1 What is/are the primary reason(s) for you to make work in the first
The fairies have existed since 1999, so i suppose I feel trapped in their world. I have become an investigator, rather than creator, bringing a new species to the public's attention. This obsession has enabled the fairies to become independent of me, like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
I feel I have discovered very little about them so far...
2 What do you intend your work to convey to an audience?
For the audience to 'enter' the world of the fairies and to animate the frozen action in their minds. Close inspection and imagination is rewarded when the viewer understands the action. Childlike curiosity reveals potential new worlds that exist among overlooked, trodden everyday street detritus.
People often tell me that they look at insects, cobwebs etc differently having seen my work.
3 Why do you work in your chosen medium and format?
It's more a development rather than a choice. I studied human anatomy as part of my BA, and was using natural materials to make work when the fairy skeletons first came into existence they were built from small twigs with leaf skeleton wings. Their shrinking scale to insect size led to them growing insect wings, and also their interaction with insects. The use of animal bones felt like a natural continuation from using dead insects, as is using taxidermied animals.
4 Technically speaking how do you go about constructing your work, that is the image or object itself? What devices do you employ?
-The fairy skeletons are built from extremely fine plant or tree roots, stuck together with superglue. Their skulls are built from clumps of soil (found on roots), hardened with superglue and cut into a cranium shape; I then add pieces of roots to build the facial bones.
-The skullships and other vehicles are built from various organic matter, mainly animal/bird bones, insects and insect parts, human hair etc
5 Which period(s)/artists/specific works of art are you influenced by and how directly? How does this manifest in your work?
Victorian fairy painting is very influential Richard Dadd, Richard Doyle, John Anster Fitzgerald. Their scenes are exotic and full of activity. They often show scenes of fairies teasing and torturing other creatures such as insects, birds and mice. Fitzgerald's scenes often feature bizarre insect/ fairy creatures.
Hieronymous Bosch Garden of Earthly Delights and 'Fall of the Rebel Angels
Contemporary artists: Matt Collishaw, Mark Dion, Mariele Neudecker, Jan Swankmajer, Paul Noble
6 What stimulates/informs your work from the world around you?
-The natural world, particularly insects and their behaviour (wonderfully documented in the series Life in the Undergrowth by David Attenborough) informs the behaviour of the fairies (they have become parasitic, exhibit mimicry and now build structures and flying vessels from bones and insects)
-The insect world is bizarre and incredible.
-I am fascinated by termite mounds the structures themselves and the social structure inside.
These mounds are major feats of engineering, constructed one spit ball at a time by blind workers. The mounds are not just heaps of earth, but have intricate architectures, with arches, tunnels, chimneys, insulation, even nursery chambers. Some have gardens of carefully tended fungus. Others have giant larders of stored food.
'The Court of Fairy' (shown in 'Repatriating the Ark' at the Museum of Garden History) echoes the structure of a termite mound; various activities occur:
The main structure has been built from animal bones retrieved from the Thames at low tide. The fairies have pieced them together, like a jigsaw, to create a functional structure that is alive with activity.
There is a large storage area for food the hunted insects are impaled on hedgehog spines, like the SHRIKEs prey stored on thorn bushes.
There are several areas for raising wasp larvae (stolen from wasp nests), and a prison for the adult wasps.
Ladybirds are kept in an enclosed area, to be used as decoys or wing shields.
A construction area for building skullships they are about to dock a dragonfly onto the hedgehog skull. Above they are rebuilding the wings of a bat skeleton.
Inside a fighting cage a hornet and a winged goat skeleton do battle, watched from above by spectators
A treecreeper is shackled, used as a vehicle and for it's insect catching skills
The collection of materials is important for me scanning the street, scrutinising the overlooked, the insects stand out like precious jewels to me the excitement of finding something I haven't found before, and being able to identify it with a book then learning about its behaviour. There is a growing network of friends and family who collect for me. I enjoy the random element that the finds lend to the evolution of the fairies. I could easily buy an array of exotic bugs from ebay, but this would be too simple. I prefer to use native insects for their familiar qualities.
7 What stimulates/informs your work from your own personal experience?
-As a child I played with dollhouses, sylvanian familes and made miniature creatures and scenes from fimo. This creation of miniature worlds has continued in my work now, and i feel safe immersed in it. Being an introvert i suppose i am hiding behind the fairies and their world, and i find it easier to narrate their story than to explain their existence as 'art'.
-Part of the reason the fairies shrunk to such a small size is because I am a perfectionist, and enjoy challenging my limits.
8 From where do you derive your other visual source material (i.e. non art historical) and how do you implement this material within your work?
-Cabinets of curiosity the tradition of producing convincing fakes, striving to fool the viewer eg, In the eighteenth century butterflies were sometimes painted, bleached or stained to fool the collector seeking an unusual specimen. Experts were also fooled by composite bird specimens.
-As a student in Oxford I spent many hours in the Pitt Rivers Museum, a giant cabinet of curiosities. I was entranced by one case in particular that contained a mixture of naturalia and artificialia, amongst other things mandrake roots that resembled humans, tiny dolls made from fly craniums and stones resembling animals. Unseemly treasures, but invested with magical powers, becoming 'exotic'.
-The history of fairies the dark side their association with demons and places of darkness and blank unmapped spaces. Beliefs on origin that they were souls of the dead or fallen angels.
-Michael Drayton's Sixteenth century fairy poem ,Nymphidia, the Court of Fairy, echoes the miniaturisation of fairies by Shakespeare (Midsummer Nights Dream). Here the everyday becomes exotic and extraordinary. Intense observation and microscopic detail can reveal new worlds
This palace standeth in the air,
By necromancy placed there'
That it no tempests needs to fear,
Which way soe'er it blow it;
And somewhat southward toward the noon,
Whence lies a way up to the moon,
And thence the Fairy can as soon
Pass to the earth below it.
The walls of spiders' legs are made
Well mortised and finely laid ;
He was the master of his trade
It curiously that builded ;
The windows of the eyes of cats,
And for the roof, instead of slats,
Is covered with the skins of bats
9 What are the main problems that you face in making your work?
-The slow process can be frustrating, but is of course ultimately rewarding.
-The fragility of the work can be problematic, although I am not overly precious about it i want the viewer to get in as close as possible to the piece.
- Dead things get a bit smelly
- Bad dreams insects attacking me
10 Where do you intend to take your work from here?
-further investigation of the fairies through drawing, painting, animation, perhaps a book.....
-larger scale structures 'built by the fairies'