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Sculpture (MA)

Clare Holdstock

I am from Hull, a port city founded in the late 12th century and granted the title Kingston Upon Hull by Edward I who used the area as a supply base. Hull is a small city that doesn’t quite feel like a city but whose landscapes overlooking its estuary and vast mudflats often make it feel like the edge of the earth. 


Studying painting at Camberwell College of Arts from 2011 - 2014 I primarily made figurative painting. Towards the end of my BA I realised that it was the materiality of objects that I found compelling. Rather than representing objects on the smooth flat of a canvas, I consequently began to work directly with them.


The animacy of objects interests me. I see objects as actors within a vast interconnected web of vibrant matter. Objects are politically and socially loaded. I interrogate these facets of them in my works. Landscapes likewise drive my practice. Objects and landscapes influence and direct our behaviours as we navigate systems of power and control. In my works I am exploring our deep and meaningful connections to both objects and landscapes.


I currently live in Catford in the borough of Lewisham. My degree show project takes as its starting point the River Pool Linear Park, a landscape which has become familiar to me over the past year.


Every morning I cycle the ten mile journey to Kensington, before cycling ten miles back to Catford in the evening. The relentless process of gentrification which I witness across London is also continually on my mind and consequently informs my ideas and my works. 


Walking or cycling through Kensington feels like a peculiar non-reality. Kensington is an American Dream-style suburbia for the super-rich whilst also being an empty lot of endless streets of multi-million pound investments. As I pass through it though, I experience joyful moments of encounter with chipped idiosyncratic fences, swathes of scaffolding net which stretch across sections of the sky and the various creatures of Hyde Park.


Sponsors:

CASS Art Scholarship

Gilbert Bayes RCA Sculpture Award







Recently I took up jogging around the River Pool Linear Park, it has since become my muse. My degree show project takes this landscape as a starting point. The works in my installation expand and contract from this vantage point, to include micro and macro introspective and holistic observations that I make whilst navigating the city of London.


Places are affective, we build up intricate relationships with them over time. They drive and influence our moods and behaviours. Systems of power and control are spun, wrapped within and tied to place. Such systems and space are inseparable. Encounters with places are experiential, visceral and often bodily. They have the capacity to (and sometimes do) transcend power structures. 


Running next to the flowing body of the River Pool, I experience such a relationship with place. The heightened physical and psychological arousal which come hand in hand with exertion trigger a semi-psychedelic state. As I move I consider the cyclical ebb and flow of the human drive toward progress. I also feel a vibrancy tying me to the place as my energy mixes with its energy. Ultimately we are both part of a pulsing, enmeshed web of matter and I take joy in this. 

The Tail Eaters, Silver plated bronze, 3D printed resin

We run cyclical

our shoes impact asphalt, concrete, tar, grass, mud

wheels spin

iridescent street signs reflect the glow of light

pink hues hang languidly around objects

seep into their crevices.


Leviathan adjusts his great bloated body, 

rears his ugly head. 

I thought you were sleeping,

curled around your prize.

You wake up and begin to hulk your mammoth form 

circling around us once more

you gradually constrict.



Medium:

Silver plated bronze, 3D printed resin

Size:

6 x 6 x 12 cm

Last year I wrote a love letter to the River Pool Linear Park as part of Denise de Cordova's 'Place Portrait' workshop. I performed a reading of the letter at Standpoint Gallery.

I run cyclical around your banks, encounter your objects, Painted mild steel, stickers, chalk pen

Medium:

Painted mild steel, stickers, chalk pen

Size:

25 x 10 x 10 cm

Why objects?

More specifically perhaps, why this kind of object? I am drawn to the idiosyncratic, the unglamorous and the abject. I feel as though many things in life, particularly those things that we are taught to value (money, wealth, consumer items) are a façade and throw us off guard in experiencing ontological realities.

This particular type of fence is not only straight forward in its functionality and design, but also seems to be beyond such types of monetary or materialistic evaluation. This is partly due to the fact that it is a relic of a semi-distant past. Apparently the 80's or 90's was pre mass-implementation of the technology of galvanised metal fencing in municipal spaces?

