Insel der Puppen
Powder-coated steel and enamel on concrete plinth
Public sculpture commission, Kunstmuseum Magdeburg, Germany
This sculpture presents four-sided “tree” structure, (5.10 meters in height) inhabited by a assortment of female figures originating in different time periods. Ambivalent narratives play hide-and-seek among the branches. The women are not meant to be particular individuals, (although some are well-known) rather, they remain hinted at or anonymous within the sculpture. Through these portraits, certain archetypes can be explored. In the feminine landscape that emerges from the subconscious realm, psychological projections materialize and instinctively can take on grotesque, beautiful, humorous, or dramatic forms. Each character carries the potential for her own story, intertwining with those of other figures. The title came from a conversation with Mexican archeologist Elizabeth Baquedano; we discussed Mayan legends involving mythical heads in trees, and also the "island of dolls” in the canals of Xochimilco in Mexico, where a man has hung hundreds old, tired and dirty dolls on the trees of his little island. It is said that his young daughter drowned, and a doll was found in the water. This was the beginning of a kind of cumulative process for him, maybe a way of mourning. My own tree is not as macabre as this description, but I liked the sound of the phrase, as something more oblique. Other references are Julia Kristeva’s critical text on "Severed Heads”, analysing historically the head as symbol and metaphor, and Billie Holiday’s song “Strange Fruit”, against racism and oppression. But these elements that inspired me are combined with several others, and only whispered. The piece remains ambiguous.
There is a long history linking trees and foliage with female figures, from Greek mythology to medieval European Folklore, to Renaissance and Baroque Grotesque ornamentation. In my own practice, I often use this motif to symbolize an existential position: the Self as a complex, hybrid being, traversed by multiple narratives, multiple personae, evolving organically over time, as in the life-cycle.
This project was generously supported by Cemex Germany and the Mexican Embassy in Germany, SRE.
I'd like to thank Annegret Laabs, Uwe Gellner, and Judith Mader for making this project possible. I'd like to also thank Elizabeth Turrell, Jessica Turrell, Sebastian Anastasow, Klaus Pfeiffer, James Shearer (otherfabrications.com), as well as the staff at A.J. Wells, for their production and design assistance.
Current group exhibition
Conversations in Painting: ‘if it fits in the Fiesta you’re in…’
Preview: Friday 13th October 6.00-8.00 pm
Conversations in Painting: ‘if it fits in the Fiesta you’re in…’ present an exhibition of new and recent paintings at Crown Street Art Gallery, Darlington - open to the public on Saturday 14th October until Thursday 9th November 2017 - showing work made by a group of practitioners distinctly placed in their personal trajectory who sustain a direct connection with the Tees Valley. A collaboration of emerging, established, national and international artists whose collective expertise represents a diverse range of interpretive approaches. Artists commissioned to make work for this show are: Sarah COONEY, Deb COVELL, Gordon DALTON, Philip GATENBY, Neil McNALLY, Remy NEUMANN and Alicia PAZ. This project seeks to understand more about how visual arts culture operates in the Tees Valley, especially so through its focus on painting. Conversations in Painting… is an artist led project initiated by Sarah Cooney and Philip Gatenby in partnership with the independent curator Kerry Harker, a co-curated selective review of non-representational approaches to fine art practice. The exhibition is set in the conventions of the white box gallery as a ‘performance space’ for shared conversational dialogue between participant artists and the public. Public events and workshops scheduled throughout the duration of the gallery show will host visitors, guest practitioners, curators, writers, students and invested members of the public as co-participants in panel discussions:
Panel Scenario 01: ‘Painting: politics, practice and pedagogy - taking place within the setting of the group exhibition Conversations in painting: if it fits in the Fiesta, you’re in… the panel will consider artistic strategies of autonomy and collectivism, and their relationship to notions of radical pedagogy and to painting as a practice within the specific context of the Tees Valley.’
At Crown Street Art Gallery, Darlington, Thursday 2 November 2017, 6.00-8.00 pm
Participants: Kerry Harker (Chair and Independent Curator), Stephen Snoddy (Director, The New Art Gallery Walsall), Tony Charles (Artist and Director, Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough), Alicia Paz (Artist) and Neil McNally (Artist and Writer)
Panel Scenario 02: ‘The Potential of Pointlessness: painting between play and pragmatism – if gaining consent to engage with painting is ‘tricky’, under what conditions has the Tees Valley nurtured a thriving and unstoppable collective practice, perversely re-energised in its progressive development by the persistent uttering of painting’s naysayers? The panel will revisit painting’s potential to imagine more playful and less brutalizing futures, in the face of an externally imposed focus on functionality.’
At Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough, Thursday 16 November 2017, 6.00-8.00 pm
Participants: Kerry Harker (Chair and Independent Curator), Dr Jonathan Chapman (Programme Leader, Fine Art CCAD), Paul Stewart (Artist and Lead Curator, Middlesbrough Art Weekender), Neil McNally (Artist and Writer) and Sarah Cooney (Artist and Curator)
Panel Scenario 03: ‘Painting, place and ecology - conversations in Painting… takes inspiration from the singularity of expertise relating to painting in the Tees Valley. Within this ecology, the seemingly invisible evolution of artist-led initiatives and studio groups, as much changed and changing fruit, has configured contemporary spaces for the exchange of knowledge, expertise and skills in cultural production. This panel will focus on how artist-led activity enables an engagement with painting, in all its evolving guises.’
