As another early month of 2018 comes to a close, a challenging one for one reason or another, I sit typing in anticipation of the longer and warmer days and the freedom they bring. Settling down post MA is difficult and the need to give more time to my creativity is strong. Keeping everyday activities that enable the necessities in life (like a roof over my head and food in the fridge!) have to continue in order for me to sustain my practice. The progression of practice fits around the everyday grasping moments in order to concentrate on further development. The mutual support of my fellow TCL Collective helps to keep me focused and driven.
It is ironic that the 'grasping' of moments that reflect the everyday and constant barrage of 'things to do' in this digitally driven, non physical society is one of the core aspects I challenge through my work. The lack of physical connection and our insatiable reliance on digital communication pushes us evermore into a transient and fast paced existence. More than ever society appears to becoming immune to the real; real emotion, real palpable expression and the experience of 'real' life; the good as well as the bad. Nothing is perfect the reality is sometimes not always nice but we as human beings have to experience the good against the bad to become healthy in our existence. We pass through briefly with great ease but never really stop to take time and listen to each other and ourselves. Such fickleness and irresponsibility exists that I wonder how honesty and truth will ever survive.
'We created the machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It has robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills and now it compels us to worship it.'
E M Forster, 'The Machine Stops' 1928
Through my work and connection with the ephemeral and harnessing of elemental process it is hoped I can visualize how nature at least, remains honest and true.
The Ice Sculpture project goes from strength to strength with a recent focus on shorter freezing times and the recording of their melt through time lapse video. I have had some really positive results with excellent feedback and plan to continue exploring this process further to collate a bank of videos (see Vimeo feed on Home page) that could possibly be exhibited.
I will be exhibiting as part of the 'Curators Choice' back at Leeds Arts University in April where live ice sculptures will be exhibited alongside time-lapse video and various other works.
A still life artwork which includes various symbolic objects designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and of the worthlessness of worldly goods and pleasures
The term originally comes from the opening lines of the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible: ‘Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’
Vanitas are closely related to memento mori still lifes which are artworks that remind the viewer of the shortness and fragility of life (memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’) and include symbols such as skulls and extinguished candles. However vanitas still-lifes also include other symbols such as musical instruments, wine and books to remind us explicitly of the vanity (in the sense of worthlessness) of worldly pleasures and goods.
It is always fabulous to read how someone (especially with notoriety) perceives your work. The recent referencing to 'Vanitas' a genre associated with the still life paintings of Flanders & Netherlandish art of the 16th & 17th century has given me the opportunity to view my work from a different perspective.
'Vanitas' meaning 'futility' or 'worthlessness' reminds us of the pointlessness of earthly goods and how the transience of life foresees the inevitability of death. These paintings focus on decay and the distinguishing of life through symbolic representation; the snuffed candle, the rotting fruit, a skull visualize and capture the inevitability of death and the deterioration of physical presence.
The process of ephemeral decay is initially what drives my practice. My work at present with individual sculptural ice pieces melt, break down, rot and deteriorate. They can at times be visually dark and sinister due to the nature of the organic materials used within them. Recent experimental ways of photographing within a dark space is also in a similar vein to the unsettling and mysterious Vanitas paintings of the16th & 17th century.
Within their frame the Vanitas paintings contain the grouping of rotting or a representation of, perished life, as a still life. The paintings show a moment in time of degeneration. The ice sculptures are also placed within a 'frame' through photography; recording a moment in their dissolve. By isolating these pieces of work within an indoor space away from their origin of the outdoor environment their organicness is emphasized. We are forced to look in more detail at 'moments in time' within these frames. The point of decay and disintegration are captured in order for us to reflect and take perspective of our own existence.
It is a curious and strange experience to work with an ephemeral piece so closely and in such detail; record its beauty and presence, have many images that prove its existence but for it to no longer exist!
Here one minute gone the next, out of sight out of mind, gone but not forgotten, transience, life's cycle, regeneration,
I know the ice sculptures were real because I physically engaged with them; I made them. I touched them and worked with the pieces as they melted and faded away.
January has found me busy with more practice research and creating more work and gaining further insight into my #iceform project. This project is far from over and each session of making and experimentation throws out new ways of harnessing elemental and material processes. The work is extremely photogenic and the #iceform aesthetics and visual appearance have started to make impact. Having sold prints of various pieces of work through exhibiting and my online presence I plan to generate more selective prints and have them to purchase on my website. (see my shop).
