In The Studio – June Update

At last! An update! Things have been a bit busy behind the scenes since my last studio update and now its time to share with it you.

After the Constellations show had finished and the installation went on to Swansea’s ‘Elysium Gallery’ as part of ‘THE END IS BY YUR’ I turned to what was next for my work. I wanted to make bigger and more disgusting work.

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Sculpture work before painting.

I returned back to phallic imagery, as this was already a recurring theme in my work. With this new piece I was determined to make it bigger and more grotesque.

In my usual making process of forcing foam into objects I also began adding previous foam experiments into the setting foam to add both length to the sculpture and more bulbous ‘tumours’ to the piece.

I also came across a red foil whilst in my local art shop, it works in a similar way to gold leaf and I thought that it could lend itself to being a metaphor for blood or provide connotations of danger in my work.

I had also been thinking about the use of hair in my work, in the previous pieces I had used my own hair but, obviously, there is only so much of that you can cut off! I opted instead to use hair extensions. Previous uses of hair in my work weren’t quite hitting the right chord with the level of disgust I was going for. After a while I realised that one of my biggest hates in life is having cold, wet hair, so why not try and replicate that?

The wet look was created with varnish, I found that the hair would often just soak it up giving little coverage to the whole sculpture. To combat this I used a spray varnish on dry hair which provides a seal and gives further coats of varnish a surface to sit on. One unexpected element of the spray varnish was that it would dry in ‘droplets’ (pictured below), giving a weird sense of beauty amongst the grotesque.

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It was after this piece that I began to wonder if that the phallic imagery was perhaps a bit too obvious and so I returned to using other objects and really exploiting the abstracted body.  I love the way in which the foam collapses onto itself in this piece.

 

In my work the plinth is becoming a vital part of my work and whilst moving away from the text based element of my work I still want to be clear as to what my work is about, hence retaining coloured plinths or bases for my work to represent chat boxes. As long as I retain the same two colours (blue and yellow) then I would hope the idea of chat boxes can still ring through. I was clear that I wanted to move away from the paper used in my early installation piece, opting to use wood instead. I found that thick ‘slabs’ of MDF give the ‘chat box’ base a real presence.

The foam was applied directly onto the MDF board. Once set the two pieces were given an undercoat of red and orange respectively. Each piece was then dry brushed with light, fleshy tones until each looked like a slab of processed meat. The bases were then painted and the entire piece varnished heavily.

I felt that something was missing from each piece and experimented with using hair again. The hair comes from hair extensions and is seen appearing to ‘sprout’ from craters on the surface of the sculpture. I think they work particularly well as a pair, the colour combination of the bases plays strongly into the impact of the piece – they fall a little flat when separated.

Alongside everything else I had also been keen to make bigger and bigger work. The piece in the pictures below, “Show Daddy More Of You”, has been built up in layers of expanding foam over a five month period and stands at just over 4ft tall. With this piece I really wanted to push the notion of body horror and force viewers to react to the piece.

The foam was painted a mixture of reds and then dry brushed with various pale and fleshy tones before clumps of hair were added. Layers of varnish were then built up; which not only adds further to the grotesque nature of the piece but also gives a high sheen, giving a sense of quality – as if it were a high end product.

In playing around with different sized boards as plinths I had created this quite elongated piece, seen below in its undercoat.

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I opted to use blonde hair this time after seeing a recent exhibition at Caustic Coastal (Salford) and wondered if the use of blonde hair in my work might alter projected connotations. I think the use of such a platinum blonde (which has its own associations with female figures and beauty) projects some of those onto the sculpture. This contrasts nicely with the body horror and pools of varnish that have formed to look like puss.

 

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So what next? Pictured above is the start of my next piece which I intend to be the start of a grotesque archway (watch this space). Other work I may return to are the symbols of the hearts and (as incredibly relevant to my work) work on condom wrappers.

 

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