This autumn, Chelsea Space is showing the work of two recent Camberwell Fine Art graduates. The exhibition is the culmination of year-long artist residences by Brody Chipchase and Isobel Finlay, awarded to each artist as prizes at their Summer Show in 2019.
Brody, graduating from BA Sculpture, was awarded both The David Troostwyk Award and the Matt’s Gallery Studio Award. Isobel, a BA Drawing graduate, won The Vanguard Prize. The exhibition, which due to Covid-19 restrictions can only be viewed through the gallery’s large window frontage, sees these two artists come together to celebrate the past year’s achievements and to showcase the work created.
We caught up with Brody and Isobel to hear about their experience as new graduates in a pandemic, their respective artistic residencies and of course, hear more about their joint exhibition at Chelsea Space.
To begin, can you please explain your practice?
My practice is led by the process of making and developed through the relationship between myself and the materials to create my own mythology and visual language. Essentially, in the studio I'm building an archive of mythological artefacts and relics, ambiguous in time, encompassing both past and future. Offerings of teeth and bones, ceremonial vessels and machines with globulous idols are some of the curiosities found within this world.
My art practice is informed by craft, including knitting, crochet and chainmail weaving, to create sculptures and drawings. I am interested in the idiosyncratic movements our individual bodies create and how these movements can be recorded within an object. Missed stitches and caught threads are traces of our body pushing against the tight gird it is trying to form.
The exhibition is to celebrate the culmination of your individual year-long studio residencies. Please tell us more about your residency.
As the recipient of the Vanguard Studio Award, I have been given use of a studio at Vanguard Court Studios for the year and was also able to access workshops at Camberwell College of Arts.
The studio has been an invaluable resource for me throughout this year, especially during lockdown over the spring and summer where it became even more of a haven. Having the space to research and develop ideas has
Due to the lockdown restrictions, I was unable to make full use of the workshops at Camberwell, but the time I did spend there felt supportive and encouraging. When you’re studying it’s easy to take the workshops for granted, but it becomes so much harder and more expensive to access kilns and carpentry workshops once you leave university!
Having access to a studio straight after graduating was so important for me to be able to build upon breakthroughs that were starting to arise in my work. The residency gave me the opportunity to do that and was vital for me in making that transition from study to professional practice.
On the sculpture course at Camberwell you’re sharing a massive open space with a lot of people, so having a large space all to myself in my award studio in East London was amazing. The first few days in the studio were just figuring out how to utilise the space as I wasn’t used to it. A lot of great things started happening in there and it was a very productive time for me…until Corona.
Have you had to adapt your practice due to Covid-19 and the lockdown restrictions?
I haven’t had to change my practice much because of lockdown. This is due to me living in walking distance of my studio - and I tend to work in isolation anyway! I have found, however, that I have begun to produce work about the home, isolation and other emotions that I was experiencing intensely during lockdown. This included my installation Support System which used my bedroom as a starting point.
After being unproductive for too long at the beginning of lockdown, I had to completely adapt my practice. I couldn’t get to the studio for the whole of the lockdown so I had to go back to basics. I opened all the cupboard doors in my kitchen and said ‘what can I make from all of this?’
I spent about 3 months just making salt dough tiles that I bolted together in the hope of creating these massive structures and it ended up collapsing. But there were a lot of interesting experiments and developments from that which led onto the work in the show.
Please tell us more about your new body of work
The sculptures on display at Chelsea Space both use a process I developed while studying at Camberwell. The sculptures began by creating a piece of fabric, then soaking the fabric in material such as plaster, which once dry becomes a solid object.
Vortexwas made in a similar way to some of the works in my degree show, where I used materials linked to the body and to architecture. I wanted to create an object that could effect how people move their body in space. I also wanted to highlight the magic of these materials. The gravity-defying point projects into the space and dares the viewer to come close to search for the answers to its questions in its materiality.
Awenyddion (We Have Forgot, Old Light) came from research into historical chainmail weaving and folklore from around the medieval period in Great Britain. I began making chainmail at Camberwell and have since become interested in the history and fiction this material can represent.
Awenyddion refers to a group of people in Wales who were first recorded in the 12th century (but may be much older) who could predict the future and relay prophecies while in a trance state, waking up unaware of what they had said while in it. I became interested in the connection I could see with the trance state of the Awenyddions and the hypnotic state I sometimes find myself in while making the material, my muscle memory taking over and my mind wandering aimlessly. I was also interested in how I could connect the past and future by using modern materials in an ancient tradition.
This sculpture is one of the earliest from this line of research, where I used symbols and crafts that were linked to these people and materials linked to modern architecture to create a bridge between the two.
This current body of work began with the discovery of tongue stones. These are fossilised talismans have been regarded throughout history as mystical treasures: the Romans believed they came from the sky having fallen from the moon and in the Middle Ages they were thought to offer protection from poison. In fact, they were fossilised teeth of prehistoric creatures.
For me, this gave birth to an imagined world where teeth were the most valuable offerings, collected and scavenged by creatures known as The Tooth Collectors. The relics, freshly excavated, are the only evidence of such a place. What are believed to be vessels of some kind adorned with precious metals were found in abundance alongside 3 mechanical structures upon which idols sit and watch.
Tell us about the installation of the show
I think the installation went very smoothly. I was so excited to see the work outside of the studio and it was interesting to curate the show with as much emphasis being placed on its effect from the window as the atmosphere within the gallery.
It was also exciting to collaborate with Brody in this installation. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to work in isolation while creating work, but I think it is important to collaborate in projects to truly get a complete perspective.
It was strange to realise the work was not going to be experienced from all angles as that is always a consideration I have when making. There was a level of uncertainty in turning it into a vitrine show but through the process of installing and collaborating with the curators and Isobel it worked out well.
The installation was different from any others I've done in the sense that the viewpoint was from only 1 of 4 walls. There was a constant process of leaving the gallery space to view it from the front window every time a piece of the work was moved only slightly which was an odd restriction to the work but an interesting one to work with.
Brody Chipchase / Isobel Finlay is on show at Chelsea Space, available to view via the gallery’s large window frontage, until 11 December 2020.