Well here we are standing in front of Daphne just after she went on the gallery wall on Thursday afternoon, I like that you are wearing a matching printed top. I know we felt a bit out of kilter when we saw the rest of the work that was already on the walls…black and grey, large and fragmented, rusted and un-ravelled; and here we were with multi – coloured chintzy Daphne Tree, she certainly looked to be in the wrong room. Hey Ho!
But first we had to get her onto the wall before we could properly assess the situation, and that took quite a bit of preparation.
The first job was to starch and press the back of the whole canopy , we were given floor space in the Museum’s school room next door to the gallery, perfect! Then it was fixed to the extended cardboard roll used to wrap the fabric around which, in turn, would be fixed to the wall; luckily the carpet had a square gridded pattern which we used as a set square. Then we had to haul it into the gallery where a sort of controlled chaos reigned…..
Some of the work was being made in-situ; makers sat on the floor stitching letters and attaching printed bags with sand to un-ravelled thread hanging from wall mounted embroideries, while the curators made careful adjustments to nylon thread suspending stuffs from the ceiling. However some of the work was on the walls looking pristine and this is what freaked you out – the scale of the stuff…how would our refined vellum and printed damask tree, who sways in the slightest breeze, stand up to the adjacent wall of large and basically geometrical black blocks of work?
But Help was at hand, your parents and my husband stepped in to lift the piece into position for us to gauge the height – above or below the picture rail, to the right or the left of the radiator, do we cover the plugs or just deal with them later? What was amazing was that Lizzi Walton, the co-curator with Alice, said we could drill anywhere at all to get the effect we needed…this is unusual, especially in museums.
Once up we could take a proper look, we had been allotted a good space but both of us felt we were swamped by the prevailing aesthetic in the room. To the other side of us was a much more fragmented and delicate piece of work, which like ours would be rewarding by giving it close attention to detail, but our work looked even more out of kilter with this given it’s sparse and business like presentation – specially when the bags of belongings had been cleared away.
But too late now. We both feel strongly that we have worked to the brief and used our own individual language underpinned by a sound philosophical idea; metamorphosis, as in the Greek Myth of Daphne and Apollo, is about a profound change in materiality – from animal to vegetable, so deerskin vellum through to paper then cotton damask; the myth is thought to be a parable of the sun and the dew. But I use this myth because it perfectly tells a basic truth about human nature in a wonderful visual metaphor. I know from experience that when you wish for something strongly enough you will be given it – but not exactly how you had imagined it; and one of my personal mantras is “only rely on change” because nothing ever remains the same – while it is alive
But it isn’t just about a material consideration; we were both prepared to change our practice to develop this work and you remarked that we were very fair with one another, we listened and gave way when the other really was sure of the way forward. We were also changed by this work, our perceptions of what we had to offer each other made a difference to how we navigated the process. You immediately saw that observational drawing was one of the strengths of my practice, I suddenly felt empowered to just draw, and I now am thinking I need to draw straight onto receptive surfaces – the vellum was so beautiful to draw onto, even an HB pencil is suddenly a subtle and engaging mark maker.
You are a spontaneous maker and I am deliberate, this is not just about confidence it is a sate of being – I immediately loved your idea that we could have extended the flowers all over the wall above and behind the canopy, how lovely would that be and how apt a happening for developing the piece further, let’s hope we can show her again somewhere else and we can extend her flowerings.
I will leave you with an image or my original model for Daphne, Sophie Bristol (and her mother) standing in front of Daphne at the PV….I have other images of this but will keep them for another post, I have been reading the catalogue and have other things to say about this fascinating pairings experiment, and having read my colleague Dawn Mason’s essay contained within it, I will return to the museum and try to get another view of the whole show.
with love – Janet.
PS what about sorting out your flower transfer designs for enamel decals?