In September I visited the Glasgow School of Art 2018 Degree Show. There was a lot to see but the work of Rosie Galloway-Smith resonated with me in relation to the themes of landscape, memory and loss that I have been working on. I haven’t categorised this under Becoming Aware – Research rather than Exhibitions as I felt that so much of the work was relevant to my ongoing research into memory practice.
Her Artist’s Statement notes that her current work
‘explores emotionality through materiality, physical processes of disintegration, and indexing of materials. I create my own artefacts with construction/decorating materials and clothes, looking at their shared connotations of shelter/skin and as ciphers for the physical human body, and the processes of dereliction taking place over time’
The particular exhibits mentioned can be viewed on Rosie Galloway-Smith’s website.
Rosie Galloway-Smith’s work struck me because of the breadth of materials and ideas in her degree show presentation. Within a small space there was a series of paintings depicting seed potatoes, shoes of all shapes and sizes caked in mud, two old-fashioned chairs with distressed surfaces, a wall where the wallpaper had been torn and left hanging and, as you rounded the corner, an elongated dress, covered in mud, suspended above a circular mirror placed on the floor.
Waiting (2018) (Dining chairs, gloss paint, mould sealant)
Individual elements evoked different emotions. As a family we are currently clearing the family home after mum’s death. The two chairs are similar to ones in the house and it was poignant to see them, with their cracked surfaces and the absence of anyone sitting on them, making me think of what we have lost. I got to thinking about the presence of someone being as strongly portrayed by their absence as by their physical embodiment. Another layer of this is not just the absence of someone but the anticipation of their presence such as the empty rooms and chairs painted by Van Gogh and Gwen John.
Siblings (2018) (Cement, shoes)
Wall Installation, various dimensions
This idea is carried through in other elements of the exhibition. The materials used subtlety embody the themes of the work, such as the rows of shoes embalmed in what appears to be mud. The shoes are unsettling enough at first glance, displayed as they are on the wall rather than the floor. Then you realise it is not mud but cement which they are encased in. Among the shoes neither pair quite matches but they are bound together by their laces and casing of dried cement, mismatched and not easily parted. Like the chairs the shoes conjure the presence of their owners through their absence. It reminded me of the work of Miyako Ishiuichi, particularly Mother’s (2000 – 2005) when she photographed her late mother’s possessions, including her shoes. Both works embody the idea of indexicality and the traces of individuals lives being a part of the artwork.
The Whole of It (2018) (Acrylic, ink, woodchip wallpaper)
Wall Installation, 13ft x 8ft
Sometimes the traces of other lives are not items specifically related to an individual but to a point in time. It was the woodchip wallpaper that caught my attention as, like the chairs, that type of wallpaper was part of the family home for many years. I wondered if this exhibit would resonate with a younger age group for different reasons but, if you are a little older, that woodchip and those chairs, add to the experience. I was interested in the idea of revealing the underlying layers and the way this relates to our memories as I had played with this idea, on a limited scale, for one of the practical exercises.
Two Dresses (2018) (Cotton, cement, latex, LED lighting, mirror)
Sculpture, 11ft x 4ft x 4ft
The subtle layers to Galloway-Smith’s communication can also be seen in the startling ‘figure’ of the dress that catches you by surprise. Again, there is the idea of presence being defined by absence. Given the height and elongation of the sculpture, there is a macabre quality which reminded me of Shani Rhys James’ Automata. Here, what at first appears to be one dress is actually two. The second can only be seen by looking in the mirror giving the unsettling feeling of looking up someone’s skirt.
There was a lot I liked in this exhibition, not all of it easy to articulate and, perhaps, there is less requirement for that, as it seemed to me to almost jump over language and speak directly to your emotions. As part of the coursework I have been doing research into the work of artists whose work, in different ways, deals with memory. These include Louise Bourgeois, Shani Rhys James and Miyako Ishiuchi. Bourgeois and Ishiuchi have used their mothers’ possessions and clothes while Rhys James takes elements from her childhood such as wallpaper, dresses and cots and repeats these in various forms.
Despite the differences in approach and mediums used there is a thread here in the work of Galloway-Smith in terms of the use and treatment of particular objects to create a response in the viewer. Amongst other elements in the exhibition the chairs, shoes and wallpaper create small tableaus which are the trigger for the bigger stories of anyone who views them.
Notes for studio practice
- Think about individual objects, possessions from the family home
- Consider scaling-up/layering
Outside the Box – Practical Exercise 6 – Texture – Scraps –https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/outside-the-box/practical-exercise-6-texture-scraps/
Gwen John – Research Notes – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/gwen-john-research-notes/
Louise Bourgeois – Memories – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/
Shani Rhys James – Research Notes – https://katespainting2.wordpress.com/2017/09/26/shani-rhys-james-research-notes/
Gibbons, J. (2007) Contemporary Art and Memory: Images of Recollection and Remembrance. London: I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd.
Ishiuchi, M. (2000 – 2005) Mother Series. [Photographs] At: http://www.sepiaeye.com/miyako-ishiuchi (Accessed on 01.11.18)
John, G. (1907-1909) A Corner of the Artist’s Room in Paris [Painting] At http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/a-corner-of-the-artists-room-in-paris-116863/search/keyword:gwen-john-11896/page/2 (Accessed on 01.11.18)
Rosie Galloway-Smith. Postgraduate Degree Show 2018 At: http://www.rosiegallowaysmith.co.uk/d-e-g-r-e-e-s-h-o-w/4594413763 (Accessed on 28.10.18)
Rhys James, S. (s.d) Automata. [Sculpture] http://www.shanirhysjames.com/photography/5xnyjn56fe61ki9t2thz2kijr91tg4 (Accessed on 01.11.18)
Van Gogh, V. (1888) Gauguin’s Chair. [Painting] At: http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0048V1962?v=1 (Accessed on 01.11.18)