I am exhibiting new Sculpturescape work at the Fringe Arts Bath. The curators Mike and Dona Bradley, describe doorways as thresholds to somewhere new. Doorways are the physical symbol of the transition – of change – between the ‘now’ and the ‘next’, from ‘here’ to ‘there’; moving in, moving out, moving on. Familiar in ritual, religion, myth and literature, doorways have emotional power. Doorways occupy the liminal space between two states of being, a transition that has to be negotiated before the ‘next’ can begin.
Rite of Passage is one of the Sculpturescapes I am showing at the exhibition. It shows a figure from the vantage point of a doorway, a crack in the door or a door that is ajar. The figure is a lady in a pose of prayer, consolation, meditation. Here she is alone and we are looking through into her private space. It forces us to ask ourselves whether or not we should be looking? We are not being invited to enter in through the doorway, but to stay outside and hidden. If we look beyond her we see that she entered from another space, through a dimly lit archway. That entrance beyond is mysterious and holds a slight feeling of eeriness. Where does this doorway take her? Where has she come from? Does she turn left to leave this sacred space, or right? Does she belong in our time? Who is she and in what sort of world does she belong? In what sort of world do we belong? Is this a doorway to an earlier time when prayer and contemplation were commonplace?
“The lines we leave behind us, the spacious weave, our wake, then sleep.” Robert Macfarlane.
My response to the theme of Human lies in two quite different pieces – the Drawing Machine and the Shroud of a Drove Road.
As a young sculptor and photographer, being asked to create work on this theme, is both a privilege and a challenge. To think about and grasp this concept is in itself, the stuff of epics, poetry, biblical writings, paintings, history and so on.
I ventured that Human would be best expressed and consolidated by creating pieces that showed the incidence, coincidence and transience of the marks that we, as human beings, make during our lifetime. Here TIME is not linear. Recordings, impressions, nature and our creation all conjoin into one moment. I also wanted that the work express the fleeting nature of any impression that we leave behind us. Of the billions of humans that have inhabited this world, only a fraction has ever been recorded. Of so few, do we even have a name, let alone a physical idea of them, a voice, gait or an idea of where they lived, how they lived and with whom they lived. They are just dust under our feet. Our graveyards and burial places record only a few. It is a huge image in my head that the testament to all these lives lived is lost. Our memory span is so short.
So I decided to record common places and commonly used places and spaces that made up some of the daily experience of people who inhabited them. I have made my own impressions using my bed sheets. They have been much impressed by me and conversely me by them for so many sleep and dream-filled hours. In their next life, I have used them to make Shrouds as an act of collective memory. I have made Shrouds of windows, dry-stone walling, ancient and well-trodden flag stone floors, old barns. The Shroud here is called Drove Road, Dorset. These are ancient paths through which drovers of livestock drove to and from fields, villages, towns and markets. The paths related people to places and connected them. They are like an arterial network throughout Britain. This drove road has been worn down to its bedrock by the passage of people. I gather soil from all over the world and here I have used Icelandic volcanic ash from Landmannalaugar that fell onto the glacier. I use this soil to make the impressions of this place:
Robert Macfarlane wrote: “paths were imprinted with the ‘dreams’ of each traveller who had walked it and that his own experiences would in course of time [also] lie under men’s feet.” That is what I am trying to convey and it is what I feel.
In this way I try to reach back through these images to those earlier inhabited spaces.
“Touch is a reciprocal action, a gesture of exchange with the world. To make an impression is also to receive one…” Robert Macfarlane
The companion piece is a drawing machine. It is made from found objects. In themselves each component is made from instruments that have been created to measure ourselves within our world: weight, load, compression, suspension, swing, time, frequency, vibration and rhythm. I have combined these to make a machine that draws only when pushed by people. Thus, depending on people’s frame of mind and the force used, the drawing machine makes a mark or leaves a person’s mark on the paper. It records all of our gestures and interactions, which combine to make a complete drawing. The idea is that in a very positive way, it only draws if people push it. Depending on your frame of mind, or the force you use, it has a direct impact on the rhythm of the machine. All of your contributions have made these drawings, and it was just a very simple way of saying what it is like when you are all together and being human.
The Pizza Box is a symbol of our age of convenience. Quickly ordered and delivered to ones door, the pizza is now a template on which many cultures are able to impose their palate. Manna from Heaven is a sculpture and interactive puzzle seen from a bird’s eye view. It asks what type of future we could taste. Manna – Bread was given by God every morning to the Israelites on their exodus from Egypt to Sinai. It had to be eaten on the day otherwise it would rot. This prevented hoarding and greed for personal gain.
The idea for ‘Manna from Heaven’ is based on the juxtaposition between convenience and rigour. It signifies the contrast between what we have become used to in our daily life and what has increasingly come under threat: the time for contemplation, discussion between people about the nature of existence, the puzzle of life. The inspiration for this piece comes from a cross Gigi saw in Northern Scotland, which was a Christian slab cross, uncovered in the 20th century. It had been incised in the early Medieval era and was the used as part of a deep grave.
This puzzle sculpture plays on the premise that the negative space is as important as the positive. In one space, a conversation takes place by four figures that we see from above when we open the lid of the pizza box. These figures with abstracted heads and bodies converge and are inclined in serious deliberation. They occupy the negative space around an early Medieval Christian cross. Their ‘heads’ notch into the cross – the positive permanent symbol of Christianity. It is as though they hold up the cross and complete the space. The heads resemble question marks. Christianity is a puzzle that offers, for some, a way of managing temporal life. For others, it has yet to be discovered. Religion forces us to ask questions about our lives and the nature of our existence.
Gigi’s puzzle within a pizza box replicates the indented corners at the right angles of the cross, which appeared to her like puzzle heads. The ‘heads’ ponder this puzzle as well as constitute it. Are these ordinary folk? The Evangelists? The Apostles? Are they receiving the Manna, succour from their faith? Gigi’s oak cross, and the four heads surrounding it, support one another, creating an image of interdependence. The idea being that the cross, and by extension Christianity itself, creates the foundations on which people can hold discussions and come together.