I've written a little piece for the Ian Potter website about how my experiences in Paris have been shaping my current body of work. You can read it below, or on the Ian Potter Cultural Trust blog.
In mid-2015 I was awarded an Ian Potter Cultural Trust Grant, which enabled me to undertake the National Art School residency in Paris at the Cité Internationale des Arts.
My original plans for the residency centered on researching the Catacombs in Paris. What struck me upon my first visit to these graves was the multitude and anonymity of the dead. Piles of bones filled endless tunnels beneath the city, provoking in me a strong visceral response of claustrophobia. The Cultural Trust grant also allowed me to make a trip to visit the Roman Catacombs. Unlike their Parisian counterparts, the human remains of these catacombs had all been removed, leaving only dug out hollows in the walls. I was interested in the way these catacombs held only the imprint of the body, and after my visit to Rome I became more interested in the residue individual human lives leave upon the world.
I also became fascinated by the Marche aux Puces, or Flea Markets of Paris. These markets housed remarkable quantities of detritus from anonymous lives. I spent most weekends rummaging through boxes of photographs, letters, documents and fabric. The flea markets echoed my experiences of the catacombs, where fragments of human lives were revealed in overwhelming quantities. I was also struck by the anonymous yet intimate nature of many of the items.
I found the lace and fabric I sourced at the markets particularly interesting as they alluded to female labour, work that has historically been relegated to ‘craft’ status. This interest led to my visiting the Library of Decorative Arts in Paris and the Calais Lace Museum. In both these venues I was struck by the meticulous and detailed nature of handmade lace, the beautiful outcomes of time-consuming labour by female artisans who were often not credited for their work.
The residency was a wonderfully invigorating experience to have as an emerging artist. Paris itself is a vibrant and energetic international city, filled to the brim with museums, public art, commercial galleries and artist run spaces. The time to invest in my own artistic practice away from the distractions of work and daily life was an incredible privilege. The city provided me with inspiration to develop a new body of work and push my practice in unfamiliar directions. I was able to conclude my residency with an Open Studio exhibition, Ephemere, where I exhibited collages, embroideries and found objects. Moreover, time spent networking with other artists during open studios and artist critique sessions resulted in a level of insight into my own practice that is still driving my work forward, months later.
My upcoming solo exhibition, Diaspora, has been made possible by my residency in Paris which I was only able to undertake with the assistance of Ian Potter Cultural Trust grant. My new work incorporates lace patterns from the Library of Decorative Arts with many of the textiles and photos I collected from the flea markets around Paris. Numerous volunteers have collaborated with me in creating the works, echoing the processes of many of the female artisans who originally worked from these patterns. The resulting pieces are simultaneously intimate and anonymous, a pastiche of intertwined lives and stories which traverse geographic and historical boundaries.