'Sinking’ is my contribution to a group project ‘More Than’ by Sevenoaks Visual Arts Forum (SVAF) artists.
14 artists contributed a piece of unfinished work, that was either in progress, or they felt unable to finish. The piece is then taken on by one of the other artists who is free to enjoy testing new media, deconstructing, pushing outside their boundaries or find a way to link it so it stands within our own current practice.
I was given a plaster bust donated by Juliet Simpson. Simpson works with different materials and is known for exploring her surrounding woods and finding old oak to work with. She is also concerned with climate change and the environment.
When I received this piece, my instinct was to smash it. During 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged lockdown restrictions started to have an impact on our mental health and the economy, my reaction to smashing this bust was my way of letting out my frustrations at the on-going situation. I still had to be careful with my smashing as I wanted Juliet and the essence her work to come through the final piece.
By coincidence, during the same time, I was walking my dogs in the woods and I happened to come across a desk that was dumped. At close inspection, it contained a drawer that had not succumbed to the elements. So, I took the drawer. The found drawer, made from MDF would become a frame/vessel taken from the woods but not of the woods.
Simpson’s bust transformed into my own work – a comment on the environmental crises. Mother nature is fragile, crushing, gasping and sinking. Head just above water – sadly without too much hope. The ‘frame’ seems to make escape impossible. The whiteness is stark, and the plastic bubble wrap used to initially protect and shield the bust in transport is also contributing to the demise of our natural habitat.
Reflecting on this process, I can’t help but think about the ownership of the piece. Although we agreed as a group that the final piece is attributed to the artist that made it, I felt that in my case this piece is more of a collaboration as the bust can still be recognised. Maybe, I should have destroyed it more to remove any link with the original artist? I also wonder, what were Juliet’s original intentions for this bust?
Looking at the final piece, a feeling of desperation overcomes me, as we are living in fragmented times. It would take a huge effort on an international scale to reverse the damage we have done to our environment and to collaborate putting aside, political and financial interests.
The process of this project and the shattered bust reminds me of Corneila Parker’s work where she destroyed things to reassemble them. Her process as well as the materials are just as important as the final piece. Working with the potential of a disused item, which is what each of the artists had to do when they received the unwanted piece of work, creating something new and meaningful.
Original piece by Juliet Simpson