Emma Woffenden continues to explore the figure and the fragmented body in her latest sculpture series, ‘Falling Hard’.
Using a variety of mixed materials including glass, jesmonite, polystyrene, clay and metal, Woffenden creates a discourse around the interconnectivity of the body as a physical and psychological site and the impact of what the body – whole or fragmentary – expresses. The influences of social structures and the dynamics of power relations on the individual imbue her sculpture with a palpable sense of internal conflict.
Interpretation of contradictions and opposites is a pervasive theme in this new series of work; how internal emotional experience is expressed through theexternal action of the figure, the aesthetics of symmetry and asymmetry, the erotic and fetishistic power of religious sculpture, culminating in the unsettling yet exquisite appearance of her sculptures. The dualities Woffenden confronts in the ‘Baby Hammer’ hybrid object - corporeal and material, playful and brutal, fragile and resilient - hint at violence both real and symbolic.
Woffenden’s uncanny forms trespass upon the viewer’s imagination, casting an oblique light on the human condition.
Emma Woffenden (b. 1962) studied at West Surrey College of Art & Design (1981-1984) and the Royal College of Art (1991-1993). She employs a full range of complex glass and mixed media techniques to make works that explore the power of myth and archetypes, and the human condition. Widely recognised as one of Britain’s leading glass artists, her work is included in a number of international public collections, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Wellcome Trust and the Crafts Council, London; Ernsting Glass Museum; Broadfield House Glass Museum, West Midlands. Her award winning designs for Transglass can be found in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She was appointed North Lands Creative Glass Artistic Director in October 2013. She lives and works in London and France.
Sara Radstone describes her work as ‘a lifetime obsession with things that are overlooked or discarded’. Thoughts of archived objects and the traces or fragments of long redundant artefacts all haunt her work; they represent, as she puts it, the ‘frozen remains of what might have been.’
Her most recent sculptures on the theme of distant and fragile memory make reference to both past works and more universal themes. Some aspects of her investigation include the re-envisioning of her personal visual language. She speaks of ‘Re-visiting a sense of volume and seeing it differently’, to overturn the original idea to the degree of ‘going to the absolute opposite’. Thus formerly enclosed shapes are now ripped open, while a delicate, skeletal wall-mounted piece, composed of frail fragments, makes poignant reference to an earlier sculpture, sadly lost alongside numerous other contemporary British artworks in the MoMart warehouse fire of 2004.
Traces of thoughts and the notion of ideas gradually taking shape and accumulating over time are also represented in a series of folder or book-like forms. These thin and precarious objects appear dry and brittle, torn, scratched and punctured, while bearing the sheen of use. Radstone found herself returning to work on the books almost as a daily ritual; as such they became the focus of her interest in ‘building up a sort of diary of marks’, serving as a record of ‘the struggle to express things on their pages’.
Sara Radstone (b.1955) studied at Herefordshire College of Art (1975-76) and Camberwell School of Art & Design, London (1976-79). She has exhibitedinternationally and her work can be found in numerous public collections including the Los Angeles County Museum, USA; Shigaraki Cultural Park, Japan; and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Kerry Jameson’s new sculptures have an emotional charge that is presented through a mix of narrative set pieces, tableaux and individual figures. Subjects include historical events and the exploits of folkloric and storybook characters. She derives inspiration from an equally eclectic range of sources, which include portrait paintings, the figures of British myth such as the Burryman and Wicker Man, the work of animator Ray Harryhausen, a fascination with the polychrome religious sculptures of 17th century Spain and the toy collections of the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood. She explains: ‘A work starts with a thought or feeling, an undigested experience that needs to be worked through.’
She says: ‘I want to capture life in my work, a sense of movement, the feeling of something living… a constant state of transition.’ This ambition is experienced inthe faintly disquieting feeling that one of her figures might just spring into action. It is also apparent in the attention she gives to keeping the material qualities of a piece ‘alive’. Dissatisfied with the seeming permanence of fired clay, she adds layers and detail through the use of other materials to create nuanced effects. In addition to the ceramic base, components of a figure can be hessian, canvas, wool, fur, wood, paint, seeds, stones and sometimes hyper-real glass eyes.
Each of the works is either an imaginative exploration of a possibility or reflects on some human idiosyncrasy. In this world part-animal/part-human characters abound. Scenes from the past are also played out, as in her battle sequence based on Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg - representing a famous military blunder of the American Civil War - thereby reflecting on how misplaced human confidence can override logic and reason. With reference to both her subject matter and approach, Jameson admits to an interest in ‘things that aren’t quite right’ and to ‘things that happen on the boundaries’, rather than on firm, fully rational ground. The predominant aesthetic is that of the uncanny – where objects or ideas are recognised as familiar and at the same time experienced as deeply strange. Words by Tessa Peters
Gallery hours: Tuesday to Friday, 11:00 - 18:00 and Saturday, 11:00 - 16:00. The nearest tube stations are Barbican, Farringdon or Old Street.