It’s not often when you search ‘what’s on’ on a gallery’s website that you find something you love. Occasionally you come across something that sounds like it could be interesting but never have I been so pleasantly surprised to see Matthew Darbyshire’s name on The Manchester Art Gallery’s website. He was an artist I discovered right at the end of my degree; he became a huge influence in the idea of the collection. The Fenwick Collection was born with his Exhibition of Modern Living in mind. I designed the layout of my plinths in the same style Darbyshire displayed his Exhibition of Modern Living– I allowed my viewer to walk around my grandma’s figurines just as Darbyshire encouraged his viewer to walk around his show room of desirable objects. So to finally walk around Darbyshire’s piece myself was something of a moment.
There was so much I could relate to in Matthew Darbyshire’s work. I could sense the notion of gentrification, the multitude of aspirational objects and the use of plinths to empower a humble object. I was slightly underwhelmed by the position of the installation Exhibition of Modern Living. It felt tucked away in a corner. It needed the whole room to itself. Regardless I walked around inspecting the carefully chosen and positioned objects. Darbyshire commenting himself that at this point you are “entering a curated space.” Louis commenting; at this point bored with the exhibition, “It’s just like being in John Lewis.” This, in a way, means Darbyshire has succeeded in showing his viewer the idealisms of Modern Living in a curated art space.
The really exciting part was placing the figurines. At first I did feel a bit disappointed, I’d grown to like the plinths on their own, but I soon realised the potential of the figurines and remembered their role in the work as a “language of objects.” I continued to move the figurines around, sticking mostly to the plan; I placed the magnolia figure in its place, surprisingly adding an extra magnolia figure which wasn’t my original intention. I chose to face this in the opposite direction to encourage the viewer to walk around the work and inspect it. It’s at this point I also swapped the pink and blue plinth- I remembered that I had two matching figurines that I intended to face one another, encouraging a link in the collection as a whole. The cast figurines also needed to be separated which was why the pink plinth needed separating from its neighbours. I chose not to centre all of the figurines playing around with the idea of an art object rather than a museum display. I’m also pleased to see that my measurements added up and the figurine heights measure up to the heights of their corresponding plinths.
It was a really exciting day today, getting the plinths all ready and aligning them in their correct position, starting with the original plan at first,then slowly adjusting it to fit with the space. The magnolia pair needed to move to create a larger walk way, then the blue and pink ones needed to be adjusted and separated further. I played around a lot nudging the plinths to different angles- creating a new outlook with each movement. I moved around the space considering each perspective of the viewer. Considering the heights of each and ensuring that no plinth was blocking another. The pairing of the plinths was really successful! They played out a narrative reflecting the story back to one another. A huge success was also the space surrounding the plinths- it really feels like the viewer is able to move freely inspecting every element of the work- like Matthew Darbyshire’s piece- the viewer can weave in and out of the plinths!
Development continues with painted figurines, more plinth painting (extremely bright pink) and more casting, using resin this time, pink to match the plinth!
Preparations are well and truly on the way with the degree show piece. My collection of plinths and figurines are coming along nicely! There has been a few alternations and a few decisions that still need to be addressed during the process but things are going well. I had a tutorial on the Wednesday and at first this made me panic slightly as there seemed to be a lot of things I’d yet to consider. But it opened my eyes to new possibilities and I’ve now started to think about these things for example; the positioning of the figures- could having them all central to the plinth be been as boring, too standard? I also expressed that I see the plinths as though they are mimicking walls- so I need to enforce that. I was encouraged to use skirting and dado around the plinths. I’ve been saying myself, that both the object and the plinth should be seen as one together, however my making isn’t expressing this. I’ve now extended the dripping process to drip onto the plinth, making the piece much more sculptural. (The photos show my practice run) I’m also considering having more than one figurine placed on a plinth. Lots of possibilities!
Can’t describe how happy I am to have these all made! The routing worked out fantastically and now they’re all ready for me to get painting and decorating!
So work begins! Plinth making wasn’t as successful as I would have liked. Took me a very long time to get back into the swing of it! Finally on the 5th and final one I eventually got the lining up correct, it was a little too late with the others though- I’m hoping this excess can be routed away- I’ve made a lot more work for myself here though. You can these mistakes where the wood is out of line. It is slightly annoying, but I’m happy to have the first stage out the way. Can’t wait to see them with some wallpaper on them! Still a lot more to do until I get to that stage though!