I find that a body of work acts as a living piece, an ever-evolving construct, changing and progressing through research which ultimately effects the direction of my practice. This development of early inspirations and processes, driving towards a solid technique and eventually a final resolution, is crucial to my discipline and assists me as an artist. Venturing through the fields of Fashion Design, Sculpture, Installation and Textiles, the work often displays a range of skill and influence. With this work specifically, I have developed as a person, from student to artist, cementing my position and role as an experimental Textile Installationist, a process-led maker and doer. With much enthusiasm for the exploration and manipulation of a process, I feel Trapped presents a strong display, utilising light, space and human interaction.
Driven by my persistent fascination with the human form and the third dimension, this multi-faceted body of work has two clear narratives; the sculptural body, and the expression of human form and emotion through painting and media experimentation. To me, both elements are crucial, amalgamating to form a piece that questions human identity, while exploring the potential of what a material can offer us.
With this in mind, it cannot be denied that much of my inspiration comes from the catwalk. From the opulent haute couture creations of Armani Prive, Gaultier Paris and Christian Dior, to the macabre collections from Mark Fast, Gareth Pugh and the late Alexander McQueen, the fantastical world of fashion forever serves as a strong influence. Acting almost as routine, I buy i-D, Vogue and Dazed and Confused among other fashion periodicals. Thus, Fashion Design is both consciously and subconsciously influencing many of my artistic decisions and choices.
Additionally, I feel that this is a further extension on my love of the human form, specifically the feminine curve which can be so exquisitely altered by the nature and potential of the wearable. This is something I have strived for within Trapped. Illustrated in my final exhibit, fragmented and partial bodies have been displayed floating in the serenity of the city’s bright lights. However, the tranquillity is contradicted by the chaotic placing of the knitted bodies within the environment. Here I have successfully voiced the concept of a malformed, fractured identity, lost to the very nature of urban life.
Correlating with my interest in fashion and the human form, the process of painting and drawing further expresses this bodily context, often appearing reminiscent of emaciated structures and skeletal, waif-like frames. Undoubtedly acting as a form of catharsis, the paintings and drawings produced are deeply important to me, with my final exhibits often acting as a literal manifestation of these early works. Furthermore, this act of self-expression helps my practice develop and evolve, often extracting new ideas and concepts from the most effortless of scratches, spills and splatters.
Regularly drawn to the work of such Abstract Expressionist icons as Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning and Jasper Johns, my painterly style often alludes to the Post-Modernist ethos of the ‘missing’ or ‘absent’ subject, displaying an evocative amalgamation of drips, splatters and smears. I find their captivating works have had a long standing impact upon my own style, acting repeatedly as a great influence.
Finally, my mark-making style throughout Trapped has been highly influenced by the contemporary works of Rebecca Horn and Jenny Saville. Acutely differing in style and content, these two artists have long fascinated me with their controversial and evolutionary approaches to paintwork. Experimenting in various media, their works push the limits of what can be considered ‘art,’ often defying the frame and ultimately, convention.
Where Saville can create an almost photo-perfect image from simple smudges of paint, Horn’s extreme drawing technique captures an element of personal digression and mental chaos. I continue to find both artists’ works extremely provocative and inspirational, accessing new levels of self development and progression.
While fashion consistently acts as my primary point of research, with painting and drawing developing my ideas, the third dimension is often a focal point which I strive to develop. Within Trapped there have been many references to the idea of the ‘sculptural body,’ displaying the disembodied human form, merged with the chaotic and structural urban landscape.
In essence, my pieces could be considered architectural, constructed through a process of cutting, tying, knitting, stretching and stiffening. The solid mesh structure of the knit compared to the softness of the knitted fibre itself, works as a metaphor for the conflicting notion of strength and fragility. This omnipresent idea has acted as a recurring motif throughout my career and serves as a persistent reference point for the work. Thus, the work displays both masculine and feminine qualities throughout the entire process as well as the resolution.
The work of Antony Gormley has been of specific interest concerning this notion of the strength of the material and vulnerability of the subject matter. With his subtle reference to the body, constructed from heavy-weight iron and steel, the visual presented is often paradoxically light and delicate. Furthermore, the driving concept of his work is highly important, questioning our moral values and the relationship that each individual has with the other.
By the very nature of Installation art, it must be stated that the literal presence of the viewer is fundamental. With each knitted structure acting as the disembodied representation of the human form, a displacement of identity occurs where the viewer becomes the piece, the piece becomes the viewer. Remaining incomplete without human interaction, each ‘object’ in the environment does not retain its own meaning. Rather, the unity between the pieces, the space and the lighting forms the integral concept and visual narrative.
Pushing the idea of obscure, indeterminate body representations, Caroline Broadhead’s ethereal, static cloth installations provide a fascinating return to textiles. Additionally, revisiting Gareth Pugh’s alien-like fashions, as well as studying Robert Mapplethorpe’s impersonal and provocative photography, has led to an outcome presenting the viewer with an image of bodily fragmentation and digression.
‘In an age of pervasive electrical illumination, we rarely experience darkness as a completely engulfing entity.’1 Key to depicting an urban atmosphere, the use of lighting has been adopted in reference to the harsh luminosity of city life, as well as exploring the notion of night and day. Additionally, creating elegant shadows and forms with white light and developing new effects with UV lighting, my resolution voices a complex narrative, visually representative of our hectic urban lifestyles, conceptually questioning our mass social and moral behaviour and interaction.
City life both captivates and constricts me and this acts as the founding concept of Trapped. Bombarded by the chaos and stress of our urban environment, wrapped up in a cage of restriction, we are rarely released from the confines of our hectic way of living. Pushing through the swelling masses, we care not for the identity of those around us. Surrounded by indeterminate smudges of flesh; race, religion, sexuality and even gender are often lost to the chaotic city atmosphere. A moment of calm perhaps?
I aim for Trapped to slow you down. I want my questions to empower you, the viewer. Free ourselves from our knitted cage and discover the new tranquillity. Perplexed by the contrast of calm and chaos, we often know little more than our routines, willingly accepting our lives as they are, however frenetic or habitual.
Let us no longer be Trapped.
List of Illustrations.
Figure 1 – Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2010
Figure 2- Gareth Pugh Spring/Summer 2009 and 2007
Figure 3- Artists own. Experimental drawing works. 2009
Figure4- Jackson Pollock in his studio. 1951
Figure 5- Rebecca Horn Pencil Mask. 1972
Figure 6- Antony Gormley Domain Field 2003
Figure 7- Caroline Broadhead Double Dresses 2000
1 BISHOP, C (2005) Installation Art; A critical History. London. Tate Publishing. Page 82