Interview: Sally de Courcy
Luca Curci talks with Sally de Courcy during LONDON CONTEMPORARY, at THE LINE Contemporary Art Space.
Sally de Courcy was born in Canterbury, Kent, UK. An interest in social justice led her away from art into a career in medicine. Early in her medical career, she was exposed to the suffering of refugees after a genocidal regime. After returning to the UK her own future seemed comfortable until sudden illness catapulted her into early medical retirement at the age of 40. No longer able to do the job she loved, she turned back to art and to art school. She took an access course at the University of the Creative Arts, Farnham and progressed to a BA in Fine Art before obtaining a Master of Arts in 2016. During her masters, she revisited these earlier medical experiences which underpin her practice. She likes her work to be a platform for discussion. In some ways she sees her work as reportage, and aims through the narrative of the work, to broach sometimes difficult or uncomfortable subjects. Recently her work has been about the COVID19 pandemic and the escalating numbers of refugees crossing the English Channel in small boats since air and land routes closed. She is a member of IAVA, International Association of Visual Artists and Continuum. She has been published widely, most 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, The Forge, London E14 3AE and The Fold Gallery and Saatchi Gallery London with Focus Art Fair. She has future exhibitions planned during 2021/2022 in London and the UK and at Fresh Air Sculpture, Gloucestershire in 2022. She lives near London, UK.
LUCA CURCI – What is art for you?
SALLY DE COURCY – Art for me is a platform to raise awareness of subjects that are often overlooked or ignored within society and to be a focus for discussion. 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.
LC – What are you currently working on?
SDC – My most recent work is called The Colour of Mourning, which uses contextual cast objects to reflect the hazardous movement of refugees crossing the English Channel in escalating numbers to seek asylum in the UK after fleeing from war and persecution. It is not possible to apply for asylum outside the UK. In 2020 the closure of air and lorry routes to the UK during the pandemic increased four-fold the numbers crossing in small boats, one of the most dangerous shipping channels in the world. At least 8,400 people crossed in 2020, 10% of whom were children. The numbers are rapidly increasing in 2021. Since 1999 three hundred asylum seekers have died including 36 children. This is reflected in another recent work made of cast driftwood and death mask-like faces looking abjectly down in Three Hundred, Still Counting. The Colour of Mourning is arranged as an ironic mandala, representing the circle of life. The circle reflects the movement of wheels and journeys made, cogs functioning because of actions by others. The objects are rendered like bone, emblematic of my work, and are white reflecting the color of mourning in many cultures.
LC – Which is the role the artist plays in society? And contemporary art?
SDC – I consider the role of the artist in society to be a mediator between narrative and debate. By broaching subjects that may at times seem controversial or challenging a dialogue can be created, breaking down barriers in society and raising awareness.
LC – What is your creative process like?
SDC – My practice is very process orientated, I work from a small shed in my garden, making molds to cast objects over and over a messy, yet methodical production line. Repetition as a means of artistic practice requires considerable patience and it is at times laborious and obsessive. My creative ideas occur at night away from the manufacturing process of daytime when I have no time to think or reflect as the process is all-absorbing. Creativity starts only when all the objects are made. I often do not know what the 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.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
SDC – Initially I repeated simple abstract objects and arranged them to create more complex forms, pursuing the well-trodden path of abstract repetition, and the magnifying repetition of imperfection, as a means of representing physical, social, and cultural evolution. An epiphany came at art school when I was challenged to make the abstract more personal, to bring more of myself into the piece. Much of my work now revisit my past medical career as a witness of human suffering. My work aims at challenging our perception of ourselves, our fragility and our strength. My sculptures evolve by manipulating multiple cast objects so that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Using repetition as emphasis, the outcome has a decorative geometry and kinetic unity that expresses are shared human experiences and conditions.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you? Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
SDC – The concept of Mixed Identity inspired me to make the work in the current exhibition. The work Dream or Nightmare? reflects the experience of mixed identity as both observer and participant, as medical practitioner and patient living in social isolation during the Covid 19 pandemic. 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 – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform? Did you enjoy cooperating with us? What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
SDC – I have been very impressed by the professionalism of ITSLIQUID platform in 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. 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.