I am not always sure what my work is about. I find I respond strongly to certain types of form, and when I make pieces these forms begin to emerge once the making process takes over. As I work, themes begin to emerge, and looking back, these seem quite clearly identifiable, though whether they were at the time I don’t know.
Over the last few years I have worked on two main themes: the female form and abstract responses to organic natural forms such as shells, rocks, bones and plants, and the rhythms and colours of the coast. These themes inter-relate. I spend a lot of time on the beach, and I also love my garden, where many of my sculptures live. I love the way things grow, and especially the wonderful shapes of the more exotic plants. And I love the way these natural organic forms recur in the female form.
I don’t want my pieces to have fixed meanings. I very much want viewers to interpret the work according to their own interests and to invest the work with meaning in a way that is significant to them.
For the last year or so I have been working on versions of the female form. I think this is maybe an expression of personal identity as I reach back to some earlier sculptural pieces I made during the 1970s and 1980s. I have always been inspired by the ancient female forms, generally referred to as ‘Venuses’ when they were discovered by Victorian (male) archaeologists. I think of these sculptures rather as embodiments of womanly experience and was thrilled to see the analysis in the 2013 exhibition at the BM Ice Age Art, which confirmed my view. My work is not about the male gaze, but about the internal experience of being a woman. Much of this experience embodies physical change. We are so used to thinking of the female nude as seen by men (venus) that it is difficult to move beyond this. So at present I am struggling! But enjoying the struggle! Which is more about the underlying concepts than the actual forms.
During 2016-17, I was working on tall standing forms that seemed to be about growth and change. I found that forms liked growing out of each other and sculptures had quite a strong botanical feel. I used a lot of yellow. My work always privileges form over surface, and I want the surface to enhance the form, rather than act as a carrier for it. I’m a sculptor after all! So I use slips and oxides to increase the dramatic potential of the three dimensional elements. I use a slip I make from the clay (which comes from a pre-historic forest) on Westward Ho! beach to give a sense of place and to ground the work in both place and time. In a personal way, the sculptures embody experience of change, re-growth and the reinvigoration of identity. They are strong statements.
During 2017-18, I found my tall forms were curving and turning and becoming full of movement and a strong sense of the coast was emerging. The yellows, blacks and neutrals suddenly changed to blues and greens after discussions with friends who found the surface colour detracted from the form. Not what I wanted! I suddenly had a vision of a set of blue sculptures and had to refire them all to achieve it. But I am happy with the result. The work seems to have a clearer identity and the new blues and greens have wonderful resonances. My studio overlooks the sea, and I spend a lot of time looking at it, so this all makes sense to me.
Exhibitions 2016 – 2019
7th Dec – 5th Jan 2020: RHS Rosemoor Learning Centre (with Richard Meyer)
17th Oct – 16th Nov: Black Swan Arts Open 2019, Frome
10th Aug – 27th Sept: North Devon Arts at Joy Street, Barnstaple (with Richard Meyer)
6th July – 10th Aug: Westward Ho! and Bideford Arts Society 97th Annual Exhibition
30th June: Clay: A Festival of Ceramics, Barnstaple. Devon Pop Ups
1st/2nd June: Coombe Trenchard English Garden Garden Festival
27th April – 8th May: Devon Artists Network, Harbour House Spring Exhibition, Kingsbridge
2nd April – 1st May: North Devon Arts at White Moose, Barnstaple
7th June – 10 June: Contemporary Craft Fair, Bovey Tracey, with Westcountry Potters
1st July: Clay: A Festival of Ceramics, Barnstaple. Devon Pop Ups
11th Aug – 15th Sept: Westward Ho! and Bideford Arts Society, Bideford. 96th Open Exhibition
1st Sept – 7th Oct: RHS Rosemoor Learning Centre (with Richard Meyer)
14th Sept – 30th Sept: Art Trek, North Devon Open Studios
29th Sept – 14th Oct: Westcountry Potters Exhibition, RHS Rosemoor
22nd Jan – 25th Feb: North Devon Arts, Broomhill Art Hotel, Muddiford
27th May – 1st July: Westward Ho! and Bideford Art Society, 95th Annual Open Exhibition
25th June: Clay, A Festival of Ceramics, Bideford. Devon Pop Ups
15th Sept – 1 Oct: Art Trek, North Devon Open Studios
3rd Nov – 7th Jan 2018: Kunsthuis Contemporary Art Gallery, North Yorkshire; Shades of Clay
18th Nov – 18th Feb 2018: RHS Rosemoor Winter Sculpture Exhibition
22nd Oct – 12 Nov: Harbour House Open Exhibition, Yellow
9th Sept – 1st Oct: Plough Arts Centre, with Richard Meyer, Unquiet Life
9th Sept – 9th Oct: Artists Showcase, Jill Rousseau Gallery, Bideford
10th Sept – 25th Sept: Art Trek, North Devon Open Studios
I completed a degree in Fine Art (Sculpture) in 1967 and during the last year was selected to exhibit in the Young Contemporaries Exhibition at the Tate Gallery. I exhibited in and around London for twelve years, including at South Hill Park, Bracknell where I built a large play sculpture, while teaching at Holland Park Comprehensive School, the Cockpit Arts Workshop in Marylebone and the National Portrait Gallery.
In 1980, I took up a lectureship in Museum Studies at Leicester University. I established a ceramic sculpture studio in the Department of Adult Education and taught there for a while, but my main effort went into building Museum Studies as a discipline, eventually becoming Head of Department, Professor (Hooper-Greenhill) and founding Director of the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG). My books include Museums and the Shaping of Knowledge, Museum and Education: Purpose, Pedagogy, Performance, The Educational Role of the Museum (ed), Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture, and Cultural Diversity: Developing Museum Audiences in Britain. I enjoyed this work a lot, but I didn’t get much time to develop my art practice!
I moved to Devon in 2006 while continuing to work for the University for the next two years. During this time the Department of Museum Studies at Leicester was judged by the QAA Research Assessment Exercise to be the best performing department of all departments in all subjects in the whole of the UK!!!! Amazing and wonderful, and I am thrilled that now very many of my Museum Studies colleagues are Professors themselves.
Since then, I have been loving the quiet experience of working in my studio by the sea as I reconstruct my identity as an artist. I have gradually and slowly worked out, through the making, what it is I want to do. It hasn’t been fast, but I have had a few successes along the way: I was awarded Second Prize in the South West Academy for Fine and Applied Art (SWAc) Open Exhibition 2013, Exeter, for one of my small female porcelain figures (Ice Age Matron 2). I exhibited at Gloss Gallery in Exeter until it closed in early 2015, was elected as an exhibiting member of the Westward Ho! and Bideford Art Society in 2017, and have had work at exhibited at Portland Gallery in Ilfracombe, West Down Sculpture Gardens, Bradworthy, and Jill Rousseau Gallery, Bideford, where I was one of her first Artist Showcase artists. I was Chair of Appledore Arts from 2011-2013 and am currently Chair of North Devon Arts.