HS Projects is delighted to present ‘Playing real pretend’, an exhibition of recent works not shown in London before by Laura Ford, one of the UK’s leading contemporary artists.
Laura Ford’s sculptures are faithful representations of fantasy with sometimes bitter sweet and menacing qualities mixed with tenderness. Ford uses humour and an acute observation of the human condition to engage with wider social and political issues. Her work is intensely crafted but playful and she has used a range of media to realise her work including drawing, painting, performance, set design and has increasingly taken on the challenge of public art alongside museum and gallery shows.
Inhabiting the space by the window, ‘Parrot in a Tree’, 2017, a girl dressed as a parrot sits on top of a tree; behind her, ‘Lion’, 2016, anxiously holds his tail, while ‘Giraffe Girl’, 2016, peers out into the street, all demanding the viewer’s attention, recognisably human and inherently tactile. Meanwhile around the corner ’Little Lords 1, 2, and 3’, 2019, three boys dressed as parrots, clothed in brilliant swathes of brightly coloured fabric, conspiratorially strut arresting the viewer with their imposing presence.
Across the space ‘Frog’, ’Poodle’, ‘Penguin’ and ‘Octopus’ from the ‘Keepers of the Wall’ series, 2016, a group of child-like animal figures, meticulously crafted, appear absorbed in their games, some looking out into the street, others jumping up on benches, or peering around plinths, ‘playing real pretend’; the fantastical and witty world of children’s play.
A storyline unfolds which, on one hand draws on our imaginative world of childhood and on the other calls this perfect world fundamentally into question. These hybrid anthropomorphic animal figures, never on a scale of one to one, always slightly larger or slightly smaller, possess a fantastical and witty quality along with a profound seriousness and depth. They inhabit the space they occupy, affecting its mood and although their eyes are absent they appear to see and have feelings and are clearly possessed of live imaginations.
Around the corner ’Tapestry Girl I and II’, 2017, two girls standing side by side, slightly larger, not on a scale of one to one, have been transformed into orange trees. Made out of steel, jesmonite and fabric, their feet are firmly rooted in the soil and their arms extended out to form the tree’s branches and foliage, connecting them to fairy tales, ancient legends and the world of childhood. They demand attention and inhabit the space they occupy, affecting its mood; in a comical but also quite sinister and insinuating way.
These hybrid figures are both immediately recognisable on certain levels but the familiar in the strange is a persistent theme. Whether this transformation is the result of desire or imposition is open to question, as is the case with all of Ford’s works, but it certainly becomes the extension of the human imagination. Looking at the works we are also playing make believe, as the element of surprise, the absurd and the nonsensical take over and we find ourselves wrapped up in mantles of imagination.
‘Pretend Real Play’ is at Howick Place from December 2019 to June 2020.
HS Projects curated ‘Opening the Air and other stories’ by Jyll Bradley. Jyll Bradley makes site specific installations, drawings and sculpture which explore the potential of light to create new space. Her work always has a personal root and often draws upon her life-long interest in architecture and the structures we build in order to grow, be that practically or emotionally. For ‘Opening the Air and other stories’ she brings together works from distinct eras of her practice which, in different ways, draw from her adult life experience of living in London.
‘Opening the Air’ (2018) is a three-dimensional drawing made up of a geometric field of fluorescent Plexiglas discs or ‘coins’. The coins bear intricate laser-etchings derived from plans of early eighteenth-century glasshouse design and are planted on a low workaday plinth made of rough scaffold boards. As London’s urban landscape becomes ever more glassy, ‘Opening the Air’ reflects upon the original glasshouses whose currency was green growth. Activated by light and the sun’s passage, the work dramatically changes in appearance throughout the day. ‘Opening the Air’ continues Bradley’s exploration of glasshouses and their unique qualities of both structural materiality and transparency.
‘Hop Train’ (2016) is a model of an artwork proposed by Bradley for which was runner-up in a major competition for the newly developed London Bridge Station. Bradley’s work – a light-sculpture hop garden suspended within a 100m long tunnel – paid homage to London Bridge’s hop trading heritage and the once mythic train that took hundreds of thousands of Londoners down to Kent for the annual hop harvest.
