Material Matters | 29th March – 11th May 2024

Material Matters

Sokari Douglas Camp | Lee Grandjean | Marie-Therese Ross | Andrew Sabin

Preview: Friday 29th March 7pm.

Exhibition continues until Saturday 11th May.

Opening hours: Wednesday – Sat 11am – 7pm

Online artist talks:

Tues 9th April 7pm – Branwen Jones, Luke Cotter and Amelie Warner

Tues 16th April 7pm – Andrew Sabin

Tues 23rd April 7pm – Lee Grandjean

Tues 30th April 7pm – Sokari Douglas Camp

Tuesday 7th May 7pm – Marie-Therese Ross

Material Matters Curated by artist Sarah Tombs brings together the work of four contemporary British sculptors.

The exhibition explores the relationship of process and materiality, how through experimentation and manipulation the sculptor is able to generate sculptural objects whose content and motivations are accessible to an audience.

Engagement with materials and processes of ‘making’ is a particularly relevant debate with increasing availability of digital technology, Computer Aided Manufacture and with the emergence of AI threatening to make human artistic endeavour redundant.

Material Matters investigates ways in which these sculptors combine non-traditional and traditional materials and techniques and how they deal with elements of construction, surface, and colour. The exhibiting sculptors have established practices over several decades and this exhibition draws upon connections between their approaches.  Their coming together represents a unique opportunity to examine this core sculptural premise.

Sabin uses a vast range of materials, including ephemeral edible substances usually found in the kitchen, such as margarine, to create specific sculptural forms which are transformed into highly coloured and shiny plastic permanent objects.  He uses industrial processes of welding and construction in his freestanding object-based sculptures which are constructed from cement, steel, polyurethane and expanding foam. “I believe it is a sculptor’s job to test materials. It doesn’t come without obstacles, but I like a good sculptural struggle.”

Grandjean’s work deals with form and pictorial elements. At the heart of his practice is wood carving, which is deconstructed and then reworked, creating amalgamations of forms made from concrete, mesh, and plastics.  Colour is applied to the surface which consolidates the sculptures.

His new body of work Heroes is a response to Elysium’s former life as a nightclub. Grandjean has created a series ‘revellers’ that interact with the architecture of the gallery.

‘When responding to the challenge of bringing a body of work to the Elysium Gallery, I was fascinated by the name and the way it opened-up in me a re-enchantment with the Greek myths that my mother read to me when I was young. Those myths of course that underpin so much of Western European art. I decided to take on certain characters from Greek myths and to use them unambiguously as subject matter for a series of sculptures. Myths are always metaphors of course, illuminating human vulnerabilities that underly any heroic’.

For me, materials have to be pushed beyond their literal characteristics, beauty is not the goal, but an authentic and believable sculptural energy and presence in which form, and content are one’.

Marie-Therese Ross’s sculptures are made from a combination of laminated wood parts.  Using found objects which are integrated and sublimated into the works with carved and painted wood- colour adds another layer of expression and meaning to the whole. The mass of wood echoes the drawn and cut-out lines found in her drawings and collages, lending itself well to her process of working.

For this exhibition Ross has focused on Dylan Thomas’ poetry and life. Particularly, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed’ have inspired the artist, discovering shared experiences with the poet, and exploring these in her new works. The installation will explore mortality and incorporate accompanying music.

Douglas Camp transforms oil drums and fabricates steel into figurative sculpture that is often rooted in African culture where the artist was born. Her work is highly coloured, and uses pattern, textile and decorative elements. Rather than designing and laser cutting Camp ‘draws’ patterns by hand using a blowtorch cutting into the steel sheet.

She describes her work as ‘the joy of making’, however her work is also political and rooted in African culture, her use of oil drums to create beauty is a conscious and poignant statement of the Niger Delta’s oil production and is one of the most polluted places in the world.

As part of Material Matters, elysium will also be hosting the work of three Swansea College of Art Fine Art students (interchanging throughout the show) to exhibit alongside the other four artists in its new Testbed Space. This is a part of the gallery set aside for emerging artists to experiment with new work and become part of the elysium gallery exhibitions programme.

The artists are Branwen Jones, Luke Cotter and Amelie Warner.

About the artists:

Sokari Douglas Camp

Sokari Douglas Camp was born in Buguma, Nigeria, in1958, and lives and works in London, UK. She first exhibited at October Gallery in 1985. She has had more than forty solo shows worldwide and in 2005 Douglas Camp was awarded a CBE in recognition of her services to art. Her work is in the permanent collections of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., USA; Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; and the British Museum, London, UK. In 2012, her large sculpture, All the World is Now Richer, a memorial to commemorate the abolition of slavery was exhibited in The House of Commons and then, in 2014, at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

2016, Douglas Camp brought together major new sculptures which focussed on the reinterpretation of familiar figures from the European classical tradition as depicted by Botticelli and William Blake. ‘Europe Supported by Africa and America’ at the V&A to complement the Africa Fashion exhibition. The monumental steel sculpture was on view in the Dorothy and Michael Hintze Galleries until 14th May 2023.

