Artist in Profile: Pip & Pop

By Clare Peake (published in tete-a-tete, issue six 2010)


Collaborative duo Pip & Pop's, installation works are usually creations made up of a great deal of small pieces to form what looks like some kind of alternate universe. What came to my mind when looking at the work, were thoughts about endings. Not so much endings in terms of its not so happy connotations of death, but as after life, which in a way I suppose is as much about creation as it is an explanation of the end (or ends).

Certainly in more than one religion, the soul is seen as a separate entity from the body, which upon death has the ability to depart from the body to reside in the “Land of the Dead”, or some other appropriately named venue. When the life of the host (or body) dies the soul shuffles of to some other kind of alternate reality depending on what you believe in (with the exception of Jesus Christ, who in His case, he unfortunately resided in bread and wine and turning into objects is a whole other thing which I am going to disregard. Although, He does say the bread and wine are His flesh and blood and this is commonly interpreted when eaten as ingesting all the things that encompass Jesusly qualities. This could mean eaters of bread and wine are eaters of His soul and this would mean he exists within the eaters, so Jesus is living in an alternate reality also).

What I referred to as alternate reality is probably not the correct word, it implies a place that is somewhat fictitious in nature or does not really exist. However in most religions, and in the case of Pip & Pop’s work, this place is in fact in existence as combinations of “real’’ things. For example, in the bible, Heaven is described as containing the follow:

“… a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal… and on either side of the river… the tree of life, which bare twelve [manner of] fruits, [and] yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree [were] for the healing of the nations.”

Heaven of course leaves out “…and he which is filthy”.

Lit by the “Glory of God” it does actually say, for those who think of it just as a cliché and aren’t familiar with the bible, that there are pearly gates. Twelve in fact (not sure what they are for, but in Heaven it doesn’t matter too much, no harm will come to you from walking through any of them because that is how it is in Heaven). The streets are also said to be “pure gold, as it were transparent glass”. It clearly is a place of “real” things, gates, streets, trees etc, but in purely spectacular form.

This is also true too for Pip & Pop’s installations, let me try and describe their work in the same way as above:

All things glisten and glean with spectacular Glory. A valley adorned with every imaginable jewel. Light dances and catches the colours of exquisite hues and patterns. Island hop across a rainbow to a land full of twinkling wonder.

Well that was fun, but I don’t know where I was going with that.

These places where the soul is content for eternity untroubled from its human worries, are places where everything is improved and idealised as a combination of real (human) and imagined elements (by imagined I mean that they are perhaps not explainable by the laws of physics we have come to understand, like the tree with twelve fruits). These worlds are both the stuff of our world and the stuff of dreams, both vision and dream.

My interpretation of Heaven leads me to feel that it is made up from what is generally accepted as the “best’’ or most likable parts of society, what everyone wants most and then they are made better. But best parts in the eyes of whom? That is the question (well not really your probably thinking, I think I mean who has the right to be those eyes, not who’s eyes are they. It just sounds more confusing to me). I’m going to carry on.

In the case of the universes of Pip & Pop we could say that the “eyes” might be theirs (or it could still be the eyes of God if they have eaten the bread and wine, in that case things are going to get very confusing from here on in. Let’s just say they haven’t and keep it simple), then Pip & Pop would have taken the place of God and created a Heaven of their own making. But I don’t think this is the case, I think they are more like the “hands of God” working in the same way as God but allowing culture to create all the heavenly things it wants and then arranging them in accordance with the cosmos.

Soft hues pleasant to the eye and glossy surfaces, rainbows and reindeers create visions of loveliness that are all encompassing and like Heaven, know no limits. Somehow this “loveliness” quickly turns into infection, a sickness, an itchy uncontrollable fungus that you just can’t shake (I am just going of what I read on the internet about funguses, I don’t have a fungus of my own), all this happening within the blink of an eye. We could never live in that or survive in it, let alone rest our souls!

I don’t believe you if you disagree with me, you (like me) are easily seduced by the delicate and wondrous nature of the work, it is something. But when you take another look, you may notice how quickly seduction turns into repulsion. It’s like when you see a delicious treat; you pick it up lick your lips and upon inspection you notice a discarded piece hair attached to its glossy, sticky surface. The initial joy is gone, it’s a case of too good to be true and you are left feeling momentarily ill and turned off by the thought eating that delicious, delicious treat.

