HS Projects curated ’The Humility of Plaster’, an exhibition of recent work by Florian Roithmayr, following a two-year research and exhibition project exploring the materiality of collections housing plaster moulds and casts across Europe. This new body of sculptures was enabled through a partnership between the Museum of Classical Archaeology and Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, and Wysing Arts Centre, where Roithmayr has a studio. Initially shown amongst the collection of plaster casts of classical works at the Museum of Classical Archaeology and at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; at 5 Howick Place the works acquire an abstract, almost futuristic quality.
Moulding and casting are widely used techniques of modern and contemporary art making. Their use and application can be found in many other areas of production and material transformations not immediately associated with art practices, and in times before casting became an acceptable form of sculptural production in its own right.
Roithmayr combines his intimate knowledge of the material with unpredictability, as he sets up experiments, teasing out unexpected results. To a certain extent, he is giving over control in this hidden operation, deliberately allowing space for accidents in order to learn from them through these processes. His work is about generating and tracking changes in the material. The ambition in his practice is to register the consequences of one surface or material yielding another through capturing the unexpected gestures that occur in the gap between mould and cast. His work consists of materials that create each other the moment they are put together.
‘I find that there is something very rewarding and comforting about doing the same tasks over and over. Or spending time in a place with only a limited number of elements, absorbing the environment slowly. This allows for a mental space where the daily processes can become routine, and create an intimacy and immediacy that is otherwise hard to achieve.’
Alongside the exhibitions of this body of work, Roithmayr has developed an audio blog that presents interviews recorded in different plaster cast collections across Europe, drawing attention to the materials and techniques still used in the moulding workshops, often operating in parallel to the collections displaying the casts.
‘The Humility of Plaster’ was at 5 Howick Place from January to June 2019.
HS Projects was selected by RBG Kew in early 2019, following a tendering process, to undertake a feasibility study for an Artist in Residence programme at Kew Gardens.
Kew Gardens offers vast potential, there is not a comparable organisation in the UK in terms of its 300 acres of Gardens and global leading scientific institution. Historically Kew Gardens has had artists in residence from time to time and artists regularly visit and make work in the Gardens.
Following extensive research during the Feasibility Study, we determined how a structured and planned Artist in Residence programme that connects to Kew Gardens’ programme, its collections, scientific work, and legacy, can be viable and sustainable and contribute to an increase in visitors. We looked at past Artist in Residence initiatives at Kew Gardens, conducted interviews across different departments within Kew Gardens, consulted relevant research and strategy documents and liaised with a number of UK organisations with established Artist in Residence programmes.
We set out an overall vision for the Artist in Residence programme, its goals and objectives and recommended next steps. We identified its benefits, risks and challenges and offered practical considerations, while looking at how an Artist in Residence programme can further establish Kew Gardens as a unique place nationally and internationally, known both for its leading scientific initiatives and as an exciting leading centre of excellence in innovative Artist in Residence initiatives.
HS Projects commissioned ‘Box Clever USA’, a collaborative project between Faisal Abdu’Allah and Fords Gym, Madison Wisconsin that looks at the more philosophical side of pugilism. It separates the aggression, money and bravado that is commonly associated with the industry while capturing the solitude and serenity experienced by boxers. It offers an alternative mode of thinking and encourages young people to be an inspiration to their community; while also documenting the personal experiences of young people who are following the well trodden path of sport as a route to a better life.
During the course of the workshops, Faisal worked with young people who told very different stories about their approach to boxing through the camera lens in the confines of a corner of Fords Gym and in the middle of their workouts. At the heart of the project is Andrea Nelson, an ex-professional female fighter and Bob Lynch who coached two Olympic teams and managed the flyweight WBO Champion Eric Morrel, who have acted as mentors for the young people.
Dimarco, a Golden Glove winner from California who has a slim, wiry and lean figure and comes with incredible hand speed and precision, models his persona on Floyd Mayweather, but without the bravado. He is a man of few words and was intrigued by ‘Box Clever USA’, because he was able to see how human hands could be used in a different way, to create art.
Chris Ousley, ‘Golden Gloves’ AKA ‘Best in the Midwest’ is the prized asset of Fords Gym. Ousley exemplifies the essence of Box Clever USA, he demonstrates the difference between fighters and boxers. Ousley being the latter, quick, witty, stylish and technically flawless, he is full of creativity and beguilement. Ousley’s mind is always calculating the next move. Working to the concept of inside out, Ousley wanted the viewer to walk in his shoes and sense the decision making in those critical moments. He also took the photographs of participant Marcus Chancel, capturing the solitude and serenity experienced by boxers.
Marcus Chancel at the time was preparing to participate in the first round of the Golden Gloves 2015. In between the warm ups and bag work, he grabs the camera and emphasises key objects and symbols for him at Fords. The Ringside buzzer he photographs is the electronic time keeper and peace keeper, a small black box that beeps at three minute intervals.
‘Box Clever USA’ is a discourse in the arts of pugilism where the understanding of physics is paramount to have for balance and movement; a comprehension of music, for the rhythm and repetition of movements; an in-depth understanding of human biology to target human pressure points to beat your ‘live opponent’; and most importantly an awareness of space, to operate and make things happen.
‘Box Clever USA’ was partnered through the University of Wisconsin’s community outreach and engagement programme and funded by the Insight Community Arts Programme (2002 – 2015).
The project ran from June to December 2015.