By Fiona Campbell, Gilbert Bayes Award winner 2019-20
While we are all learning how to live differently during this terrible pandemic - a worrying time for humanity - I’m trying to find positives in all this instability. It will undoubtedly change the world. On a micro scale, artists are having to re-adjust our practices and finances after cancelled projects and exhibitions. Our GBA Show couldn’t tour to Grizedale and my latest piece Pyre - charred bundles of treasured finds created in response to wildfires - is in a ghost exhibition Incendiary.
David Attenborough recently said in an interview with Big Issue ‘In times of crisis, the natural world is a source of both joy and solace... we are part of the natural world. If we damage the natural world, we damage ourselves.’ To re-focus and make sense of things, I’m taking life at a slower pace. Based in Somerset, I’ve been outside sowing veggie seeds, mending and attempting new approaches in work. I’ve collected plant debris for paper fibre works and made dye from avocado pits. I did my first Zoom live-stream artist talk via Ignite Somerset. The savings in travel are great for the pocket and the environment. The sky has far fewer vapour trails. I’m in awe of hospital workers, all the committed carers, community support, and the creative resilience of artists. Through virtual chat we can still make connections and I’m finding this crisis brings us closer.
My piece Glut, which was on exhibition at the RSS Gilbert Bayes Award Winners Exhibition 2019 has a relevance to the Covid-19 epidemic, a result of cruel incarceration and trading of wildlife as meat. Glut is a wailing, related to my increasing concerns about environmental issues: human imposition on nature, consumerism, waste, our plastic oceans, factory farming, mass extinctions. And the loss of my dog, who died. Bodily forms made from found and recycled materials suggest entrails, abject yet seductive. There’s an element of artivism.
I’m also interested in tentacularity (‘Life lived along lines… a series of interlaced trails’, Donna Haraway), rhisomic connections from micro to macro, neurons, webs, dark matter - metaphors for life, energy and regeneration. The process of my work is labour-intensive. I collect materials from what’s around me - industrial and organic. The process of binding and stitching is a form of suturing, material as message.
I am very grateful to the Royal Society of Sculptors for the opportunities offered through the GBA award, and to have come to know the other inspirational GBA artists. The award has provided me with a valuable springboard for new openings. Glut continues to have legacy for me. It has since appeared in a book Creating Spaces by Graham McLaren, celebrating Bath Spa School of Art’s long history and last week I was delighted to receive a Red Line Arts Award for my works Glut, Accretion and Snakes and Ladders - the latter created for my B-Wing project last year.
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Look after yourselves in this testing time!