Artist Statement 2016
Susan Stockwell's work takes many forms from small studies to large scale sculptural installations, drawings and collage. It is concerned primarily with transformation and with issues of geo-politics, mapping, trade, ecology and history. The materials used are the everyday, domestic and industrial disposable products that pervade our lives. These materials are manipulated and transformed into works of art that are extraordinary.
Susan's recent exhibition, 'SEA-MARKINGS' at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), Stratford-upon-Avon, (April-September 2015) was made in response to being artist in residence at the RSC for the preceding year and to the plays Othello and The Merchant of Venice, both shown at the RSC that season. 'Sail Painting' a large scale site-specific installation, hung in the public atrium spaces in front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Consisting of 30 appropriated and hand crafted sails, made from old plastic food sacks, which hung at various angles in the multi-level building, seen from different perspectives and vantage points the viewer could be walking inside a three dimensional abstract painting. 'Sail Away', an installation of tiny boats made from old paper currency (previously shown in TATE Modern's Turbine Hall) and smaller framed textiles and drawings were show in the PACCAR Room gallery.
'Flood' (York 2010) was made entirely from four tons of recycled computer components that were transformed into a huge installation in St Mary's, a de-consecrated 13th century church. Highlighting the materials beauty the piece seeps into the space with its toxic exquisiteness. The computers were dissected, their innards exposed, revealing the underbelly of the machines we take for granted, an autopsy of our consumer society. The ancient deconsecrated space juxtaposed with contemporary discarded computer components gave the work archaeological references adding to it's multiplicity of readings.
An important element in the large scale installations is that the materials are often borrowed to make the work and returned to the recycling company or sponsor once the exhibition has ended. For example Susan made a body of work from industrial scale toilet tissue (1990's)-sponsored by Kimberly-Clark, which was returned to them to be recycled. The translucent floating sheets became light tunnels and huge ponderous stacks, alluding to monumentality and ancient civilisations, yet they were temporal and fragile, not easily recognisable as toilet tissue. She chooses these 'commodity' materials because in her words they contain 'stains of existence' and act as ready-made signifiers, which she can sculpt and interweave in ways that delicately reveal their obscured politics and hidden beauty.
The Curator Grace Chung describes the works gently revealing nature -
'Accumulation, transformation, detritus, debris, everyday materials are all recurrent themes in Stockwell's work. Meticulously hand crafted, the benign sublime beauty in the work belies the devastating effects of our culture and our role in shaping it. Look more closely, and one is confronted by a cultural urgency of global-proportions. Political and cultural colonisation, globalize waste and consumption are reconfigured by Stockwell's work into a new festering eco system of meaning that slowly seeps like the rising ocean level.'
(From the text for the exhibition B-side Ecology, MIMI Space at the Hong's Foundation for Education and Culture, Taipei, Taiwan 2008)
Susan gained an MA in sculpture from the Royal College of Art in 1993. She exhibits in galleries and museums all over the world including, TATE Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Katonah and the Neuberger Museums of Art in America and The National Museum of China in Beijing. She has been awarded scholarships, grants and commissions such as a Visiting Arts Taiwan-England Artists Fellowship and commissions from the University of Bedfordshire, Black Rock Investments and the National Army Museum. She has taught extensively and taken part in residencies and projects in Europe, America, Australia and Asia.
Susan is based in London, England.