A Pennine Sheep visited by a Bird
Bronze 19cm x 10cm x 8cm
I made this when I was a student, but couldn’t complete the casting because my dad died and I had to rush off to arrange his funeral. The wax model sat on a shelf for ages accumulating dust, wax is sticky stuff. In the end in order to prevent it getting inadvertently melted or squashed I had it cast in bronze. I played around with the patina a bit when it came back, filing off some here and there then returned to a slightly more prominent shelf. Where it sat for years until the opportunity arose to exhibit in a show called Northern Fringe: the Mystery of Yorkshire in (nearly) 100 Objects. This is my Yorkshire reply to Object number 73, a small gold Inca llama from the BBC series a History of the World in 100 Objects.
And this is where the idea came from
Northern Fringe:The Mystery of Yorkshire in (nearly) 100 Objects is on at the Upstairs gallery, Dean Clough, Halifax,
HX3 5AX from today September 8th to September 24th.
This work began in the company of books. I like the qualities of used things, in this case the thumbed pages and coffee stains of their history, the fluctuating choices of typeface and illustration which make them of their time. That time was actually my parents’ time so I am transported back to the 1940s and 50s via the design of a book cover. Then there was the pleasure of meeting some of the interviewees, taking photographs of their photographs, having a little glimpse into their first encounters with books and over and over again in their recorded conversations arose, with great affection, the role that libraries played.
A palace of words,
A place of peace and quiet
A store of knowledge
A step into a new future
In the early years of the twentieth century in the library of the past before mobile phones, computers and the internet will we find the seeds of the library of the future?
This work grew out of memories, stories, images, photos, transcripts and audio.
Cobbled together and placed inside old picture frames. I wanted the frame to be part of the work rather than just a display device, the grey is to link them as one work and reinforce the hazy memory aspect. I like old frames, these ones are typical designs of the early and mid 1900’s. Although the frames are of differing sizes the aperture and colour of the mounts are identical. Here are two framed pieces of work temporarily hung in my dining room for Reading Sheffield AGM.
My friend Mary morphed Reading Sheffield from her PhD. The original subject was a ‘middle brow’ author called Warwick Deeping. As I understand it ‘middle brow’ means the books people read but don’t necessarily own up to. From this Mary decided to find out what books people actually read and what influenced their choice of reading. Having picked the years when Warwick Deeping was popular that is the 1930’s 40’s and 50’s, she armed a posse of volunteers with Zoom sound recorders and searched for Sheffield residents who grew up during these years. The result was a fascinating series of audio files documenting the varied reading habits of a cross section of Sheffield residents before the advent of television or internet.
The problem then was what to do with all this fascinating material, and that’s when I became involved. I originally planned an interactive installation in Sheffield City Library but ended up designing a Reading Sheffield web site . I am now working on a series of works based on the people and their conversations recorded during the Reading Sheffield Project.
Here’s the finished result, Mother and Child (responses to the Boyd Collection) hung on the studio wall just to see how it looks. I’ve enjoyed doing this work. Getting the transvers to bond and melt into the canvas without breaking up was initially a bit of a problem, and was oddly similar to problems I initially had when I learnt to make slides from frozen endometrial biopsies. Getting slivers of tissue to lie flat and whole on the glass surface of the slide took a bit of patience, practice and frustration!
Each image, apart from the first, is of the part of the slide where the maternal uterine wall is in close proximity with the placental tissue of the child. The first image is of uterine glands, these produce substances that nourish the very early implanting embryo before the placenta is fully established.
There are multiple images because the source is a collection, and the images are enclosed in circles or microscope fields mainly because that felt right, but also circles have a completeness, the field of vision is concentrated and the baby is enclosed within a circular structure as it develops.
Then a little bit of synchronicity, I’d no sooner pinned the canvasses up on the cellar wall and grandson number three arrived. Here he is. Hello Joshua.
Well I have actually made an object related to the collection, well two and I am planning a series.
Here is my thinking.
To see details of the tissue requires use of a microscope, which means that field of view will always be a circle. There is also something graphically satisfying about a circle, it’s completion I suppose. It’s also a fundamental shape, found naturally all over the place, from planets to bacteria.
An interpretation of gloopy yellow endometrial glands are on the above canvas, the image below focuses on the intertwining of maternal and embryonic tissue as the placenta forms. This embryo was conceived about 12 weeks ago and measures 55mm from the top of it’s head to the base of it’s spine. This measurement is labelled Crown to Rump, CR for short.
This prebirth connection between mother and baby, this is what I am especially interested in. My experience is that it is both physical and psychological. That is as soon as you know that you are pregnant you almost automatically build up a projected idea of the child and of your relationship with the child, even when that child is no more than a few millimeters long. It’s one of the reasons why miscarriage is so devastating.
On the scientific side, we still do not fully understand how the mother tolerates the presence of the baby. According to traditional theory the mothers immune system should detect the baby as ‘foreign’ and initiate a process of rejection. Fortunately for us , it doesn’t.