Trash or Treasure?

When I started to work with found objects, I began walking along the various bits of coast that I could access on my morning exercise with the dog.  I collected any items that caught my eye with a view to using it in my work.  However, it was not long before I felt compelled to start collecting the “trash” as well as the “treasure” and, sadly, there is much more of this.  People often ask me what has been the most interesting find so I thought I would compile a post to let you know!

 

In January 2017, I was walking at East Head, West Wittering when I found this object.  I had no idea what it was and took a couple of photographs, hoping to discover it’s identity when I got home.  I belong to an excellent online group of beachcombers and after many suggestions of coconut or coco de mere, someone suggested that it was part of a human cranium!  And so it was!  The police was called and the skull sent off for analysis.  Sadly, I never got to find out the results but believed it was mostly likely to be from an ancient burial at sea   .  The Daily Star headline ran “Mystery as ‘shipwrecked sailor” head found on British beach in odd circumstances” and for a day or two I was famous as the story went viral.  Of course I did not find a “head”, we don’t know who it belonged to and the circumstances were not “odd”!

I am drawn to all things rusty and confess to having quite a collection of items for use in rust dyeing and assemblage.  Here is one I particularly liked sitting on my kitchen windowsill:  Once again, it was not long before the alarm was raised and the police followed by the bomb squad visited!  I have found several objects since which have been more obviously questionable and now know to call the coastguard rather than bring the item home!

Rusty bottle Wittering 13:3:17.jpg

I would guess that most of the litter than I pick up has been either dropped at the beach by visitors or has washed in from the sea somewhere else in the UK.  I regularly find old shoes and shoe heels and soles and I think that these come from an old dump on the Isle of Wight some 24 miles away as the crow flies.

 

I often find objects labelled from overseas.  Whilst I can see that some of these have made the journey by sea from their apparent destination, some may have been purchased in the UK.  I recently found a label from Brazil, often find European packaging and occasionally things from the USA such as this lobster creel tag from Maine:

Melvin L Hutchinson

I am now in touch with this gentleman’s daughter who lives on a small island in Maine and the family are amazed that I found the tag belonging to Melvin who has just retired from 70 years as a lobster fisherman!

Some of my finds demonstrate the sad fact that plastics are prevalent in our seas and that they will take many many years to decompose – a drinks bottle will take 450 years to vanish!  Here a few examples of relatively recent finds (CLICK FOR DETAILS):

 

And, finally, I occasionally find an object and cannot ascertain it’s purpose.  I have now found nine of these little rubber items and am still none the wiser – they were found at differing locations but all within 5 miles or so of Selsey.  I know someone who has found a couple on the North East Coast of England too.  We agree that they are not rubber balls and can only think that they are some sort of protective cover.  If anyone could enlighten me I would be delighted!

 

INSPIRATION ….

I now feel settled within my niche of working with found objects.  But how did I get to this point?  An early influence was Cas Holmes who creates wonderful textiles using found and recycled materials either directly or as tools (I well remember her printing with a malted milk biscuit!) and it seemed to make sense to me to re-use as much as possible in one’s creation.  Later I came across the beautiful work of Alice Fox and very much enjoyed a course with her at Studio 11 in Eastbourne.  We started each day with a walk along the shoreline collecting items that we could use – in this instance we were particularly looking for items with which we could rust-dye.  Before the class started, I was away walking along the beach each morning – there was something about the absorbing way I searched which allowed my eyes to see but my mind to wander in a creative meander.  I have never stopped!

Beachcombing Day 1.jpg
Beachcombing Day 1 at Studio 11 Eastbourne in 2016

Alice suggested that we lay out our finds so that we could take in what we had and how the pieces might work.  She also introduced us to the work of a silversmith by the name of Stuart Cairns.  Whilst I do not have the ability to make the beautiful objects that Stuart makes, he inspired me to continue to work with the found.  I do not seek to copy his work (I do not have the skill!) but I greatly admire it and so jumped at the chance to see his current exhibition which runs at “Make”, Hauser at Wirth in Bruton, Somerset until Saturday.

SC - Bound and left vessel 2 - silver, stainless stell wire, linen thread, driftwood, rose thorn and washerSC Wetlands Vessel - iron wire, driftwood, oxidised silver, bobby pin, fishhookSC Traces & Fragments vessel 2 - silver, stainless steel wire, beach pebble, found sardine canSC 5SC 3

If I had to sum up Stuart’s work in three words they would be: beautiful, delicate, fragile.  Each piece is so perfectly judged – just the right amount of detail, just the right balance between found and made.  Do have a look at his website but the objects really do need to be seen to be appreciated in full.

I would also just like to mention the work of ceramicist Elaine Bolt.  Elaine also appreciates Stuart’s work and has been supportive of me in the past.  I think you will see that same sense of balance in her pieces and the apparent simplicity of the work.  I say apparent because of course none of these artists produce their work with ease or without a great deal of hard work and study.  I tried working with porcelain with Elaine once – an unmitigated disaster!

So, I will continue to work in my own way but always admiring these various artists and makers.  They continue to inspire me and hope that you will gain something from looking at their work too.

