A long overdue post…
After completing my Graduate residency at AirSpace Gallery, and working on my work for a while, I decided to take the plunge and apply for New Art West Midlands 2017. I did not feel confident enough to apply the year before, but I decided what did I really have to lose this time around?
I submitted some of my favourite works from University, along with work created during my residency at AirSpace in my application. The artist statement I submitted with my images:
“In examining how we classify and organise the natural world, I consider how this affects our understanding of our environment. I create drawings that adopt the traditional conventions and methods of scientific and botanical illustration, adapting them to present my fictional hybrids and specimens. Using the space between fact and fiction, I present these specimens within my drawings as if they were encountered in some otherworldly environment, and then observed and studied by the explorer who discovered them. I deliberately omit scientific accuracy in favour of this ambiguity; how do we classify these specimens? Are they plant, animal? The specimens elude classification and our ideas of taxonomy, and appear to be a result of wanton scientific experimentation; almost as if they are grafted together in a rogue taxidermist’s workshop. Genetic modification, evolution gone wrong, what could have created these alien specimens?
I also use sculpture as another way for me to consider these concepts. When using clay, I create objects that have raw, animated characteristics while still retaining their handmade qualities. The evidence of the clay being shaped by my hand is left on the surface of the clay. I also create objects and artefacts from natural materials, such as plant matter, pressed flowers, butterfly wings, imagining that these objects could have been found alongside the specimens in this otherworldly environment. Did they build these objects? Live in them? Emerge from them? Installation is another method I employ within my work, as a way for me to blur the lines between my drawing and sculpture, combining them together to create works that look at the idea of an explorer collecting these strange objects and artefacts, the drawings they have made and the research they have gathered. These
are ways for me to consider the idea of a precarious nature, one that cannot easily be classified accurately or with any certainty.”
I then waited nervously for a while, however after not hearing anything for a while I thought maybe I had been unsuccessful. One day I started getting notifications on Facebook and messages from family – I had actually missed the email in my inbox, and I had been selected to exhibit in NAWM 2017. Even now it still feels slightly unreal, for want of a better word, that I was selected. I also found out that I would be exhibiting in two venues, mac Birmingham and Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery, which was even more of a surprise.
Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery wished to exhibit my work ‘The Entomologist’s Collection’, 2016,from my solo exhibition The Alien Bestiary at AirSpace Gallery. At the mac they wanted me to recreate a drawing installation I created while at university, ‘Botanical Hybrids’, 2014, which involved drawings created directly onto the walls, and an drawing coming out into the space on a continuous roll of tracing paper.
As the exhibition draw closer, I spent a week traveling to and from the mac to create my installation, I had created the tracing paper drawing at home the week before so I could use the time to create the wall drawings. The install at Wolverhampton was much simpler, with already having created the work previously it was just a matter of pinning up the individual photocopies to create a similar layout while it was exhibited in AirSpace Gallery, reminiscent of how entomology collections are displayed.
It was wonderful to be able to work on such a large scale, the size of the space that was given to me was a much welcome surprise when I arrived on day 1 to start creating the work. You can see this in the first image in the gallery. To be able to recreate a work from university was also a good experience for me, as I was able to see how the ideas from the first work had transformed and developed over the two to three years as I created this second version of the work, in addition to how my ideas and concepts had matured in my practice as a whole.
I will add to these reflections in another post.