I say “momentarily” because it is, more often than not, just that. As time passes you can stomach the thought of consuming again, so you do. You may experience the same feelings of joy, but this time as you allow yourself to linger in the moment you might recall that hairy occasion. At this instant you titter heavenly on a balance between attraction and repulsion. The limits of each become strange and difficult to know and the treat is tainted. It is not delicious, delicious anymore, maybe now it is only just delicious.

So what of limits? Heaven knows no limits. And what of those adventure seeking people who constantly “push” the limits? Without limits there must be no ending and now I am back at the beginning thinking about endings… and beginnings and being at the ending and the beginning at the same time.

Well since I’m not sure where I am anymore, for this moment I shall return to the work of Pip & Pop. I shall blissfully delight in its splendiferous existence and revel in its glory!

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Artist in Profile: Angela McHarrie

By Clare Peake (published in tete-a-tete, issue five 2010)

“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice.”

Uncertainty influences most of our daily lives, underlying much of our decision making and understanding of the things around us. It drives us to seek information, test and evaluate our knowledge and can create possibilities that allow for the invention of new and imaginative worlds. It is in this state of uncertainty that things can occur that are both nonsensical and sensical at the same time, where the unpredictable can be tested and where Angela McHarrie’s work sits comfortably. Through McHarrie’s work one state transforms into another exploring the process of this occurrence. The work isn’t fussed about being fixed one way or the other but rather enjoys being neither.

McHarrie’s work, like understanding uncertainty, is not about leaving what you know at the door, but more about taking it with you, learning the rules and then learning their limits. Nothing is lost or disregarded, instead it’s found elsewhere. Like learning a new language, things are shifted and translated. Objects and words are translated into drawings, sculptures, paintings and coded systems through her process. It is by means of this action the work is built and demolished at the same time, but where one system starts and finishes is equally arbitrary.

In Lewis Carroll’s novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice while playing croquet in the garden observes that she is unable to figure out if there are any rules to the game and if there is, if anyone is abiding by them. This sentiment for me is pertinent when thinking about McHarrie’s work. Playing/not playing, progress/decline, win/lose, present/absent all become interchangeable and imaginary concepts addressed in her work. The original meaning of the words is not necessarily discarded, but like in Carroll’s novel they become imaginary concepts. Like ideas of time and measurement, these words are tested and used to develop our understanding of the way things are. It is perhaps through this process that a new meaning is found, a new concept that sits in between the dualities McHarrie presents in her work. However, as soon as you think you’ve got it, and grasped this new language, it has already shifted and moved elsewhere.

This unstable nature is also reflected in McHarrie’s scenarios of brightly coloured wooden text pieces and objects. McHarrie often translates these assemblages into other forms such as photographs and drawings, a process which allows a shift to occur from a three dimensional to a two dimensional space. The simple objects such as chairs, tables and balls are precariously balanced and often left to float in space with no reference point for the viewer to anchor and make sense of the objects. They supersede their predicted scale, weight or strength allowing McHarrie to distort our understanding and knowledge of the objects.

In her most recent works, McHarrie uses three-dimensional wood cut-outs of text as both a visual language and as a codified system to be translated. The difference between words such as “lost” and “found” or “something” and “nothing”, become interchangeable and nonsensical where one word can be used to describe the other. It reminds me of trying to learn a new language, when often several words in English might be used to describe the meaning of a single word in a different language and vice-versa. The word is described as concept rather than given a direct definition, a bit like saying something is pinky purple or blue-ish green to form the basis of our perception, when the actual meaning is neither but is co-depended on both. It is this space that McHarrie’s work explores best; real and imagined at the same time.

The dynamic of the work is polished and meticulously crafted to the point of becoming almost diagrammatic. This aesthetic quality, its crispness, acts much like signage attracting and focusing the viewer. Solid blocks of flat colour and clean lines are used to direct the viewer without dictating their interpretation. McHarrie creates a curious and unsettling space for the viewer to negotiate.

