Saltaire Arts Trail

A photograph of my sculpture Teratoma will be shown as part of Saltaire Arts Trail 2017. The Trail runs over the late May bank holiday weekend (27th-29th May), with venues around Saltaire showing photoworks. More information about the Trail can be found here.

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Find Out Who You Are And Do It On Purpose

The video from my multisensory installation ‘Find Out Who You Are And Do It On Purpose’ can now be viewed online.

The installation was shown in September 2016 as part of the Glasgow School of Art Graduate Degree Show, and in November – December 2016 at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute as part of the College Natural 2016 exhibition. Here is an extract from the catalogue essay about this piece:

Find Out Who You Are And Do It On Purpose navigates themes of material consumption, deification and worship through the lens of an imagined mythology. Dolly Parton – the ‘queen bee’ – inhabits a space of contradictions; where her plastic, materialistic, hyperfeminine appearance – looking almost like a caricature of herself – is very much at odds with her philanthropic actions and religious lifestyle. In this fantasy domain, Dolly Parton is situated as the spiritual leader of a cult of popping candy-eating devotees, seeking their path to the Great Beehive in the Sky.

The video becomes a tangible connection to this imagined world, inviting the viewer to invest themselves in the narrative. Framed in the rhetoric of music video and televised musical performance, Natalie enters into a ritualistic routine, blurring the lines between choreographed musical act and enthusiastic hero-worship: is she imitating Dolly or becoming her?

Walking the line between sexual and sacred, the piece investigates the female body: the dichotomy that exists around its role as a means of control – how it manipulates and is manipulated – and the uncomfortable dynamic between sex object, virginal innocent and mother figure that women frequently feel pressured to maintain. The frenetic ingestion of popping candy featured in the video comes across as a semi-conscious, automatic act, obliquely referencing the modern culture of overconsumption. The routine culminates with the viewer being forced into eye contact with the performer in an uncomfortable ending sequence, an unidentifiable blue substance dripping from her lips: is it semen, vomit, spittle or something else?

With many thanks to Justin McKeown and Enya Zia Fortuna for their support and advice.

Exhibition: RE:VIEW at Pollok House

pollok house poster

I will be exhibiting a piece of work in this exhibition between 26th February – 3rd March.

RE:VIEW is an intervention into Pollok House by undergraduate and postgraduate students from the Department of Sculpture & Environmental Art at Glasgow School of Art. Through sculpture, installation and performance, the nine exhibiting artists explore such themes as critical museology, domestic labour and privilege, materiality and the movement of information. With each intervention made especially for Pollok House, RE:VIEW provides a dynamic counterpoint to its historical collection and contemporary activities.

The exhibiting artists are Honey Jones-Hughes, MollyMae Whawell, Natalie Rose Clarke, Kate O’Shea, Shu Xin, Martin Darbyshire, Stefano Pia, Nathan Smith and Tara Marshall-Tierney.

The opening event takes place on Thursday 25th February from 5.30 – 7.30pm and is open to all, refreshments will be served. The exhibition runs from 26th February to 3rd March, open 10am – 5pm every day. Entry to the exhibition and to the House itself is free.

The artists will all be present at the preview event so there will be an opportunity to ask them about their work, although there are no scheduled artists’ talks.

Exhibition: Saturday Afternoon at the Savoy

savoy exhibition

The culmination of my recent research into divination has been a book titled Calixtheamancy: A Practical Guide. Alongside this I have been developing a performance piece which will take place at a two-day exhibition staged in the Savoy Centre in Glasgow city centre.

The piece, Calixtheamancy, is a participative work based on the idea of fortune telling and alternative methods of divination. Participants will have the opportunity to have their fortune read through an entirely new method of divination, devised by me.

The performance will take place in unit 64, first floor of the Savoy Centre at 4.30-5.30pm on Friday 12th February. More information about the exhibition can be found here.

Exhibition: The Art of Caring

Images of 2 of my works will be on display at an exhibition in Kingston-Upon-Thames 12th-16th May this year. The pieces on display will be 42 Sticks and Biscuit.

