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Sculpture (MA)

Abigail Norris

B. (1970) London, UK. After a 20yr career in filmmaking, Abigail embraced a lifelong ambition to study sculpture at the Royal College of Art. Her work is unashamedly raw and jarring, exploring themes around loss and repair. Never afraid to shy away from darker content, Abigail’s work centres around concepts of death, transcendence, absence, and presence; with a subplot to interrupt the habitual assumptions of everyday life. Her work moves between figurative and abstract forms, exploring the entangled relationship between humans and other living beings. During her time at the RCA, Abigail has been developing a body of work called 'In the Nightside Garden'.

The motivation behind Abigail’s practice is driven by the early loss of her father from an industrial disease. She believes that all beings, human and non-human share the same susceptibility to the demands of patriarchal systems and industrial progress. Abigail explores mutual vulnerability whilst creating space to contemplate the nature of ‘aliveness’ through the experience of observing death.

Show Location: Battersea campus: Studio Building, First floor

My practice is concerned with the nature of ‘being’ through a voice of femaleness, taking a particular feminist stance that explores cultural memory as a fragmentary aesthetic. The work addresses the post-enlightenment era that we in the west are occupying right now as an opportunity to expand western thinking and explore mysticism, myth and fabulation. I am investigating what it is to ‘be’ in the world by taking the philosophical position that 'the human mind is nature manifested into consciousness in order to observe itself.' Schelling

Within Western rationale since the Age of Enlightenment and especially the creation of the Great Chain of Being, voices have been left unheard, experiences unaccounted for, cultures abandoned, and peoples irradicated. My work concerns itself with these hierarchies whilst also exploring the absence of the female voice and female influence since the rise of the patriarchy around 3500 BCE. This deficiency has meant that history has been written from a dominant male perspective whereas the voice of femaleness has been shamed and undermined and their perspectives absent from the development of the human species. Through image-making I am interested in investigating this ‘absence’ within western culture as a territory in its own right and through world-making I hope to create space to contemplate the nature of ‘aliveness’.

Making is an integral part of my practice, I see it as an act of re-pairing, re-membering and re-connecting. I use simple techniques for construction such as stitching, stuffing, heating, bending, shaping and moulding; using materials such as reclaimed cowhide, reclaimed fur and domestic materials. This non-hierarchical approach to artmaking is at the core of my practice and reinforces a deep interest in rejecting an impoverished view of women who opt to work from within a domestic space whilst raising children. 

After judgement, entities were thought to return to the Mother Goddess’ womb. During this stage, the soul meets its former body that is restored.

Amnesia is a way to bypass a lost sense of self and a lost sense of other, however, this memory was bound to resurface. Whilst in a moment of remembering, I busied myself in finding some old cowhide rugs on eBay, I bought four of them. Over the next six months, I carefully constructed an elaborate musculoskeletal armature made of domestic materials on which I displayed the hides as an act of re-membering. They became the body of a cow in which the real and the unreal occupy the same space.

Ritual and rebirth: In the Book of Dead there are a series of lines that read as follows, "I unite your limbs, I hold your discharges together, I surround your flesh, I drive away the fluids of your decay, I sweep away your brow, I wipe away your tears, I heal all your limbs, each being united with the other; I surround you with the work of the weaving goddess, I complete you and form you as Re.”

The body of the cow is symbolic of the severing of relations between humans and other living beings. As Timothy Morton describes, this was a traumatic event in the Neolithic times; when homosapians came out of the cave and moved from worshipping animals to domesticating them for their own needs, hence a loss of sacredness occurred. I like to imagine that Awaiting the Souls Return is a contemporary version of the Palaeolithic bison that are carved into the Tuc d'Audoubert cave in France.

Through the presentation of death comes an opportunity to stare into something that is unknowable, impossible to fully comprehend and therefore situates the viewer in a state of contemplation. This flux between knowing and unknowing, the familiar and the unfamiliar is a key component of my artistic explorations.

Death belongs to no-one, the relationship to it undoes identity and thus asserts itself as an impossibility of relation. Death becomes an empty signifier and as such haunts the social field with a mood of anxiety because it is unknowable. Jonathan Miles


Reclaimed cowhide and domestic materials


85 X 288 X 215 cms
“Within nature there was something nameless and frightful; something
toward which, with a dreadful desire, she sometimes felt drawn and
sometimes repelled” Schelling

This morning, whilst I was writing this passage, a bird flew into my window and stunned itself; it landed softly in the flower bed below. Knowing that if I went out to help I could quite possibly frighten it to death, I decided to keep a watchful eye out from where I was sitting. I became very distracted by its plight, I felt drawn to it. Does giving your attention to something help it in any way? Something stirred within me... I felt attached to its heartbeat. It sat there frozen in the soft earth, well hidden from prey by the sides of the planter. Although I had to complete my work I was aware that a trans-subjective experience of ‘knowing’ was in place, I was in communication with this bird from a distance.

‘Mother Tongue’ touches on the lost dialects of femaleness, such as that of gestation. Bracha Ettinger describes the time of gestation as a trans-subjective experience of knowing ‘other’ through Matrixial borderlinking. 'Mother Tongue' is embryonic, phallic and uncomfortably bodily. It carries the aesthetic language of biomorphic bodily forms in flux; male & female; female & female; plant & flesh; giant & minuscule.

The little bird turned out to be a treecreeper, I didn't even know they existed. I'm sure you will be glad to hear that after an hour had passed and a meal of grubs had been eaten the treecreeper was fully recovered. It flew off into a nearby tree, and that was the last I saw of it.

When you stare into the eye of an animal you are passing into oblivion, the eye is a gateway into infinity where there is nothing to end upon except a sense of ‘self’, a sense of ‘being’.


domestic materials, mixed media


250 X 175 X 175 cms

Hare is a three metre long musculoskeletal sculpture, made using reclaimed fur coats.

Entangled histories surface when you start to re-member. Witch-hunts and the silencing of women, the eradication of ancient mysticism – man’s power over women and nature – witches turning into hares and a speculative conversation between Joseph Beuys and a dead hare.

‘I sall goe intill ane haire,
With sorrow, and sych, and meikle caire,
And I sall goe in the Divellis nam,
Ay whill I com hom againe'.


Reclaimed vintage fur coats and domestic materials


40 X 300 X 60 cms