Hand held sculpture

I am currently working on a body of sculptural work in response to the formal advances and development of my 3 dimensional work for the exhibition Patience at The Model which ended in January 2021.

I am developing the work from the exhibition Patience into a new collection of works that can tour to care and health settings around Ireland. The work would be specifically designed to be tactile and all the objects would be designed to be handled by the audience. This has entailed a new approach to making the objects themselves – integrating old and new technology to create works which are strong enough to transport without losing their characteristic haptic qualities. This means adapting old ways of working (plaster modelling for example) so that it can be integrated with and mediated by 3d scanning and printing.

My recent work in Artist residencies in community settings has focused on activities where people work together and help each other. During my hospital residency I observed porters, nurses, visitors, volunteers, and the movements they make which are universal in nature, reaching out, lifting, holding, supporting. I want to explore how these movements or gestures – made by the hand and the body – can form the visual vocabulary for the new body of work.

So, just as the sculpture’s material properties are going to be adapted to make them more versatile and less tied to the mechanisms of gallery display, I also want to explore ways of creating imagery which has a very direct and emotional connection to the viewer.

 The sculptures will take an historical form – the figurative sculpture – and seek to re-purpose it in a contemporary way. They will be composites of fleeting observations rather than specific people. The works draw inspiration from the remarkable sequence of paintings and drawings made by Barbara Hepworth in the 1940s, which celebrated the professionalism and teamwork of health workers and captured their sense of shared purpose and compassion. I am striving to make work that evokes the same sense of social solidarity and optimism.

It is important that the works embody a number of key features. I want to create a profoundly humane body of work which shows compassion and elicits empathy. But not as illustration; the works should have a formal rigour and a strong relationship to materials from which they are made.

My goal is for the work to move beyond reportage or photographic representation to function at a different and more emotionally charged level.

 I hope the opportunity to make works for new settings outside of conventional art world settings, would enable me to contribute to the conversation about arts and health and create new narratives around care and mutual support as we move into a new post pandemic phase.