It's been a while since I've written a blog post. 2019 has been a slightly challenging year health wise which has thrown me slightly, but I’m fighting fit and ready for a productive 2020. Creatively my main priority has been to make, experiment and develop my work and keep a strong hold on the authenticity of my practice. As I look through the timeline of the work I have produced (Instagram is such a fantastic tool for this https://www.instagram.com/carol_sowden/!) over the year I'm pretty chuffed at how things developed throughout 2019. As a process led artist, with each experiment and making I naturally move to another stage making my work very transient and ever changing. It’s not only the aesthetical side of my practice that reflects ephemerality; the sense of decay and renewal, I also view the practical side of my making as a constant mirroring of seasonal changes.
The winter months always tends to see me retreating and honing in on more paper-based works. At the beginning of 2019 I concentrated on trying to develop work that had a physically lasting presence. Experimenting using liquid clay and charcoal on paper, the main theme of this work was to capture the movement and flow of liquid and its subsequent mark making potential influenced by the flow of streams and becks within the landscape. During July these clay and charcoal works developed into larger works embracing length and height after visiting Stainburn Forest with the rest of the TCL Collective. Through these experiments the gesture of contact became an important factor; the contact of surface against surface, matter against matter and the ever-running theme of ‘connection’ that runs throughout my work. This developed into work visualizing carefully manipulated and harnessed marks made by the flow of organic matter and water compressed between paper surfaces.
As ever my ice work continues with a move this year into working with colour and incorporating the flower heads of vibrant cut flowers and plants. This influence has come from a need to bring my previous life working in the flower trade into the fore. Some of this work has surprised me and generated such great interest and is at present a main theme I am developing. The need to size up on these ice sculptures is something I am working on at present alongside the recording of their melt through time lapse filming. The mark making potential of the melt water from these works is also something I am harnessing and working on the production of paper-based works. The importance of solely producing work that has no intervention from any other man-made ingredients and is purely ‘organic’ continues to run throughout the work I produce. These limitations do keep me focused and gives me confidence as to the authenticity of my practice.
I'm planning on showing the development of this colour-based ice project as part of a collaborative exhibition with Paula Hickey https://www.paulahickey.com/ at Number Six Gallery in Pateley Bridge in August of this year.
I have decided to be more selective and more practical in the opportunities I apply for in regards to exhibiting at this present time. Every application these days seems to demand a fee for application and that’s even before you may have been luckily chosen. Other opportunities demand a payment for being in the exhibition. Careful consideration is needed to determine whether opportunities are worth my while; the logistics, the overall exposure etc. With everyday costs spiralling things become difficult to sustain. I suspect a lot of artists have the same arguments with themselves. I’m grateful for the social media and the exposure and interaction this offers; something I never dreamed of saying years ago!! Oh how times have changed!!!
Its been a quiet start to the new year and a few application rejections from opportunities, but a chance for me to re-evaluate and get into the studio to play around with 'creating' My ice work continues but I've felt the need to 'draw' (in the broadest sense!) and produce work that remains in a physical way has been something I've been tackling. Limiting myself to ice as a drawing tool and refined clay and ground down charcoal as the drawing materials has produced interesting work. Much inspiration has come from the flowing of water within streams and becks and trying to capture the natural flow and rhythm of this continued regeneration. The 'other worlds' created by natural sediment, stone and sand within rivers and streams have always been something I have wanted to play around with. As a child the physicality of wild water swimming, messing about in streams and building dams are activities that remain tangible to me know. The feel of the moss under my bare feet while running over the waterfall, opening my eyes underwater and experiencing the murky waters of the river while the sun penetrated the rivers surface have become special moments and memories I carry through my creativity today. Limiting myself to ice as a drawing tool and refined clay and ground down charcoal as the drawing materials has produced some interesting work. A lot of this work is a return to original aspects of my proposal for my MA and the innate prehistoric need to express through the use of basic organic materials. Initially I wanted to try and produce work that visually remained 'barely there' but as the work has evolved more emphasis has been on the actual aesthetic physicality of the marks produced. Its been quiet a medative and enjoyable process enabling me to really loose myself in the motion and movement of these experimental pieces as they are made.
