Cluster, Saturation Point. Reviewed by John Stephens
Cluster Essay by writer & poet Cherry Smyth
Broadway Gallery, Letchworth Garden City
Interview with Made With curator John Stephens at Cross Lane Projects, Kendall Cumbria, March-June 2020
Made With at Cross Lane Projects, Kendal, Cumbria
Q & A with Curator John Stephens, May 2020
JS: As the curator, I thought of your inclusion in the show based on what I knew about your interests in material[s] and the unique ways in which you use them.
Can you say something about your materials and why you use them or what you have in mind when you’re working with them?
AF: I work mainly with plaster in a way which seeks to use the fluid and eventually fixed nature of the material itself to allow forms to emerge in a part controlled and part intuitive way, through the pouring, splattering and dribbling of the liquid plaster onto flat surfaces. I begin with some kinds of inspirational starting points, but intend that by using the properties and qualities inherent in the material, shapes and forms emerge, which resemble things seen or experienced and yet are different from them.
JS: Can you say something about the relationship between the materials [and processes] you use and what they ultimately configure?
AF: It is important for me that the process of direct casting (that is taking a direct indexical trace directly off a surface, without the use of a mould) allows the shapes and forms to be different each time, which intentionally subverts some traditional ideas about the use of plaster as a way to cast repetitions of things in series from known or recognisable forms. I intend for the process I use together with the acknowledgement of the inherent properties of the material, to allow new forms and, I maintain, tacit knowledge to emerge.
JS: I’ve suggested in my introduction to the exhibition catalogue that your approach to working with materials might be seen as having a constructive approach whereby the work could be seen to be assembled in a predetermined way or as having an entropic approach exemplified by a more intuitive approach to the making of your work.
Do you feel this this is a true reflection of your attitude to making work?
AF: Yes I think this is an insightful observation of the way I use materials and process. I am interested in the way in which these can access tacit knowledge (in forms as yet unknown) from direct observations and experiences together with things recalled or imagined. As I allow the forms to suggest several things and yet become something new in themselves I like to imagine that these resemblances and differences tend to cling precariously together (physically in the appearance of the objects and in our recollections)
JS: If so can you expand on this?
AF: It is important that any traces on the underside surface of the solidified plaster are lifted off the casting surface during the process of making in layers and combinations which I try to imagine and yet can never quite know. I have previously described this a kind of synchronic tearing through the material, which I intend to oppose the idea of time experienced as a linear event; more coalesced in the surface and form of an object itself, rather like rings of a tree or a slice through a flint stone.
JS: You have arrived at this point in your artistic career having had experiences of things outside your current [artistic] practice; as a designer, academic etc. can you say something about the impact of those past experiences on your current practice?
AF: Well, it is interesting to have studied Fine Art up to Masters level and then embarked and completed a Professional Doctorate in Fine Art in that over the last five years I have felt able to allow the methodology of material combined with process to be the research. I find it fascinating that I can align the forms in physical and cultural geography, which are recognised to reveal knowledge with the way that I, myself as an artist can think through the materials themselves and that this also has a kind of equivalence in terms of research and new knowledge.
Research Papers & Publications
2020: Lido Memories, article written for Saturation Point Gallery online publication https://www.saturationpoint.org.uk/Lido%20memories.html
2020: Playing With Purpose, Mapping Material Thinking, University of Bedfordshire (Selected)
2019: Fake News/Authenticity Research Conference, UEL, London. Authentic Sculptural Process (Selected)
2018: Feeling the Grafting, paper presentation International Royal Geographical Society Conference 2nd CfP RGS/IBG Annual Conference Felt Knowledges, Cardiff(Selected)
2018: Making Connections Cross-disciplinary research conference, Felt Methodology Research paper presentation, UEL, Stratford, London (Selected)
2017: Affect Symposium practice led research presentation at Affect and Digital Media Symposium, UEL London, Performative casting piece (invited)
2016: inside, inside symposium at IKSV Salon, Istanbul. Presentation of Research paper, Mapping Unimaginable Space. (invited)
2016: Affect Symposium, Presentation of Research Paper, UEL, London (selected)