Douglas Camp will be taking part in Ichihara Art Mix 2024 Japan

Lee Grandjean

Sculptor, draughtsman and teacher, born in London, although he lived for part of his youth in Romania. Studied at North-East London Polytechnic, 1967–8, then Winchester School of Art, 1968–71. Grandjean had a studio in London, 1971–80, then moved to Reepham, Norfolk. From 1980–1 he was research fellow in sculpture at Winchester School of Art, having lectured at Wimbledon School of Art since 1976, appointed senior tutor from 1977. In 1991 became sculpture tutor at Royal College of Art,. He also worked widely as a visiting lecturer and examiner.

Grandjean works in various materials and is interested in “the transformation of material” and with non-European and ancient civilisations shared a desire to “render raw materials into another expressive substance”.

He showed in outdoor exhibitions, such as Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Cannizaro Park in Wimbledon and he participated in the 1983 Welsh Sculpture Trust Margam show, Sculpture in a Country Park. Among Grandjean’s later solo exhibitions were King of Hearts, Norwich, 1996, and Groundwork, Djanogly Gallery, Nottingham, 1998.

In 2023 he held a retrospective ‘Seeing Things’ at the Gibberd Gallery, Harlow.  His work is in many private and public collections including the Arts Council.

Marie-Therese Ross

Marie-Thérèse Ross explores the hidden workings of the mind, focusing on states of physical, emotional & psychological transformation. Her work appears humorous as well as darkly subversive, seeming to hide herself in plain sight. She creates atmospheric installations creating domestic interiors with anthropomorphic furniture, wall-based sculptures and trapped giant black birds. By focusing on the personal interior versus the outside world, Ross grapples with themes and ideas that include feminism, childhood, mortality, the body, displacement, and the human condition.

Ross’ sculptures are made of a combination of carved and laminated upcycled wood parts. As well as found objects which are integrated and sublimated into the works and painted.

For this exhibition Ross has focused on Dylan Thomas’ poetry and life. Particularly, ‘A Winter’s Tale’ and ‘Lie Still, Sleep Becalmed’ have inspired the artist, discovering shared experiences with the poet and exploring these in her new works. The installation will explore mortality and incorporate accompanying music.

Marie-Thérèse Ross MRSS is a member of The Royal Society of Sculptors and lives and works in London. She studied painting at Loughborough College of Art and has a Masters in sculpture from the University of Pennsylvania USA.

Andrew Sabin

Andrew Sabin (born in 1958) is a British experimental sculptor who has made important contributions to installation, object making and Landscape Art.   The Coldstones Cut in the Yorkshire Dales is one of the most visited landscape sculptures in Britain and The Sea of Sun installation was a prominent work in the inaugural exhibition of contemporary sculpture at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds.  Sabin studied sculpture at Chelsea School of Art where he later became a senior lecturer. On the site of the original Chelsea building his memorial work ‘Painting and Sculpture’ is permanently located.

Alongside his partner, Laura Ford, he runs the Mattblackbarn educational programme which is dedicated to the study of sculpture and is based at their studios in West Sussex.

‘For me sculpture making is an emotional adventure anyone can join.  When we lay the table or wash our hair or dig a hole in the ground we are moving materials around and responding to them – funny or sad, the cutlery in a pile or laid out in order, hair sticking out in spikes or compacted in a mat, we just have to trust our responses, take them seriously and then we are on a path towards playing with sculpture’.

Branwen Jones

Branwen Jones is an artist based in South Wales, currently completing a BA in Fine Art: Studio, Site and Context at Swansea College of Art. Her work explores the relationship between material and form, and how histories and ideas are embedded in materials and in forms. She is interested in the histories and legacies of colonialism, the forms of modernity and the western visual imagination, and how these histories and forms are sedimented in the fabric of the present. She is also interested in how ideas become embedded within a work of art. Her work emerges as the result of an interaction between ideas and the response of the materials – their size, flexibility, how they can be shaped or attached or joined. This can be different from the way that ideas are articulated in written text, offering greater space for ambiguity, indeterminacy, or humour.

Jones enjoys the process of inventing and improvising that is necessary in making things, especially when working with ordinary materials encountered in everyday life. For example, she has made work with newspaper; cotton and wax; natural clay from Port Einon; plastic cable ties and the plastic tags that attach a price-tag to an item of clothing. She is using discarded wooden floorboards to make a set of tools, and to make glass display cabinets.

