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Website: Chestnuts Design

Interview with Andrea V Wright by Hannah Hughes


October 2020

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

Andrea V. Wright is a multi-disciplinary artist, whose process-led practice interweaves geometric and organic forms in structures that appear simultaneously fragile and stable. Her work was recently shown in the group exhibition 'Super Flatland' at White Conduit Projects, London. On the occasion of this exhibition, artist Hannah Hughes interviewed Wright about her interest in flatness, transformation, absences and gaps, architecture and our encounters with space. This interview took place as an email exchange in September/October 2020.

L:  Maquette for future sculpture I & II(2020) Digital print, card,dimensions variable.

R:  Maquette for future sculpture VIII (2020) Digital print, card 38 x 33 x 13 cm

HH: I thought that we could start in the present moment, given the highly unusual nature of the past few months in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. How are you coping with the current situation, and what have you been working on since lockdown? Have you been able to work in your studio, or has your practice changed to reflect more time spent at home?

AVW: I try not to overthink the Covid-19 pandemic or I might become overwhelmed and grind to a halt. Like most of us I became very concerned initially over lockdown. I volunteered to make PPE with a local company and donated spare cash to food banks. I felt very fortunate and was, and am, very aware of that. Working from home initially, I started making large charcoal drawings but quickly moved on to small maquettes. On reflection, I found it to be a more absorbing way of working due to the detail involved which suited me at that time. I now have access to my studio and have been developing the maquettes as well as making pieces for Super Flatland and other projects.

HH: I am fascinated by the shapes in your recent maquettes. These irregular shards, offcuts and bent and manipulated forms appear to be in a constant state of flux. Is the idea of transformation important in your work?

AVW: Absolutely, yes! Transformation is a key component in my thinking and practice whether it is through material (eg. liquid latex becomes solid or transmutes to assume the form of something else) or through methodology. In my recent maquettes, digital photographs of previous works and installations are cut up and combined and reformed. Working this way keeps me in the moment but evolving. It especially helped me keep working through lockdown when I couldnt access my studio.

HH: In your latest maquettes I am drawn to the interplay between so-called positive and negative space — where cut-outs create windows and frames that allow the eye to enter and exit the space. Its really interesting to hear that these negative shapes were created from photographic remnants of previous works — does recycling materials often play a part in your practice?

AVW: The negative, or cut-out, shapes serve as a break in the pictorial plane. It allows the eye to pass through and around the work. Like an open window, youre not locked into one perspective or aspect. The recycling of works, whilst being a practical solution to working in a smallish studio with no storage, also enables constant compositional experimentation and curiosity. Like, What happens when I place thiswith that’,” or If I originally intended this to be hung on a wall, how can I make it stand on the floor?”

L: Super Flatland. Medium for Peace Cries (2020). Plywood, card, pine, PVA, paint. Photo courtesy Peter Stone

R: Stealth and Cunning (2020). Plywood, card, pine, PVA, paint. Photo courtesy Peter Stone

HH: Let’s talk about the new works for Super Flatland, an exhibition at White Conduit Projects, curated by Paul Carey-Kent and Yuki Miyake. The exhibition explores ideas of flatness in the works of more than a dozen artists from Europe and Asia, and you are showing work from a series specifically referring to the Victorian novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott. Firstly, can you tell me a bit about this work? What aspect of Flatland did you use as a launching point?

AVW: The works in Super Flatland are new but reflect on concepts within the book that relate to elements and dichotomies from my own practice, such as fragility and protection. The book/novella is presented as a satire of Victorian life sited in an imaginary land called ‘Flatland’ where its citizens are cast within a hierarchy of two-dimensional geometrical shapes. My works for the show are made up of isosceles triangles (deemed within the book to be the degenerate, lower, ‘irregular’ class) and pointed straight lines that in the book depict women as lacking intellect and prone to hysteria with their movement restricted and governed by law. Sadly, I find that many of the injustices, prejudices and the control of the many by the few are still prevalent today.

I have configured structures that reference these characters, but theirs is a transformation into three dimensions that penetrate the hierarchy and breach the rules laid down by their society. Satirical authors such as Edwin A. Abbott (also think of Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels and almost any science fiction author) are “allowed” to say things in a “safe space," just as artists can say things implicitly through abstract reference.

HH: In Flatland, the narrator ‘A Square’ attempts to explain the mathematical possibility of further dimensions beyond the limits of visual and spatial perception — similarly, you have written in the past about your drawings being “freed from the frame” and describing “not only the line but the spaces between the line, seeking out methods of reflecting the ‘impossible plane’ using light, trace and spatial retraction.” Can you tell me a bit more about your research into non-euclidean geometry and how this has informed your approach to expanded notions of space?

AVW: Non-euclidean geometry was a subject that came up in discussions with my tutor Professor Maria Lalic during my MA tutorials, as did the book Flatland. I had been researching Japanese philosophy and the concepts of ‘Sabi’ describing the imperfect, impermanent, weathered physical surfaces and ‘Ma,' which describes the moments between: pauses, gaps and voids, not just in visual perception but also in imagined spaces, whether emotional or perceived. I was exploring the idea that these gaps and their state of impermanence may house a dynamic vessel for memory, feeling, aspiration, and all the pure imprints of human experience. I had been working on large spatial drawings using tape, that were created by tracing the shadows of simple geometric steel frames with a light source. Through the making of these various ‘spatial line drawings’ I started to note that depending on the angle of the light source the angles within the drawings became more abstract and skewed. I translated these into balsa wood maquettes, the resulting structures having some ‘regular’ angles and other compound, twisted, awkward angles — perhaps even anisotropic (non-euclidean). I had pondered whether a fourth ‘dimension’ such as time, or even memory, could be made manifest in the work and I have since found in my experiments with different materials (steel, tape, latex, paint) that these are potentially embedded in the work, through contact with the hand, the imagination and through the movement the body takes to assemble the materials and place them in-situ.

