These two short films referencing binary oppositions, embedded in the processes of making Igbo Mbari Houses, are seen as ‘Night’ and ‘Day’. The room, which set the scene for both films, made me feel quite uneasy by the huge scale and bulk of the chairs which were numerous, and all faced inwards surrounding the visitor entering the room.
'Night', a time of archetypal fear all shot in this large room, includes sound pieces of animals used in sacrifice, police blocks, and triggers off resonances of ancestors who might occupy the huge upholstered chairs and confront the viewer - and yet here the camera confronts the chairs. This seemed like an imaginary space of spirits, ghosts and ghouls.
The 'Day' pan of the room, seemed more benevolent and less daunting, with sunlight coming through the windows, bird song and outside the algae saturated pool, calm and tranquil, with the occasional plop from whiskered carp.
'Diseased Wall Series I, II, III, IV' 2005
A series of four digital images taken from my own kitchen, produced as Lambda prints mounted on Dibond (150 x 120 cm). The surface of the walls are growing and alive and yet are simultaneously in the process of decay, representing both death and regeneration. Their aesthetic value lies in their colour and texture, as well as their meaning.
Exhibited at Phoenix Gallery, Brighton (2005) - Diseased Wall I. Diseased Wall IV was exhibited in poster format for 'Art Below' in the London Underground (Charing Cross 2006).
'Gap Piece' 2001
This piece was the physical construction of an invisible space between the brick wall of my studio and the clay and stick relief (Panel V) in front of it. This solid sculptural piece was physical in its material presence, but was representing a metaphysical space – in keeping with the concepts and processes of the Giriama Vigango of Kenya studied in 1999, which were believed to exist in both the physical and metaphysical worlds simultaneously.
Again one sculptural work was, in this case, recycled, by addition, into another by casting against it, and then removing it, leaving a trace of the Panel that was there.
'It's all about the Monkey' 2006
Walcot Chapel, Walcot Street, Bath.
This installation uses text, sound and smell to create contrasting elements in the context of a Christian chapel, which is familiar to Western culture.
The pungent smell of incense and low light evokes the atmosphere of a religious environment, which is enhanced by blocking up the windows with rock texture, mimicking the uneven surfaces of the original chapel walls.
The text on the floor visually picks up on the front of gravestones and yet the content has been appropriated from graffiti – ‘the missionary position’, ‘i like mothers in shorts’, ‘Eat my shorts!’ and ‘its all about the monkey’. This often has sexually implicit meanings, and here subverts the context, with a strong emphasis on 'the missionary position', which reflects the misinterpretation and control of the church in cultures such as Africa.
As well as a place where people can gather in life, the chapel has also been used as a mortuary, and so the juxtaposition of life and death are both present and absent, combining the informal with the formal too.
'The Cabinet of Curiosities' 2007
This is an on-going project, started as a visual diary, but it developed into a collection of curiosities, which the viewer may or may not feel some association with, taken from daily experiences either visual or mental, the nature of art practice/theory, or as some formal development from one piece to another.
It was a lighter hearted approach to scale and thought processes, having worked on larger pieces of work for long, extended periods of time. It is throwing up new themes, recurrent themes and creating ideas and forms that l will explore in more depth later.
'Floor Pieces' 2002-04
The three ‘Floor Pieces’ were exploring the idea of above and below, but show a definite progression of deterioration, in the same vein as the concepts for the ‘Wall Pieces’, but on a smaller scale.
Metaphor and reversal are present in the positive and negative (concave and convex) casting of the anaglypta wallpaper, and the presence of holes contrasted with solid matter both from a formal perspective, but also conceptually through the semiotic use of the materials and processes used, forming a transformation and interpretation of the two cultures. The symbolism is revealed to a viewing audience familiar with one set of symbols and associations, whereas in another context, or country, these may be concealed, and therefore not understood. Hence the ‘Wall Pieces’ were constructed with this in mind and form an amalgamation or, hybrid transformation, of cross-cultural elements by the way the materials and techniques were used.
As a development from the full scale sculptural ‘Wall Pieces’ and ‘Floor Pieces’, large-scale photographic images (Lambda digital prints mounted on dibond) were taken from them and depict another form of fragmentation and interpretation of vulnerability through the change of visual scale and surface, creating a feeling of unreality and distortion of the familiar. They conjure up associations of the domestic, which stereotypically provides a sense of security, comfort and familiarity, and yet, the work through this transformation of medium subverts it, with the cracking of the surface, the tearing and layering of the wallpaper, and the emerging earth forms beneath.
Exhibited at Open Sculpture, Royal West of England Academy, Bristol (2003), Spike Island Project Space, Bristol (2004), ‘Concealed/Revealed’ at Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London (2005), Holman, Fenwick and Willan, London (2007).
Funded and supported by AHRB, British Institute in Eastern Africa, CFCU Kenya, NMK.
'Panel Series I-V' 2000
The Panel Series evolved from deconstructing ‘Shelter’ a large architectural piece made from a clay, straw and sand mixture, which was squashed into a Hazel stick lattice consisting of three walls and a roof. Sections of this were cut away and reused by hanging them on the studio wall, hence ‘Shelter’ became regenerated into a new or recycled series of work. The panels were intended to amalgamate the two cultures of Kenya and UK by introducing Western materials such as wallpapers, mod roc and latex and paints to the surface. Binary oppositions of solid/void, interior/exterior, past/present, rural/urban, organic/industrial, natural/synthetic are present here.