My work has been recognised by Doctor Catriona McAra, the curator of Leeds Arts University, and a selection of prints will be exhibited in the Board Room of the University during February www.leeds-art.ac.uk/news-events/events-exhibitions/carol-sowden-elemental-harnessing/ This is a real honour and I am especially pleased that some of the work will be hung in such an important space.
The weather has had a big influence on my work. The short dark days of winter has led me to photographing work in a dark space highlighting the forms with LED lighting. This has created some beautifully sensitive and provocative work.
The onslaught of the winter weather has also given me a small opportunity to photograph the iceforms in the snow. The window of opportunity is very short; as soon as it snows it has invariably disappeared over a few hours.
I have also become more interested in the timings of freezing, the shorter the time within a frozen environment the more fragile and delicate the work is. Visually frost marks and fissures create the most beautiful structures but remain for such a short period, they are fragile and delicate to hold and touch in my hands and I love the tension of physicality this presents to me. The challenge to place within an area for photographing and the need to photograph before the form melts focuses me. I work with speed so I am able to get shots taken before the piece melts!
A few days off over Christmas has given me chance to get re-energized and ready for the New Year ahead. 2017 was such an exciting and successful creative year it has fuelled the need to push things forward.
The 'Ice Form' project is going from strength to strength and has much more to develop and investigate. Recent sales of photographic prints of work and feedback through exhibiting & social media has been extremely encouraging. There is much more to experiment. Todays snowfall coupled with a day at home in the studio has made for a productive day in terms of producing work. Ideas for further development of this beautiful and captivating freezing process present themselves on a daily basis.
I will work through these inspired moments methodically and with tactility;
ensuring it is elemental process combined with the use of organic matter that brings about aesthetic sensitivity.
I have been lucky enough to have been invited back to Leeds Arts University as part of the Curators Choice in the first half of 2018. Showing aspects of the 'Ice Form' project presents many more challenges for me to tackle (of which I am thriving on!) as well as the opportunity to show the further development of the project.
With a planned trip back to Kinvara in April and future projects with the TCL Art Collective I think the year is going to start off pretty busy!
I recently attended a lecture by Melanie King who studied Fine Art at Leeds Arts University, and is currently conducting doctoral research by practice at the Royal College of Art in London. www.melanieking.co.uk. She has been researching analogue photography and lunar imagery in exciting collaborations with astronomers. She was joined by the inspirational Paul Hill who responded to her lecture from a scientist's perspective. (Paul Hill is an elected fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, co-presenter and writer of Awesome Astronomy podcast, and Space Ambassador for ESERO.)
Their combined lecture left me full of inspiration with many links to my own practice.
At present there is an Asteroid passing through our solar system causing an incredible display of a meteor showers called the Geminids. It is a particularly good time to view this meteor shower but because of its timing and our weather conditions we rarely take note; we are too busy keeping warm inside!
(While travelling through space bits break off these Asteroids or Comets. These 'bits' are called Meteroids . When these meteroids enter Earths atmosphere they are referred to as Meteors)
I asked Paul the question 'Why is it that the meteors that fall to earth break down quicker and deteriorate faster than other rocks on earths surface?' The reason for this is that meteors are made up of metals such as iron. These materials break down far quicker than stone; they rust and degenerate quicker. This led on to the conversation of how we as humans are actually made up of the matter that is in meteorites. and that meteorites are the beginning and end of planets and stars. They are the beginning of life. It takes the right conditions to begin a chemical reaction to form planets and stars of which 'we' originally came from. We are made up of the same properties as the meteorite. Iron is a key component. The blood within our bodies is the iron. We are basically stardust!!!
I find this extremely inspiring and can connect on a physical level to aspects of the materiality of these asteroids and meteors. Made up of mud, water, ice, iron and all the organic materials that bring about life when thrown into the right conditions.
The colour red has, for Andy Goldsworthy always been a key component of some of his ephemeral work. He appropriates this to represent the blood that runs through our veins; the vibrant colouring that always injects itself onto his usual organic toned ephemeral work. This aspect of his work has always interested me and combined with the recent lecture from Paul Hill I am compelled to combine the aspect of 'life' represented through iron and human blood within my current #iceform project!
