Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Samantha Donnelly: Sampling Imagery

Clare Nadal writes

Zabludowilz Addition, 2011. Image courtesy the Artist and Ceri Hand Gallery.

We are now busy installing in preparation for Samantha Donnelly’s solo exhibition Sampler which opens on Friday evening. Artistic Programmer David Knowles and I went to visit Sam in her studio last month to see what she had got planned for the exhibition.

For an artist so acutely in tune with our relationships to modern life and the impacts of advertising and consumerism on society, Sam’s studio location in rural Mosley, beside the Pennine moors, came as something of a surprise. Finally, after several wrong turns and confusion from sat nav, we reached the studio spaces housed within a grim imposing – and very cold – ex Lancashire mill.  

Though a tiny studio space, I was immediately struck by the wealth of material and imagery in Sam’s studio. Critical art books rubbed against fragments of sculptures, with collage and photographic material spread around. This notion of archiving, collecting and the found object is key to Sam’s practice as her sculptural work combines ephemera with personal trinkets such as tassels, beads and hair. In this way her sculptures form fragile, seemingly temporal structures – often remade/reassembled for each new setting - that seem to reference our own modern throwaway culture.
Long Player Lasting Finish, 2013. Image courtesy of the Artist and Ceri Hand Gallery.

Forming a key focal point in her studio was a cyanotype photographic series from images Sam captured whilst travelling in Japan. Quoting the camera and the act of looking, this series speaks of what it is to see and be seen in modern day life. The example of the Chinese and Japanese worship of material culture asks us to consider the new ‘religion’ of the commercial, of idolatry and shrines.
Studio Image 1

Studio Image 2

Studio Image 3

For her show at South Square, Sam has been very keen to consider the architecture and heritage of the gallery space, specifically its domestic and landscape associations, and the industrial and textile heritage of the Bradford region. The show’s very title ‘Sampler’ references this directly, whilst also highlighting Sam’s eclectic and experimental practice that brings together a multitude of cultural references to bombard the viewer.  With shifts in scale and direct intervention with the gallery space (including applying watercolour paint direct to the gallery wall!), the intimate sculptural works will form an installation in dialogue with itself, activating the space around it.
Install Image 1. Courtesy of the Artist.

In referencing the consumerist, Sam’s work speaks of the desired and the alluring – that which is so often humanised, associated with female sexuality. In many of the works a guiding arm with a pointing finger, or a beautiful outstretched leg asks us to come and look closer. Like all the mythical male sailors, enticed by beautiful sirens, we cannot help but draw closer. The meretricious, the idealised and the dreamlike combine together, yet whether we should embrace or fear the material is left unanswered.

Sampler opens to the public on Saturday 5 April and runs until 25 May 2014.

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