The artwork to the left, risk 2011, and a later version Celebration 2015 are the central focus of this exposition. They are made of glass wax cast into the form of 8-feet-tall drinking glasses (shown here filled with water but in the later version filled with champagne). risk 2011 was exhibited at Rickshaw House Gallery in London and Celebration 2015 was exhibited at Unit 24 Gallery in London. This exposition is split into six short sections that each reflect on different experiences leading to the development of these artworks.
'from damage to risk' questions why my aesthetic preferences changed when I returned to my studio after a year recovering from injury. Before injury I was creating mesh sculptures made from coke cans. These were influenced by my experiences of working in Reading Prison and focused on boundaries and the restriction of movement. When I returned to my studio after breaking several bones I could only relate to my previous sculpture by breaking it. Developing these new aesthetic preferences further I started to work in bone china as I was attracted by its propensity to shatter. This started a process of questioning the role of risk in my artwork. The work in bone china proceeds the development of risk which is then described in the final section.
'biking and breaking' reflects on my experiences of injury contrasted with my experiences of risk taking in downhill mountain biking (this is how I injured myself!). I question what motivates certain people to choose to take risks that others would consider foolhardy. I also explore how our judgement of risk changes in different circumstances. Lastly I look at what is gained from risk-taking and compare this to experiencing the sublime.
‘risk and restriction’ explores my experience of being in plaster. In addition to the supportive function of the plaster I contemplate a darker side of restricting movement and weakening what it supposedly seeks to support. I use Sylvia Plath’s poem ‘In Plaster’ and Norbert Elias’s concepts of the civilising process to explore being in plaster as a metaphor for relationships between the self and society. I reflect on Plath’s skiing escapade (in which she broke her leg!) and raise questions over whether there are different motivations for men and women in risk-taking.
‘breaking the body’ describes the alienation I felt towards my broken arm, which is perceived as dead although ambiguously still attached to my body. Using Julia Kristeva’s concept of abjection I propose this experience disturbs order and moves us to deal with uncertainty. I compare facing uncertainty when it is imposed on us rather than when we choose to take risks.
'experiencing risk' looks at Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth 2007, where she created a crack running the entire length of the Tate Modern turbine hall floor. I contrast this with Gordon Matta Clarke's Splitting 1974 in which he sawed a house in two. I contemplate the space created by the fracture and the risk this presents to the viewer and to the artwork. I question what is being risked and explore physical, psychological and social risks.
'making and breaking risk' recounts the development of my artwork as, for safety reasons,I change from using bone china to glass wax. Glass wax enables me to build much taller and precarious forms that meet the experience of physical risk I was looking for. This leads to creating risk 2011 and following this Celebration 2015.