In the lead up to Art Week Exeter (AWE) the AWE group have asked all participating artists to take part in a survey. For the 60 days leading up to the event, sixty artists’ responses will feature on their blog and my contribution started it all a couple of weeks ago. There are seven questions in particular I wanted to expand on here in the lead up to the exhibition I am doing as part of the city wide event in May. Last week I shared the second, the second I expand here ‘Who are your influences?’, below is my response included on AWE’s post.
The audience, what they feedback about the work, in terms of stories they want to share, how they react/affected by seeing the work. In terms of other artists it definitely has to be Louise Bourgeois for her use of textiles and her personal experiences in her work, how touching her pieces are. You do not need to know anything of the artist to be affected by her art, they talk to the viewer of something of themselves. There are many other artist I draw from too for influence: Eva Hesse, Tracey Emin, Mona Hatoum, Doris Salcedo and Rachel Whiteread.
Today’s blog post I shall expand on four of those artists – Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Tracey Emin and Mona Hatoum.
In last week’s post in which I expanded on how memories and experiences play a role in my art making I mention textiles and how the audience impact on how and why I make the work I do. Please check out that post for more information on how the audience informs my work.
Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010)
This one is probably a bit of an obvious influence. If you know her work and of mine you would make the connection that this artist is a huge influence. Bourgeois draws from the feminine, domestic, craft and the autobiographical, all strands I too like a tug at. Touching on memory in last week’s AWE questions post, Bourgeois’s practice has much more of an emotional intensity and is a form of catharsis of dealing with the past. Her childhood informs the narratives of her works and the techniques employed. Much like what I wish to achieve, although the work starts with the autobiographical it become autonomous. As viewers we can only interpret what we see through our own bodies and lenses of our own experiences and who we are.
The act of sewing is emotional repair.
Much of Bourgeois’s influences and themes within her work links back to her childhood, of a time of trauma with her troubled relationships with carers and parents. The artist came from a family of tapestry restorers in France. This act of taking a needle to restore easily explains a huge influence on her later techniques and the desire to use a needle to repair her emotional past. This differs to my own past where the techniques I adopt are not brought to me by a nostalgic or traumatised past, but just ‘stuff’ I taught myself when younger.
The artist was a hoarder and surrounded by a huge collection of kept clothing and cloths she would reconstruct into artworks. Holding significance then, these newly formed objects stem from personal intimate beginnings. Unlike myself, my choice of materials come from chance findings at car boots, charity shops, hosiery aisle at the supermarket and any decent haberdashery.
‘I always had the fear of being separated and abandoned. The sewing is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole’
A further influence the artist has on myself is her surrealism and the use of the body. Often adding domestic found objects within the constructed textiles works to add a tension of materials and meaning. These ideas really appeal and play with the idea of what the body is and what it does.
Eva Hesse (1936 – 1970)
Despite living a short life Eva Hesse has a huge impact on the modern art world. Riding off the back of abstract expressionism and firmly setting her ground in minimalism the artist established herself as the queen of materiality. With lightness of touch and terse construction of materials, the artworks are not without their bold and strong statements. Utilising everyday and industrial materials, that sort of play on masculine and feminine notions is a huge influence of mine.
With such simple additions of materials she could create, like some sort of alchemist, this gold, this art of wonder. Before you the simple constructions convey organic, bodily suggestions, the sexual and psychological states. With a major retrospective at Tate Modern 15 years ago it was said at the time the huge ripples of impact the artist would have on future female artists. Unfortunately, for myself, this was not the case. At this time, I had given up my art studies after divorcing my husband and went to the giddy heights of being a shop assistant to support myself and my daughters. It did however place the artist on my radar in later years when I returned to complete my art studies a few years ago.
I spent a great deal of my first year on my masters degree playing with latex. It was a very difficult material to work with but gave a perfect skin like rendering upon the surface of cloth. Above is the indexical trace from the side of my house. This piece is no longer ‘alive’, destroyed, after installation, it was folded away and I was never able to recover the sticky smelly mess. Hesse’s work, due to its, significance and importance, is well preserved and latex is very problematic in preservation. It raises interesting questions on permanence and physical lifespans of artworks, not something I will get into any detail here now.
Art doesn’t last. Life doesn’t last. It doesn’t matter.
Poor old Tracey is the wheeled out artist when a non arty type gets into a conversation with me about modern art. Often riled by her famous non Turner Prize winning piece the unmade bed. It is not those works which attracts me to the artist. The influence I greatly draw from her is her tender and gestural drawings, especially the ones converted into embroideries. Just stunning.
Hatoum’s work appeals for it affect and the assimilation of everyday objects and changing their status. Through our understandings of the objects she recreates as artworks, we get a sense of how our bodies would interact with the works on show without in anyway having to directly touch the work. It is what we bring to the work, what we already know of the things of the world around us. Often dismissing what she refers to as ‘journalistic’ readings of her work, like with Bourgeois we have a tendency to delve into the history of the artist to understand the artworks presented. Hatoum rejects this and seeks immediate autonomy. It leaves you the viewer to form your own relationship with the artworks being served.
The artist states that the embodiment of artworks is within the physical realm and our bodies are an axis for perception to be experienced both sensually and intellectually. Hatoum asserts the body as highly integral to her work. Coming from the Middle East, Hatoum notes that the Arabs are much more attuned to their bodies, unlike the West who are ‘very caught up in their heads, like disembodied intellects’ *
I have always been dissatisfied with work that just appeals to your intellect and does not actually involve you in a physical way. For me, the embodiment of an artwork is within the physical realm; the body is the axis of our perceptions, so how can art afford not to take that as a starting point?
Who are your influences?