At The Auxiliary, Stockton-on-Tees, Monday 4 December 2017, 6.00-8.00 pm
Participants: Kerry Harker (Chair and Independent Curator), Kevin Hunt (Artist and Independent Curator), Keren Pearson (Director, The House of Blah Blah), Paul Stewart (Artist and Lead Curator, Middlesbrough Art Weekender) and Elinor Morgan (Senior Curator, mima)
Documentary notes and recordings of conversational dialogue at these sessions are regarded as essential reference for inclusion in the project catalogue published as a working text at the end of the project to advocate the further progress of painting in the Tees Valley. Real time activities taking place throughout the public exhibition will be shared via a dedicated project website, incorporating documented critical writing, co-participant notes and recordings disseminated through the project blog and by partner organisations.
Conversations in Painting: ‘if it fits in the Fiesta you’re in…’ will publish documentary image archive and text as printed matter in the catalogue launch: at The House Of Blah, Blah - Thursday 01.02.2018. Visitors and guests attending the exhibition will be invited to declare their interest in attending the publication launch event and/or obtain copies via on-line purchase.
This artist led project appreciates the support of key funders: Arts Council England (GfA Award) and Darlington Borough Council, and partner support from: Creative Darlington, Navigator North, Platform A Gallery, The House of Blah, Blah and The Auxiliary.
© 2017 CONVERSATIONS IN PAINTING
Edition of 25 signed and numbered prints, commissioned by Kunstmuseum Magdeburg, Germany
Silk-screen and digital print. Collaboration with Michael Hall, Invisible Print Studio, London.
https://www.invisibleprintstudio.co.uk www kunstmuseum-magdeburg.de/en/home.html
My piece The Super-Ego, the Id and their Ladies in Waiting (Mixed media on board,152 x122 cm, archival frame, 2013) has recently been acquired by the City of Paris Municipal Contemporary Art Fund, (FMAC). It will be exhibited at the FIAC in Paris with other recent acquisitions.
FIAC 2017 stand O.C01
19-22 october 2017, Grand Palais
Fonds municipal d'art contemporain de la Ville de Paris
1, rue Jean Mazet 94200 Ivry-sur-Seine – France Tél. : 01 46 71 20 53
Article published in Turps Banana Issue 18 pg. 18-23
Michael Szpakowski: Two visits to three different paintings by Alicia Paz
Exhibition catalogue for Tous, des sang-mêlés!
Essays (bilingual English and French) by Alexia Fabre, Frank Lamy and Julie Crenn
MACVAL - Musée d’art contemporain du Val de Marne
Place de la Libération, 94400 Vitry-sur-Seine, France
Cette exposition s’ancre dans l’actualité pour aborder la question de l’identité culturelle au travers de visions et d’expériences d’artistes : Qu’est-ce qui nous rassemble ? Comment se construit une culture commune malgré des origines toujours différentes / diverses ? Ces interrogations, en effet, agitent le monde.
Sous le patronage conjoint de l’historien français Lucien Febvre et de son ouvrage Nous sommes des sang-mêlés : Manuel d’histoire de la civilisation française (1950), ainsi que celui de Stuart Hall, père fondateur des Cultural Studies, cette exposition souligne la dimension fictionnelle de la notion d’identité culturelle. Le parcours imaginé par les commissaires est nourri de propositions soulevant des questionnements et apportant des éclairages sur ce qui nous réunit et nous distingue, sur la transmission et le devenir, sur le pouvoir et la résistance, sur l’individualité et le collectif… Par la voix d’une soixantaine d’artistes internationaux et d’une centaine d’œuvres, les identités culturelles, nationales, sexuelles… sont autant de thèmes ici questionnés. Si tous ont l’être pour sujet, certains sont perçus comme manifestes, d’autres soulèvent le débat — souvent passionnel, résolument politique, et d’autres encore font surgir de la mémoire les traces du passé, émerger le sensible, l’expérience, l’existence même, allant de l’instinct de survie au vivre ensemble.
Les œuvres réunies abordent ces thématiques à partir de situations vécues dans une optique d’échange et de dialogue. Si l’identité culturelle est une fiction, il s’agit de voir comment les artistes l’interprètent, l’interrogent, la remettent en question… en sortant de la perspective identitaire, trop souvent réductrice.
Comment se construit-on par rapport à la langue, au territoire, à la famille, à l’Histoire et sa narration, aux stéréotypes ? L’exposition met en espace des éléments d’un terrain du commun, où les altérités se déploient ensemble et en regard les unes des autres.
Chaque visiteur peut s’approprier, à travers l’histoire, la sensibilité, la parole et l’engagement d’artistes de tous horizons, âges et nationalités, des éléments de réflexion pouvant alimenter sa propre acception de la notion « d’Identité ».
Avec les œuvres de : Soufiane Ababri, Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Adam Adach, Nirveda Alleck, Francis Alÿs, Giulia Andreani, Fayçal Baghriche, Sammy Baloji, Raphaël Barontini, Taysir Batniji, Sylvie Blocher, Martin Bureau, Ali Cherri, Claire Fontaine, Steven Cohen, Bady Dalloul, Jonathas De Andrade, Morgane Denzler, Jimmie Durham, Ninar Esber, Esther Ferrer, Karim Ghelloussi, Marco Godinho, Mona Hatoum, Joana Hadjithomas et Khalil Joreige, Maryam Jafri, Katia Kameli, Jason Karaïndros, Bouchra Khalili, Kimsooja, Kapwani Kiwanga, Will Kwan, Lawrence Lemaoana, Mehryl Levisse, Violaine Lochu, Melanie Manchot, Lahouari Mohammed Bakir, Kent Monkman, Malik Nejmi, Nguyen Trinh Thi, Otobong Nkanga, Harold Offeh, Daniela Ortiz, Alicia Paz, Adrian Piper, Présence Panchounette, Pushpamala N, Athi-Patra Ruga, Zineb Sedira, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Société Réaliste, Tsuneko Taniuchi, Erwan Venn, James Webb, Sue Williamson, Chen Zhen