My time in Cyprus August 2006 - February 2008
It all seems to be making a lot more sense to me. The urgent need to create being fulfilled at present with the freedom, time and space to make work as and when I want/need to. I no longer have to time the making of work around other things, in fact I time everything else around making work now. It is giving me the chance to really explore creating work and I am constantly finding ways of visualising how I feel.
I am using materials I find around my here in Cyprus which include cactus spikes and leather and I am collecting everything that is dead and no longer considered beautiful.
In an attempt to create something beautifully appalling to reflect the fragility of life, our inevitable fate trying to question the importance of surface image, beauty and youth when all around and we are dying. This control over our image, our bodies, our politicised vessels keeps us from making changes that would make the world right.
And yet all I do is continue making work about it, is that enough? Will this make changes? Aren't I simply posing questions rather than offering answers? Like this blog, questions. I don't have the answer so the work reflects a/my situation and asks of you to change it or to simply think about it.
My body is caught up in the symmetrical battle on these canvases. Please take away that mirror, reflection line, that Golden Section, perfection, I will never be. We are not perfect, nor beautiful, we are here, that's enough. We imperfect everything; taking, eating, spoiling, devouring, consuming, ruining and yet we think we have the right to.
I want to make beautiful images with an ugly undertone, aesthetically pleasing but appalling. The figures featured are alone even in groups, bound to the weight of the perfection quest. I try to ruin the canvases with stains of food colouring with no control over application or result.
I feel less alone in a foreign country, I am liberated like a child lost in translation. I feel close to people I can say only one word to and receive a nod of the head from...'Man dies after confronting youth who threw half eaten chocolate bar into sister's car'...the internet keeps me up to date with events in England. Too many people crammed in to such a small space keeping their heads down, eyes off each other - through fear?
Is it all connected? If we continue putting too much emphasis on the superficial, the surface, are we widening the gap between our inner self and that of others. 'I' is not the surface, it's beneath that, it's in 'here'.We are creating a gulf between me and you... I fear you, you fear me, we don't communicate. I am certain this is the route of many awful things. Many wonderful things too but the awful things surely could be addressed. It's that reminder that's needed - we are all intrinsically the same, one, vessel, being - there are too many things used to separate us.
Repetition, reflection, the inside of the body or where the body has been - this will fuel the next pieces of work - the space inside, the void within rather than the visible surface. Relating to traveling too, traces of the body, where we/ I have been using stuff/ landscape around me to create husk/ positive form/ shell/ cage/ constriction. Traveling/ wondering reminds me I am not permanent, to constantly move, see, smell, experience - to not settle. Photographing these works with me in them but then left as husks...'Knives are being used in crimes every 8 minutes, 175 per day which is double that of 2 years ago'...I am on the outside looking in.
Misselbrook’s year in Cyprus
Reflecting on my year in Cyprus; the environment, plant life, animal life, development, consumption, landscape, my aim for the final show was to create a space that reflected my response to all of these physical attributes of the island. Developing the perfectly symmetrical inkblot into a large-scale sculpture embodying the sensual forms I have observed in this environment appearing from the floor of sand with chocolate pouring from every orifice. I have attempted to comment on the seductive qualities of the island whilst trying to simultaneously appeal to and disgust the viewer.
The skeletal forms protruding from the walls, reminiscent of cacti defence systems, are at first visually attractive and then, upon closer inspection, threatening and aggressive. The juxtaposition of hard plaster against soft chocolate, sculpted mdf bone-like forms against stuffed fleshly latex attempt to provide a visual contradiction for the viewer, again relating to my surroundings.
Upon entering the sand filled installation, the viewer is confronted by a repetitive soundtrack comprising thirty-six verbs relating to the somewhat unnecessary routine of beautification, self-policing and consumption. These words appear as written text on a series of three figurative drawings, which attempt to show a personal struggle during my stay in Cyprus. Family bereavements and feelings of isolation also fueled the production of a blanket-covered figure, solitary and crouched on the floor of the gallery space. I became obsessed with budgeting, not being wasteful (particularly when witnessing such waste and a lack of recycling and spoiling of the environment). I kept every single cash withdrawal and purchase receipt to use to draw on instead of buying a new sketchbook. Struggling between a sense of rigid self-control and a total lack of routine, drawings varied from hard skeletal forms penetrating through lines of stitches into sensual vulvic pencil drawings.
A series of stuffed canvases have played on this struggle between the skeletal and the sensual. With a view to producing small scale, more accessible works (both visually and in dimension) using the fleshly latex sculptural inkblots as an opening to look beyond the surface of the canvas. Drawing the viewer in to the canvas as object rather than painted surface. The works play on visual desire to explore with zip opening, corseted entry and splayed canvas skin and on close inspection visually disturb. To contradict the concave, vulvic canvases, a series of defensive sculpted mdf bonelike profiles protrude through the canvas surface, pushing the viewer away.
