

The exhibition gave an insight to her way of thinking, after researching her work, to have the opportunity to engage with it in the flesh was jaw dropping. The scale, colour, material choice, forms and early performance documentation was instantly mesmerizing and the show was beautifully curated. She discussed how space should be used as a source of inspiration; an extension, expansion and intuitive way of producing work. Works can stay in the mind long before they become materialized. There continues to be intense connotations in her work, a strong essence and abstraction of materials. One of the questions that was asked was how she deals with identity; Hatoum responded with how identity is constantly changing and that she doesn’t focus precisely on ‘identity’ as it is instantly stereotyped.

“I’m never trying to make a direct political statement. There are issues in my head, but they’re in the background; they’re not foregrounded in the work, and they’re not specific to my own history. In the mature work, I’m thinking about form most of all. I am focusing on the materials, on the aesthetic. In fact, I sometimes spend time trying to remove the content, the better to arrive at abstraction. The tension is between the work’s reduced form and the intensity of the possible associations.” (Mona Hatoum, The Guardian)


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This past week has become very much focused on the what, how and why? What is my context? How can I achieve this? Why am I using the materials/objects in my work? I’ve been researching artists Martin Creed, Robert Morris, Sol Lewitt and Meret Oppenheim; focusing on the idea of changing the function of materials and objects and how my work seems to have developed a strong connection between industry and the domestic. The materials such as balloons, steel, soil that I’m currently working with relate to everyday life, you can recognise them but my aim is to challenge their function and everyday purpose. What’s interesting for me is when art becomes a live event instead of a display of static objects; life and movement becomes a focal point in the consciousness of the work. I’ve mentioned the connection and focus on industry and domestic; my tutorial with Holly Davey we discussed how my relationship and observation of certain materials in relation to their context. How do I read their context? My use of steel and focus on form, scale and weight lead me to the discovery of how this material becomes a domestic material; my connection and history with steel stems from my childhood, surroundings and this sense of comfort. This is a complete contrast to how the viewer would read or connect with the work; we relate steel to industry, its masculine aesthetic and a male dominated environment. This has continued to be a reoccurring question and point of contact in my practice. As a female sculptor using ‘masculine’ associated materials on a large scale, challenging that notion of weight and gravity.

Another focus has now become the change of function of materials and how I can connect, play and disrupt their function. I’ve started using balloons, sheets of tarpaulin and water that suspend from 10ft high steel tripods; but in what context do I want this work to sit? Inside or outside? This decision will change their visual aesthetic and appearance. There’s a clear essence of play in the work and how I work, play and explore materials. The use of balloons in particular questions play and colour; Creed’s work and his aesthetic with his use of the balloons disrupts space and allows the audience to engage with a physical experience.

Martin Creed, Work No. 200 Half the air in a given space. 1998

How do I wish the viewer to experience the work? Does these need to be both a visual and physical experience? The height and scale of the work will be a challenge for me and hopefully the viewer; the juxtaposition of materials emerging in an open space will explore play, form, colour, and weight. Oppenheim’s work explores the juxtaposition of everyday objects, which were often domestic into sculptural assemblages. Her use of fur relates back to my use of human hair and how I seem to refer back to organic elements in my work; the soil, grass and lard. These materials challenge traditional sculptural materials and form an expansive context that questions the familiar and unfamiliar, the organic and manmade and the phenomenology of materials.

Meret Oppenheim, Fur covered cup, saucer and spoon. 1936

Over the next few weeks a continuation of exploring materials and the jarring of relationships will emerge from experimental works in the studio; I need to form an understanding and a conclusion of what materials are overall successful to suspend from these steel tripods. Referring back to my previous work, the use of materials, objects and processes; my aim is to abstract and expand their qualities and possibilities to uncover both a visual and physical experience. Steel has been such a versatile material for me to work with; the scale, weight and colour of the work. How can I change the function of these materials? Connecting material to domestic and industry; what do these materials communicate to us?


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