Exhibited at Spike Island Open, Bristol (2000), and reconstructed for ‘Crossing Boundaries’ exhibition at National Museum and Art Gallery of Kenya, Nairobi (2001)
Funded and supported by AHRB, British Institute in Eastern Africa, CFCU Kenya, NMK.
'Presence/Absence II' 2009
This is the second construction of an installation called 'Presence/Absence' specifically commissioned for the Phoenix Gallery, Brighton, the intentions remain the same in the work, but here adapted to this gallery space (Newlyn Art Gallery) and context of the poem by T.S. Eliot, 'The Waste Land'.
'What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,
And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,
And the dry stone no sound of water. Only
There is shadow under this red rock,
(Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.'
I feel an affinity with these sentiments, in keeping with the existential idea of human existence which l have hinted at in the work through the negative traces or impressions in the leaden clay artifacts in the floor cavities. The red earth, in contrast, is here fertile made fecund within the gallery space as it sprouts green life. These elements contribute to a paradoxical tension between the ephemeral and the physical, hope and fear, offering a sense of uncertainty and unease.
Supported by Newlyn Gallery and University of Falmouth, Cornwall
Thanks: Ruth Gooding (Curator), Harry Lobnitz and David Maslen
'Consumption 24/7' 2006
South Central Shopping Centre, Unit 20, The Mall, Southgate Street, Bath
This multi-media installation draws a parallel with Materialism and Capitalism in the context of the shopping centre. The work incorporates leeches feeding as an analogy for increased competition and greed in society and business in Western cultures. The leeches, used as a metaphor, are shown feeding over a constant 24 hour video stream here representing the relationship between the 'proletariat' and the 'bourgeoisie'.
The screen is viewed through peep-holes in the plate-glass window of the shop, and the sound filled the walkways of the shopping centre.
Phoenix Gallery, Brighton, Sussex.
The essential idea in this installation was of transience and precariousness.
The gallery floor equates with the horizontal, whereas the walls denote the vertical in oppositions of death and life respectively. The red earth not only contrasts exterior with interior, but implies displaced location, having resonances with the Kenyan landscape. The earth is at the same time fertile and yet, seen in cavities below ground level, linked with burial. While the floor above provides a false sense of stability, exaggerated by the maze-like configuration overall. This feeling of vulnerability and fragility forms a central role. The objects found in these cavities display oppositions in haptic Presence/Absence 2005, material permanence and impermanence, amongst which ambiguity is an essential ingredient for the viewer to form their own metaphoric associations.
These three loops explore the notions of the unexpected and magic, which was always in the back of peoples’ minds in Nigeria. In one my glasses case turns mysteriously, the girl sleeping could be alive or dead or merely dreaming, the open window and shadows create a feeling of unease. This again reflected my experiences of being in Nigeria for the first time.
'Wall Series' 2002-04
The 'Wall Pieces', represented as a 'fragment', were the result of an investigation into the Giriama Commemorative Grave Posts of Kenya, which were said, by spiritual elders, to be half buried beneath the ground, in the spiritual world, and half visible above the ground, in the physical world. The earth, like the ‘Walls’, forms a membrane or division of space, substituting the horizontal for the vertical. The holes represent the penetration of the earth by the posts and the spiritual element, whereas the solid materials symbolise the physical and visible. Other metaphorical contrasts within the work emphasizing these binaries, in form or concept, are positive/negative, solid/void, organic/geometric, handmade/industrial, horizontal/vertical, dark/light, as mentioned above.
'Wall Installation' 2007-08
Spike Island Studio, Sculpture Shed, Bristol
This wall installation spans my studio wall (25’ long x 10’ high) and is specific to the building and the materials used for construction. I have cast breeze-blocks out of plaster to create a façade which represents Western culture, contingent with ‘perfection’, symmetry and industrially produced components. Contrasted with this, is an earth substrate revealed through worn away points over the surface. This signifies African vernacular architecture, but also alludes to a more mysterious and fertile place. Vulnerability and fragility are also central themes to this work, reflecting the unpredictability of mortality.
The use of wooden spacers and polystyrene wedges also hint at African construction and repair processes, but it is also a characteristic of much of my work, revealing rather than hiding, aspects of the making accentuating a process-based approach to sculptural form.
'Wall Intervention' 2008
Howard Gardens Gallery, UWIC, Cardiff
This wall intervention spans the gallery wall (25’ long x 10’ high x 20” depth) and has been made to blend into the building, using the same materials. This is a façade or fake surface made out of western building materials – battening, plasterboard, white paint, and skirting board – contingent with ‘perfection’, symmetry and industrially produced components. This conceals an earth substrate, which is revealed through random gaps at intervals across its surface. The red earth alludes to African construction, but also symbolises a more mysterious, organic and fertile place.
Vulnerability and fragility are also central themes in this work, reflecting the unpredictable nature of mortality.