Within the simplistic environment of the Lempa studios, my practice has temporarily moved away from the direct body casting of previous works towards a more detached way of sculpting. Still of the body but producing a series of separated components or suggestive imagery to evoke skeletal and sensual structures. The basic natural forms in Cyprus, so simple yet so beautiful, intriguing and often simultaneously disgusting. Soft, sensual openings, entrances and voids alongside prickly, skeletal defensive protrusions, the main inspiration for and effect upon my work whilst in Cyprus. Commenting on the beautiful against the ugly, the rich landscape against the appalling consumption and littering, these polarities in existence around me and my placement within this either proliferating the situation by buying in to it or a complete refusal to consume it.
The vulvic form has embodied the device for consuming, the devouring void with viscous matter spilling from its labia, swallowing its surroundings and being swallowed by its surroundings. The skeletal spikes simultaneously feed and rape the sensual form as well as acting as a defense and protection.
The stuffed latex spikes and plaster and chocolate vulvic form installation are gradually drying out, withering and aging in this environment. Insects are infesting the melted mars bars from the local beach sand, which scurry adding movement to the piece when disturbed by viewers. The decomposition and impermanence of this piece runs parallel to our inevitable transience and results in the need to recreate the artwork for new spaces for future exhibitions. I aim to develop the scale and number of components within the installation with a view to completely immersing the viewer in the work as well as in the sound.
Ruining a perfect world
This all consuming, all devouring nature of human kind. In our attempt to live the perfect life, have the perfect body, the perfect house, possessions - we ruin this perfect world. So is this struggle between the skeletal and the sensual related to this? If I were to follow the disciplined quest for a non-body, a skeletal fragile figure I would be consuming less, taking up less space in this already overcrowded world. But to embrace the sensual me involves consuming; beauty products, food, clothes, magazines, an image requiring consumption I would be adding to the depletion of what is around me.
To live on air - a story I once read about a cult following who believed surviving on air alone was the answer.
Obsessed with what enters my body; mouth, vagina devouring and consuming - denying myself these things to control myself and my environment. My work at present shows vulvic devouring forms - on the floor in sand creating this environment (the sensual self) and on the walls/ceiling protrude the skeletal defenses acting as a control to this consumption and simultaneously a result of the lack of consumption (ie skin stretched over bones, spine protruding through skin).
To be experiencing a far simpler existence at present in Cyprus, a limited budget, very few and only essential possessions, solar panel electricity, walking, bike-riding, I am even more determined to resist the temptations of the consumer world.
Losing the ‘Self’
It's as if everything that has been until now has disappeared and I have truly lost my 'self'. 'Affirmation' was a complete purge of the system, how I felt about the world, where I lived, other people and myself - an honest and very public portrayal of my frustration and struggle, putting my body and face and the disciplined routines I go through on show for all to see.
And now? I am living in a foreign country and, primarily due to media messages getting 'lost in translation' as well as not owning a tv, I feel I am rid temporarily of the importance placed on image. I am still in a Western European country with all its cultural and societal norms and ever growing prescriptions however, I am also surrounded by a majority who still 'live off the land', women head to toe in black even in the August heat and strangers who make eye contact and greet each other with a sense of caring and respect.
I am not naive, I know there is no 'perfect' place without hate, crime, self-centredness but I feel I have stepped back in time in comparison to the UK. No one knows me here and for this I am lost, not mentally but physically and, for now, my work has lost 'me', the body, the explicit aggressive figurative image. Instead I am looking outwards and seeing through to where true beauty lies, those things we all tend to take for granted and get lost beneath the layers of self-importance. I see beauty in the life around me in plants, insects, birds, fruit, vegetables, sand, sea, sky and that view - that waking up and seeing the horizon, then the sunset which offers a true sense of self, of belonging - one which no commodity or material possession could ever fulfill. Everyone should witness this sunset and see it, not just look or watch but really see the beauty that has always been and will out live us. Our sense of self is so overinflated but we are temporary, transient.
Although, I am also witnessing the spoiling, staining of these perfectly beautiful elements; littering, consumption of land, a growing population and booming economy - is this inevitable? Human nature to spread like a virus?
I am in a country which mythically claims to hold the secret to eternal youth and beauty but what now seems to be a more spiritual one - a vibrancy and energy, a feeling on the inside under this surface image. I feel at one with the elements - my body in the sea, on the sand, sweating. No longer in a caged box littered with belongings to call a home. I feel outside my body - this is the feeling I have dreamt of. I have felt trapped inside the boundaries of skin, surface, image and now...
now I feel image-less, experiencing, sensing structures, colours, life and sharing all of this with the most important person in my life.
How long will this last?