Thursday, 10 September 2015

Laura Bacon: August Artist in Residence


Throughout August, sculptor Laura Bacon constructed an organic sculpture (below) in the grounds of Hall Place. As part of her residency visitors were encouraged to work with her, as Centrepieces trustee Guy Tarrant reports.

Hall Place seems to be fast becoming a central point for arts activities in the borough. With ongoing community exhibitions in The Stables Gallery, lots of creative events in the gardens, high profile exhibitions in the House gallery and, of course, our own Centrepieces Lodge full of local artists, it really seems to be the best place for an artist to be.

Hall Place has decided to add another interesting dimension to this set-up with an exciting new initiative involving an ‘Artist-in-Residence’. To anyone unfamiliar with this activity, it involves bringing in a successful, established sculptor to create an artwork in response to the immediate surroundings. In this particular instance, the environmental sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon (left) has constructed a large, woven, abstract organic form, which flows over the wall by a stream, down the bank and into the water.

Ellen follows in the tradition of English ‘Land Art’, started in the 1960s with artists such as Richard Long, and followed in the 1980s by sculptors like David Nash and Andy Goldsworthy. The idea with this type of art is that it uses natural, vernacular materials in keeping with the local landscape; it also seeks to highlight ecological issues and concerns. Ellen intends to raise awareness about sustainable chalk stream rivers such as the River Cray, and indeed the artwork is being supported by the World Wildlife Fund, as it’s in keeping with Hall Place’s intentions to show artwork which touches on local themes.

What’s really good about this residency work is that it allows visitors to Hall Place to get involved. Often, as is the case with Ellen, the sculptors are usually very well established and their occupancy allows people to chat with them. This residency, like most others, also sets aside time for the public to work alongside the artist and a chance to discover new techniques and approaches.

Myself and fellow Centrepieces artists John Exell and Alex Spendley (left) took the opportunity to spend a day with her, helping to construct structural pieces for the sculpture. It was fascinating and illuminating: we got a chance to extend our knowledge of weaving with willow, as well as an insight into Ellen’s sketchbooks and notes. Most importantly, though, we got to talk with her at length about her methods, and it’s this element in particular that was the most revealing. I would say to any local creative, who has any level of seriousness about their work, to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the residences of visiting, high profile artists.

Even if their style does not particularly suit your tastes, learning how contemporary artists develop and sustain their skills is one of the most important lessons you can learn. 

A highly recommended experience.

Images copyright: Dawn Tomlin

Laura Ellen Bacon's website:

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