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Artist in Profile: Elizabeth Delfs

By Clare Peake (published in tete-a-tete, issue four 2009)

Spectacular Skeletons

Elizabeth DelfsThe main function of a skeleton is to support the body and make locomotion possible. It provides a framework for maintaining the shape of the body and points of attachment for muscles. Joints between bones, allow movement through the contraction of muscles and specialised parts work in harmony to sustain life. Elizabeth Delfs’ quiet, undulating forms appear to imitate these characteristics. Looking at the objects, these tensile structures hang with a sense of lightness and breathability and as if about to perform some kind of expert motion.

The hovering architectures sit just off the floor and attached to walls. They appear to be bony-like frameworks that are both flexible and fused in parts, her restrained forms are dynamic. The techniques Delfs uses to construct these objects, allows them to become locomotive in a way that they are completely collapsible, expandable and reconfigurable.

This ability to be reconfigured and adapted to their environment is achieved through the redistribution of weight. It allows them to be adjusted according to circumstance; they can be modified to act as appendages to wall, floor or body. Like animal instinct they contain the ability to expand to boast, fight or threaten and to contract to hide or rest, their transformability being the ultimate mechanism for survival.

The objects mediate between being geometric forms and unusual organisms. Amoeba like and skeletal Delfs manipulates her chosen material to form a scaffold made from the repetition of basic shapes. These skeletal organisms appear to be searching for the bodies that they house. Their collapsible, flexible nature resists gravity as the forms try to animate themselves in the search for their bodies. As flat and folded objects they sit passively awaiting activation, once expanded and attached to a host, wall or body, their shape becomes a combination of both the body shaping the object and the object shaping the body, a true parasite. The objects maintain a symbiotic relationship with their host, disfiguring it but also providing new ways of mobility.

Delfs’ architectures are usually light in weight and made from a single piece of tulle or other industrial material such as foam, plastic or fly screen. She categorises these materials as “fluid in nature and that allow movement to be achieved through their ability to change configuration and shape”. Responding directly to the qualities of the material, Delfs cuts a singular, simple shape that is derived from a drawing. This shape is then made into a pattern, duplicated and constructed into a collapsible form of architecture.

The use of these industrial materials gives the objects some robust qualities which are disguised by the objects lightness and flexibility achieved through Delfs manipulation of material and colour. Through this process the work takes on some paradoxical characteristics, such as the combination of soft and strong. These combinations enhance the objects elusiveness allowing their physical properties to morph and oscillate between characteristics and shapes, what survives in the final configurations are only the traits that are necessary for the objects to have optimum operation.

However modular and reconfigurable these structures are, they require muscles to activate them. When placed on the body they become performative architectures. Their position and orientation is determined by the gait of the wearer, transformed by their locomotion. When the body is absent we are left pondering the physicality of the objects as Delfs explains a “criss-crossing of exterior and interior qualities takes place”. We see the outline of bodies that are absent and their interior structure at the same time.

In this sense the object are possible housing units, flexible dwellings capable of adapting to the requirements of their potential hosts while at the same time, the host is required to adapt to its new modification. It is through this transition we see these modifications both as foreign bodies and as familiar hosts to us, they are homes and non-homes. We feel at home and are seduced by the familiarity of Delfs structures, but also see them as unfamiliar organs. They are like new gadgets that require time to become familiar with, but somehow we eventually can’t imagine life without them.

Delfs has an astute awareness of materials. Her investigations are a combination of working with the material to let it evolve into what she coins “organic infrastructures” and the use of traditional dress making techniques to form complex organisms. Her use of these traditional techniques such as pattern making, folding and stitching becomes a means for mapping out an imagined body.

This body mapped through the combination of material exploration and construction is neither completely made up of an assemblage of the innate qualities of materials or an unnatural construction. Like Delfs mentions they are organic infrastructures, both naturally occurring organisms and structured arrangements. Products of culture and nature, they make up the foundations of a complex system which form a body, but at the same time are only suggestive of what it that body might be.

Delfs’ explorations sit somewhere between designer, sculptor, artist and architect as do her objects sit between formations, temporarily paused in their locomotion. Her objects, constantly modifying and evolving, hint at imagined bodies and new ways of mobility. This alternate species and its metamorphic capabilities display the ultimate mechanism for survival, an adaptable skeletal system that sustains life through its symbiotic relationship with it host, whatever that may be, making the best of both worlds.

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Clare Peake

For more information about the author including her own art practice, visit: Clare's website

Note: This is a transcription from Clare Peake's website used with her permission.

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