Wall mounted sculpture. 2023.
51cm x 43cm x 9cm
Hallmarked fine silver and flotsam painted fibreglass.
Despite our cultural preference for replacement over repair, it is often in the process of mending that we find the deepest sense of purpose. With every restoration comes an opportunity to learn from an existing story, whilst incorporating the healing signature of the present.
The layered silver pieces remind me of damaged high-rise buildings or incomplete and abandoned structures. In contrast, there is the shine of the silver in the spaces, the "lights in the windows". These highlight the hope, opportunities and joy in the process of rebuilding, whether it is our living spaces, our livelihoods or our lives.
Currently selected for and on display as part of the biennial Quay Arts Open Exhibition, 22nd July to 7th Oct 2023.
The substrate for this work is a piece of fibreglass flotsam boat hull found wedged in the sand in front of a storm drain on Woodside Beach on the Isle of Wight.
I was initially stalled by the challenges of mounting it until I discovered that letting it hang naturally on an angle, suspended on a single brass screw inserted into an existing hole that happened to be beautifully surrounded with yellow paint, allowed its full personality to shine as it curved naturally away from the wall.
The way the layers of paint on the board have worn in a cross hatch pattern made me think of darning, and prompted me to weave silver wire to reflect the geometric scouring on the board, and to incorporate ideas of patching and repair.
I then nearly gave up on the silver wire weaving since this was incredibly fiddly! The wire was "boinging" all over the place and the nails kept popping out of the wooden board!
I persevered though, after discovering pins in foam and reminding myself that the labour involved in making the piece was important.
Quite often, what attracts me most about an art work is the awe that is inspired by the sheer attention to detail and the commitment and dedication the artist has had to completing their work.
I added embellishments to the silver wire, through the use of fired silver clay, to create more texture and fill. I then applied a patina so the silver would better match the fibreglass colour palette. When I first mounted the woven pieces, they seemed too unidimensional, so I chopped and layered them for more depth and personality.
In the UK, any item incorporating more than 7.78g of silver must be hallmarked by law. This means that an assay office must test the silver and then apply a mark to attest to its purity. I've been having some fun discussions with the London Assay Office, since they haven't had anyone wanting to use silver in sculpture the way I do (and this is the first time I've used so much silver on one work of art)! It was finally determined that the relevant weight would be the combined weight of all the silver forming part of a single art work, and that all the silver pieces used should be sent together for hallmarking, but the mark itself would be applied to just one piece. Fortunately new laser marking technology allowed a smaller mark on a much thinner section of silver than would be required with a traditional metal stamp.
This image is of the mark applied to the top right of the top piece of silver. The "LH" is my "maker's mark". This is registered with the London Assay Office and is unique to me. "999" is the fineness of the silver - 99.9% silver, also known as fine silver. The lion's head is the mark of the London Assay Office and the "y" is the official symbol used throughout the UK to represent the year 2023.
The final step was to seal the pieces against tarnishing. Fine silver tarnishes much more slowly than sterling but it will eventually tarnish and I wouldn't want owners to be trying to polish the work!. For sealing, I usually use Museum Wax or a liquid sealing compound called Protectaseal. Both turned out to be very tricky to use in this case. The wax and the sealant collected in the spaces and made this job almost more time consuming than making the pieces! They were eventually sealed though and tied on to the board with silver wire (through tiny holes I drilled). MENDING complete.