April Seminar Critiques

Contextual Statement, April 2020

Reaching and Retreating in Goo, 2020, Cotton thread, acrylic paint, white craft glue, watercolour paper, reversed stretched canvas, 800 x 860 mm

Reaching and Retreating in Goo, is an exploration into the interplay between my body; through movement and imparted energy, and materials selected as part of an art-making process during the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 Lockdown, March-April 2020. I used a collaborative and emergent approach to art-making in which according to practice-based researchers Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt materials have agency, act as change agents [1]. This approach allows artworks to ‘come into being’ in an ‘organic and dynamic’ way as described by U.S based scientist John H. Holland [2]. The creative process is improvisational where one creation leads to the next. 

My body’s response to being in ‘lockdown’ had been to push at my physical boundaries. While making I had wanted to physically reach up high and stretch out wide. Working within a limited shared space, I adapted to my situation by using runs of cotton thread that are equivalent in length to my arm span (also the same length as my body, head to toe). The collapsible properties of the thread allowed me to stay connected to the actual proportions of my physical self, and in determining each length of thread I was able to engage my body (and the thread) in a vital stretch to my extremities. The movement was grounding for me, and helpful as a means to transition from my responsibilities to work and family, into art-making, all of which required my attention in this ‘lockdown’ bubble. My making allowed what needed to surface for me on an emotional, physical and visceral level, and this manifested in an authentic way in these resulting artworks. The process of working with these materials made me think about: entanglement, retreat, guardianship, adaption, mutation, and emergence. 

  1. Estelle Barrett and Barbara Bolt, Carnal knowledge: Towards a ‘New Materialism’ Through The Arts (London: I.B. Tauris, 2013).
  2. John H Holland, Emergence: From Chaos to Order (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2010).

Close-up detail

In the process