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theCOLAB / Royal College of Art / Yorkshire Sculpture Park 2023 Award Winner

 

In residence in the Artist’s Hut
Wednesday - Friday, 11.00 - 4pm

at The Artist’s Garden, on the roof of
Temple tube station, London, WC2R 2PH

Steady III

2024

London, UK

The COLAB Artist's Garden, Temple, Westminster, London, WC2R 2PH

Photography by Alice Walters

 

"theCoLAB presents Annabel Tennyson-Davies’s VERTIGO including her first foray into outdoor public sculpture.  As winner of theCOLAB/ Royal College of Art/Yorkshire Sculpture Park Graduate Award 2023, Tennyson-Davies is artist in residence at ‘The Artist’s Garden’, a vast but secret half-acre raised space above Temple tube station between Strand and the Thames, brought back into use as an open-air public space for contemporary art by women artists.  The award and residency offers valuable support for the annual recipient to navigate the complex processes of making work for public space.

 

Since December 2023, Tennyson-Davies has been in the Artist’s Hut, expanding her exploration of vertigo and stability/instablity by amalgamating physical and digital processes, hilarity and gravity, the weird and the commonplace.  Her interest in vertigo is personal:  crystalline formations in her inner ear rob her of balance, dizziness is her norm.  Her recurring dream is seeing herself floating, armless, in the middle of the sea on a small wooden plank.  On waking, her world spins. 

But even before this became her reality, her work was spinning. She was making films of hundreds of casts of fingers spinning on turntables (‘Twiddling my Thumbs’, 2021); she was folding hundreds of origami frogs for people to take away and wear or display, a select few of which were lit with moving shadows to be viewed from a spinning chair. 

She has adopted the rule that there are no rules as to what materials or processes to use.  She embraces the random and adopts what presents itself to her.  This decidely provisional approach led her to make armies of plaster figures, all of which refused to stand up, which in turn led her to focus on this most fundamental of all sculptural conundrums. Characterically lateral in her thinking, she sought solutions from beyond the hand.  3D printing presented itself. 

In search of stability, she started striking unplanned poses supporting herself with broomsticks and using drapery attached with tape, and allowed herself to be scanned with a low-tech, low resolution hand-held scanner.  As the scanner moves around her solid semi-stable body, its sensor projects light across the surface and two cameras capture the distortion where the light beams fall, from which 3D coordinates are recorded.  Faithful replication, however, was never Tennyson-Davies’s hope.  It was on printing in 3D that a random element appeared:  the AI of the scanner ‘guessed’ where supports would be needed to make the form stable.  Verticals cascaded from eyes and fingers, drapery was ‘completed’ by an ephemeral programme, her sculpture was given stability by an intangible element outside her control.  A thought she finds comfortingly weird. She had inadvertently found a way to make the spinning stop, temporarily. 

Unable to stop at one, armies of small imperfect figures appeared, part abstract, part figurative, part intentional, part made and part imposed by an intangible and imperfect set of digital instructions.  The resulting works are diminutive sketch-like sculptures which are emphatically anti-monumental.  On seeing these curious figures and their digital drawings, floating in endless space, she began the process of creating complex multi-figure compostions, distorting scales and amalgamating perspectives.  Adopting a Rodin-like process of creating multiples, fragments and assemblages, ‘Steady’ (and her many counterparts) appeared.

Faced with the expanse of the Artist’s Garden, she forged ahead with an ambitious scaling up of ‘Steady’.  Increased scale does not result in it becoming a monument to anything, except the universal and unstable experience of being a woman.  She remains unphased by being temporarily a figurative sculptor, brushes off, laughing, the negative baggage that brings.  In fact, her contortion of the language and process of figurative sculpture has allowed her to make ‘Steady’ belong to Westminster [Temple], peopled as it is with a multitude of frozen bronzes figures from the past.  Her work is both a continuation of this past and a contemporary extension of Lord and Lady Arundel’s collection of classical marble sculptures that once stood in gardens beneath the site.  It is essentially an entirely contemporary reimagining of the sculpted filmic body reconstructed frame by frame and completed by its own expansive backdrop of sky."

-Claire Mander

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