One very fine morning, the sun was starting to set. Under foot, the grass was dewy and overgrown, bustling with growth of foliage, flowers and seedlings stretching out their limbs. The hill across from the water was still many miles away, and light was starting to wane. Only a slight glimmer now reflected.
My practice has been a continual exploration of landscape and environment. My current piece is a large-scale painting (2.5x3m) on raw canvas, using acrylic paints and in loose brush work style. It depicts an imagined, ethereal, grassy landscape populated by a variety of unusual plants and clouds to create a border around the painting, aiming to encompass the viewer. In front of the painting are multiple ‘islands’ of soft sculptures, objects that could exist from the world of the painting or as if they have been pulled out of the landscape. They are hand stitched, giving them an intimate feel, and the fabric is hand dyed and painted, matching the colour scheme of the painting. They are adorned with various different textures made from plastics, paint, foils, and other fabrics.
I want the work to create an uncomfortable ambiguity between what is real and what is fantasy. My work has evolved from being purely a flow of consciousness when I paint, to now being informed by real life examples seen in our environment, that could also cross over into the science fiction realm. I do still consider these places that I paint to be imaginary, but have found that my environment very much informs my work, the Forest of Dean being a constant recurring dialogue that I come back to. The paintings are left inconclusive of time and location, being a product of my visualisation. Parts of the painting are vague and blurry as if it’s dissolving, and alongside the sculptures, creates a subtler way of dissecting perception. The soft sculptures are there to expand a dialogue surrounding how human beings exist within their environment. Due to the way the sculptures slump and deplete, I think of them as being anthropomorphic in nature. I want them to look approachable which is why I have made them soft and muted in colour. This could reflect how we have approached nature in our own environment. As humans we have seen ourselves as the prime species, but now are realising our mistakes in how we have treated the planet, and are therefore now facing the consequences.
Process and materiality in art has always been very important to me. Making and adapting my own materials to create hybrid textures submerges the work further into a science fiction territory. The fabrics and structures of the piece become very much a part of the artwork as the painted landscape is. Painting has been a way of figuring out my interests, a never-ending relationship between process and depiction.
I will continue to add in a few more details but this will be the final layout for the painting. Now figuring out the placement of soft sculptures in relation to the painting. I am also thinking about changing wall space to the wall next to where I am currently. As the painting is very large and the sculptures are scattered in front of it, the viewer needs enough space to be able to step back and view it properly. Where I am currently feels a little cramped so will discuss with my peers and try to arrange a suitable place.
In this book, it is discussed that things like hand sewing and other traditional crafts are now being seen more commonly in contemporary art. It is also noted that these crafts are associated with being historically feminine. This makes the piece more intimate and focused if a person is taking the time to create it with their hands, a one off piece that shows personality. Almost like an artists mark- similar to a certain type of brush stroke or signature. The technique is engaging as a process. It has most probably been passed down through the generations, being taught by a mother or grandmother so holds an element of nostalgia and sentiment, echoing personal experience. The handmade could be seen as a rejection of of technology.
Aoyama is a textile and embroidery artist mentioned in this book. Her work explores the idea of ‘speed’ in art works and in society. She questions the relationship of high and low technology. An element of intimacy is important in her work as she is presenting examples of the everyday, often including figures of her friends and family, thus why she chooses to embroider. Aoyama wants the work and the places she is depicting to be both personal yet anonymous.
Tissue paper attached to the whole surface of the balloon didn’t work, the ballon sank straight away. Small sections of tissue paper did work, however if I am to include this in my final piece I want the balloon to preferably be completely disguised. Although, I did find that attaching tissue paper to just the side of the balloon, acting as a weight still maintained the balloon to float.
I tried painting a thin layer of acrylic paint directly onto the surface of the ballon. small sections on one side were fine and it still floated, though when painting onto large sections it sank.
Another option would be to get a ballon printed with the design that I wanted on it, but this would work out quite expensive. At the moment I am struggling to find a way to be able to cover the balloon and still make it float so this may be a further experiment for next year.
Other alternative methods I am going to start experimenting with is suspending some of the soft sculptures with fishing wire instead as a way to have the sculptures presented at different levels.
After visiting Kew Gardens and seeing the carnivorous plant collection, it reminded me of a book I read as a child.
‘The Bodigulpa’ is a children’s fiction book written by Jenny Nimmo, first published in 2001. It tells the story of a young boy called Daniel who lives with his family, but comes into trouble when his grandad moves in with them, along with his mysterious plant collection, after his grandma passes away. The grandad is presented as being a grumpy, sickly old man, similar to his plants. “He’s smelly, has dirty fingernails, long, lank hair and he’s mean to everyone”. Grandads most prize plant is called the Bodigulpa. Daniel starts to have terrifying suspicions when family members and his aunties dog go missing right next to the greenhouse…
Looking back on this book now, I think of it as being a possible alternate future or sci-fi world, where our environment no longer takes that humans take agency over the world. A kind of comical way of thinking almost, that the plants have just grown fed up of humans and have developed these new abilities.