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Chrysalis: An interview with artist and curator Bruce Ingram 

Exhibition installation shot featuring five assemblage sculptures against a bright orange wall, with draped printed fabrics in the foreground.
Exhibition installation shot featuring five assemblage sculptures against a bright orange wall, with draped printed fabrics in the foreground.
Nick Manser,
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Nick Manser
Written by
Sarah McLean
Published date
23 April 2020

The Chrysalis exhibition at Wimbledon Space took place in the spring term, bringing together four artists who explore sculptural form and share an energetic interest in materials, employing assemblage in exciting and playful ways.

The transformation of the everyday is an ongoing thread between the works of Ben Branagan, May Hands, Bruce Ingram, and Elly Thomas. The pieces included in the exhibition celebrate acts of fixing, stacking, tying and leaning to create a sculptural playground that shuffled and evolved over the duration of the show.

Participating artist Bruce Ingram also curated the exhibition. We spoke to him about navigating the process of collaboration while making and transforming his own work.

Installation shot of exhibition with multiple sculptural works in a white space.
Rob Harris, Chrysalis at Wimbledon Space.
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Rob Harris

Can you start by telling me a bit about the show – what’s in it and what is the premise?

The exhibition focused on sculptural works that share an open ended and transitional approach. The invited artists each take a playful approach to making, and the works on display had a physical sense of impermanence in being built and assembled in the gallery space.

The artists share an interest in assemblage, collecting and the arrangement of form; gathering individual components to form a wider outcome. This was an exhibition about the potential that can be realised by collating these individual objects and the idea that the works could physically shift and re-form throughout the duration of the show.

A mimosa flower and photographic print are hanging in green netting
Rob Harris, May Hands, Washed Out (detail), 2020. Digital prints on silk organza and silk chiffon, netting, muslin, ropes, photographs and photogram, leftover fabrics, stoneware and earthenware ceramics, jesmonite, hair grips, cable ties, bottle tops, paper clip, carabiners, safety pins, plant label, cellophane bag, lavender, fruit stickers, price stickers, paint hook, earring and mimosa.
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Rob Harris

May Hands showed a series of site responsive works that built upon the framework of hanging textiles which connect the floor and ceiling of the gallery space. May’s work is light in touch and has an ephemeral quality in contrast to the physically grounded nature of Ben Branagan’s freestanding stacked forms which consist of appropriated found objects and large concrete casts. Elly Thomas showed a series of paper-mâché and latex sculptures which took inspiration from nature. Her works were arranged and balanced on and between plinths as well as consuming corners and dead spaces.

I showed a new work that comprised a collection of raw materials gathered from my studio alongside a display of unfinished paintings and sculptures, organised on the gallery floor. The work was an un-fixed collage that could be freely altered. Collectively these elements formed a larger composition that celebrates the potential rather than a focus on a fixed outcome.

Two sculptural forms which are almost like figures. Lumpy and in yellow, green and brown they are organic-like materials stacked on top of each other.
Nick Manser., Elly Thomas, Untitled (detail), 2020. Papier-mâché, textiles and latex.
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Nick Manser.

The title of the show is Chrysalis implying a transformation of sorts. Can you tell me a bit about how that relates to the subject matter?

The title Chrysalis felt like a fitting metaphor to reflect the idea of changing states in the creative process of each artist’s practice. The artists share a ‘hands-on’ approach to materials and are open to the sense of play in their own making. The works in the show all shared a sense of familiarity with an immediate and tactile nature.

A chrysalis is an intriguing phenomenon, both abstract in form but also in concept. I’m drawn to its representation of a midway point - suspended between two states of life. The work in the exhibition also had a sense of impermanence: visually precarious and temporal but also physically unfixed. The works were all made up from a diverse range of materials of multiple sources, with the artists choosing to arrange and re assemble the works in the gallery space. Often these works were simply placed, stacked or leant. Throughout the duration of the exhibition artists had the opportunity to play with this concept and reassemble or display works in the gallery, opening up a dialogue around permanence and ideas around what might be perceived as finished and complete.

Five sculptures of concrete, wooden, fabric and rope objects stand against a bright orange wall.
Nick Manser, Ben Branagan, Aggregated Figure 2-6, 2020. Assembled found objects, concrete, wood, rope.
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Nick Manser

Chrysalis was a group show – can you tell me about how you came to select the artists?

This year, Wimbledon Space's programme responded to the theme of ‘impermanence’. As this is a theme that interests me within my own work, I have been attracted to other artists who explore similar concepts and processes. The group show was a great opportunity to work alongside Elly, May and Ben as we all have an enthusiasm for making work that physically engages in the immediate world around us.

Elly and I participated in an experimental group show over ten years ago and we have been interested in each other’s work ever since,  I love Elly’s approach to making, her work is full of possibilities in the outcomes she produces, often re-purposing and assembling forms into new configurations, papier-maché and latex forms act as ingredients or building blocks to make larger forms, with ‘play’ being a central idea to her concept. May and I share a similar interest in gathering and collecting stuff to make work from. I’m drawn to how May responds to the time and place in which she is working, including and responding to architecture and found materials as she is making.

I was drawn to a series of Ben’s works which pulped factual books and transformed them into paper pulped vessels and presented them in museum like displays (Monuments – 2016). Ben’s taking of an outdated mode of information and transforming it to bring new life and meaning in a new form resonated strongly with the theme of this show and I invited him to respond with new works for Chrysalis.

Fabric, netting, a photographic print and ropes are hung from a yellow string across a room.
Rob Harris, May Hands, Washed Out (detail), 2020. Digital prints on silk organza and silk chiffon, netting, muslin, ropes, photographs and photogram, leftover fabrics, stoneware and earthenware ceramics,jesmonite, hair grips, cable ties, bottle tops, paper clip, carabiners, safety pins, plant label,cellophane bag, lavender, fruit stickers, price stickers, paint hook, earring and mimosa.
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Rob Harris

The gallery is situated in a public area of the university, have you considered this in the curation of the show?

I love the space at Wimbledon as it is multi-purpose - in one respect a traditional gallery space to show artwork but with many doors and avenues that connect to other places in the art school. I like the idea of the space being a junction where function and practicality meet contemplation and viewing. The students and staff at the university have to physically pass through the space on a daily basis, I liked the idea of the university audience witnessing change though out the duration of the exhibition.

A collection of brightly colour materials laid out carefully on the floor of Wimbledon Space gallery.
Nick Manser, Bruce Ingram, Midway, Shifting, Forward (detail), 2020. Mixed media sculptures, paintings and studio ephemera.
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Nick Manser

You both showed in the exhibition as an artist and you curated it, can you tell us a bit about how these two things worked alongside one another? Is being an artist-curator something that is part of your practice?

The idea for this show is formed around themes that I am interested in my own work, so it was fun to open the dialogue with like-minded artists. Over the last couple of years, I have been more open to developing projects and also collaboration. The next project I am working on is a collaboration with another artist alongside two dancers, which will bring a new performative element alongside my work. I think it’s positive to embrace creative opportunities that push you outside of the confines of the studio and into new contexts, and to engage with the practice of other artists to drive new and unexpected outcomes.

Read the Chrysalis exhibition catalogue online [PDF 1.2MB]

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