Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Artists In Conversation.

As an alternative to the standard press release Gallery Director and Curator Emily Woodhouse held a conversation with the Artist in order to get a more personal insight in to their work. 

Nathan Murphy

In conversation with Curator and Gallery Director Emily Woodhouse

Nathan Muprhy completed his MA in Fine Art Sculpture, from Wimbledon in 2011. He was a Shortlisted finalist in Future Maps 11, ‘an annual survey of the best cutting edge talent of the graduating year at UAl’ exhibited in the Zabludowicz Collection.
Murphy’s piece on the terrace space is the first work to be commissioned by Hotel Elephant. He was asked to create a piece, which reacted to the material, aesthetic and architectural nature of the estate.

E.W: Nathan can you talk me through the piece you’ve created on the end terrace space here on the Heygate Estate?

N.M: I wanted to create a piece that worked with its surroundings but also made use of the brutalist language which is present, linking it all to the Heygate estate. The terrace was formerly a communal space walked through by hundreds of people.
I wanted to direct and create movement through the space with my sculptural installation.

E.W: How did you first approach the commission and what informed your decision to go for this ‘design’? 

N.M: I approached the commission by looking at the space and what was around, thinking about the materials, the architecture and the forms which where present.
I thought initially about using cast concrete forms and modifying the structures in the space.
I came to the conclusion that the concrete was already there and that casting anymore would be just unnecessary. The idea was to use steel to map out spaces whilst allowing the sculpture to exist without dominating the space.
The design related to the repetitive angular geometry of the Heygate Estate’s tower blocks in modular square sections.
The sculpture was built around the main chimney form on the terrace, as this is the central point of the space.

E.W: The choice of material and the colour of work are two significant features of the work….

N.M: Steel was chosen due to it’s strength and rigidity, just like it was used formerly as a structural core to cast concrete structures.
The colour was chosen to work against the cold concrete that surround’s the work but also to lift it from the grey of the architecture without truly dominating the space. The colour is also a reference to the tall working cranes across the road.

E.W: What was it like actually constructing the piece on site here on the Heygate?

N.M: At times very difficult, there were instances when it was hammering down with rain and I had to use my own sculpture as a support for tarpaulin to stop me getting really wet.
The ground in parts is incredibly uneven and trying to keep the sculpture square and level was almost impossible… the sculpture has steel lengths that have changed shape from the angle and ground position they have been fixed to. Some of the most interesting lines are the ones that don’t fully line up correctly. This is the nature of site-specific work and working with such an open and unusual site.

E.W: You work mostly site specifically, what is it that interests you most about this way of working?

N.M: Working site specifically enables you to make a work that has a stronger sense of purpose and relationship with the space it occupies. I find it interesting to relate to the space and deal with the curiosities and potential problems it presents.

E.W: The piece in the second gallery space ‘Necker De-Construction’ is a reworking of a previous piece, can you talk me through how it has been presented here?

N.M: The Necker Construction was a sculpture that worked to play with my interest in visual engagement and the way lines can represent form without being solidly three- dimensional. It was the first piece I produced that stripped away the form and concentrated on suggesting and mapping space.
The sculpture ‘Necker Construction’ was reconfigured due to the limits of the space and its orientation changed for the room it currently occupies. The change in the way it currently sits, interest me in a way of ‘fitting’ and relating more to the current space due to limitations regarding the height.
Much like previous models and maquette's the piece has been moved around to operate in a different manner albeit this time due to the confines of the space.
This is why the piece has been renamed and re-imagined for this exhibition as ‘Necker - De-Construction'.
The way that this piece has been affected by the space demonstrates here another interesting aspect of working site-specifically.

E.W: Both ‘Necker De-Construction’ and ‘Heygate Installation - Logical Design’ interact with the surrounding environment by casting shadows which almost create and describe alternative spaces, is this something that was intentional?

N.M: The shadows are a bi-product of the sculptures use of space but this is also quite interesting visually. The shadows extend to occupy the site moving beyond the solid lines of the physical sculpture. The reflection from the water when areas get wet is also interesting. The sculpture is mirrored and extended through this.

E.W: The series of drawings in the second gallery space where made along side the Heygate Installation, how do you feel these work complement the sculpture?

N.M: The drawings reference the mapping of the space, the forms, the lines and the intersecting shadows. They are flat representations of visually interesting parts I have seen and experienced in the creation and manufacture of the sculpture.

E.W: Finally – If you had an unlimited budget and access to the Heygate Estate what work would you like to make?

N.M: I would have to think about it further but using a similar method to how I have created Heygate Installation - Logical Design I would like to create a (to scale) wire form replica of the estate standing its entire height x width x length - that would be quite a feet of engineering and a spectacular 3D line drawing!

