This September Artereal Gallery is excited to present She didn’t lick it off a stone, a new series of works by Sydney-based artist Stevie Fieldsend.
Over the last decade, Sydney-based artist Stevie Fieldsend has become well known and regarded for her incredible sculptures and installations conjured from wood, glass and textiles. Having presented four solo exhibitions at Artereal Gallery, won the Rookwood Sculpture Prize, exhibited as a finalist in the NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship at Artspace, shown her work in numerous regional galleries around Australia and had work acquired by Artbank (as well as a raft of significant private collectors), Fieldsend has now cemented her position as a contemporary Australian artist with a unique vision and an unparalleled capacity to create artworks of extreme beauty, sensitivity and poignancy. Known for creating artworks soaked in vulnerability and underscored by a raw and primal energy, her latest series of works celebrate the magic and the mystery of matriarchies; of the angst, trauma, triumphs and magnificence of giving life. Exploring motherhood, menses and the mysterious life-giving forces of the cosmos, the artist’s latest sculptures harness glass, metal and fabric to create a deeply felt, acutely personal and yet universal paean to the privilege, passage and enduring power of womanhood.
Blood, in all its guises: viscous, visceral, cultural, familial, ritualistic and female flows throughout Stevie Fieldsend’s art. The Irish have a saying: ”She didn’t lick it off a stone…” used when someone has a quality reminiscent of a parent or kin connection. The maxim, used in a friend’s response to Stevie’s recent Facebook post honouring her late grandmother resonates in her latest body of work that mirrors the magic and the mystery of matriarchies; of the angst, trauma, triumphs and magnificence of giving life.
Her installation “She didn’t lick it off a stone” calls on the stylistic and emotional heritage of her art heroes Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois, Pina Bausch, Mikala Dwyer and Eva Hesse meshed with the artist’s raw, deeply felt, acutely personal yet universal paean to the privilege, passage and enduring power of womanhood.
A trio of silver, soaring, omnipotent, spirits, Song of Songs, 1, 2 and 3, trumpet the majesty of matriarchy. (Stevie “called her Nana ‘Lady’ for the first 6 years of her life…”)
The materials of their making – glass, fragile, forged in fire, flowing liquid to solid, and phosphorescent silken threads connect with the lunar tidal flow and female synchronicity of moon, menses and menopause. Subsumed in the vortex of translucent glass are distortions and reflections that emulate the primal evolutionary mirroring response of mother and baby as they attune and lay the foundation for a child’s sense of self.
There is no cake, no candles, no rite for the commencement of menses and with it the womanly privilege and power to create and carry new life within her.
The immense caul How vast is the sum of them alludes to the primal love the artist “never knew existed before I gave birth” and the realities of the rip, tear, stretch then repair of trans-generational trauma “from my great grandmother to my mother’s mother and myself and on”.
The silvery slink and stained fleshly lure of a webbed membrane of flimsy, torn yet unbreakable stockings is intended as a performative work by the artist: “I will visit it at various stages within the time frame of the exhibition which also reflects the menstruation period of 28 days, to re-stitch and repair parts of the stocking work – sometime alone and sometimes with my mother.”
“… As I sew one hundred and sixteen grey silver stockings together to join another two hundred or so others – I see it as a great analogy to motherhood, some days I can not bear it and look elsewhere for quick fixes of spontaneity – but sewing takes great focus and stillness even if it is fucked up and badly done, I return to it day after day – adding and adding like housework, like rearing a child – it is a great struggle as well as profoundly meaningful and it takes great patience but at different points like my son turning 21 tomorrow – I get to stand back and revel in the magic and love of it all. … A great labour of love. So as I sew and sew – it then becomes a tapestry of magnificence and significance as it echoes the notion and practice of attachment and disorganised attachment – this particular work will never end – just as a mother’s work is never done… I intend to return to it and it will morph from one work into another and another as Louise Bourgeois says ‘I do, I undo and I redo”. This is the intention of this ever–stretching work, “she didn’t lick it off a stone” – an Irish saying for blood and that what is handed down, good or bad.”
All of my work comes from a deeply personal place – and this new body of work that speaks of love – passionate love that is – is no exception.
