Laid Here

Laid Here

Depending on how you approach this installation piece, as in from which direction, you will either be confronted with a pile of sticks and fluff or if you come at it from the other side you will see a person inserted into the pile and poking out from the thighs down.

I had great fun in constructing it and really enjoy the surprise of it.

Meaning of the whole thing is up to you to determine and, at this point, I don't want to steer too much in one direction or another.

The two elements of the piece have a long history and both have a very circuitous way of coming into being.

The figure part

I've worked figuratively a great deal and I feel I understand its use, construction, meaning and roots in tradition and classicism. I am fortunate enough that there is no longer the need for the slavish accuracy in realistic rendering and that the practice of making statuary is not a fashionable one; lucky that we now have the wealth and abundance of other ways of working with the figure. It is now no longer necessary to obsess over perfect body proportions, hyper-realism, or even to follow realistic (but not) body beautiful. A suggestion of the body, a fragment or body part is sufficient for us to read 'man/woman' and this shorthand has allowed so may new approaches without resorting to abstraction and formalism, installation and immersion or even shock and abject. If it has 'all been done before' where does that leave someone with a sensitivity for the human form? How do I contribute to the language of art and to the 'human experience'?

I've come to the realisation that to do that, the figure needs to be 'messed with'. First get the figure in there - make it well, make it good, make it worth while. It is important that it is relatable and recognisable and accurate enough not to distract (unless that is your thing and proportion is what you are stretching).

Once you have the body, live with it!: see what it's made of - material is of the vital importance here because whatever you made it from speaks volume about the object, before you've even recognised that it is a person you are looking at. Make careful, judicious, educated choices here as it will bite you later. Innovation is key: there are plenty of traditional things you can use to make a figure (plaster, clay, bronze, to name a few), there are also natural materials (wood, stone ...). I'm not averse to using those but what I enjoy most of all is finding a substance/material that has an entirely different purpose and then working with it until it becomes removed from the original use; until it is sufficiently altered that you recognise it is there but that you no longer read it as a piece of clingfilm, twig, mud, straw or kindling.

I keep what I've made around for a long time, allowing it to develop, breathe, evolve and relax. The more life it has the more meaning it gathers along the way. This is where the resolution comes. The trick is not to be precious about it and allow damage, chaos of building up and stripping down until you are so familiar with it that it takes on a personality.

The Other part

The everyday practice of stacking wood for winter is a strange pleasure that can be ignored by those who don't appreciate it. I was introduced to it through necessity and rural living, often made to look bucolic but the reality of it can be crushing. The origin of this practice of stacking, for me, started with being tasked to stack corn cobs for winter fuel. The modular way of working is back breaking - physically moving it can be exhausting, but the rhythm of it is hypnotic and akin to the state of mantra and meditation. The cobs were interlocking because of the surface and building a retaining wall with this material to contain loose cobs had a dual purpose of storing the materials and building a structure. I thought this was poetic.

The sculpture

Reading the book by Lars Mytting, Norwegian Wood, made me remember this practice from my childhood so I decided to use this and combine it with the figure. As the saying goes: you measure a man by the size of his wood pile and this is particularly relevant to my work as it evolved during the MA course. I was looking into all sorts of aspects to do with masculinity, especially with reference to toxic masculinity but by response to the subject arose before the public eye was so fixed onto this debate. I had lived it and thought it was personally relevant, so why not use it to create sculpture.

Early attempts to address it were somewhat stilted and literal but, as the university course went on, the sculptures went into a direction that is broader, less descriptive and actually say more about where I stand and how it affected me.

The end result of the figure being stuck inside the pile of sticks makes it piece that is much more difficult to pin down quickly but is sufficiently intriguing to keep your interest. In fact it looks so bonkers... The fact that he's crushed/consumed by his own wood pile is amusing and also makes a statement contributing to the debate around masculinity crisis. I can't quite verbalise this comment and indeed I don't really want to. The sculpture is there to do exactly that. If you can say it with words, then there seems hardly any point in making it in the first place and you might as well just write. The sculpture is now forming a part of a body of work around this subject from a personal experience on an emotional level.