This is a sculpture, long in the development but sometimes that is the best way. It may still have some more fabric added to the top but it is largely finished - nothing more needed.
Colour is doing its own thing, wellies are half there and half not and the poles are providing structure as well as indication of a figure continuing. The pose might change yet depending on where the work is shown and in relation to what else is there.
Like most artists I will find it easiest to talk about the making: what and how is the easy bit for me but why is the trickier one! So I'm going to start with what and maybe the rest will follow:
The wellies part of the sculpture is a concrete cast by pouring liquid concrete into a pair of old wellington boots. The concrete mix was a very weak mix and the cement was half 'gone' - partially set from sitting around too long in a damp garage, which meant that the mix didn't actually set for about a month. In my usual fashion of using up all the old stuff I've collected, the concrete is filled with carving debris from other sculptures, garden gravel and floor dust. Maybe this is part of the why component: I can't abide waste so everything gets used eventually, not just because I have some ethical goal to save the planet but it is a hang up from growing up with scarcity. Although this might not make me so special it does inform what I do today.
The wellies had a hole, letting the water in and were a 'bad buy' - uncomfortable and maybe a tad too small to wear for a longer period, so they just hung around the workshop until the point of making another figurative piece for the exhibition at the end of the MA Fine Art show at University of Chichester.
My intention was to take a shortcut in making a clothed figure and the concrete was to provide a grounding for the peace - making it more stable and providing balance for whatever was going to happen above the rim of the boots. The metal poles sticking up from the boots were there as armature for welding the structure. As it happens they are reinforcing the concrete as well as opening up options for the figure from the knee up. The weight of the concrete made the ankles look swollen and too thick so I tied some cable ties to narrow down the swelling, and by the way, I was accused of having thick ankles before.! Not that I' sensitive about that!
The longer I looked at the concrete boots (I get the irony of this), the more I thought there was no need to continue with the rest of the figure. The suggestion of it seems sufficient, no need to over-egg the pudding.
The right foot has a metal pole from a bunk bed and the left foot has 2 legs that came off a broken portable easel. I thought the adjustable length of the inserted sticks may be helpful at a later stage. The next thought was that, actually, anyone could do this and that there is nothing special about pouring some concrete into a pair of wellies. It's what I do with it next that would make it a sculpture., so I cut off the top part of the boots to expose the concrete but leaving the sole attached to the bottom. This has the effect of showing the making process and leaving the evidence of the development visible.
What made it more interesting was when it started 'interacting' with the other sculptures. When it was being show as part of a body of work and close to other objects, it, sort of, came into its own.
This brings me to talking about the 'so what?'question. I have learned that making something that is done well, respectful of the viewer (more about this later), is all well and good but you are left with answering the question 'why?' The 'so what' is much more aggressive but only shows the need to address it. It throws me into a spin and it puts me on the spot, which is always very uncomfortable and judge-ie. So before being asked that question there needs to be an attempt to preempt it and answer it in the work rather than having to explain. If you are explaining it's already lost. Talking about it is fine but defending it with an explanation is already that: a defence.
Respect for the viewer
Some of my work ends up looking quite 'polished' and 'finished', I'm aware of that and actually feel this is quite important to me when presenting a piece of work. I like the onlooker to feel that there has been a considerable amount of effort made to present them with the best possible outcome of what they are seeing. I take this as a common courtesy and anything short is bordering on showing disrespect. Some might want this as a statement about their work but not me. I'd like to make them feel special in being allowed to see it: 'aren't you lucky that I've gone out of my way to please you?' There are pitfalls to this as the end product could easily be to literal and not messy enough.
Another thought process came from trying to resurrect and idea from a while ago where I created a figurative sculpture using a bicycle and shopping bags filled with newspaper to add bulk. I always thought I didn't make more of a thing about this piece - waste not to, so I decided to revive it in different form.
Over the years I have kept lots of sofa seats and cushions - just in case - and have finally found use for it in that it provided me with a huge amount of bulk to stuff things with, creating volume needed for the figure I was to make. Instead of stuffing clothes and using them as a quick shorthand to create a figure I looked to the bike image to represent the figure and decided to make fabric bags stuffed with wadding as a stand-in for the body.
I started off by making stuffed spheres but soon decided the shapes need to be a bit more amorphous and varied in size. The colour crept into it accidentally as I soon discovered that using thin fabrics (bed sheet) didn't give me a smooth ,rounded objects I wanted. They were too lumpy and misshaped so I switched to using thick, curtain materials, brocade and flock off-cuts.
Then it became important to start playing with positioning but, because they are two separate pieces, this can be decided depending on the occasion and exhibition space:
They are being shown as standing without inflection and anxiety that any other arrangement may be bringing to the piece. A natural pose is less distracting and it was hard to resist the temptation to place them with a slightly inward toe, which is my natural stance. Auto-referencing here is not as necessary as maybe when there is a full figure. Introducing awkwardness to a full size, full body and rendered piece will give it a requisite additional dimension to consider but for the partial body, as is the case with the boots, it was more of a distraction without reasoning.