Bethie Helliwell Portfolio

Lecture by Philippa Lawrence: Material, Object, Site

This was by far the best lecture so far. She was enthusiastic, modest and impressive. Her work blew me away and I understand how this sounds but honestly if was to, in the future, have the experiences and drive that Pip has had I’d be very happy. Her body of work is both widely experimental and is also linked with underline meaning and idea source.

For a while now, while I have been on this course, my foundation and at school the precedent has always been that if you have an idea for a piece you have to draw it out first and then make it, this has never really worked for me. I like to play with the materials I shall be working with and see how they react under different processes and then experiment until I find the look I have envisioned. For me sketching comes within this process and not before so when Philippa said that she makes things to understand the natural world and by making things instead of drawing them she can understand her concept and final outcome more easily.

‘Beauty is important’- Philippa Lawrence

Philippa explained that contempory fine art often looks down on beauty as an unoriginal idea. I agree and think that to be classed as ‘contempory’ something can’t have been done before. However in Philippa’s work beauty is important, be it site or materials. If something is aesthetically pleasing to the artist and viewer then both can admire the beauty. Philippa says she makes to make sense of the natural world, well the natural world is beautiful therefore her work reflects this idea very well, often adding to the natural world itself.

One thing I loved hearing was that she tries to make all her work herself. However if she can’t get the finish as elegant, professional or perfect enough she will get it commissioned but only once she has tried the skills needed to make the piece. I completely understand this as you can’t be good at everything but an artist can have ideas. What I do not like is when an ‘artist’ comes up with an idea which they themselves could never and would never try to physically make. I worked alongside Plymouth Arts Centre for over 2 years before I came to University in Cardiff and while I was there we had many artists come in to either do solo or collaborative shows who would get the exhibition installers to make the pieces. In that case I believe the exhibition installer making the piece is the artist and the artists name on the plank is the person behind the concept.

A theme that runs throughout her work is that her pieces frequently hold something, there is a definite theme of encapsulating an object, be it a fly a tree or a light bulb. The piece that comes to mind most when discussing encapsulation is her glass balls with seeds inside, the idea behind this Philippa explained was to hold on to that lovely feeling when you blow seeds and they fall to the ground. It’s a very mystical child like idea and the end result is just stunning. Philippa went on a glass blowing course but to become perfect takes 10 years or so, so she got these commissioned after first trying some out herself.

Philippa trained as a Fine Art Printmaker at BA and MA both in Norwich and London. This is interesting because her work isn’t traditionally print based, but she explained that she always thought of print in a broader sense whereby the patterns and rhythms of life make prints as they go along and ideas and thoughts and processed. She is also very interested in genetics and the patterning that happens when passing genetics onto children.

Spike Island is where Philippa is based in her studio when she is not working at UWIC as a senior lecturer. She says her studio is often like a magpies nest. Anything that catches her eye she will pick up and keep until it becomes useful. This is shown in her ‘Another World’ whereby she takes objects that have lots there function and hangs them from wires creating a full sphere of screws, nails, bolts ect. All the things that hold our world together create a new world of their own in this piece.

Lawrence said she knows Cornilla Parker and I can defiantly see aspects of her work in these pieces. The use of wire and materials are similar however their concept is completely different. Philippa likes to hold everything together, where as Cornilla likes to deconstruct and blow up things. With this in mind Philippa said that the piece can be just the documentation, a really good photograph of the final pieces or of the artist working on the process of the work, she understands that not everyone can get to the exhibition and not everyone will drive on the specific roads by her wrapped trees.

Bound- this is probably her most well known for work. Philippa wraps large dead trees in brightly coloured cloth to make it stand out from its surroundings. People viewing them respond well, you can be academic about the thought process but it can reach everyone and when Philippa walks away she doesn’t see it as her work anymore, it belongs to the community around the farm she has used. The different colours are relevant to the site in which the tree is situation. For instance the blue is due to the fact that the tree died because its roots were swamped with water from a nearby estuary.

As well as binding large trees Philippa went on the wrap miniature Bonsai trees, in my own mind I think this is backwards, I would of liked to have practised on a small tree and developed into a larger tree. However after talking to my peers I realised that Philippa’s mind works defiantly to mine, so to her this was a logical step from large to miniature.
Lawrence finds words interesting and playing with them when making word is a regular theme “gilding the lily” is a saying that means to decorate or embellish unnecessarily. Philippa took this and gilded (covered in a fine layer of gold) really lilies. She hopes to continue this work and gild some flowers in a garden of some kind and then leave them there.

“Glow” was Philippa’s first big budget project. She got a month in Sydney and the work at the end of it was gilded light bulbs, this project didn’t take off in the UK as everyone she asked said that the gold would conduct electricity and if touched people would die. However it was finally managed and funded in Australia whereby they were hung from wires and floated with the slopes of the ceiling.

“Nothing is something” is a very small piece of work for Pip. It’s taken from sheepskin parchment cubes which had holes punched into them. In 2006 Philippa cut up the cubes leaving only the punched holes with minimal surround and attached them to wire. “Nothing is something” because you can’t have a hole without what is around it. Although this work was small compared to the larger pieces in her solo show it drew people in and they really enjoyed looking at it.

The way in which Philippa Lawrence speaks is with such self driven excitement and importance that I don’t think anyone would not want to listen to her stories and experiences. She says and I quote “my work is to be discovered” and I think by this is meant that if her work was put in front of you, you wouldn’t have the same emotional connection, as for if you had come across a bright tree wrapped tree on an afternoon walk. Likewise with me Philippa says she needs to have 2 or 3 projects going on at a time not just 1 as it is more creative to stop doing work if you’re not feeling inspired by that one particular thing.

This lecture was both inspiring for my current work and also for my long term life choices, Thankyou Philippa.

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This entry was published on November 3, 2010 at 7:10 pm and is filed under BA(hons) Textile Art 1st Year, Cardiff. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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