 

creative redemption: 22 January to 10 February Chichester

I am very excited to say that I will be taking part in “creative redemption” at The Oxmarket  Gallery in Chichester.  As their site says,

“This is a moving exhibition by artists all of whom, in their own way, have benefitted from the restorative powers of their personal creative process. In the honesty of revealing the wounded condition, powerfully sensitive works of art have been born; beautiful in their own right, but also serving to offer empathy, encouragement and hope.

With refreshing honesty, Helen Frost, Christine Habib, Nicola Hancock, Helio Teles and Julie Turner have revealed the wounded condition through their individual response, presenting a highly sensitive and powerful collection of works.”

Here is an example of each of their work:

Christine Habib
Nicola Hancock
helioteles_website
Helio Teles
julieturner_website
Julie Turner

The exhibition runs from  –  Tuesday – Sunday 10 – 4.30 and there is a “Meet the Artist” session with tea and cakes Saturday 2nd February 2 – 4 p.m.  We hope to see you there!

The Everyday and Extraordinary – An Arts Council Collection National Partners Exhibition at The Towner Gallery, Eastbourne

Everyday-and-Extraordinary-es-1
Jordan Baseman, Based on Actual Events, 1995, teeth and dental acrylic. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London; © the artist. Gift of Charles Saatchi 2002

A friend and I decided to visit this last week, lured by the introduction of the Gallery’s website:

“The notion of the found object as artistic material, content and subject-matter provides the inspiration for The Everyday and Extraordinary, an exhibition presenting a Wunderkammer of modern and contemporary artworks drawn from the Arts Council Collection. The show brings together a fusion of materials, processes and innovative ideas, celebrating the physicality of objects in this predominantly digital age.

Found objects or ‘objet trouvé’ provide infinite inspiration for artists. When, in 1913, Marcel Duchamp used a found object in his work, he introduced the term ‘ready-made’ to art. Whether modified, presented in a new context or left unchanged found objects have had an enduring impact on artistic practice, with artists appropriating and transforming objects in many ways to communicate particular ideas or concepts. Surrealists used ‘the everyday’ as an invocation of humour and satire whilst Pop Artists directly appropriated items from popular culture. Techniques of the ready-made continue to engage and inspire contemporary artists today.”

We both like to use found objects in our work so thought this exhibition would be right up our street.

Anya-Gallaccio-es
Anya Gallaccio, Preserve (Chateau), 1995. © The artist. Mixed media wall mounted construction. Purchased by the Contemporary Art Society Special Collection Scheme on behalf of the Towner Art Gallery, with funds from the Arts Council Lottery the Friends of the Towner, Eastbourne Borough Council, Towner Contemporary Art Fund Committee and donations.

Anya Gallacio’s installation Preserve (Chateau) shown above in its original form, has been deliberately allowed to rot and is now looking very sad. The frame is somewhat misted up and the flowers have died and are dropping out of the base.  Stated to be a sombre meditation on the passing of time, it consists of 100 red gerberas sandwiched between the wall and a pane of glass. Preserve Beauty was the paradoxical title of a work in which no attempt is made to conserve the wilting flowers.

I liked Mona Haltom’s sculpture + And – but, like many other exhibits, it does not incorporate found objects. A wooden box is filled with sand. Like a clock, it’s two hands rotate.  The serrated hand draws concentric rings in the sand  and these are then obliterated when the smooth hand follows.  There is something soothing about this repetition.

Everyday-and-Extraordinary-es-2
Tony Cragg, New Stones – Newton’s Tones, 1978, plastic. Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © the artist

The above work by Tony Cragg was made in 1978.  This does use the found – hundreds of pieces of plastic.  As a regular beachcomber, I identified with the fact that there is a horrendous amount of such items to be easily found upon our shores and I can only suppose that forty years ago this work was saying something new.  Today I found it too simplistic to be considered a piece of art.

I did like the following exhibits which I photographed together with their notes:

Bill Woodrow - Crow and CarrionBill WoodrowHermione Allsopp - Sidentary ArchiveGareth Griffiths

but, overall, my friend and I both considered the exhibition disappointing.  Too few exhibits featuring the genuinely found and those that did, were not particularly inspiring.  Do let me know what you think!

And finally, we walked along the seafront where we saw two of the five new beach huts installed recently and available to hire.  As art installations, I enjoyed them.  You can read more about them and view the others by following the link above:

Mark Making, Printing and Collage – Part II

Caroline had given us a couple of demonstrations showing mono printing and screen printing so my next test was to produce a screen printing.  This is something that I felt was a challenge as I consider my work to be “grunge art!”.  It is far apart from the neat and perfect finish that you think of when considering a screen print.  But I had a go …. I selected one of my found objects and made a stencil.  Next I considered how I might use the screen print and selected a gum arabic transfer of one of my photographs (Itchenor, Chichester Harbour – the source of the object) and a page of text I had written about drinks cans.  My idea was to make the screen print transparent so that the image and the text could be viewed through it.

I thought these effects were promising so went on to produce a series of screen prints:

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Screen prints over gum arabic prints
Whilst I liked these, they were not really “me.”  I parked these and moved on but, for the sake of continuity, this next image shows the next stage in the life of these prints.  I will continue to work on them at home.  This distressed effect is much more in keeping with my ethos.  
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