I am messy. My studio is messy, my work is messy, my process is messy. Almost every part of my practice involves some aspect of being in, or creating, mess. My work has been described as having a ‘trash/sex/mess aesthetic’. This description initially confused me, as I believed every artist created work in a constant state of chaotic mess. However, the more I thought about this comment, the more I began to agree with it, and noticed that my work occupied a very physical, very tactile and very ‘made’ space. In everything that I make, there is a strong sense of physicality, the work is rough, raw and has a very physical, tactile presence. My work is not precious, it lives and develops on the studio floors and walls, absorbing the detritus that exists alongside it, allowing the support to become an extension of the work itself. The surfaces of my work are very tactile, and invite the audience to reach out and touch. As my practice is concerned with the notion of irish female body as wild, messy and unchartered, and its interior environment, this strong sense of physicality, tactility and spatial presence is incredibly important to me, as I intend for the objects I make, and the installations they exist in, to feel inherently bodily and organic.
The nature of my very tactile and ‘made’ practice is informed by the concept of formlessness, first theorised by Georges Bataille in 1929, then re-introduced by Rosalind Krauss and Yves-Alain Bois in 1996. In my understanding of formlessness, like Krauss and Bois, it is a tool in which to lower art to its most debased form, taking it from its pedestal and allowing it to exist as something common through its base materialism. The act of creating and existing in mess is inherently formless. As with specifically Frank Bowling and Ed Ruscha, I allow my work to interact with, consume, and become an extension of the space in which it is made. Dirt gets mixed onto the surfaces of works, hairs might get attached to the pulp mixture which is coated onto my objects and general studio detritus is absorbed onto these surfaces. As my work is bodily and organic in nature, I embrace this formlessness approach to making work, as it blurs the boundary between art and bodily experience. Through this approach, the notion of irish female body as wild, messy, unchartered landscape is reflected.
Also aiming to blur the boundary between art and bodily experience, Ed Ruscha’s 1969 series of works, ‘Stains’, consists of 76 pieces of paper, each stained with a bodily, organic or chemical fluid. The fluids range from bodily secretions such as semen and blood, to L.A tap water and ketchup. These stains are inherently bodily, both in physical presence and constitution. The fluid nature of Ruscha’s ‘Stains’ reminds me of his physical presence.
Frank Bowling also embraces formlessness in his practice, as a method to push the boundaries and possibilities of painting. Canvases are laid flat on the studio floor, with buckets of colour poured onto them and left to dry in large puddles. Medium is sprayed directly onto the canvas from a squirting bottle, and pushed around the surface with a mop. Bowling allows the work to absorb and take the form of the ground on which it lays, and embraces the dirt, mess and unpredictability of his formless approach to painting. Random objects are also introduced into the surface of his works, lighters, packing materials and bottle caps are picked up from the floor and placed onto the canvas, and integrated into the work. There is no waste in Bowling’s works, offcuts of canvas lay on the studio floor, and when splashed with paint, dirt and other miscellaneous fluids, are integrated into new works. Bowling’s painting’s present themselves as an extension of the artist’s physical body; a splashing or remnant of himself.