As well as improvising, she is committed to exploring materials and techniques which have historically not been available to women, such as woodwork and metalwork. Her work has required learning how to make a tenon joint, how to weld a metal frame, how to cut glass. This stems in part from her own school experience being taught sewing but no carpentry. It is also a response to the experience of the contemporary world which is so thoroughly mediated by computer screens and smart phones.

Luke Cotter

Luke Cotter is a practising artist born in South Wales (2004) and currently studying a Fine Art BA at Swansea College of Art UWTSD. His work consists mainly of installation and sculpture, in which he aims to explore themes of material waste and the value that we give those materials historically. His work is most often large scale and ranges from life sized to the size of entire rooms working with installation and sculpture in a way that aims to engage interactivity and inclusivity. One of the integral parts of Luke’s practice is the use of found material and its application within a context of intended purpose of those materials in comparison with the icons that they embody. His work is currently showing in the Glynn Vivian and he has had other works previously shown in Cardiff and Swansea with Golwg ar Gelf (2023) and in University shows like Panoply (2023).

‘The work in the exhibition is made almost entirely with found materials. When making this piece I was intrigued by the function of springs, with these springs coming from a set of chairs I found in a skip behind my university. I made this work with the idea of thinking in a childlike manner of how to have fun with these materials, allowing myself to create what are essentially toys. These toys all use those springs as their main source of function and allowed a way of thinking that was really refreshing and enjoyable especially when thinking of sculptures that allow a haptic interactivity. The aspect of using found material to make allows a way of creating that forces your hand in many ways to adapt to the nature of the material and push it to its limits which is something I have tried to incorporate in this piece’.

Amelie Warner

Amelie Warner is an artist born in Croydon (2004) who now practices in Swansea and is currently studying Fine art BA at Swansea college of Art UWTSD. Amelie has exhibited in her university exhibition Panoply (2023) previously, but Material Matters is her first public showing of work. Amelie’s work is surrounded around the idea of creating small worlds for others to enjoy. She finds creating these worlds peaceful and healing for herself. Amelie looks at how scale changes the feel of work, inclining to the smaller scales. The worlds she makes are rooted in themes of grief, belonging and being ecologically aware.

‘A World Unknown is a series of miniature houses made from found cardboard in various sizes. The idea behind the piece is to make the audience feel a sense of belonging and that they can immerse themselves within these houses. The warm lights coming out of the cracks are to seem welcoming, like a warm fire. I don’t want to tell the audience what these houses mean to them or what they should feel, it is for you to find what u need. Each house when I make them has a story to me. Although, these houses in necessity are not copying houses that I see but the architecture that surrounds me has inspired my thought process in making the various styles of homes. These aren’t reflections of the world but a whole new one that doesn’t need to follow any rules, it just exists. Each building is a home that someone would live in ranging from cottages to apartment blocks from around the world. As a physical house has a different appearance for everyone’.

About the curator

Sarah Tombs

Sarah Tombs is a sculptor living and working in Wales and London.

After graduating from the Royal college of Art in 1987 Sarah established her sculptural practice in London producing public sculpture. Alongside her commissioned public sculpture, she has participated in exhibitions nationally and internationally.  Her work is held in many private, corporate, and public collections including the Government Art Collection, Hammersmith Hospital, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Trust, the National Botanic Garden of Wales, Christies UK, and Linklaters UK.

From 2011 to 2015 Sarah was chair of Sculpture Cymru leading and participating in projects such as Castell: Sculpture at Kidwelly Castle. In 2015 she led the Sculpture Cymru/ collaboration: Barcode Sculpture Project at the National Botanic Garden of Wales (NBGW), working with their science team to curate a sculpture trail in the Garden. In 2016-2017 Sarah was principal artist at major Arts and Humanities Research Council funded art/science project Cross-Pollination: Revaluing Pollinators through Art and Science which brought artists and scientists together to find creative ways to influence policy-making decisions for pollinator conservation. An international conference and exhibitions were held at NBGW, the Bug Farm and SCA.   As an extension of this project Sarah was an invited artist in residence at Cornell University and organised and co-curated an exhibition held at the Mann Gallery, Cornell University, NY in 2019.

Since 1993 Sarah combined her sculpture practice with teaching in HE, including Keele university, Stafford College, Swansea College of Art and Coleg Sir Gar. She is a freelance gallery artist and lecturer at the National Gallery and the Wallace Collection, London.

Sarah held the post of senior lecturer in Fine Art and Contextual Studies at Swansea College of Art (SCA) until 2019 and is currently an honorary Research Fellow at SCA.

This exhibition is gratefully supported by the Arts Council of Wales and the Henry Moore foundation.