Over the past two years, during my time studying for an MFA I have learnt a lot about myself, my practice and my work ethics.
From the start of this course I have been looking into the idea of home, considering all the different aspects of home, from migration and community through to homelessness and domesticity. I discovered that part of my process is working through all these different aspects and eliminating those that aren't quite my area of interest, by using this process I learn something about that element of the topic, becoming more aware and gaining an understanding of these areas that I don't want to focus on and why.
My final piece, 'Mobile Home' explores the idea that home is a changeable entity, that it is impermanent and movable.
I started this piece by taking the basic house shape that we would perhaps draw as a child, using this as a basis I designed and went on to have this framework or structure built. 'Mobile home' is an actual movable object on wheels playing with the concept of moving home or perhaps being able to bring it with you. I looked into the scale, and considered the importance of being able to walk through the work, being immersed within it and seeing it from the inside out. I enjoyed this aspect at the Do Ho Suh Passage/s exhibition and having spent a long time sewing together the brick work thought it integral to the piece that both sides should be seen.The hand sewn work makes the piece personal as time, care and imperfections have all gone into it.The fact that the brick and tile work are then incomplete reflects again impermanence and questions the notion of a home ever being fully complete. The hand sewn brick work and placement of tiles also reflects personal taste and choices, something Grayson Perry often talks about in relation to us all curating our own homes.
I tend to use a variety of materials, but most often I use paper, it is fragile and holds it scars, it tears and it's creases, it is impermanent yet it can still be shaped, manipulated and can hold it's form.My work tends to be made by hand sewing pieces, the threads themselves are symbolic in relation to home, there are old fashioned connotations to mending and making alterations alongside making connections, binding things together and forming attachments to hint at just a few.
By hand sewing this makes it personal, time and care have gone into it and by carefully stitching the pieces together there is an aim to ensure that it stands the test of time that it is sturdy enough to be passed on from one generation to another, I was aware of this when I was part of the Canary Wharf Artist residency observing the construction and often wondering how long a building will last or relating to home how many generations may get to live in a particular building?
On the other hand the fragility of the stitching suggests that as a home it may no longer exist without the people, family members who transform a building into a home. It, at the end of the day its only materialistic and can be replaced at any time. Perhaps family or friends make the home the construct is only a symbol of the family unit.
Taking all the different aspects of Home into account, I began considering Home as a physical space, and after visiting the Do Ho Suh exhibition I decided to try and design my own space. I thought about the basic structure or framework of a house, something I had also considered in Unit 1, I wondered how I could combine the framework with elements of the handmade like sewing with the fragility of paper on a large scale.
My original idea was to build a framework and completely cover it in hand-sewn brick work and tile work, there would be a front and back door, papier-mache window frames and then inside would be wallpapered with framed photos of the everyday on the walls. From the rafters, using threads, I would then hang papier-mache furniture; possibly a table and chairs, my papier-mache cups and saucers. Also inside would be a sound piece playing peoples memories and stories of home.
However, my placement for the final exhibition required a high ceiling and a fairly large space, the space I was given was the lecture theatre where different events would be happening over the coming weeks so my framework would need to be movable, the solution was to place the framework on wheels. I also spent weeks and weeks thinking about the furniture, what items make a home rather than just a living room or a bedroom for example. Hand sewing the brick work also took a lot longer than I expected.
Once the designs for my framework were finalised and the framework itself was in place I began to start to cover the structure with the sheets of hand-sewn brick work and roof tiles, another issue that arose was the lighting, the lecture theatre is only half lit so if the structure was fully covered it would be too dark inside, to be able to see it would need a lamp or some form of light which could then potentially be a fire hazard, a solution would be to not fully cover the frame work, this made me think again about Grayson Perry's book 'The vanity of small differences' which talked about curating your own home and building your own visual environment.
I ended up making many alterations to my final piece 'Mobile Home', the framework included supports which were initially to hold my papier mache windows but the shapes of the windows in the framework were more representational than the windows themselves, also I made a front and a back door but these were too high gloss and weren't fully in fitting with the rest of the piece either. The sound piece also would of been too obvious giving a voice to a select few where as without it the audience can draw from their own thoughts and experiences. I also decided to leave the inside sparse and incomplete letting the materials speak for themselves and the thread work to be seen.
Overall I feel my work reflects ideas of home as a space that is movable, changeable, impermanent and incomplete or something that possibly may never fully be realised.