Our TCL exhibition has been extended at Coffee on the Crescent and continues until 28th February. This venture has been such a success seeing all of us sell work as well as facilitated much conversation with customers and visitors. Plans for a residency between us on the East Coast of Yorkshire are being discussed for this year so something to look forward to in the coming months.
As I said previously, my Ice project continues developing with new works and ideas with every session of making. A recent possible opportunity to have my work as an album cover (which subsequently didn't work out :( ) confirms the value of these works; to have a piece considered has been a great honour.
As I write this the sun is shining through the studio and there is a real hint that spring is on its way. The days are getting longer and I'm so looking forward to the energy the longer days generate and the chance to do work in the natural light of the day!
Its been an eventful month with TCL's one year anniversary exhibition at Coffee on the Crescent at Hyde Park, Leeds curated by Stu Hansom, showing 12 pieces of work at Horticap Harrogate and one of my photographic pieces 'Pearl' selected and shown as part of an international exhibition at Loosen Art in Rome, Italy .
Its always rewarding seeing work 'out there' and people engaging with the images and by being around the work I am able to get feedback and answer any questions people may have about the theory and making behind the work. Its always my intention to produce work that is curious and makes people look closer. Hopefully this generates a lasting connection with the work and a further association to the environment that we all inhabit; the land and elements we come into contact each day.
I have been so happy and pleased with the recent results of my Ice project work and feel the results are worthy of more exposure. Their reference to fragility and climate change is one of the main driving forces in the making of the work as well as the physicality of materials and making. I feel because of its natural organic nature the work is crying out to be shown/placed within a contrasting urban environment ; something high end and contemporary such as work spaces i.e. corporate offices. There are so many more possibilities with this project and ultimately I would love to go large with these works in both a photographic sense and actual making. Billboards (thinking outside the box!) and wall size is the aim; to be used as a campaign for climate change or global warming??!! The need for a better resolution camera is probably what's holding things back at the moment but as funds are low but we will see how things develop! On a smaller scale it would be fabulous to have my work used on an album cover! As anyone who knows me well understands how passionate I am about my music (that's Soul music to be exact!) and it would be the icing on the cake for my work to be used in some context to represent the visual aspect of a piece of music.
As the majority of artist create alone in their studios I love the way art exhibitions and creative events bring people together. Generating conversation, contacts and supportive networks all helps with the sanity of a creative mind. The endorsement of your work from a fellow artist is one of the greatest compliments and a recent conversation with a fellow artist who expressed the comment that my work had 'soul' was such a great compliment.
In a growing hyperreal consumer driven society it's sometimes difficult to find much that is honest, true and with integrity. As an artist I strive to counteract this by being as genuine and authentic as humanly possible in both materials, process and production and by utilizing nature and the elements it is hoped my work conveys a sense of honesty and truth.
As 2018 comes to a close and the new year approaches I feel the need to explore a more sensitive delicate aspect of mark making and sculpture; to experiment with materials that are #bareleythere (its a starting point anyway!) and as a list of things to do begins it include,s more projects and fun times with the TCL ladies, a return to the landscape to generate new work and a new collaboration/project with my good friend and artist Paula Hickey. Bring it on!!
It was with great pleasure i found myself back at Leeds Arts University exhibiting as part of the TCL Art Collective in October. We were commissioned to produce work to exhibit on the main stairway of the University leading up to the 2nd floor. Over the years I have passed this stairway many times in my time at the University and having the opportunity to show work in this space opposite the timeline of now famous alumni has been a great honour.
I chose the work pictured above 'Illumination' as my main piece. Its likeness 'Earthrise' the first image taken of earth from the moons surface in 1968 by astronaut Bill Andres was one of the reason i chose this particular piece. 'Earthrise' was also the first image recognised as kick starting the Environmental Movement. I discovered this image while on my degree in Interdisciplinary Art & Design and still it informs my practice today as an Environmental Artist.
