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Gallery Talk with Anna Gillespie

Friday 30 November, 12.30 - 13.30

Anna Gillespie first exhibited at the gallery with Graham Bannister and Helen Nue last year as part of the Four Seasons Exhibition. Anna’s new body of work is a bold departure from the pieces she has been known for until this point.  Replacing the organic tree materials, and the sense of absorption in the natural world, is a harder edge - a more alienated, individualised experience, expressed in a riskier, rawer form. Retained is the human figure, though now in plaster - a material more often associated with the artist's studio. It’s use is significant, marking a preference for experimentation and frankness over the formality of the bronze edition. 

Although all work is available in both bronze and plaster, Anna explains: ‘'Solid Bronze' is almost never so in sculpture - it is predominantly hollow. Here hollowness is accentuated, in terms of the sculpting process and raw emotion in the finished figures.  Where moulds are used on smaller works the marks and holes remain. The larger figures can, literally, be seen through.’

Anna has always eschewed the idea of a comfort zone. Although trained as a stone mason, her first bronze sculptures were moulded from masking and packing tape originals.  Her work has always hinted at the combination of personal and political. Here the hints are more forceful and may allude to a particular stage of life, or the way in which, disconnected from the natural world, the human experience is hollow in spite of material well-being.

The solitary figures convey a sense of isolation. Alongside these individual works run a series of multiples, where individuality merges into a mass of humanity, thereby becoming largely unrecognisable and valueless. This human paradox – individuality versus insignificance – is acute in the contemporary world. Related to this, and dealt with in previous work looking at mass movements of people, is the idea of how one can recognise the individual within the mass; of how little it takes to distinguish a human being.

There is an echo too here of previous environmental ‘Gathering Project' work where the individual beauty of each acorn cup or beech nut was highlighted but also contrasted with an awe of nature’s boundlessness in reproducing itself.  As with leaves, so with humans; we are each individual and yet part of a mass in which our presence is unnecessary. A further contradiction explored is the contrast between strength and vulnerability. In sculptural terms mass and fragility co-exist through the device of hollowed out forms.

The new work emphasises that art is not a refuge from political and emotional complexity. There is joy to be found here too, reflected in the glee of direct making; it is resolutely figurative and sensual.  The layers within any artwork can be physical – here in plaster upon plaster, built up, knocked back, dripped, flung and placed, pigment clinging to the depths of the texture. Beyond this are unseen dimensions  – layers of process, emotion and narrative.’ - Anna Gillespie.

Anna studied Philosophy, Politics & Economics at Oxford.  After her training in Stone Masonry and Carving, she worked as studio assistant to sculptor, Nigel Konstam at Centro d'Arte, Verrocchio and then an MA in Fine and Media Arts. She has exhibited at the National Trust Headquarters (UK), Glastonbury Festival, RHS Chelsea Flower Show and has work in collections worldwide, including Burghley House Sculpture Park, The Somerset Museum and Museo Arte Contemporanea Sicilia.

By Hannah on 13/11/2018