Saving our Souls, 2019, is about helping those in trouble, the journeys we make to get to a 'New World', and the the dichotomy of becoming either caught or saved. I was invited to make this piece in response to the sculpture Ghost Boat by John Behan RHA. The piece is exhibited alongside Behan’s work at The Lightbox Museum (UK) in an exhibition curated by Caroline Worthington, director of The Royal Society of Sculptors. The piece utilises layers of incense burned paper to create an ethereal three dimensional drawing. Being reminiscent of a fishing net, I hope the viewer will get caught in the intricate details and multiple surfaces. This short video is a behind-the-scenes look into what goes into making this kind of paper drawing, and further below you can read more of the concept behind this work which is fundamentally about migration, journeys, and the dichotomy of being saved or being caught.
The perilous past of the Irish incorporates a long history of war, famine and migration. I have long been inspired by Behan's harrowing and powerful boat sculptures, depicting how Irish travels across the seas have ended in separation from families, loss of status and identity, or death.
Pan forward to the current migrant crisis and we can draw many comparisons. Sixty million people across the globe are fleeing conflict, poverty and persecution, either within their home countries or by fleeing abroad. Behan's boats are a symbol of this perilous journey. To me the other side of the story is what happens under the water in the hidden currents of reaction: The opposing responses of either capturing and detaining these fleeing shoals of people, or helping them to safety. How do we respond as fellow human beings to these individuals, not as political beliefs or geographical boundaries?
I work with NGOs to tell stories of immigrants in my work, but the works from this series of Net Drawings is a more abstract way of describing the complications of such upheavals, revealing unexpected forms. They become allegorical for the journeys we all make at one time or another, in differing levels of safety, to find a promised New World. I draw by burning the surface of calligraphy paper. My medium is the charcoal brown as the paper changes state. Contrasting the substantial physicality of Behan's Ghost Boat, I have kept the ethereal simplicity of white paper, the burning being the only colour and line needed.
Exhibition Parallel Lines
Sculpture and Drawing showcases selected contemporary artists from the Royal Society of Sculptors who were invited to create drawings in response to sculptures by the great masters from the Ingram Collection of British Art. The pieces will be exhibited side by side in this exhibition at the Lightbox Gallery in Woking, UK. The drawings respond to artworks from the Ingram Collection, which includes sculptures by the great masters such as Dame Barbara Hepworth, Sir Anthony Caro, Lynn Chadwick, Eduardo Paolozzi, John Behan, Michael Ayrton, and Kenneth Armitage, and more.
Find out more about the exhibition here.
Exhibition runs: 22nd June - 25th August 2019