‘The Bridge’ (2011) is a twin light-box installation, whose sculptural dimension is heightened by attendant white reflective panels. This image/text work was made in response to the loss of Bradley’s next-door neighbour. Here the ‘off the shelf’ photographic light box – most often used as a vehicle for commercial advertising – acts as a beacon, a concrete memory that marks the passing of time and of a person. Poignantly, the City of London skyline as seen from Rotherhithe, which Bradley once shared with her neighbour from their adjacent riverside homes – and which she photographed shortly after his death – has now changed forever. ‘The Bridge’ takes the viewer on to a visual and emotional journey with a physical dimension added through the sculptural element.
‘Opening the Air’ was commissioned by Sculpture in the City 2018.
‘Hop Train’ was a proposal commissioned by Futurecity. The model was designed for Bradley by Beep Studio.
‘Opening the Air and other stories’ was at Howick Place from June to December 2019.
‘…Yinka Shonibare’s Wind Sculpture standing in Howick Place in Victoria, a magical work that follows the theme of his commission for the plinth in Trafalgar Square – Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle. The curving form seems like a torn fragment of a sail.’
Janet Street-Porter, THE INDEPENDENT
HS Projects commissioned a striking sculpture by internationally renowned artist Yinka Shonibare, CBE (RA). ‘Wind Sculpture’, 2014, Shonibare’s first permanent public art commission, takes the form of a colourful ship’s sail, measuring 6.1 metres in height by 3.4 metres in width, exploring the notion of harnessing movement. The captivating piece has special resonance at Howick Place, named after Viscount Howick, later 2nd Earl Grey, one of the main architects of the Reform Act 1832, Catholic emancipation and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire and a variety of tea. ‘Wind Sculpture’ continues Shonibare’s focus on themes of colonialism, trade, and race and employs the artist’s signature use of batik Dutch wax fabric designs – materials which have become synonymous with African identity.
We devised the overall Public Art Strategy which entailed researching the history of the area, identifying sites for public art, developing the artists brief, selection process, timetable and additional art programme. Yinka Shonibare CBE was awarded the commission for his insightful response to the site and the history of the area.
The idea for ‘Wind Sculpture’ was conceived after producing a series of works related to historical ships, in particular his Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square commission, ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’. When developing those pieces, Shonibare had to focus on how to form the sails so that they appeared to be caught mid voyage, and in doing so the sails began to describe the very conditions of that voyage itself. The sails came to represent the movement and passion within the piece, the emotions the artist wanted to translate to the viewer.
Moving away from the form of a ship itself, ‘Wind Sculpture’ formally explores the notion of harnessing movement through the idea of capturing the volume of wind, and freezing it in a moment of time. Using a series of materials normally applied to large structures that exude a sense of solidity and permanence, the tension of this abstract work is heightened by the contrast between the media used, and the movement recreated through the delicate realisation of the work. Returning to Shonibare’s use of Dutch wax fabrics, the work manifests as a giant three-dimensional blown up piece of fabric that appears to be caught blowing in the wind. The work is rendered in full colour, exactly duplicating a piece of the African fabric synonymous with his work, only in giant form.
The use of batik Dutch wax fabrics is an important element within Shonibare’s overall body of work, and has continued in his practice as a kind of visual language through which he translates his ideas. Commonly referred to as “African” fabrics, these textiles have a somewhat hybrid history that defies such defined cultural categorisation, one which is often hidden and which refuses stereotypes – a concept he explores in his practice.
Using metal armatures and pigmentation techniques, ‘Wind Sculpture’ is highly durable, resisting disintegration from inclimate weather and outdoor conditions. The work was realised using moulds sculpted to perfectly capture the sense of movement in the fabrics, and the surface was treated and pigmented to perfectly represent the batik patterns of traditional and beautifully colourful Dutch wax fabrics.
HS Projects commissioned ‘Wind Sculpture’ on behalf of Doughty Hanson and Terrace Hill.
‘Wind Sculpture’ is located opposite 5 Howick Place, Victoria, London.