Expanding Foam is a project that began as an exploration of chance and a way of beginning again following a break from creating work has developed to incorporate sound, crude electronics, printmaking and ceramics. The project has developed taking on more complex meanings exploring the geographic location of its development and its origins, its place in the world and more esoteric meanings.
In the Beginning
In the beginning was the badger and that badger did dig a set. The excavations of the set spewed forth broken china which was collected and stuck onto expanding foam. All Praise be the badger.
The starting point for the project was the discovery of an old victorian/georgian slag heap in a wood. The majority of the surviving refuse was ceramic though I have dug up glass bottles, small bones and shells. At the time I was inspired by primitivist artists and had fallen for mosaics. I loved the fact that these forms were not the pretty kitsch pieces I associated with the medium but wild, surreal things embodying their creators vision. Having found these broken ceramics I decided to make my own. Not knowing where to begin I chose something I had little control over though I was sure would give me an interesting shape to work with e landing on expanding foam.
So the project developed with no clear meaning in mind simply a love of creating. Over time I wanted the pieces to have a life of their own so decided that they should interact with the space they were in. Deciding on sound I began looking at electronics and keeping the work at arms length to myself wanted it to generate itself. I began experiments with modular synthesizers and crude electronics that would react to touch.
These two strands continued side by side though I was determined that the meaning was loose and it was about chance I could not escape the land that the physical materials came from and the past, whether the object or my own.
The actual meaning of the project is still loose but following a series of field recordings from sites where I have gathered raw material for my sculptures has begun to take shape.
A search for meaning
Whats it all about? I can’t give a definitive answer but I can identify some areas of interest and perhaps give a few sign posts as to what to start thinking about when looking at the project.
The first is the geographical location of the work. Made in the north of England industrial heritage is hard to avoid. I originally come from Stoke-on-Trent home of the Potteries where much of the ceramics was made. The pottery industry has largely gone from Stoke the city itself feeling discarded. Never to be kept down Stoke as a town is striving for something more development in the city is bringing renewed investment and the people of Stoke-on-Trent are still making pottery and keeping the old skills alive. Ideas of lose and rebirth or new growth are present in the work.
The next point is the land itself. Living in Sheffield the hills and the moors can’t help but feed into the form of the sculptures. Organic material such as moss and soil is incorporated into the work. Found objects such as birds nests, an old boot and antlers are added giving a backdrop for the work to exist in.
Finally there is the more esoteric elements in the work symbols and objects are incorporated that predominantly have personal meanings for me but hark back to the initial aim of the work providing an element of chance and new meanings to be gleaned from their involvement in the work.