Parts of Self
End of Residency Show
HOME x Cob
Parts of Self is the final show of the HOME x Cob Residency, a 6-week residency programme fortwo BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) Women-identifying Artists – hosted byHOME within the newly remodelled Cob Studios. Residents received a stipend and materials budget, thanks to Glossier for sponsoring the programme.
Our first residents are Hannah Lim and Courtenay Welcome. Parts of Self is a celebration of the work made, research undertaken, things learnt, and time spent in the studios, over these past six weeks.
The show runs from 8th – 24th July at Cob Studios, and online on HOME’s website.
We are interested in how sharing a space can inform the work of two practitioners working across differentmediums and from alternate perspectives. This residency is an exploration of how mediums or creative thinking can merge, and the impact this has on both practitioners and viewers. – Ronan McKenzie, Director of Home
The following text is drawn from several conversations between Hannah and Courtenay over the course of the residency.
CW: It’s part of my process. The dancing and the lying down and the meditation – that’s when I’m allowing the imagination to run free.
HL: I’m quite hands on in my process, I find that through making I’m able to understand andexplore my identity in a more thoughtful and open way. I find it interesting to see how the things I’m reading inadvertently influence what I’m making.
CW: I’m a late worker. I prefer being outside in the daytime but when it’s night-time, that’s whenI work. We’re dreamers in the night-time. That’s when my best thoughts come – it doesn’t feel soforced when it’s later. Or maybe I just need a period of time to get other things in my life done, things that my mind and my body need, to prepare myself for making art.
HL: I try not to over think or over plan my work. I know what I’m researching and what I’m interested in and I allow those influences flow naturally into what I’m doing. I just make. As Imake, I figure it out.
HL: My dad is from Singapore and my mum is from the UK. I explore the relationship between those two cultures and how it is reflected through design, objects and furniture. I have been looking at Chinoiserie, a style where European designers copied and imitated Chinese designs fora Western market. My work is about reclaiming that practice, or reimagining it – making objects that take from it but are done in my own way, in relation to my own experiences.
My sculptures are both ornamental and functional. Everything I make is spiky and curved. Flame-like. I am quite free with how I make the parts: I often draw things symmetrically and Ijigsaw by hand, so there are very small differences. In this piece, ‘Winged Shelf, With Hanging Lantern’ , I created the cut out shelf panel first, then I bought the coloured brackets, the ceramic piece and lantern came last. I enjoy playing about with industrial and functional attachments and fixings, I use them in my work in a way that makes them decorative.
I’ve been thinking more and more about the ornamental nature of the objects I create and how these objects have become an extension of myself – whilst making I’ve been reading this book, Ornamentalism, which is, in essence, a feminist theory of East and South-East Asian personhood laid out by the scholar Anne Anlin Cheng. Cheng explores the way in which East and South-East Asian women have historically been reflected and defined by ornamental things: objects, clothes, settings. It’s been interesting to continue making my work with this new understanding of the term.
I think I’ve always been conscious to offset the ornamental elements of my work with functional attachments. I don’t like my work being too much of one thing. Often my sculptures have legs orarm-like features so it appears they function in their own right, as living beings. These objects are reflective of me, but they also have a life of their own.
CW: I’m thinking about the decolonised landscape. What that looks like and how to imagine it. Ifind it hard to express my thoughts through language, so I need a new language to understand who I am and what I’m making.
I’ve always painted alongside my practice but the paintings never get seen. I just make them and then they get packed away. I’d like them to be softer. I have a vision of what I want to portray but my hand can’t think in that way. In my head, I’m comfortable in my abstract ideas and ways of working and I feel a great importance in representational work. I’m trying to forge an intersection where I can do both. It’s hard because they are segregated ideas.
I was really influenced by Ronan McKenzie’s Self-Portrait exhibition, but I haven’t quite pulled myself to a place where I am doing self-portraiture. Who I am changes with what space I’m in. Since moving to London loads of things have changed. The way that I see myself in space is very different. Sometimes I am caught between here and HOME – two different spaces in which I feel very different. I haven’t really had the urge to want to capture myself. I like to fill space –my studio was full, and I was feeling claustrophobic, so I moved the walls. And more work got made. I think a lot about carving out space.
The Black spheres in my work relate to perspective. I’ve got brown eyes, and because of the environment I grew up in, and because of wider beauty standards, and because my mum has blue eyes, I always saw my eyes as dark spheres. I’m on a journey of self-love and acceptance, I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate sight and all of its complexities. I see them drawing portraits into the installations. That’s the starting point. Now they are an abstract way of looking at perspectives and different gazes, both within and outside of the work, and in dialogue with the other artworks that sit in relation to them.
There’s that chart on my wall, which shows the positions of the eyes when you’re incommunication with someone and what that means. Sometimes it’s conversational. They are looking back at you. I think about the viewer in my work. Being watched. It’s like what Hannah said earlier, they are parts of you but they also exist as their own beings.
My work is concerned with memory, the self and consciousness. I am reading all the time. AfuaHirsch’s Brit(ish) and bell hooks all about love. I want to find new ways to communicate, to expressand to love.
BEING AN ARTIST / EVOLUTION
CW: I really enjoy the way you take up space with the bigger works. I think the details of the smaller pieces gives the whole work depth.