Unit two had been an opportunity to explore and experiment, so I tried out new ways to do things and didn't stick to my usual process of working through a visual diary, I was told by my peers that's what a website is for, however, I found myself lost without one so unit 3 found me back working and keeping a visual diary. By recording my thoughts as I'm going and collecting information about exhibitions I've been to see, collecting clippings and words from newspapers and magazines that might come in useful as well as quotes from books and gathering ideas that I might come back to. By means of making lists, brain storming and attending home themed art exhibitions I pave for a clearer focus on my line of enquiry. Exhibitions such as Do Ho Suh's 'Passage/s' and 'Housework' at the Victoria Miro galleries, helped me think about home as more physical space, a place or structure to be filled with memories, objects and our own personalities. Similarly Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at the Tate Modern made me consider the everyday and familiar objects and events in our home lives.
Thinking more about home as a physical place, as a structure I started to write a list of the different household items and objects that make up a home, it covered a multitude of things from bricks and beams to framed photos and potted plants, from a dust-pan and brush to a tooth-brush, but by doing this it made it clear that I was more interested in the domestic side of home and perhaps not so much the objects that we gather but more the notion of home, the fact that it is unique place to each of us and means something very different to us all yet it can be summed up in one word. It is a ideal, a fictional place, a memory and something that can change over time. It is something we create, something we can miss yet something we can also bring with us. Considering home as a fictional space or perhaps even a duality I made a piece called 'What's behind the curtain?' This piece made me think about opposing sides, the good and the bad, reality verses fiction, what is seen and what may be hidden, the inside and outside of a space, where is safe or unsafe and what goes on behind closed doors. I had just been to see the 'House Work' exhibition which also touched on a lot of these aspects.
In unit three we were placed into groups of four to discuss the commonalities and similarities within our work yet on the other-hand explain how our work still stands apart. My group shared the common thread of narrative, forms of story telling, aspects of human behaviour and nostalgia. This activity was really useful in discussing the main factors within our work to find both links and differences and to hear the reasoning from somebody else. It was a form of a group crit and it was also useful in that we could swap and share information, such as artists we had been looking into and books that we had read. Below I have added just ten books that have influenced me, my work or my practice during the course.
My work and thinking has come a long way since the start of this course. I began in Unit one struggling to leave my previous Project behind and got off to a slow start. I tackled issues such as homesickness and moving house which also impacted greatly on my work. My initial project in unit one started by asking friends and family (via facebook) for their ideas and thoughts on what home meant to them.I had a fair amount of responses, I was hoping to get a great many selfies with hand written replies but as it turned out I received mostly written text which I then decided to also incorporate by hand sewing them into my work. My next piece took on the basic form of a house. I started by building a simple wooden frame - the skeleton of the house, and then using my friends and family's responses to 'Where is home?' I made the surface -the skin of the house. This idea developed on a larger scale then for my final piece in unit three.
For the crypt exhibition in unit two the piece started as a response to my visits to the crypt gallery and the church, I visited on three separate occasions and on each visit took a number of photo's. I thought about the history and the background of the area, the people in the area and noticed the number of homeless that found sanctuary at the church.
The final piece was made by hand sewing photographs of the area together to create a shirt, an item of clothing too fragile to wear.
On my visits to the crypt I thought a lot about life and death and felt that in death we leave with nothing, 'not even the shirt on your back'. I used paper for a few reasons, the crypt is very damp and I thought that perhaps the paper might start to disintegrate and become more representational of the human body, paper is fragile like human life, it has a memory and holds the creases, tears and scars and it is also a material used by the homeless for stuffing or padding for warmth, which felt appropriate.
It was also by the end of unit two that I learnt that I am quite affected by global and local issues and that my work can take a turn depending on whats happening in the world. My final piece for unit two 'The museum to the lost pub' was a response to working in the Museum of London as well as the Windsor Castle, a pub that was suddenly closed down to become luxury apartments, I witnessed the impact that this had on the local community, myself and the regular customers.
Although it was an interesting project and did relate to home via aspects of community and for me I can call the Pub 'home', having grown up in a pub I understand it's value within a community, it can be a home from home, a welcoming beacon for the locals or passing strangers alike. So with huge numbers of Pubs closing down on a weekly basis and having experienced this first hand, I turned my attention to focusing on 'The Pub' and it's role within the community. Exploring ideas of belonging, locality and comradeship. Seeking answers to what happens to a community when a Pub closes down or worse still when six pubs close down all within a five minute walk of each other and all within a year.
Similarly in unit three, my piece for the 26 Paces exhibition was a response to ideas of domesticity whilst the Women's marches were taking place and international woman's day was also coming up, again a response to external influences. In hindsight I can also reflect that at the end of unit one my piece on migration was a response to the mass movement of the people of Syria and the refugee crisis.
So to conclude my Arc, or my learning curve, I have learnt that I need to use a Visual diary to keep my thoughts and ideas in check or perhaps just in one place as there are many ideas that I will come back to. I have discovered that my work can be responsive and influenced by current issues on both a local and global scale.
It is important to take good documentation of all your work and to take care of pieces that you have made. It is important to build up a good network of peers and most importantly to be nice!