‘Trace’ is the new exhibition showcasing at Corridor Gallery in Brighton. The exhibition runs during August and has three different aspects all relating around natural patterns, either physical or psychological. The artist, Emma Clear tells us more about her work.
1) Can you tell us about your work, your inspiration?
With “Trace” I wanted to explore questions around behavioural pattern, linking the lacework of neural pathways in my brain to patterns of thought and patterns in my history. Looking at how I see myself, how I behave and where that comes from. ‘Pattern’ is a big word when it comes to my artwork. It links all the elements of the work together. In the physical elements of the pieces I wanted to convey this through the delicate patterns created by the white body casts, the wire lines and the techniques of crochet which uses one line of thread, knotted over and over to create a design pattern which has a historical and feminine value to it. Line and shadow are important elements of the exhibition, referencing positive and negative behavioural patterns and the repetitive quality of thought. The linear way a drawing is formed compliments linear ways of thought and how lineage influences who I am.
2) Parts of your work are influenced by your grandmother and culture, can you tell us about that?
There is a long history of lace and crochet in female history but not only that, it has a long industrial history in my home town of Limerick in southwest Ireland. Limerick was famous for lacework along with the silver industry, which both died in the early 1900’s left the city quiet poor and the city has not completely recovered even now. It is not necessarily that my grandmother influenced the work directly. I have never met her. She died before I was born. But in the attic in my parent’s house in Ireland, in drawers and dressers, are the remnants of my grandmother’s creativity. This is a house that my grandfather build, where my dad and his siblings were born and there is history in there, in the cupboards. The “Cailleach” crochet work in particular is about tracing (to use the title) the history of the women in my family. My grandmothers and their grandmothers have influenced who I am as a woman in my creativity, my genes and in my patterns of behaviour which has come down through my blood-line.
3) What materials do you use and how do you make the body casts?
There are three elements to the show and each element uses different techniques. Starting with the first element, “Maighdean”, the white body casts, the process is not all that labour intensive. It requires making moulds of my body with plaster-of-paris and then using threads, wool and string dipped in a strong glue and feeding it into the moulds, allowing it to dry before taking the casts out of the mould and painting them white. They are very light and still have a little flexibility but the long pieces of string are quite affective in creating the delicacy and shadows I want with the work. The second element of the show is the wire armature “Mather”. Originally these were made to create a frame work for the thread work in an attempt to construct fully 3D thread pieces, but having made a couple of them and playing with the shadows they cast I realised that there was so much room to explore line and shadow in a very interesting way to me. The wirer work is incredibly labour intensive. It begins with a photograph and working out the angles and focuses of each pose. I construct from the head down attempting to create a linear structure, working out proportions and wire tensions as I go. Each of the pieces are life size and built to convey the seen elements of the poses from the photographs. Long and laborious, but really fun! It’s like life drawing in 3D. When my friend Henry first showed me how to use wire in this way I felt it was exactly what I was looking for to bring drawing down a different path. The Third element of the exhibition in Corridor Gallery is the crochet pieces “Cailleach 1 & 2”. The crochet pieces were made by my grandmother more than likely in the 1030’s. I deconstructed sections of her work and reconstructed free-form crochet in those areas. I love crocheting and during times when I have felt less creative with my artwork I have often used crochet as a way of continuing to create even when I feel uninspired.
4) Did you study sculpture?
I did study Sculpture, in Ireland, way back in 2000 in Limerick School of Art and Design. I completed three years of a 4-year course there but I felt that I was not at a maturity level to finish out such a creatively intensive course at that time. I decided to take 4 years out and I then applied to the Fine Art department at Falmouth University in 2007 to finish my BA. These two years, I believe, were invaluable to my creative practise. Actually this is where the artwork I am making now began its journey. Falmouth gave me the time to really explore materials and what I wanted to say with my work. I have always found that approaching my creative practise has started with a question. The work that follows explores the question in an attempt to resolve and communicate to others a message that I find interesting. In my case this question revolved around thought patterns and how we might identify them as part of us. When it has come to the physicality of making work I would say that it is largely self-taught. I have a deep interest in exploring materials and finding out ways of utilising materials to convey the message. Mostly though my work has stemmed from drawing the human figure. Years of learning and practising drawing figuratively and teaching life drawing classes has hugely informed my work. Having learned the techniques of life drawing approaches, I spent time exploring deconstructing and picking apart my drawing style, using different materials to draw the body in varying ways and more recently using wire to draw figuratively in 3-D. A combination of being taught techniques and exploring and developing drawing has brought about this work and I strongly believe it will continue to influence the work I will make in the future.