HL: I started making the small pieces when I couldn’t make the big pieces over lockdown. Since starting to make them, I haven’t had a chance to bring them together, but I’ve often found that something that has been missing from these bigger works. I wanted to have these concentrated points of detail – little things hidden within these bigger structures. Because I think it’s exciting.It gets people to look more. It shows how these larger structures can be quite functional, acting as shelves for the smaller objects. The smaller sculptures were originally inspired by snuff bottles. When I went to museums, there was an instant visual connection to a part of my heritage that I hadn’t had loads of exposure to or education about.
I really like that drawing on the top left wall. I always look at it. With ‘All’ written on it. I like the shape of it and the way the pieces are put together. I like the composition of it, and I like it in that position, and because it’s always in front of me. It looks like a book, but it could be a bag, or a chain.
CW: What’s your relationship with chains? Why do you think you like them so much?
HL: It’s to do with their functional properties: they contrast with the more decorative elements of my work. Quite often if I have a chain I’ll spray it pink, or I’ll buy carabiners that are orange. Like this mauve and blue box – it was hard to find the right place to put it. I wasn’t sure where it should go. I like where it is at the moment – it looks like a handbag. I think about my work as a whole collection, not individual parts. I made this red structure and I knew I wanted something to be hanging in there, but I didn’t know what it was going to be. It’s inspired by Chinese hanging urns, which would be displayed in a home. I look at pieces that I already have, quite often I’ll cut out a few things out and play about with them. It’s the same with these two green wings, I had them from a while ago but I hadn’t used them yet, so I repainted them just to see. I like that they are fluid and interchangeable. They can be shifted and moved around and put with other things. It makes it more exciting and more playful. And so the objects evolve, and reflect my own constantly evolving cultural identity. How I understand it and my experiences are always changing and these objects evolve with me because they can. I can add new things onto them, I can repaint them, I can slot some new fixture in.
CW: It’s interesting for me to hear you talk about chains because you spoke about my work and your work as bags. And I do have bags that are chains, but I’ve never seen them in that way. In the last couple of years, my work has been accompanied by elements from Black History. It’s away of me trying to find myself and understand my position in the world. But also, everyone wears them. I wear chains. And the music I listen to alongside my practice references them all the time. Music gives me a space where I feel understood. I’ve been in institutions for five years now and I’ve learned how to survive and how to be.
HL: Your work can be your escapism. That’s enough. It doesn’t have to speak to all the things you’re thinking about and all the things you’re reading all the time. It’s enough that it’s your way of processing that. I think it’s not always to be directly making work for other people. A lot of people do and engage with your work, and it comes directly from you and people will engage with it because they feel similar things and they respect where it’s coming from in you.
CW: You’ve got to pick your battles because things come at you every day. I don’t have the energy to do everything. I just want to be happy; I just want to enjoy my life. I wake up every morning and am like, ‘this is my purpose’. I know I’m an artist, but my mind’s messy, my space is messy, my life feels very messy.
H: All that struggle and all that mess makes you an artist. It makes you think, it makes exciting things happen, it creates change.
CW: And we love it!
Orntamentalism – Anne Anlin ChengBlack Futures – Kimberly Drew, Jenna Wortham
all about love – bell hooks
Brit(ish) – Afua Hirsch
Your Silence Will Not Protect You – Audre Lorde
Hannah Lim is a London-based sculptor whose practice explores the colonial connotations between East and West, as manifested in Orientalism and its relationship to the Chinoiserie. Recently she has been creating peculiar, somewhat furniture-like structures. These pieces combine motifs and imagery from both Chinese and European furniture design. In doing so she attempts to re-imagine and reclaim ideas and designs associated with the Chinoiserie, which have in the past had problematic colonial undertones. Cultural designs are shared as opposed to appropriated, it is no longer about one culture being moulded to the demands of another.
Courtenay Welcome is an Artist, Activist, Creative Director and Critical Thinker based between Bristol and Birmingham. Her work explores the rich complexities of race, memory, space and time through painting, installation, text and performance. These explorations tackle, mimic,reconstruct and shift the perspective of universal ‘truths’ within the white walls of the Western art world.
Welcome depicts the sense of self though lived experiences. Documenting transitions from one embodiment to another, while critically addressing the ways in which these transitions are perceived by institutional means. All informed by a critical infrastructure of decolonisation.
In celebration of Cob’s ten-year anniversary, we launched a new artist residency programme, set within bespoke onsite artist studios. Cob pledges to support artists at the very beginning of their career by providing studio space in the heart of London, artistic support, and a final exhibition. We have worked with architects Studio Mash and build-team Joseph Bond Studios toremodel a portion of the building into functioning artist studios, to accommodate a full-time residency programme.
Our inaugural initiative is with HOME founded by celebrated photographer Ronan McKenzie. Born out of the necessity for a truly accessible art space with both a well curated presentation of exhibitions, and a wide programme of events, HOME is one of very few black owned art spaces in London. Founded by Ronan Mckenzie to create a distinct space with a new set of understandings of how to contextualise a diverse range of artists, building on personal experiences of institutions and providing a new infrastructure for creativity.
With a leading focus on supporting Black and Indigenous People of Colour, HOME aligns withthe contemporary economic climate, with a considered curatorial and events offerings pertaining to the work of BIPOC artists in a context that thoroughly understands them from the inside out. Alongside exhibitions, HOME presents a community focussed events programme and creative work space which aim to encourage, share and support. HOME is a malleable concept which transforms and responds to the artists it houses and the community it is built for.
Supported by Glossier