Interview: Sally de Courcy
Luca Curci talks with Sally de Courcy during MIXING IDENTITIES, the third appointment of CANVAS ART FAIR, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space.
Sally de Courcy after an earlier career as a doctor, qualified in 2016 from the University of Creative Arts, Farnham with a first-class honors degree, scholarship and master’s with distinction in Fine Art. She is interested in the repetition of cast objects and works in different mediums including bronze. The objects are re-assembled to reveal a narrative. Her experience of working with refugees is reflected in her work, which often stands for those who are treated as less than human. The philosophical reasons for the repetition of violence through history explored by Butler and Zizek have influenced her. Recently her work concerns humanitarian aspects of the COVID19 pandemic. Sally is a member of IAVA, International Association of Visual Artists and Continuum. She has had publications, recently in Flux Review Magazine and Artist Talk magazine. She has exhibited throughout the UK and internationally, recently at the BORDERS Exhibition in Venice, Espacio Gallery London, the Ty Pawb, Wrexham Wales and at the D31 Gallery, Doncaster and currently at the Line Contemporary Art Space, London E14 3AE. Sally has future exhibitions during 2021 in London and in the UK. Sally lives in Woking, UK.
“My interest in the making is highly personal, building repetitively where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I began by casting repeated abstract forms to create more complex arrangements, magnifying the repetition of imperfection. At art school, I was challenged to make the abstract more personal, to bring more of myself into the piece. My work is not autobiographical in the figurative sense, but like many artists explores the liminal space between conscious representation and unconscious influence. In my earlier medical career, whilst working in the developing world, I was exposed to the suffering of refugees from a genocidal regime. Much of my work revisits these experiences as a witness of human suffering. Using varied materials, I cast repeated contextually linked objects that when perceived are re-assembled to reveal a hidden narrative. My work is frequently decorative but hiding darker and often sinister subjects that when revealed create dissonance. The sum is like an optical puzzle, oscillating between beauty and nightmare. I use repetition to emphasize my ideas and concerns within this overall gestalt”.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Sally de Courcy – Art for me reveals a narrative. I cast repeated objects that contextually link and are re-assembled to create artworks that explore subjects that are often overlooked or ignored within society. Through art, my narrative becomes a focus for discussion. My work aims at challenging our perception of ourselves, our fragility and our strength. Using repetition as emphasis, the outcome has a decorative geometry and kinetic unity that reflects our shared human experiences.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
SdC – An interest in social justice led me away from art into a career in medicine. Early in my training, whilst young and working in the developing world, I was exposed to the suffering of refugees from a genocidal regime These images stayed with me when life and family took me back to the UK and the safety of general practice in Surrey. My own future seemed comfortable until sudden and serious illness catapulted me into retirement at the age of 40. No longer able to do the job I loved and facing an uncertain future, I turned back to art and to art school. The academic training, I received over eight challenging years at the University of the Creative Arts, extended and consolidated my practice as a conceptual artist. It allowed me to rebuild myself, piece by piece. I am influenced by my experiences as both observer and participant, as practitioner and patient, most recently as an immunocompromised artist living a shielded existence in relative social isolation. Much of my work revisits experiences as a witness of human suffering, reinterpreted through a historical and geopolitical lens, informed by my wider reading. Recent authors who have directly inspired me include Butler and Zizek.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
SdC – All my artworks use repetition of abstract forms or objects that when combined explore the theory that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I use repetition as a means of emphasis to raise awareness of sometimes controversial topics. For example, I am currently working on a piece called “The Colour of Mourning” which reflects the hazardous movement of refugees crossing the English Channel in escalating numbers since the closure of air and lorry routes to the UK during the pandemic.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it like your medium of expression?
SdC – My work is not autobiographical in the figurative sense, but like many artists explores the liminal space between conscious representation and unconscious influence. In my case, this has meant revisiting my experiences as a witness of human suffering, which is reflected in my work and often stands for those who are treated as less than human. More recently my work has explored humanitarian aspects of the COVID19 pandemic.
LC – What is your creative process like?
SdC – My practice is very process orientated, making molds to cast objects over and over. Repetition as a means of artistic practice requires considerable patience and it is at times laborious and obsessive. Creativity often starts only when all the objects are made. I do not know what the final outcome will be until I start arranging the objects and the sculpture slowly evolves, sometimes through a happy accident! It has taught me not to have pre-conceived ideas, to keep an open mind, and to explore materials and take risks. My favorite part of this creative process is the unpredictability of the final outcome. Many sculptors rely on drawings with a vision of how their work will be. However, my sculptures only start to evolve when manipulating multiply cast objects. I see these studio experiments as my 3D drawings and I find it exciting when the multiple pieces articulate together to create labyrinthine sculptures. These were recently described as “an infinite geometry that doesn’t just unite kinetic forces, but human experiences and human conditions”.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
SdC – In the current exhibition I have a sculpture called “Dream or Nightmare” which is an autobiographical response to the recent pandemic. Faces with a dream-like quality explore the surreality of being isolated in lockdown as an immunocompromised artist and medically retired doctor. The work is personal, just as I have rebuilt myself piece by piece so the sculpture has evolved by using repeated metaphorical objects that relate to the pandemic. Femurs reference mortality and are combined with driftwood – symbolic of feeling beached (stranded) and like the virus returns in waves. Both are vestigial remains and are therefore rendered to look like bone. When viewed, the contextual links are re-assembled to reveal a narrative. Arms reflect the inability to embrace, and the bats the vector of COVID19 invade the sculpture. The work is bound by clean bandages expressing a desire for a healed post-pandemic world. They also reference the artist’s medical past and mixed identity as a patient and allude to Florence Nightingale and the Nightingale hospitals.
LC – In which way the artwork presented in our exhibition is connected with the Canvas festival and Mixed Identities theme?
SdC – The work explores the concept of ‘mixed identity’. The work reflects the experience of mixed identity as both observer and participant, as a medical practitioner and patient living in social isolation. The work also has a mixed identity, although deliberately decorative it reveals the darker aspects of the pandemic, creating dissonance. The sum becomes something like a surreal optical puzzle, oscillating between dream and nightmare.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
SdC – I have been very impressed by the professionalism of ITSLIQUID platform in the organization, communication, administration and all aspects despite the difficulties of COVID19. It is always exciting to exhibit internationally and it has been an excellent opportunity for me as I am sure it would be for other artists. I have thoroughly enjoyed cooperating with ITSLIQUID GROUP and would highly recommend the experience.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
SdC – I think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an excellent opportunity for artists. It is a useful platform to promote artists’ work through social media, published interviews and international exhibition opportunities.
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
SdC – The pandemic has made physical exhibitions difficult; many galleries have set up virtual exhibitions, this would provide artists with exhibition exposure without the difficulties and costs of transporting works. Perhaps a digital screen could also be used in physical exhibitions if large works make transport difficult.