Because there are 6 framed works and 5 TCL members the 6th frame will be presented as a second piece of work from us all on rotation for approx 1 month each. I will be the second one up which should be from around the week beginning 5/11/18 so if your in and around the Uni take a look at my second piece of work....it is very different to the main piece.....let me know what you think!!
The ice pieces just keep on developing which does make me happy! There is so much more to discover with this work and with every making and producing of a piece i discover some new phenomena in which i can harness. Shown here in the images above is a small insight into work produced over the past couple of months. Particular detail has been taken in the development of purposely manipulated surfaces to enable the forming of textures which become visible when the ice sculptures are brought out of freezing temperatures. A rime of frost forms on the surface of the pieces when they hit room temperature creating a beautiful delicate and short lived coating. Other exploration into creating and refining more spherical moon and planetary like forms have also been of particular further development.
Carefully observing the way in which the ice forms rapidly change and transform while interchanging environments, the capture of these changes through photography is swift. Each of these pieces are extremely unique and after full melt they no longer exist; they are extinct and it is only through photography that their presence remains.
'In so far as I have any conscious purpose, it is to show the beauty of natural objects which are normally thought uninteresting or even unattractive: such things as Brussels sprouts, turnips, onions, pebbles and flints, bulbs, dead leaves, bleached vertebrae, an old boot cast up by the tide. People sometimes tell me that they had never really ‘seen’ something before I painted it, and I should like to believe this… For myself, if I must put it into words, I try to look at quite simple things as though I were seeing them for the first time and as though no one had ever painted them before.' (Elliot Gould, The Studio Magazine, 1957)
I came across the artist Elliot Hodgkin (1905-1987) the other day and felt an instant affinity towards him and his work. When first viewing his detailed paintings of leaves and other ephemera I immediately sensed a deep understanding of his need to capture the detail of the otherwise overlooked. His paintings portray such a close examination of natural ephemera ,growth, decay and the cycle of life with such sensitivity. His portrayal of light is beautiful and the subtle detail is exquisite. I could almost have spoken the above words myself said by Gould in an interview with The Studio Magazine in 1957.
His catalogue of paintings is pretty extensive and with all, there appears to be such beautiful observation and realization. During the war he worked for the Home Intelligence Division of the Ministry of Information and also joined the A.R.P. (Air Raid Precautions) but still managed to keep painting between 1940 and 1944. He was drawn to the contrast between the ruins of bomb sites around London and the vegetation that grew within and out of them producing paintings on the subject.
Starting off in oils, in later years he dedicated more of his time to painting in egg tempra after gaining a recipe for the medium from a friend. Beginning his work with detailed drawings of the work to be painted he would then trace the drawings onto primed hardboard.
Its not that often an artist makes such an impression on me but Hodgkins work has such a beautiful quality that I instantly fell in love with it.
In a letter written to Sir Brinsley Ford, Hodgkin wrote:
"I like to show the beauty of things that no one looks at twice."
The last couple of months has found me throwing myself back into a more considered exploration of this ever changing freezing process. Each making is hugely influenced by the ephemera sourced in the outdoor landscapes I inhabit. The seasons have always been a big influence on the work I produce and through careful regard of my surroundings it has always been important that the otherwise overlooked side of organic regeneration is represented; to reveal the unsuspecting beauty and fragility of growth and decay.
Careful observation of unintentional happenings, phenomena's and accidents while freezing and melting, drives more experimentation forward. Influenced by these material changes, intentional, intimate, intervention is applied in order to emphasise the formation of frost, ice, cracks, fissures and textures; the internal and external fabric of each piece. Their ephemeral individuality poses such a profound and unique existence that is only captured through photography. These pieces no longer exist in their physical form.
From a teardrop to currently a more spherical form, planetary and celestial aspects have been a theme that interests me and visually produces some fabulous results. As seen above plant roots, the first autumnal leaves of the season, blackcurrants and willowherb are just some of the materials used within these many pieces. These works will continue to develop and surprise.