These undulating and rusting pieces of street furniture were perhaps built by the tail end of 80's conservative governments, but speak of the landscape of the late 1990's and early 2000's when the political baton of privatisation of public space was handed over by John Major to Tony Blair.

This political history, like the intended impact of the design of the fence have faded. The object, the fence, thus becomes untethered to simply live out its reality as an object. It ages with the landscape around it, before attempts by local councils are made to restore it to its former fence-glory.

Graffiti as glitch

‘Click click click click click’, the high-pitched hollow crack of the plastic pea impacting the metal canister. The ‘psssssshhhhht’ release as the liquefied paint and gas transform into a fine mist. An affective, heightened gesture. A moment of intensity. ‘What does it feel like to write illicitly?’. [1] ‘The physical act of writing a tag delivers a corporeal pleasure to the writer’. [2] The immediate, fluid, macho, masturbatory, stylised curve. Acrylic oozes down brickwork and glass. ‘So called ‘clean’ or ‘blank’ spaces constitute, paradoxically, spaces of infinite variation and potential’. [3]

Spraying colourful words and symbols onto unfurled lengths of scaffolding net, I recently appropriated these forms in attempt to capture the transgressive intensity of the act of ‘tagging’. I wanted to interrogate the disruption of controlled lawscapes. [4] Through mimicking the gesture of ‘tagging’ I was attempting to question of the validity of authorships. Who paints landscapes of power and control? More directly, who has the power to decide what sort of a world we live in? The language of the street is arguably watered down if it is represented or appropriated. I concluded, therefore, that it would be more fitting to allude to the power of this form of what I had begun to understand as municipal glitches through touching on the formal properties of ‘tagging’ rather than creating a direct representation of the phenomena.

This resulted in a series of stickers. The stickers are produced with the aid of CAD software. Such softwares are used in the creation of the stickers prevalent in urban spaces, which function similarly to ‘tagging’. These stickers often adopt the advertising strategies of media signage operating within urban space. Unlike tags, the physical, swooping arc of a gesture is removed, though psychologically its motion is retained through the mediated space of the touchpad, screen and operating system. The satisfying and corporeal gesture of peeling and pressing down the slick edges of the sticker onto the smooth flat of an object retains some of the physicality of the act of spraying.

The widespread activity of tagging the planes of the city does not fit neatly into the binaries marked out by late modernity. [5] Graffiti writing has been described by sociologists as ritualistic. I am likewise interested in the sociological implications the rupture produced through the gesture of graffiti. Building on notions of the ritualistic, the writings of the sociologist Mike Presdee delineate such (post) modern behaviours as carnivalesque transgressions. The act not only sits outside of conventional behaviours, but also creates moments of intensity, perhaps similar to those described by the artist Maggie Roberts as happening within the religion Vodou, the doctrine of which teaches that everything (including humanity) is spirit; as well as the arrhythmic and durational dancing Butoh whose intense practice is far removed from the rigidity and minutia of late capitalism and is seen by some as deeply connected to the nature of being. In their 2006 paper ‘The Desires of the Ungovernable’, Alison Young and Mark Halsey note that graffiti writers themselves describe the phenomena of writing as a ‘cultural flow’. [6] Sprayers create a connection to the city through the act of bodies, [7] whilst ‘inhabit[ing] space and time in ways which resist subjective and objective attempts to classify, name and order events. [8] It is this lack of neatness, or resistance to classification that interests me. Such transgressive and arguably carnivalesque gestures can be exciting and powerful.


[1] Halsey, M & Young, A. ‘Our Desires are Ungovernable’, London: Sage Publications, 2006. p. 278

[2] Halsey, M & Young, A. p. 282

[3] Ibid. p. 299

[4] Andreas Philippopoulos, lawscapes workshop, Southbank. 2022

[5] Halsey, M. & Young, A. p. 294

[6] Ibid. p. 285

[7] Halsey, M & Young, A. p. 278

[8] Ibid.

CASS Art Scholarship & Gilbert Bayes RCA Sculpture Award