‘Pushing materials and distorting industrial processes’ – Q&A with Artist Corinne Felgate
The Multiple Store has just launched a new edition ‘Baby’s got the Wedgwood Blues’ by Corinne Felgate and the artist talks to us here about this edition, her art practice, her interest in British Industrial Heritage and her upcoming projects.
Corinne Felgate’s practice examines our relationship to luxury, power, failure, sexuality and industry through the exploration of everyday objects. Her work has been commissioned by numerous organisations including ArtsAdmin; Tate Modern, Maison de la Culture, Amiens; The National Gallery and The British Ceramics Biennial, and she has exhibited/performed with institutions including David Roberts Art Foundation (London) Oriel Sycharth (Wales), Palazzo Grassi (Italy) and Inhotim (Brazil).
Question – When The Multiple Store approached you about creating an edition, what led you to ‘Baby’s got the Wedgwood Blues’?
Corinne Felgate – When Nick [Sharp, Director of The Multiple Store] and I first met, we talked a lot about the surreal-ness of the domestic collection, and the particularly British notion of creating the bookshelf or side board gallery. It occurred to me that The Multiple Store occupies this really interesting space between the commercial and the domestic, the gallery and the home. These were ideas that I really wanted to work with for the commission, and to me Wedgwood was the ultimate pioneer of collapsing the functional and the ornamental, which formed the starting point for the work to develop more organically.
Q – What do you find appealing about the concept of an edition vs. a unique artwork?
CF – As an artist who responds directly to the context or sites where the work will ultimately appear, I’m drawn to how the notion of the edition adds an extra layer of the meaning of the work. In the case of ‘Baby’s got the Wedgwood Blues’, I wanted to play on Wedgwood’s re-creation of the Portland Vase (also produced in an edition size of 30) which was created after an obsessive two year period of experimentation. The vases were shown all over the world in specially created galleries at the back of ceramic showrooms and were highly covetable due to the edition size. I like how this is both paralleled and parodied through my edition and The Multiple Store. Also on a practical scale, my works tend to be large scale immersive installations these days, and I like the democracy of creating an equal number of smaller objects that can be owned by a number of collectors; it’s an artwork that then belongs to a collective of 30 people rather than just a single exclusive individual.
Q – How does this edition relate to your previous work?
CF – On a conceptual level my work looks at our cultural, & physiological relationship to making & industry in the digital age, how as individuals we have less and less to do with the fabrication of the material world and my belief that this lack of physical engagement affects, or shall we say distorts the way we understand it. Like most of Stoke-on-Trent’s heritage potteries, Wedgwood’s recent history has been tumultuous to say the least, with its future less certain than it ever has been, I really wanted to create a work that could mark this unique tipping point in time. The Wedgwood brand has always been synonymous with status and luxury, themes that many of my work explore and indeed often deconstruct. With ‘Baby’s got the Wedgwood Blues’ the idea of luxury is undercut through the “shonky” finish of the objects, their imperfection draws our attention to the labour entailed in producing these familiar domestic items; they become more human because of it.
In a physical sense the edition continues my interest in pushing materials and distorting industrial processes, forcing materials like ceramic and flock together that are at once awkward and happy bedfellows. The fabrication of the edition is also very much in line with how I usually make my works, rekindling or reworking pre-industrial processes, and setting up low-fi production systems.
Q – British industrial heritage appear to be of particular interest to you. How did this interest start?
CF – I’d like to answer this by sharing a stet conversation I had with a cabbie on the way to my first site visit to Stoke on Trent in early 2013…
“First time in Stoke is it? Y’know even ten years ago this place was with heaving with yanks…. those were the days…. a hundred quid a morning I’d get, just for driving them all round the factories…y’know what the last stop always was? …. Wedgwood … God they loved their Wedgwood, cram the car with boxes of the stuff they would….no idea how they got it back to the States”
“… and now?” I venture, glancing out the window as we pass through Etruria (one of Stoke’s six towns, created by Wedgwood to house his first factories)
“Nobody comes, they won’t touch the stuff… cause it’s not made in Stokie…. and Wedgwood’s down the pan and all”
It’s two o’clock and I look out the window at this post-industrial landscape littered with dilapidated Victorian workers cottages and think about how different it must have looked just thirty years ago flooded with pottery workers clad in their baby blue overalls heading home after their shifts.
“…. You know every time somebody broke a cup anywhere in Stoke everyone used to cheer… a bloody great roar…a little bit more work for the potteries we’d say…. Well they’ll need a bloody great museum load of urns to smash to save Wedgwood.”
Q – Finally, could you tell us about what are your next projects and what else are you working on?
CF – My next major project is around the former tweed mills in rural Northumbria, this will involve a year long period of research supported by a residency with VARC (Visual Arts in Rural Communities), culminating in a large scale exhibition comprised of a performative installation around my ongoing work The Uniform Project , I am really looking forward to spending a year wandering the Scottish borders, working with weavers clad in tweed! That project will begin in September 2015, and between now and then, there are some very exciting projects including a solo show at Rook and Raven, London in February 2015 with the Bigger than the Both of Us series – than and another Wedgwood inspired project with Camden Arts Centre, but right now we are producing hundreds of chickens feet, pigs snouts and various bones gilded in gold, silver and copper for a new Christmas commission Bethnal Green Town Hall Hotel and Apartments.