The TCL Collective and I generated another chance to come together and exhibit. The venue was Horticap in Harrogate and with a theme of 'Water' we all produced and exhibited our own individual interpretations of the fluid stuff! A successful show with many sales and I was especially pleased to sell a few large pieces. Feedback from visitors has been insightful and informative. Hearing peoples own interpretation of my work has not only been a pleasure but has given me much food for thought and a chance to analyse the way my work is viewed. All this feedback influence how my work is developed and presented especially in order to sell.
I was also lucky enough to exhibit at Harlow Carr , Harrogate in their 'Photographic Exhibition' for a few weeks. No sales were made but the opportunity to show my work in these horticultural/garden based environment has been a great opportunity.
It was real pleasure to have been invited back to Leeds Arts University to exhibit my Ice Sculptures in the form of a 'live' experimental melt installation over the month of May. Due to its success it was extended over the BA final show into June.
Curator Catriona McAara chose to show the work as hanging pieces within a closed glass fronted cabinet. The work was originally exhibited in a more open pristine way and it has been a great insight observing its presentation as a piece with less intervention.
Replaced everyday the Ice Sculptures were hung and left to melt over the acrylic cubes. The majority of detritus was collected within these cubes and left to decompose with no real intervention. As the weeks progressed the build up of organic matter become stagnant as it decomposed. The build up of decay and rotting matter produced a distinctive odour which was only experienced when the glass doors to the cabinet were opened. This concept of containment has been an added outcome not previously envisaged and something of great interest to take forward.
The installation's direct association with 'Vanitas'; still life paintings from the 16th & 17th century which reminded the viewer of the shortness and fragility of life is clearly represented in the physical and real presence of these vulnerable ice forms.
With no reference to pristine unspoilt environments this installation has taken over its space through the splashes of dripping water and uncalculated collections of ephemeral matter such as leaves, grass, clay and charcoal accumulating outside of the cubes and on the walls and surfaces of the cabinet. These white surfaces offered a canvas in which to view the 'mark making' capabilities of organic materials; a concept of which was the starting point and driving force of this particular 'Ice' project.
It has been an odd experience handing over this work and not being able to observe the daily revealing through melt of the many sculptures made. Each piece of work reveals a different entity only briefly experienced before it thaws and not knowing how their contents were aesthetically immersed played on my mind. Logistically this has not been an easy installation to maintain but challenges are what inform and drive process and practice forward and I am never shy of a challenge. Producing this work on a larger scale is something I would like to work towards for the future.
A huge thank you to Doctor Catriona McAra and Mathew Weeldon for the opportunity and support in showing this work.
Its been a busy old month! A trip back over the water to Ireland, Kinvara with the rest of the TCL Collective (along with fellow creatives John & Sarah Gamble & Richard Dennis) to spend more time responding from the landscape and subsequent exhibition showing our work as a response was such a success. The response from the people of Kinvara and other visitors made through networking and social media was extremely positive with some fabulous feedback. It is always a great privilege for fellow artists and creatives to be inspired by my practice and the work i produce and to meet and chat to people.
Since finishing my MA it feels that i have constantly thought about how my work can be 'framed' to sell and how best to present to enable the formal viewing of work. Having a free week back in Ireland to generate experimental work with no restrictions or preconceived outcome was a breath of fresh air and gave me the head space to be creative and get back to showing my work in its true ephemeral form. I realised how much i had missed this.
Being back in this part of Ireland gave chance for reflection and opportunity to live if only for a few days, in such a thoughtful and respectful community. The connection between the people of Kinvara is such a contrast to the fleeting and judgemental everyday life i live back home. Nothing is a bother for these Irish folk and they are always happy to oblige and interested in who you are and why you have come to the Emerald Isle. With no hidden agenda they are just happy to learn more and and chew the fat. Here back at home the hackles and cautiousness is back in place and interaction is refrained and stilted .
I was particularly drawn to the cracks and fissures on the limestone plateaus of the Muprooghtoohg coastline. A large piece of limestone was smashed to the ground to create fragments with sharp edges. Utilising the abrasive nature of the stones edges and decaying shells collected from Tracht Beach particles were created by connecting the two in a dragging and scraping action.