Cheryl Field
In conversation with Emily Woodhouse, Curator & Gallery Director at Hotel Elephant.
After forays into the realms of Molecular Biology and Parasitology, Field studied BA (Hons) Sculpture & Environmental Art at The Glasgow School of Art, 2007 and MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, 2012.
Field is represented by BEARSPACE Gallery, London UK and her work was picked by The Telegraph as one of the Top 10 artworks at London Art Fair 2013. 

E. W: Firstly, I am intrigued to find out how you came to your Art practice from your beginnings in Molecular Biology & Parasitology?
C.F: Ha! That’s a good question. I loved both Art and Science when I was at school. And as much as I really yearned to do art I really had no clue what that might mean in reality. I had no clue what “being an artist” might entail, I’d never met an artist and it seemed such an unlikely career. So I took the sensible choice and studied Molecular Biology instead. That led to post-graduate work as a parasitologist, which in essence meant I sieved buckets of dog-shit looking for parasitic worm eggs for four years (the advert didn’t mention that!) I guess it was at that point that I realised that I’m more of a science-admirer than I am a science-practitioner. It took several more years for me to get to the point that I had both the means and the opportunity to study art... to be fair, even at that point I still couldn’t really conceive of what “being an artist” might entail, but it seemed like such a grand adventure and a leap worth making.
E.W: Would you say that your work is informed by your background in Molecular Biology?
C.F: Definitely. Absolutely. 100% yes! I love science and the scientific process and although I gave up being a practicing scientist, that passion has never deserted me. Evolutionary biology, neurology, psychology, physics, astronomy... these are the things that make my brain fizz with glee. They crop up repeatedly in the images and objects I make; the materials I use; my creative process and of course the topics I’m most concerned with. If pushed to sum up their influence I’d say that at the heart of my work is a scrutiny of the role that science, popular science and science fiction play in creating a secular mythos for contemporary secular culture. 
E.W: The piece you have created for this exhibition is a ‘breathing’ inflatable structure, can you talk me through how you responded to the location with the creation of this piece?
C.F: I have been working with ‘breathing’ inflatable structures for the past few years.
The installation at Hotel Elephant draws inspiration from the sinuous spaces and voids that the various spiralling bridges create around the Heygate estate. Wanting to play with the physics of filing space, but do so with the most insubstantial and temporal of materials; air, sound and light.
These inflatable’s are neither ‘sculptures’ nor ‘objects’ per se, rather they are something closer to ‘devices’ in as much as they are a means to create an alternate space. 

E.W: How did you come to using Mylar in your work?
C.F: I started playing with Mylar whilst an artist-in-residence at Taigh Chearsabhagh Arts Centre in North Uist (one of chain of islands off the north west coast of Scotland). It is an extraordinarily elemental landscape (another island in the chain, Harris, was used by Stanley Kubrick as the surface of Jupiter in 2001: A Space Odyssey). I knew it would be so easy to be bent to the will of that landscape and end up making work that melts into it if I wasn’t careful. I’m sure you know the kind of thing I mean: cairns of stones / nests of twigs and the like. I was determined not to do anything sympathetic like that, and so arrived on the island with loads of odd materials to play with, including sheets and sheets of Mylar - it’s such an evocative material for me; very space-age. Along with the Mylar, the wind that whips across the island became a material for me to use too - and gradually the big shiny behemoth inflatable’s evolved.
E.W: It’s a fabulous material! Have you ever tried to create inflatable’s with other types of material?
C.F: The dull answer is no, not really. I think this material is particularly important to me when it comes to the inflatable’s; the play of light, the sound, the fragility and strength, the conceptual content associated with the material etc. etc. I use plenty of other weird and wonderful materials elsewhere, but the inflatable’s just have to be Mylar.
E.W: Do you have a clear idea of how the inflated form will look when you start to make the work?
C.F: Each inflatable I make is site-specific. So I’ll map out the proposed space in my studio and work to build a structure that will play well in that location. I don’t inflate the structure until I am in the actual site for installation - which means I will never truly know what it will look like in advance. That’s because the materials are erm... problematic. They don’t lend themselves well to being folded / unfolded, inflated / deflated and moved too often. A good percentage of my studio time is spent incandescent with rage, shouting at inanimate objects that refuse to behave the way I want them too. As a result, the first time I inflate the work and see what it is I’ve made, is as much of a surprise to me as it is for everyone else. I’m usually so controlled and meticulous about everything I make - verging on the obsessive - these objects are the antithesis of that, they deny me any real control and frankly it’s quite terrifying. And I’ll admit - a little exhilarating too.
E.W: And finally – You’ve worked in lots of different types of mediums– what is your favorite way of working?
C.F: I navigate the world through material engagement and by that I mean that my brain works best when my hands are occupied. I’ll happily fill my head full of gold through reading, watching, looking and listening, but when it comes to thinking, creating, working through problems, playing with ideas, looking for answers - give me a lump of plasticine or a bunch of magnets, a big box of lego or Meccano and I’m a happy happy bunny - I sound like a ten year old boy don’t I!?