A new work by sculptor Susie MacMurray will open next week at Pangolin London.
Murmur is a compelling collection of eye-catching, tactile and thought-provoking sculptures and installations as well as complicated drawings and new bronze and silver works that were created in collaboration with the Pangolin Editions foundry.
Delicate, sensual velvet contrasts with rusty barbed wire, which is often reclaimed from battlefields or training grounds; Soft round droplets of white wax are carefully placed at the ends of smooth lengths of black wire – there is no hierarchy of materials in MacMurray’s work, but a refreshing transformation.
The title work Marbles (detail above) is an ambitious installation of ostrich feathers, the tips of which have been dipped in wax and hang from tiny sharp fishhooks and piano wire. It will cover the entire length of the gallery, which swirls and changes direction like a bird’s sound, like a flock of birds being freed. Contrasting features play out against each other: large-format and yet meticulously detailed; tactile and yet fragile, a contradiction, but the result makes perfect sense.
See also: Simon Gudgeon: Living and Breathing Sculpture
Susie MacMurray, foundling
Susie MacMurray is a British artist whose work includes drawings, sculptures and architectural installations. As a former classical musician, she trained as an artist and completed an MA in visual arts in 2001. She lives in Manchester and has an international exhibition profile that is shown regularly in the US and Europe as well as the UK.
She is known for her main installation pieces such as Shell, where 20,000 clam shells, each filled with a tuft of purple silk velvet, filled the stairwell of the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester or Echo, a work of hairnets and violin bow hair, hung from the ceiling of St. Mary’s Church in York like droplets forming a cloud.
MacMurray describes her creative process as a search for something she has not seen or realized before. Find the point where chaos and order are finally balanced, because there is energy, where change takes place and where anything is possible. Their practice is to find the unexplored places in the cracks.
MacMurray has worked on a number of intricate clothing sculptures, including Widow (2009), in which she carefully poked 43kg of Adamantine tailor’s needles through a black leather hide to form a seductively glittering evening gown on display at the Manchester City Art Gallery, or her celebrated wedding dress A. Mixture of Frailties (2004) made from hundreds of rubber gloves turned upside down.
Susie MacMurray, Medusa
MacMurray’s work has always been a process of self-healing and a response to what is happening in her presence. In the final months of the lockdown, strong feelings of helplessness and imprisonment have had a significant impact on this new work. Also, since the artist had no physical human contact during the lockdown, he was particularly drawn to velvet – an undeniably tactile and calming material to work with.
See also: Canova and Thorvaldsen: The Birth of Modern Sculpture
MacMurray’s method of production brings together carefully selected, evocative and emotionally dense materials. Whether with hairnets, feathers, velvet, wax or barbed wire, the artist examines the vulnerability and resilience of humanity. The materials used are inherently short-lived, and she compares this to our own mortality and the transitory nature of life.
Isolation has also led MacMurray to further explore the relationship between mothers and children – the joy and pride of letting children go and escape, and the desolation of being left behind. Soft and brilliant shapes are juxtaposed with sharp, jagged or rough shapes, creating works that are beautiful but not entirely harmless. This is a recurring theme throughout the exhibition and has resulted in a fairytale-like feeling of magical whisper that passes on stories of both caution and wisdom. Through the hands of the artist and the use of materials, MacMurray wants to capture and promote a childlike feeling of astonishment at “our amazing but terrible world” in the viewer.
MacMurray is a retired classical musician and alchemist at heart. He has the talent to combine materials sensitively, just as a conductor brings an orchestra together. She asks: “How can we be here, so strong, powerful, full of life and energy, as confident as a species and yet so desperately fragile?”
Drawing is an important part of MacMurray’s work as a means of meditative practice and materials testing. In addition to her great pen work, she also plays with watercolor and draws on a more intimate scale. After she began drawing as a very personal self-healing process, the first objects she reacted to were torn pieces of net curtain – wounded, damaged, and torn apart at the seams. Over time, the work began to “fly” and deal more with containment, vulnerability and security.
Susie MacMurray, Congregation
The series of gauze bandage drawings in this exhibition relates to dancing, flying and freedom, and accepting that things can be ragged – while at the same time fragments of undiscovered beauty are captured.
The artist’s musical background inevitably influences her work. She describes her creative process as the “tuning” of an object that is ultimately a piece that cannot be otherwise. She looks for a field of tension between tensions, rhythms, echoes and conversations between two materials. MacMurray’s experience as a professional musician and member of the Halle Orchestra has given the artist an eye for materials such as violin horsehair, sheet music or piano wire, but it has also shown her how important it is to work together.
The first collaboration with the foundry Pangolin Editions made MacMurray’s sculpture even more diverse. Her new series of delicate carapaces, first made from wax in her studio, have been cast in bronze, with the smaller pieces converted into sterling silver to make brooches.
Susie MacMurray – Marbles
October 21 – December 22, 2020
Pangolin London, Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1 9AG