Image: Early concept drawing visualising the potential future public art installation. Credit: Edward Hodgson for PSC.
RESEARCH PROGRAMME – COVENTRY
Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (PSC) is pleased to present a new Research Programme: God’s Workshop – Of Clay and Straw devised and developed for Coventry City of Culture.
Artists: Rachael Champion, Dolon Kundu, Amy & Oliver Thomas-Irvine, Jim Woodall
With thanks to: Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre recognises and highlights that it takes multiple people and organisations to make these projects happen. We would like to thank our partners Imagineer Productions, Kolkata Centre for Creativity and Media Mania and supporters Arts Council England, the British Council and Coventry City of Culture. These unique partnerships have enabled the development of this ambitious research programme.
God’s Workshop presents a new model for the realisation of site-specific, contemporary sculptural installations, in which the build is turned into a staged, performative event that the public can witness or participate in, dissolving the barriers between artists and audiences to make visible the layered processes of production and dissemination.
Born out of a cultural partnership that connects contemporary Western sculptural practice with the traditional skills of the Kumartuli artisans of Kolkata, God’s Workshop foregrounds sustainability and is an exploration of the relationships made through the materials of clay and straw, their production and applications, and connections and approaches both hyper-local and universal.
Working with Kolkata-based curator Nandita Palchoudhuri, this project brings together the unique skills and perspectives of five exciting artists from within our UK and India networks. The participating artists are Rachael Champion (Margate, UK) , Dolon Kundu (Kolkata, India), Amy & Oliver Thomas-Irvine (Cornwall, UK) and Jim Woodall (London, UK).
Working with the established materials of unfired clay and straw, the artists are each invited to inject their own visual identity based on their personal material sensibilities, conceptual concerns and experience. In the first part of 2021, the participating artists will embark on a period of research, including (Covid restrictions permitting) an embedded research week in Coventry, during which the artists will develop the design for this ephemeral, site – and context-responsive sculptural installation made from clay and straw. In 2022, they will return to the City to support its realisation, sharing their practical knowledge and skills first-hand with the local community who are invited to participate in its creation and exhibition.
Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre has been embedded and in-residence at Imagineer Productions Temple Workshops in Foleshill, Coventry since summer 2020. Ongoing Covid restrictions made it initially impossible to bring the programme’s artists and partners together in Coventry and so research began in January 2021 with a series of dedicated online studio visits, presentations and workshops to create and nurture a discursive space where artists and project partners can come together to develop contextual understanding and to explore the possibilities of working collectively.
With the anticipated relaxation of Covid restrictions, an intense period of embedded research, practical workshops, collaborative design and community consultation is planned for May 2021, with final designs for the new proposed installation scheduled for early July.
A temporary community will coalesce around the public processing of the raw materials of clay and straw and the creation of a new site specific, sculptural installation.
Clay is a plentiful natural resource and often a waste, or byproduct, from infrastructure projects. The people of Coventry (and beyond) are invited to get their hands dirty and dig up a clay ‘quarry’ sculpture, before processing this raw material ready for use.
Straw is a byproduct from food production across the globe, from rice, to wheat, to beans. The wheat straw synonymous with the English landscape originated from wild crops in Syria. From British thatch, to the delicate craftsmanship of the Kumartuli of Kolkata, to examples of cob buildings across all seven continents, straw has proved itself as more than animal feed and bedding.
Densely packed, it is both incredibly strong and light and an extremely versatile, enduring and sustainable building material.
In a culture in which the production and origins of goods are becoming increasingly complex and remote, PSC is addressing a wish to return to the roots of both our cities and the natural world and in turn participate in the making of things.