The First Cut, Manchester Art Gallery: Artists’ talk with Tom Gallant, Chris Jones and Nicola Dale 19/01/13
Continuing on the paper theme, I went to the artists’ talk at Manchester Art Gallery yesterday featuring participating artists Tom Gallant, Chris Jones and Nicola Dale. I mentioned Nicola’s work Sequel (2012) in a previous post which was commissioned by the gallery specifically for the show. Both the oak tree and cut paper leaves are made from waste materials. The leaves are made from reference books which Nicola collects from charity shops, book sales and other sources where she can get hold of books cheaply or for free. They are often out of date reference books which are no longer useful in their original purpose. Nicola has carefully arranged the leaves by content so that the physical tree represents a tree of knowledge which specific branches for specific areas of knowledge. The tree was from her friend’s small garden where an acorn had been planted 12 years ago and had been blocking out too much light but her friend hadn’t wanted to just cut it down and take it to the tip. The remaining use-values of these materials had been determined by the previous owners at that specific time and have been recycled to give another, less conventional purpose and value by the artist.
Also in the collection galleries is another work by Nicola, Down (2010), made from 1970s Ordnance Survey maps which were being thrown away from her local library. Again, these reference books may have some limited remaining market value but the previous owners had rendered them waste as they no longer had held any purpose and value for the library. 12,000 feathers have painstakingly crafted by the artist and she describes each installation as unique, site-responsive even, in order to create a new installation each time. The reconfiguration of the feathers is in each installation a new mapping of territory. In Manchester Art Gallery they are positioned on a low circular plinth. The feathers are symbolic of loss in that as birds shed feathers, traditional skills of map reading are lost as new GPS technologies supersede the need to read a paper map.