It has been an extremely busy but fulfilling few weeks. My friends Mel Dewey, Paula Hickey, Sue Wright & Ann Barrass from the MA course and I have come together to form an artistic collective. There are many reasons why we have formed this group:
A brief revisit to some materials I have previously worked with Clay & Charcoal. There is a large clay belt that runs through an expanse of Harrogate, the clay used here is excavated from the land in my back garden. It has been refined down removing all stones and debris to form a smoother paste like mixture. Charcoal is raw pieces of wood taken from on outdoor fire crushed into a powder.
It is the tactility of the pressing process the hands on delicate motion the rubbing of the paper and the way different motions create different marks that form the patterns seen above. The addition of charcoal dust into the mix makes for much contrast. With each piece of work the revealing of the unknown textured organic patterns the viewer is enticed into observing closer and 'finding' something else within it. The Rorschach test comes to mind:
The inkblot test (also called the "Rorschach" test) is a method of psychological evaluation. Psychologists use this test in an attempt to examine the personality characteristics and emotional functioning of their patients. This test is often employed in diagnosing underlying thought disorders and differentiating psychotic from non-psychotic thinking in cases where the patient is reluctant to openly admit to psychotic thinking. (http://www.theinkblot.com/
As the world changes within the grip and influence of the digital era it is always exciting to find a new word that describes this futile resistance.
The way we now exchange data about ourselves, revealing private, intimate, thoughts and feelings within an abstracted network of Internet users.
Intimacy is something that is no longer preserved but shared to everyone. It is shared in all directions in an eccentric movement. Intimacy turns into 'extimacy'
The closeness and physical attachment of intimacy is being lost within society. That realness of belonging and close relationships is slowly diminishing as we rely more and more on social networks to communicate. As individuals we live in the grip of a world that is fuelled by how many 'likes' are received for each post on Facebook or Instagram, how many 'friends' (or ' frienships 2.0' as socialist call it!) we can accumulate. The majority of these friends are not 'real' friends in the true sense of the word they are virtual acquaintances. Facebook etc develop language that is used in a context that fuels individuals to think they 'need' to belong to these social platforms.
To celebrate the Park's 40th anniversary and mark the forthcoming publication of Andy Goldsworthy: Projects (Abrams & Chronicle Books), we are delighted to invite the internationally acclaimed artist to return to talk about his work, influences and 30-year relationship with YSP.
Goldsworthy first worked at the Park in 1983, and returned throughout 1987 to make ephemeral landscape-based work across the seasons in a project called Parkland. In 2007, to mark YSP's 30th anniversary the artist staged a remarkable exhibition of new work in the Underground Gallery. As part of that show, he made three major site-specific stone works that can still be seen in the Country Park and on Oxley Bank.
Don't miss this exciting and rare opportunity to hear one of the most respected and renowned sculptors working today, in conversation with YSP's Founding and Executive Director Peter Murray CBE.
I was extremely privileged to have the opportunity to attend this event recently. Andy Goldsworthy has been one of my biggest influences as an artist. He rarely does artist talks so it was fantastic to have this chance to see and hear him talk about his new work. He spoke about current projects , his return to Yorkshire and referenced his new film 'Leaning Into The Wind' Within this film he consciously revisits some of his extremely fragile and ephemeral work produced through the use of his body as a tool for making and expression. The physical possibilities of using himself in order to do process/performance driven work he rethinks the way we encounter our surroundings and alternative ways of physically experiencing the organic materiality around us; walking through a hedge instead of the obvious path, walking within a torrential rain soaked landscape and falling from the force of the elements, using the force of his mouth as a tool for instant expression (see pic above). It is quite apparent that as we get older we begin to asses how we physically exist within the world; our capabilities, abilities and mortality. I myself are experiencing a similar thread of thought at the moment and having always been drawn more to Andy's ephemeral work as apposed to his permanent sculptural pieces work. Work that is transient only remaining for a short period of time always been the most interest for me. His 'Rain Shadow' pieces are something he has explored for many years but his highlighting and reference to this work on the evening has left me much to think about.
In the event of rain or snow Andy takes himself off and lies on the ground. This he has done in many parts of the world rural as well as urban. After the rain has stopped he rises from the ground and watches the template of himself slowly disappear as the contrasting dark rain soaked ground defining the outline of his body dries. He in effect disappears before his eyes; very science fiction in one sense but also deeply moving in another.
Such a sense of presence and non presence, the fading of a person that was once there, how quickly this 'shadow' disappears. It highlights how much we take life for granted and how in the blink of an eye we can no longer exist.