We caught up with artist Jane Corbett at the opening of our current show ‘Its Just A Quick Walk To The Future From Here’ to find out more about the notions of display, protection and value in her work.
’I consider these works almost as invented relics, something that draws heavily from my interest in anthropological objects, reliquaries, cabinets of curiosities, museum collections, and seedariums. I have long been fascinated by the notion of precious objects, a beautiful formal display case for example, infers additional ‘value’ to the piece within. So often, if something is seen as needing to be protected, one automatically assigns the concept of preciousness to it and thus the object itself becomes more intriguing.’ For more, read the full interview below
Emma: Jane your piece ‘Petticoat Casket’ looks fabulous in the gallery. It reminds us concurrently of an antiquarian museum display, a reliquary, your millinery work and even of a Pandora’s Box! Clearly the idea of display is important in your work?
Jane: Yes there is a lot of emphasis on display and especially of museum display in my work. The glass domes I use are all antique, and the sourcing of authentic pieces is something I feel is very important. I consider these works almost as invented relics, something that draws heavily from my interest in anthropological objects, reliquaries, cabinets of curiosities, museum collections, and seedariums. As such my work really draws on the idea of collecting and display, of found objects and of course, created ones. Amongst many other things as you suggested, the piece ‘Petticoat Casket’, is about growth, with the wisp of fabric emerging from the casket in a sort of elastic form. One gets the sense that the fabric had been contained within the casket but that now, once released, it has grown into something larger and would not be able to fit back in. I liked the dichotomy of showing the piece as still growing in our present day and as something fossilised in time.
E: And of course the notion of fossilisation is something very pertinent to the idea of museum display. The dome itself is clearly an important part of your sculpture. Do you consider the function of the dome much like the function of a frame to a painted piece?
J: The dome certainly is important, but more as an exploration of perceived value and the increase of this value when something appears to be protected. I have long been fascinated by the notion of precious objects, a beautiful formal display case for example, infers additional ‘value’ to the piece within. I am often drawn back to the aesthetic of museum cases at the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford which houses an incredible collection of the university’s archaeological and anthropological artefacts, all contained within the original Victorian museum display cases. So often, if something is seen as needing to be protected, one automatically assigns the concept of preciousness to it and thus the object itself becomes more intriguing.
E: Do you consider then, the value of a found object and a created object to be equal? Is it for example, the context which is more important in ascribing value to the work, than the object in need of protection itself?
J: Well I do work with found objects, such as beach-combed woodas well as natural and ritual objects, but I make everything else myself. My work as a milliner has informed the sculptural use of fabrics but I also enjoy working in wire and porcelain and am currently working with glass wax and plastic resin. A viewer might draw historical fashion references from my work as a result of the influence of millinery in my life, but I try to not let this have too profound an impact on my work. The idea of creating is important to my ethics as an artist, not just in the creation of a composition underneath a glass dome, but of creating each individual piece inside.
E: Your pieces could almost be considered as modern antiques then. The idea of preciousness and fragility is something we associate with antiques and even archaeological artefacts, a quality which your work certainly possesses, but your work of course, it is made in our modern present day. It must interesting to observe, how others perceive and react to your work in this way?
J: It is extremely interesting yes. I enjoy the fact that viewers often invent their own stories about my pieces. The works are all part of an ongoing process of creating; my own ‘collection’ of rediscovered fragments, fossilised remains, anthropological specimens, travel journals, museum artefacts, and records of invented history, so to ascribe just one meaning to a piece would be too simplistic. The variations in the perceptions that others have of my work, is therefore intensely fascinating for me and can often draw out notions that I had not previously considered.
E: And since giving up millinery and practising as artist full time, it must be enjoyable to fully indulge in your creative passions? Could you tell us the direction or influences that your work is taking on now?
J: Exactly. Although I have enjoyed the work I did in the past, I finally have the chance to work at what I love. I have really focused on sculpture for the all-embracing effect that it allows for. I love to be able to walk around a work and see it from all angles.
E: Something Jackson Pollock said of his work when working with his canvases on the floor.
J: Yes indeed, the ability to do so is very important to my artistic practice. Aside from this, I am finding new influences all the time. Having been in Edinburgh for this fantastic exhibition I have been able to explore the city and the Botanic Gardens. I found the hot house plants at the Botanic Gardens really inspiring, much as at Kew Gardens in London. A final thought I am currently exploring, is the possibility of designing my own clear display plinths and cases to allow my work to ‘grow’ beyond the confines of the case down into the plinths. I am very excited to now be represented in Scotland by Arusha Gallery, by this wonderful gallery space and great team. I am really looking forward to what 2015 holds!
To see Jane’s work as part of the current exhibition, ‘Its Just A Quick Walk To The Future From Here’ come into our gallery space at 13A Dundas Street before 5th December 2014.
For a full listing of Jane’s work and artistic biography see her page under ‘Artists’ at http://www.arushagallery.com/artists/jane-corbett