After arriving a couple of days late back to uni because I was doing a spiritual residency retreat aimed at female artists, run by amazing artist collective Fourthland (website: http://fourthland.co.uk/). I was a little up in the clouds and it has taken the first couple of weeks of my final year of Fine Art study to get settled back into the mind set and rhythm of university life and tempo as well as working weekends in a kitchen, catching up with friends and keeping up to date with domestic duties of a chaotic busy student house. But this overwhelming business has become an exciting challenge.
The ideas stated in the previous post about my experience and work from the CAST Studio Residency are feeding into the work I’ve made in the past couple of weeks. In Portugal where the Spiritual Artist Residency Retreat was held, I was lucky enough to find a snake skin. The shedded skin of a snake and colonial sail/flag hangings made in the residency are linked for obvious reasons but the nature of the snake skin having once been around the snakes body and now abandoned on the floor, valueless inspired an investigation into other ways ‘the skin of Britain’ could be represented. So, in light of the well known christian ceremony ‘Holy Communion’ where one breaks and eats bread that supposedly represents the flesh of Jesus Christ and drinks red wine that represents his blood, I began baking dough.
The textures, beautiful variety of browns and shapes that were produced is always different and in the process I aimed to stretch the dough to almost ripping point to reveal cracks and bare holes that could lead to further layers beneath to imply a sort of exposure to something beneath. However, purposely giving the dough this nature makes it delicate and fragile. What does this imply about the skin of Britain? That it’s weak and easily broken, that you can see through to the layers beneath through the cracks? It’s brittle and ridged, not flexible, there’s no chance of change now it’s been baked for so long?
What I also need to keep in mind is the colour of the dough. Does the fact that the dough shows many different skin colours change it’s status in terms of what I am exploring, are the bubbles, blotches and tones relevant?
Taking this idea of dough and skin forward, is Britain’s deep rooted christian culture like a thick, bready, rotten, stagnant kind of armour that is tied to each new generation that enters the world in Britain due to the structure and eurocentric approach of it’s Western society? So I have begun making myself a bready body armour that will be tied together using palm tree leaf fibres, referencing the leaves that the Bibles states were laid on the ground when Mary rode into Jerusalem on a Donkey. This is as far as I’ve got with these ideas at the moment but the dough I have been baking for the body armour has leaves mixed into it for experimental disruption of the dough texture and strength.
I’ve also been weaving straw into a flat structure I found at the side of the road and have added layers of clay to some of the straw sculptures I made at the CAST residency.
It’s still unclear what the reasons are for these pieces but one observation is how all of the objects I am making contain and relate to layers of some sort. Like building up a weave through slowly adding new layers. Straw sculptures coated in clay; a material once soft and paste like, now dry and crumbly. Both pieces have layers made of weak materials. I have not made any thing that is permanent or solid, all the materials are susceptible to damage from fire, water or a powerful blow. They are very organic but ephemeral objects and materials, something temporal or unsecure. All the materials I am using are fairly domestic, like the straw and clay being very similar to Kob for building houses, straw used for roofing or farming and dough for the obvious reasons relating to food. The universal creation of a home? Due to the universal nature of the materials, am I questioning a lack of specific location or grounding in one place. Or is it about the universality of the home being non specific but that home is always found in the earth, anywhere on earth? The universality and similarity of all cultures as all religions, cultures and countries are likely to recognise dough as a food product? Universal language. The singularity and unitedness of all humans regardless of race, ethnicity or religion etc and finding comfort in the same materials.