I am the studio manager at Magdalen Road Artist Studios and at the end of last year, when I first started the job, I noticed the empty VW showroom on Iffley Road in Oxford. An amazing space that would make the most fantastic temporary gallery space.
After a lot of research I managed to find out who currently owned the space and I spent a couple of months sending emails to various people to see if this was a viable opportunity for the studios.
We have now very kindly been given the opportunity of a group show within the space at the end of May and I have been flat out at work organising the whole event. We have selected a curator for the show and 30 artists will be exhibiting work, and I will be one of them.
This is such an exciting opportunity on so many levels both for the studios, the individual artists as well as myself!
Since this is an empty site and my current work explores loss, emptiness and memory, the two ideas tie in nicely with my current work, thoughts and practice.
I wanted to create a piece that supports my current processes and I started to consider textile impressions. Car interiors have fabric and particularly car seats! I decided I wanted to cast an impression of a car seat as a metaphor for moving on and no longer existing within this space.
I acquired a VW Golf Mk2 car seat from a local breakers yard, and spent some time considering positioning and visualising final outcome.
Having also previously explored paper pulp as a material, and having also explred the work of Julia Anne Goodman, I managed to acquire the postal waste, catalogues and magazines left by the previous VW business. The reality of having moved from a place, abandoned and left on the floor.
I spent hours shredding the catalogue paper and then soaked it all in water for over 24hrs.
I tested mixing the paper with various cement / papercrete mixes, but none really felt right. They all took a long time to dry before becoming hard enough and the texture and visual appeal didn’t work for me.
I also tried a mix of plaster and paper pulp. this worked well but you loose the paper element in the mix.
I then tried paper pulp with nothing added. The texture definition of the seat fabric looses a little of the definition but it holds physical shape well, remains hard and has some lovely paper details. I am aware that I may only get one attempt at producing this and know that drying time could be quite extensive so kept this in mind whilst working.
Using just the paper pulp I covered the reclined car seat and am currently waiting for it to dry!
It took over 2 weeks to dry and in the end I had to resort to using a heater, as the area between the seat and the pulp started to get a moldy smell, but it has come away from the seat pretty well. The impression of the fabric and the ridges where the stitching is, are visible and the arched shape is very exciting. This shape reminds me a little of Louise Bourgeois – Arch of Hysteria and does have a very anthropomorphic shape.
Where the arch occurs is quite fragile so I needed to put a second layer of pulp both on top and beneath to which I added PVA to strengthen.
I have updated my axisweb profile as well to show this new piece of work.
Private View – 27th May 2016
The Private view was a huge success with at least 300 visitors over the evening!
‘Presence’ in situ
Before installing my piece of work I decided that painting the underside would accentuate it and draw the eye to it, inviting viewers to look at the underside as well as the top.
I sent some time considering how to present the piece, firstly thinking that it could be hung. The fragility of the arch meant that I decided away from this idea and I also liked the reclining nature of the piece. I wanted a sense of passing, death of a body laid out and so decided on plinths.
I painted the plinths in gloss white again to accentuate the underside of the piece.
Closing event Sunday 5th June
Over the 10 days we had good steady number of visitors, estimated at between 700 – 800.
During the final day of the exhibition we organised a series of events over the day to close the show. Artist Fiona Haines gave us a fascinating talk as first artist in residence at Wadham College Oxford.
There was also live art and live music from Young Women’s music project a local educational charity that provides an inclusive and supportive space for young women to make music together, learn new skills, express themselves, and grow in confidence.
There is an article on the Wadham College blog about the exhibition here