The Art of Caring is part of a festival of nursing, taking place 12th-16th May, with the main festival celebration taking place on Friday 15th between 1-3pm. The exhibition will be shown in the circle gallery space at The Rose Theatre and will be open from 10am-6pm every day.

biscuits1

 

Value of the Find: Exhibition

I’m pleased to announce that one of my pieces has been selected for an exhibition at York St. Mary’s this Autumn. ‘Value of the Find’ is a pop-up exhibition running alongside the main exhibition, ‘Finding the Value’. The piece on show will be Teratoma.

teratoma 5

Teratoma is part of a series of recent works investigating the idea of ‘non-functional functional objects’ – the idea being that if one removes an item’s purpose, it becomes an object of interest in itself. The word ‘teratoma’ refers to a specific type of tumour in which the growth encases fully-formed body parts: hair, teeth and even eyes. This piece explores the sense of absence/presence that is inherent in clothing – a shoe is essentially incomplete without a foot.

The exhibition runs from 24th October to 2nd November and features work from a number of British artists.

Food Series II

My most recent sculpture, Food Series II, was exhibited in Pamplemousse, an exhibition of fine art graduates’ work, between 15th – 31st May this year. More images of the piece can be found on the sculpture page of my website. Below are a few images and a description of the motivations of the work and its place within my practice.

bread 1

For something to feel right it must first be made to feel wrong.

Using a process that ‘feels right’ to create something that ‘feels wrong’ (making the familiar unfamiliar, the functional non-functional and the comforting disconcerting) in turn creates a piece of art that ‘feels right’ by way of feeling wrong.

My work is essentially process-led. From month to month, I will become preoccupied by a certain process or activity, and will solely create works that involve this method – wrapping, folding, sewing, baking – until I feel the process has been fully resolved, and will then move on to whichever process next catches my interest. Because of this, my work tends to be very labour-intensive – something which I think is inevitable with such a process-based practice.

Over the past year, my work has questioned the concepts of functionality, familiarity and comfort through this framework of process-to-product. The advantage of this way of working is that by not being tied to a specific visual concept of a piece, I can work intuitively, allowing me to make decisions that ‘feel right’ rather than having to stick to preconceived guidelines. The most important theme that drives my work is one of incongruity; the notion of creating something that is simultaneously comforting and repelling: a work of art that draws the viewer in and then turns the scene they are expecting on its head.

This work inhabits the dichotomy of a non-functional functional object, something that I have been interested in, in different guises, for a long time. By taking away the main function of an object, it’s as if the viewer is seeing it for the first time: they are led to consider it as a standalone, away from its place in the structure of our everyday lives. When considering this with regards to Food Series II, the importance of process to the work becomes absurd almost to the point of insanity: what kind of person would spend weeks making hundreds of loaves of bread that by their very nature are totally inedible?

This question – ‘what kind of person would do that?’ – touches on two issues of women’s identity that inform the piece. At first glance the work offers a tongue-in-cheek response to the traditional domestic pressures that constrain women’s creativity and independence summed up in the phrase ‘a woman’s place is in the kitchen’. On the other hand, when taking into account the recurrent theme of reminiscence that runs through my practice – something influenced by my work as a carer for my gran and other elderly people – it could be seen to reference something else entirely; the relentless repetitive labour that is so often characterises dementia – the bread is made, and yet, in the maker’s damaged memory, there is uncertainty: is the bread made?

Some stylistic decisions that I had considered integral to my earlier works have been left behind or altered in Food Series, which I think is inevitable to a certain degree when dealing with such a drastic change in materials. When entering into the dialogue of craft techniques in a fine art setting, it is very important to know where you stand in it, which for me meant emphasising the point that the work is fine art rather than craft – so I made sure to use crisp, clean lines and a limited colour palette. In Food Series, as my work moved away from craft techniques and the importance of the material’s natural shape grew, this became less important. Provoking feelings of unease in the viewer was also a key consideration in much of my earlier work that has manifested itself in a different way in this piece – the subtlety of the string in the bread means that it takes the brain just that bit longer to process what’s ‘off’ with the items in front of it, letting the viewer absorb the scene in two ways in quick succession.

I was drawn to the idea of using bread as a material for a number of reasons. Firstly the familiarity of it; bread is such a ubiquitous food, recognisable to almost everyone on the planet, and concepts of familiarity, comfort and reminiscence are central to my work. Secondly, the ancient nature of it; I find it fascinating that the ingredients and method that I use to make bread today are almost identical to those used by my ancestors thousands of years ago. Thirdly, the materiality of it; the taste, texture and smell of bread are totally unique, and all are powerful in terms of reminiscence. Lastly, the idea of the chemical reaction that enables us to turn three simple ingredients – flour, yeast and water – into bread. In my mind, these 4 ideas are intrinsically linked as part of the process of life: the ancient nature of bread means that it is immediately recognisable, and sparks memories in all of us, whilst we have harnessed the power of a living organism to create this food that keeps us alive. Working with a material so strongly linked with humanity means entering into a dialogue about the absence/presence of the human body in the work – the material that is so essential to our lives is removed from its true purpose and thus loses its connection to its makers, but at the same time, by its nature can never realistically be entirely disconnected.

