“I cannot plan or design and then execute a sculpture; I have an initial gut feeling. A ‘just suppose..’ idea.
Sandra Crisp LG: “Wood, clay, stone and paper are amongst the variety of different materials you return to within your sculpture pieces. Ceramic works such as ‘Lledr’ employ the use of vivid colour and also threading which adds a real sense of flux to the work – that it might at any moment unravel or transform into a new structure. Recent photos posted on social media show you busy bronze casting in the foundry at Morley College. Whilst your proposal, Birika (paper and wood painted) for the upcoming London Group exhibition ‘Coming up for Air’ at the Waterloo Festival in St John’s Churchyard this Summer, involves an intriguing and integral use of tree branches as support for this work.”
Alexandra Harley: “I cannot plan or design and then execute a sculpture; I have an initial gut feeling. A ‘just suppose..’ idea. Having the material right in front of me is essential. I need to feel, explore, and consider the potential of the material and I need to physically manipulate and test the possibilities for the ideas I want to realise. Whatever material the final sculpture is made from, the initial ideas and sketches are implemented in, rather than on, paper. That ‘just suppose..’ is explored in a thick-ish paper, something with a bit of its own strength but not so tough that I cannot work it. I do not want a fight on my hands.
“I savour the prospect of beginning a new piece of work and I relish the actual start. I love the starts. I make great starts, the best starts, Turner prize winning starts……. finishing however, is always a tad more problematic. Each new work generates ideas for several more sculptures, so I have more ideas than I shall ever be able to accomplish and making the right call, in terms of completion can be tough. Anthony Caro always thought working on more than one piece at a time was a good idea. This is something I have always done; I like the dialogue between the different works with ideas and suggestions flowing between them. I usually have several sculptures on the go at any one time in various stages of completion. This ranges from a piece needing the final coat of wax right through to the pile of wood in the corner, winking at me ‘go on, you know you want to!’
“Paper is especially useful to test out ideas and I use it throughout the making of each sculpture. I use a lot of paper and a lot of different types of paper. Paper is not precious, much of it comes from the recycling bin, and I am able to experiment. I tend to work with stiffer papers where possible, (including heavy Bockingford which has been discarded). The sculptor Richard Serra famously said, “Drawing is a verb” and in 1967/8 produced ‘Verblist’, a written list of what he called “actions to relate to oneself, material, place, and process.” and I find myself working my way through this verb list when I am working with paper; I don’t fret about bending, twisting, ripping, cutting….. I do not want to feel careful or timid, I want to push the material and the ideas which can often result in its destruction with interesting and useful outcomes. I wasn’t just looking for the physical placement of a piece, I might also consider the connections, how to create individual forms within a sculpture and how to create a relationship between parts across the sculpture. More recently I have tested out textures and colours.
Work in progress – Paper & paint
“Originally, I used paper as a throwaway material where I tried out ideas, often making really simple and fast sketches which would go literally go straight into the bin as soon as it was made, the making and thinking was more important than the result. I would have a 3D sketch that I could see and evaluate the potential of the ideas very quickly. Those early paper pieces that I did keep, are raw, the working is clearly visible and there is no finesse or refinement. As the way of working with paper has developed, using different types of paper and pulp, the colours also changed. Depending on the colour of the paper going into the liquidiser, (don’t use the same liquidiser for food, the paper taints the flavour, and it is bleugh!) this affects the sculpture when it is applied. This results in multi coloured work especially when I have working marks painted on. Very importantly for me, I need to paint the whole sculpture in one colour to play down the identity of the different papers which are really obvious. This unifies the piece and minimises the impact of the individual components.
Medium: Paper & Paint
“Over the years the paper has become a highly significant aspect of my practise, dipped into wax, I have also begun using paper sculptures as the basis for casting into bronze. However it took many years before I even thought to show anyone or consider them worthy of any attention, and even longer before I worked some of them up into sculptures in their own right.”
Title: Work in Progress Paper and Paint
‘Coming up for Air’, The London Group and Friends exhibition, St John’s Church Garden, Waterloo SE1 8TY 9th June 2021 – 27th June 2021
‘In the Dark III: Being There’ The London Group exhibition The Crypt at St John’s, Sat 19 June – Sun 27 Jun 2021
‘In Plain Sight’ The London Group exhibition, Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Elmfield House, Dowell Street, Devon EX14 1LX, 14 August – 2 October 2021.
Work in progress for Waterloo Festival 2021