HH: You have also mentioned an interest in the writing of Lefebvre - do you consider the ‘production of space’ in your work as guided by particular physical or mental routines of making in the studio?

AVW: There are places in which I work and places where I exhibit, but I find it difficult to draw a distinction often straddles the two. That underpins a lot of what I create and what I seek. That is how I interpret Lefebvre’s writing and why his words influences my own thinking and experience. Lefebvre suggests in his book ‘The Production of Space,' the trajectory of how we use and encounter space can be traced using "a myriad of gestures, traces and marks”. For example where I work on site with steel, light and tape in what could be referred to as ‘expanded drawing’ the component units of the drawing incorporate fundamental aspects of both drawing and sculpture, simultaneously inhabiting different worlds whilst belonging to both and neither. They produce a “system” of navigation through a space that can be re-configured at will, shaping and marking it through their placement and arrangement.

Brink (2017). Steel, paint, tape, stone.

Communion  (2019). Steel, tape, paint, rubber - Galeria Nordes solo show

HH: You have described your work as being semi-architectural and often site-specific — when did this interest in architecture begin?

AVW: I would have to say that my interest in architecture stemmed from my father who is an architect. He was always keen to share his practice with me growing up. I recall him working at his drawing board taking in the lines and elevations. My encounter with a book on my father’s bookshelf as a child ignited my fascination with architectural Sculpture and was probably my first experience of conceptual art. The book Christo: The Running Fence was full of images of vast landscapes cut through by a rippling curtain of fabric, the light hitting the billowing wall, etching it with shadow. The need to feel and experience art in such a visceral way has guided my work ever since.

Balance and Obedience () MDF, steel, latex, paint, pigment, rubber. photo courtesy Rocio Chacon

HH: I am particularly interested in your use of latex to record traces of architectural spaces, for example, works such as Laplace (2018) exhibited in the group exhibition Prevent This Tragedy at Post_Institute, Von Goetz Art, which included a latex impression peeled from the wall at the site of the exhibition that appeared to alter and extend the physical space. This material excavation and its focus on the layering of human history and time makes me think of Gaston Bachelard’s statement “Inhabited space transcends geometrical space” - I wondered whether this is something that you are thinking about — and what role human presence (or absence) plays in these works?

AVW: Absence was my concern in this work or how to make visible what was potentially absent. I wanted to articulate that space (an ex-industrial building) in a very specific way. If one could place one’s imagination in this space what would one find? In his book “The Poetics of Space” Gaston Bachelard writes about metaphysical spaces and the potential to alter our nature to view these spaces in new ways. I wanted to explore that shift. Bachelard’s descriptions of the phenomenology of space resonated with me, as did Juhani Pallasmaa’s The Eyes of the Skin, which was very much in the back of my mind when making Laplace (2018). I wanted the work to hint at the architecture and human history of that building beyond what was visible to the eye. In The Eyes of the Skin, Pallasmaa suggests the eye can override the other senses, not simply touch, smell and sound — but also our inner senses, our instincts. With Laplace and much like the works of Heidi Bucher and Robert Overby the activity of pulling the solidified latex from the wall is part of the extraction of memory from the surface. I want to capture transition by entering into rituals of process that describe the endeavour of work in progress. As important as the first mark made and the final product is the processes undergone in between.

Laplace, 2018. Latex, neon light, steel, pigment, paint, tape and found object. Dimensions variable. Photograph by Corey Bartle Sanderson - ® DATEAGLE ART 2018

HH: Precariousness and instability appear to be important material and structural factors in your sculptures — for example, the fragility of the latex in contrast to the wood and steel frameworks, and also the tension between balance and potential collapse in artworks that are draped, propped and stacked. Can you tell me a bit more about your choice of materials and processes and how you navigate the tension between the solid and the impermanent?

AVW: I think precariousness and instability reflects the world in which we live in today and the world in which in which we have always lived. My ancestors made their way from Ireland to Liverpool to make a better life for themselves and my father took my family to live in South Africa when I was nine. Although I was just a child I felt I had journeyed from one identity to another. A transition had to be made, I had to try and fit in. I never did of course and dreamed of coming home, I existed in limbo. We returned to the UK after three years. For all my parents’ well-meaning efforts my childhood was precarious and unstable. We moved around a lot and I never knew when the rug would be pulled from beneath my feet. Nothing lasts really. Which is why I chose that as the title for my first solo show at Galeria Nordes, Spain: Nada Dura, a play on words since it could also be translated as “nothing is solid”. There’s something about that in-between stage, that point between becoming and disintegrating, that I want to capture and, I hope, gives my work tension and power. My materials are both subtly figurative and architectural — structure and surface, bone and skin. I feel that I am often on a threshold — a ‘liminality’ — that I can both visualise and give form to. For me, these shifts of tension in the dynamic is a metaphysical journey, a play on the imagination, rather than something that is actually present. It represents the hiding places in our minds, opening out or closing in. I want to capture this liminality, threshold, trajectory, and make it visible.

HH: What are you working on now in the studio? Are there any other future projects that you would like to share?

AVW: I’m working on some exciting new projects utilising my knowledge of using latex in my work, alongside new (to me) mediums of casting in plaster and jesmonite. During lockdown, my residency at PADA in Lisbon, supported by funding from an AN Bursary, was postponed. I am hoping to complete that residency in spring 2021 which is very exciting. Oh, and I’m potentially moving back to London where I grew up. Nothing is certain right now.

Andrea V Wright. Photo courtesy Pete Stone