The alien materials I introduced to the bread are chosen for two different reasons. The blue willow-patterned plates I chose for their ability to inspire reminiscence: I inherited these plates from my grandma, and the response the piece got from audience members was frequently along those lines – “My nanna had those plates”, “my gran gave me a set of those plates when I moved away from home”. The string has a dual purpose: alongside the plates, it is intended to direct the kind of reminiscences the viewer experiences, evoking images of crafts – knitting, crochet – that most would associate with a grandma. Its main purpose, however, is as a way of conveying the sense of unease that is integral to this work: the viewer is enticed by an array of foodstuffs, but on imagining the feel of the bread in their mouth they are confronted with the nauseating texture of cotton yarn and thread.

The sensory element of this piece is central to its intent; smell is arguably the most important sense in terms of memory, and is a powerful tool in provoking reminiscence, so I was keen to include this in my work. The audience reaction to the scent of the piece has been overwhelmingly positive – food smells are very evocative for most people – and a number of them have commented not only on the memories that the smell provoked, but the incongruity of the ‘homely, comforting’ smell of fresh bread in a gallery setting.

My concentration on chemical reactions in art stems from a longstanding interest in works of art where one or more factors are determined by chance. The idea of relinquishing control of certain aspects of a piece is at once both daunting and liberating to me as the artist; and seems to make a compelling piece for the viewer: when no two components of the mosaic are exactly the same, there are endless ways to explore the work, and numerous conclusions to be drawn from the configuration. The dough expands as it proves, and then expands again in the heat of the oven, forming itself around the incongruous materials that have become part of its structure through the repetitive process of kneading, folding and shaping.

bread 2

Glasgow International

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the opening weekend of this year’s Glasgow International.

The highlight of all the work I saw was definitely Bedwyr Williams‘ Echt at Tramway. We got there on Friday night for the opening and the gallery was absolutely packed, which made the contrast with the installation even starker. The actual video was completely entrancing and we even went back the next day to see it again.

A shot of me walking towards the light at Echt

A shot of me walking towards the light at Echt

The other highlights for me were La chose en cadrée at SWG3, a fantastic and varied exhibition that was well worth the walk; and Gabriel Kuri’s All Probability Resolves into Form at the Common Guild – got totally lost trying to find it but the work was fantastic, with the stunning view from the top floor just an added bonus.

The only works I saw that didn’t do it for me were Michael Stumpf at Glasgow School of Art – not really to my taste, and I felt the way the work was presented was somehow lacking – and Simon Martin’s Untitled at the Kelvingrove, which seemed to be examining an interesting dialogue but again didn’t really hit the spot in the way it was presented. Luckily the Kelvingrove is opposite Brew Dog so we took the opportunity to have a quick pint!

Drinks at Brew Dog

Drinks at Brew Dog

All in all it was a fantastic experience and I hope I’ll be able to return next time!

Britain in Song

Over the past 3 months I’ve been leading a series of workshops in schools as part of a celebration of British choral music. The workshops focused on letting the children visually interpret the choral works we played them via a range of materials.

A piece inspired by James McCarthy's '17 Days', by a pupil at Terrington Prep school

A piece inspired by James McCarthy’s ’17 Days’, by a pupil at Terrington Prep school

The culmination of these workshops was an exhibition of the children’s work on the festival weekend of Britain in Song. In addition to the children’s collages, there were a number of works on display by local artists, including myself. All the work was exhibited in the atrium of the Ron Cooke Hub at the University of York, alongside a video installation and a dance piece inspired by the music.

The painting shown above is the piece I entered for the exhibition – called Distinguishing Features, it’s a response to 17 Days by James McCarthy, a choral work that tells the story of the Chilean mining disaster of 2010. Whilst researching the piece and the disaster, I came across a series of mugshot-style photographs that were published by the BBC in the days following the rescue, which depicted the miners in the order they had come out of the mine. These photos formed the basis of the painting, with the hair and facial outlines of the miners being marked out in glue underneath the paint.

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