The Exchange 2 Castlefield Gallery co-art Project with Helen Acklam – Part 1


Disappearance and transformation.….

Seven Studios each chose eight artists to participate in this, the second iteration of The Exchange (2). Our brief was to ‘start a conversation’ with no prescribed outcome but with the aim of developing relationships with artists and studios across the UK. This is a record of some of my response to date, Helen’s work can be seen here:

Helen and I hit the ground running on our first virtual meeting, chatting about a past experience which she is currently working through in her practice. The experience of giving up a child as a young mum, not being able to hold and bond with that child for which any mother could not help but feel a deep sadness, I had a lump in my throat and a great respect for her talking openly about the work she is making. This is her story, her journey, and so we agreed from this starting point to find common ground in our practice and influences, points of reference and new directions which would spark a conversation that could be explored within our individual practices.

Triggers, invasion of thoughts – Memory and flashes of self in the pastGlitch Rip Tear

My practice explores both online and off line processes to discover what it is I am moved by in a subject. Using mirroring and glitching, I first abstracted the images of HA as she worked in clay viscerally and emotionally, ‘from my first understanding of the process. I felt your pain and saw the acts in the photos as two separated forms in one action, making an effort to reunite‘. This and the influence of Jasper Johns process, exploring the same subject in many mediums and the use of mirroring was a starting point. The subject is a whole body and mind traumatic event and yet a life lived in the shadow of it has created a dualism? One part still and the other seemingly moving necessarily through time, carrying a time bomb/cocoon.

Ref Jasper Johns and Rorschach test, Johns worked across different mediums, pushing the imagery to almost total abstraction

In an effort to bridge the distance between our studios geographically, Helen sent me some of the clay collected from the site in South Wales which she was working with, although it had dried by the time it reached me, I was able to look more closely at tiny fragments that made up the clay, by adding a little water and putting it under a microscope, other worlds began to appear which I could continue to work with on line in apps and software to move change and repeat the abstract forms.

My response (below) was to make a notebook using different textures of paper and reproduce the images I was working on in the form of watermarks. This drew back and reduced the images making space for thoughts about each as contemplations on the work that HA was making.

I am thinking about my response to these notes on the chosen images. It is important to keep our conversation going both on Zoom and with the work during the 9 months of the project.

Exploring the above images sparked new conversations on a woman’s body as a vessel and Buddhist meditations on understanding and accepting our own suffering. I liked that about the flesh on the beams and ceiling in mine above. Does it matter that there is no visual connection. (HA) is planning to paint from some of these images.

The Torus/Gordian Knot appeared in some of the glitched images made up of reflections of the body. According to legend whoever could untie the Gordian Knot would conquer Asia. Alexander the Great’s biographers report that during his stay in the Phrygian city of Gordium (now central Turkey), he attempted to disentangle the famous knot. But unable to find the ends of the knot, Alexander took his sword and slicing through it opened the way to his conquest of Asia and the fulfillment of the prophecy. We liked this as a metaphor for parenthood and the inability to see where the child begins and the mother ends.

In my own practice I had begun researching a nearby reservoir formed in the 1930’s when a village of 300 residents had to vacate the Watergrove village to make way for the reservoir. Using acrylic sheet, I was melting tears and rips, creating small sculptural statements, layering them and projecting them with light. This process worked well with the theme of a exploring the moment when we are taken back in time to an event eliciting a physical response. (Below) I went on to animate some of these, although sharp images were difficult to capture as they were as the projections were as large as the studio wall.

Published by babssmithart

My work considers the significance of scientific imagery as metaphors for human existence. I draw from both the microscopic and scientific images in a micro to macro process of making. I believe this brings a subconscious connection through which we can communicate. Scientists agree that everything is energy, and everything is connected. I feel this passionately in my work and indeed my life. In my work I am exploring the crystallisation of tears as a process that occurs beyond our sight but once demonstrated it forms a portal to communicate with the viewer on a subconscious level. Ideas come from momentary human interactions such as the response to Voyagers iconic blue dot image which began my journey into the study of the human visceral response of crying and the crystallisation of tears. I have developed the memory of a rock climb into a sculpture and a tear into a tactile object that sits in the hand. As a multidisciplinary artist my choice of medium is key to resolving the work. I develop subjects often through print processes to ultimately create sculpture. I use many different materials such as paper, metal, Perspex and resin, often pushing them to breaking point as I explore their connection with narrative further. The process becomes the art, it is not always aesthetically pleasing but it is a direct result of my practice. The end result morphing into a piece of work that I could not have envisaged at the start of the process.

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