Woolff Gallery Solo Show London 2016

An essay about the show

Red Leather Jacket

In a recent interview Edwin Heathcote described Zaha Hadid as having ‘…a kind of facade that she had to put on to be forceful enough to get her work built…in a way, she developed this crust, which got more solid and thicker’ as her career progressed.

Every few years the theme of armour comes into my work. It manifested itself when I was living in London, years ago. Lonely, battered by my own doings, I had wanted to buy a red leather jacket. I didn’t, as it seemed too silly, or too expensive or something. But later that day, when someone bumped into me and spilt my tears, I realised I did need it. My red leather, my armour.

Years later I made Armour Girl and then Personal Army.

The armour reappears now in Petal. Older and not so self consumed the protective crust belongs to nature. And maybe for her, not for me, she will be red.

Today I see in an old film of my work and (although I cringe at listening ) I see that red has been a constant visitor. It’s underneath the gold in Armour Girl, figures loom out of it in 8 x 4 ft canvases but never has it been allowed to settle in sculpture. It’s like I am frightened of this strange guest.

In Barcelona I pretended that I was playing with colour, as a ‘practicing’ artist I used the word ‘play’ to try and trick myself into an exploration not a definitive end. Despite the deception, colour made me feel strange, it’s power on the gut. A peach became a receptacle, it was ‘cut’ and was ‘bleeding colour’. I went there, into the ‘squelchy flesh’ of colours, bruised, ‘dented through white cloudy bloom, deep purple’ …. and then I ran away.

My still life seemed so disjointed with my sculpture but slowly now they seem to be making sense. The drawings became impossible sculpture paintings like Family Tree. The hollow forms of Petal echo shapes in the paintings of flowers, the Loquats nestle together on the plate like a couple, their orange skin leaps onto the figure in Leaves. The apples in Eve remind me of the still life paintings I lust after.

In form there is a safety, a freedom to take risks, ‘with my sculpture my raft is large, I can enjoy the turbulence, lie back in the sun and feel the movement beneath, not care if I go into deep water, just think it’s funny and exciting.’  It’s what 24 years of making does to you, there’s a comfort, a confidence in the history that enables you to push on into the new, to run so fast you can’t sleep from the excitement of it all.

A flurry of new techniques percolated every part of the studio with nasty plaster dust. But history has a habit of circulating up through time, invisible lines reach far back and far forward.  While making Red Scarf  I see an old friend and so ‘Carpe Diem‘ comes along too.

The new plaster forms seem to have a life of their own and change shape with a speed of a drawing. While making Leaves I see an abstract sculpture I made in my second year at college, it amuses me but also gives me strength as I run down hill, I do so on historically strong legs. And in my sketchbook I speak as if I am the sculpture and at the end of a long monologue, who’s excited insanity I will spare you, I say ‘What fun this is!’

As I watch the gulls out of the window, I realise the studio has been an influence. Breeding from the glut of our mess, oblivious to reproach they glide and scream and soar over the valley of low tide and wash white bodies and grey wings on its muddy banks.  The blues and greys of flight will appear in Plain Girl.

The bright colours from Barcelona sit with the reds and lime greens of the our new found, much loved Wales, who’s high mountains I feel strangely hefted to, it’s a peace that seems more than just a lovely walk in fresh air; as if the the moss and rocks are a receptacle to the becks of home.  Distant relations of Grandpa’s sheep, another line in history, come to our window here, the lambs are inquisitive but with a noise from mother they run back. Nothing comes from nothing and everything comes from nature.

Doing this new work has given me such courage.

If I can believe a little in myself  I don’t need my red leather jacket.