All my work in many ways is about love or lack of…
The maternal and paternal love
My art practice is process driven thriving on an experimental approach and curiosity and pushing materials to their limits. I make whatever is most important to me internally at the time of making. There is no point for me to force my work into an already completely conceived idea – it doesn’t work – it’s not honest – it always starts with a compulsion to use a particular material, shape and colour – and an embryonic idea of what the feeling/sensation is that I want to convey and it always comes from a deeply personal space….. the materiality that I choose has to wow me to intrigue me – then my favourite thing to do is find out all its secrets, there is a dialogue between the materiality, my inner reality, experimentation, curiosity and gesture. It’s where I get to be a kid and play and make magic potions. When I first start a new body of work – I often treat everything as a test – so I don’t get precious about it – so I can push it to the brink of what it can do and often into the garbage bin – but then I know what works and what doesn’t and I have tried all avenues….and so often I go full circle just to come back to the first bloody idea!
With my work, my hope is that people get a feeling/sensation in the gut and in the heart with a generous eyeful too, something you can come back for more and not get in one hit on many nuances, many layers of meaning – I believe in multiplicity rather than duality – I like to be generous with textures and form both for myself and the viewer. I don’t want people to stand in front of my work and negotiate it on an intellectual level – nah fuck that. I want to draw people in, bypass the prefrontal cortex, linear narrative and hit you inside your body.
Whilst I am clearly not made out of glass, metal, textile wood or any other material I work with – in a psychological sense – I do become the material and the material becomes me – and through the journey of making, feeling and thinking about something in particular – something changes inside of me, if that’s makes any sense …. There is definitely a cathartic element and somehow when I get to the end, the work gives me more meaning of who I really am. I definitely get very stirred up when making a body of work, it really is a hard yet joyous process of blood, sweat and tears….. it’s really hard work….but I love it and I live for it….it’s what I get out of bed for apart from my kids!
Ok so on to this new body of work. I was thinking about passionate love, and in particular my 20 year on and off relationship with the father of my daughter whom I caught with a love poem when I was 27 and in another relationship with someone else whom I had just had a baby with! Yep messy bessy indeed, but he was the love of my life and we have our beautiful daughter. However, it’s an impossible love… we had all the passion and chemistry in the world even 20 years later, but it was not balanced with the ordinary day to day, teamwork or being on the same page on many issues. Anyhow, it became apparent that I needed to do this work for us and wanted to pay homage to that type of love –to our intense love for each other. So I have used a sentence or word from that very first love poem I gave him, but the last work I made of this series I used a line from a Marianne faithful song ‘Why’d you do it she said’ which was ‘I put my brains and my balls in a vice and twisted them around for a whole fucking week’ – so yeah its starts all lovey dovey but it’s not gonna end that way.
So, with my work I often like to capture it in a free writing, automatic, spoken word, type of thingo…. It’s not polished, it’s a more of a raw rant…
This work leans in to the type of love that consumes you so completely, its pure mindless magnetism oozing – glistening, that first transgression of touch, the blissful immersion of skin and saliva, – carnal central, carnal sensual, the heat, the sweat, the uninhibited primitive, the enmeshment, the betrayals, the brutality, the insane desire, explosive, corrosive and the love the love the love, or is it addiction? Or worse a faulty familiar re-enactment of a shitty childhood? Just trying to get it right this time – the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Sometimes I just want to open up his goddamn gorgeous chest and hop inside and be held forever and other times I want to punch his fucking face in. Without him I’m a hungry baby and with him a crazy lady. This relationship really is not working, these types of love are only meant to last a year or so in your mid-twenties…well who cares because I love him and he loves me and as I said at the end of my poem all those years ago…. ‘We fight for bliss, We fight forever! The tenderness, the tongue, the tease, the tears, the longing, the bite and the bitten.’
The impressions we leave on each other, the compulsion to touch the fire, to fall back into the inferno – drawn to what destroys us like that dumb moth: the addictions, the lies, the truth, the flying objects, the making up and the absurdity of coming back to each other again and again for 20 fucking years like some stupid Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton scenario but without the diamonds.
– Stevie Fieldsend, 2019