Lisa Selby, Artist Talk

One thing I mentioned briefly, a couple of blog posts ago, was Lisa Selby’s show With and Without, however I never got round to blogging about the fantastic artist talk which she gave at The Surface Gallery all the way back on the 9th of May. I was amongst just a select few of the artist’s “fans” as she gave an extremely personal talk about the selection of works exhibited in With and Without. I found the artist herself particularly down to earth and really appreciated this about her. She spoke about her work in such an easy manner which I easily related too. Her work was such an inspiration to me. I spoke about her artist statement before- particularly this sentence- “Selby rearticulates items from the domestic environment, relaying the familiarity and alienation experienced as one moves physically and psychologically from one home to another.” As I said her work relates so closely to mine, so I was so excited to hear her speak about it!

At the beginning of the talk Selby explained how she found herself at Goldsmiths creating mostly sculptural work; when as a student at Trent she tried so hard to be a painter. The sculpture came from somewhere so enlightening to me. It was in fact her grandma’s figurine ornaments that were pasted down to her. As a child she wasn’t allowed to play with these precious objects. She never understood why her grandma insisted on this- as she said they always looked so ready to play with. Now these objects were hers she began playing and creating with these objects- changing their form, firing them in the kiln etc. After hearing this from Selby I have a new found fascination with the multitude of ornaments my grandma has. I keep asking her why on earth she picks one from the next. What makes one ornament more important than the next? Why does that one get centre stage in the middle of the fireplace? I learnt that the stamp underneath meant an awful lot. But I still can’t fathom out why she likes buying these and whether it matters what these women are doing or wearing. One thing I’ll never understand is why she has so many, and why she even has them in the bathroom! (Photos to follow!)

Some interesting research Selby mentioned was something I studied at English Literature A level- it’s a short story called The Yellow Wallpaper. I have a feeling this might be key to something next year so I need to track that down from some old notes I think. Also Sylvia Plath was mentioned so may have to crack those books out too!

Selby soon began to talk about the shift from home to home and the impact this has on us. For instance she spoke about the objects we choose to take with us, the ones we keep. Why do we keep some and not the others? What are those objects we lose from our lives? She spoke about the build up of layers on an object- something I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Can there be such thing as a neutral object? She spoke about the titles of the work too which is something I have been tackling in my work. In my latest piece – “In every dwelling, even the richest, the first task of the phenomenologist is to find the original shell.” I hoped I had intrigued the viewer with this philosophical sentence. However Selby made me realise that this may not be the case, I’m more likely to be alienating the average viewer- distancing them from the work. The viewer can be intrigued by the title without using big fancy words.

One last thing I want to mention was Selby’s carpet piece- “Dance me on and on”, I enjoyed that whilst listening to her artist talk I discovered a lot of Selby’s sculpture had huge personal meanings behind them. These meanings are kept secret from the viewer and the piece becomes whatever the viewer sees. I’ve been slightly afraid of doing personal work at uni- unsure as to whether others can relate to personal work? But Selby showed me that it can be done. “Dance me on and on” was one of those personal pieces that had such an endearing meaning. Selby explained that this piece commented on the association with song, dancing, drinking and having a good time with a lover. But when that lover has left you repeat the drinking and the dancing to forget those moments. The red wine spilt on the cream carpet shows not only that but Selby also comments on the pristine way we want to keep our houses. Surely those stains of red wine are the signs of a person living a life in that house? Mark making their life.