The conflict in Ukraine has brought into focus the concerns of war. I live near the Imperial War Museum (once a mental asylum) and it’s been like a radio on in the background, gently influencing me to design a war memorial.
The Poetry in Emotion collection grew from this, it triggered a desire to use the process of writing to develop my work, in the same way I use sketching.
Maquette of the Memorial that will Never be Made
This maquette, for a War Memorial, is comprised of three elements:
ELEMENT 1. A black marble or granite stone (of overbearing proportion) with the artists poem ‘Where White Poppies Grow’ engraved into its reflective surface – the viewer sees themselves in the black reflection as they read the poem.
ELEMENT 2. A mausoleum style structure, with a clear glass front. From a distance the line of sight is obscured by the black stone. Up close the structure is an infinity mirror with a ghostly white poppy – by standing in front of the mausoleum the viewer sees their reflection in the matrix of reflected white poppies.
ELEMENT 3. A shallow memorial pool, containing elements 1 & 2 in its footprint – to fully experience the memorial the viewer must to get their feet wet.
The memorial focuses on the stories beyond the red poppy. The white poppy, a symbol of pacifism and the hope for the end of wars, in this instance is a ghostly white presence visible in infinite mirror reflections. The piece lends itself to a memorial service where floating candles are placed in the shallow memorial pool – in remembrance of the spirit and the souls lost to war. Yet the piece is not entirely politically acceptable; its focus is the devastating loss, grief and destruction of war, without glorifying it.
The water ripple effect places the viewer and their surroundings in the piece (via the reflective quality of the metal – palladium).
The name of the piece, the ambiguity as to whether we should read it as the stone or the stone thrower and the multiple possible meanings of the text add a sense of metaphorical ripples. A poem about skimming stones, relationships, politics and so on, it is for the reader to assign their meaning.
Whilst Technically an icon paining it takes a contemporary twist. Traditional gold is exchanged for palladium, a metal named after Greek goddess Pallas Athena (goddess of virtue in wisdom & war). The religious icon requirements of ‘theology, doctrine and history’ are replaced by mythological undertones from the choice of palladium. Yet the piece maintains the feeling of life, from the reflections of changing light, which in traditional icon paintings is believed to capture the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Over 50 layers and processes make up this piece, from writing the poem, preparing the board, layering the gesso and bole, designing, engraving and building text, to applying and burnishing the palladium for both mat and mirror effect.
THROW US IN THE WATER
AND WATCH THE RIPPLES GROW.
SKIM US ACROSS THE SURFACE
AND WATCH THE RIPPLES OUTWARD FLOW.
ONE OF US DIED TOO QUICKLY
AND ONE OF US TOO SLOW.
THROW US TO MAKE A SPLASH
AND THE RIPPLES WILL GROW.
73cm x 73cm x 1.7cm Gesso, bole and palladium on board. Mirror plates and chord. £10,000 $US14,130 €11650
This piece Is born from a poem by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge called ‘In Dispraise of the Moon’. It’s a collaboration with Ines Mourato and compares English and Australian Aboriginal associations of male and female. The English tradition compares feminine to the moon and weakness, whereas in the Australian Aboriginal tradition ‘she’ is strong and the sun. In Coleridge’s poem the Sun is male and noble and in the Aboriginal tradition the moon is a fat lazy man. The cultural stereotypes contradict each other, the consideration is how the narratives influence and are informed. For more detail on the ‘English’ poem and Australian Dreamtime Stories please click Studio 2020.
This piece was made for Different Strokes Project, Female Artists Club, Belgium. It’s also been exhibited at Rick Wester Fine Art NY and We’re Every Woman Biennial London.
Well, what did you expect?
A wooden hand holds a white handkerchief embroidered with the words ’Well, what did you expect?’ The ’hand writing’ style and the way the handkerchief is held gives the piece the countenance of the every day. The black writing is visible, or partially visible, depending on how it falls or the wind blows. The hand is the emotional comforter but also cold, disembodied and stiff.
The piece is inspired as much by handkerchief of the Suffragettes (66 signatures from the women held at Holloway for their part in the window smashing protest of March 1912) as Louise Bougeous’s ‘I have been to Hell and back..’ However, the piece also speaks to public narratives, when calling out inappropriate behaviour, and the internal voice of self-criticism of victims.
40cm high x 30cm x 30cm White cotton handkerchief, embroidered with black stitching thread and held in wooden hand. £1200 $US1650 €1400
Two skeleton trees grow out of a white earth. A hand carved wax snail with a gold shell is frozen in time as it glides between the miniature trees. A spiders web stretches between branches in the desolate landscape; the glass dome creating an isolated ecosystem or maybe a specimen of one.
Sketch poem used in the development of the piece: No Longer Relevant
One silver strand insignificant, proof of a dance macabre. Unable to see in it, beauty in life now white. Wisdom in the web of it, fear of getting caught. Best to remove it. Dismissed. An uncomfortable pause.
By reimagining discarded elements of nature the piece provides metaphors for how we respond to ideas of what is old and useless and where we see beauty and value.
48cm high x 26cm x 26cm Trees – seaweed or coral collected from Miami Beach after a storm with silver plated copper wire. Snail – shell water gilded with 24ct gold and carved wax body. Spiders web – white hair. White earth – plaster of paris mounted with black velvet ribbon and secured with stainless steel screws, under glass dome with black wooden base.
Work in progress
The Poetry in Emotion project is at its beginning, some pieces:
- Have poems about the work – used to develop the thinking behind the piece,
- Have poems embedded into the work – in the form of a poem (like Mirror, Mirror)
- Are an experiment with the poetic relationship between text and object (like Well, what did you expect?)
- And one piece (Floating Narratives) was inspired by a poem.
Ideally the results of this project will be a collection of work with poetry, a ‘Poetry in Emotion’ artists book, with representations of work and linked poetry (screen print, wood block and etchings), some large prints, public involvement in making a physical artwork and linked poem, and an event celebrating poetry and art.
Additional pieces include:
Sweep Away (poem written, planned need access to specialised equipment)
Box Safely Locked (poem written, materials ordered)
Running into the embrace of Loneliness (an 8 word play – potentially a very short film with two ‘actors’ Or performance piece)
The Royal Moon and a Dove (design and poem complete)
Poems in the breeze (concept developed, public interaction required to make piece and poem)
Poetry in Emotion artist book (further work required and access to specialised printing equipment)