Welcome to the blog of Spike Dennis; an artist and sometime curator. Trained in London Spike has exhibited widely, from London to Los Angeles, and has delivered projects from Cardiff to Stockholm, for organisations including the Illustration Research network and Cardiff Design Festival amongst Others.
As my practice has evolved over the last year or so I have started to move back into three dimensions as well as time based and performative practices rather than being focused on drawing and embroidery. With this in mind I have been taking a look back at uses of textiles and cloth, exploring ways in which artists have used these materials in ways which bridge that gap between art and craft, with a particular interest in artists that use cloth for more sculptural or performative works.
This led to my discovery of Bonnie Lucas, an American artist based in New York City.
My kitsch sensibilities drew me to these textile assemblages, or collages. These works are carefully assembled from a variety of items that includes dolls, items of clothing, cheap plastic jewellry, thread and yarn, amongst other things.
They appear to be very ‘feminine’ pieces of work both as result of the colours in the work as well as the collections of objects used in their creation, such as dolls and women’s lingerie. Women’s issues are of particular interest to the artist and manifest in a disturbing contrasts within the work; for example, adult themes being addressed through childlike imagery and colours. Jeffrey Wechsler likens this approach to the way in which old fairy tales were formed in order to convey theme’s that might be considered as ‘adult’ in a more covert manner. At first glance these works might appear to be images created directly for children but the context of the objects is changed in such a way that it makes the viewer uneasy.
Whilst still they’re still wall based works I’m interested in the way in which Bonnie Lucas has assembled together tactile items, including some three dimensional objects, to create these images. It might not appear so on first glance, but it looks like a lot of work has been put into the creation of these assemblages to create these formal arrangements that work so well.
These are some of the first panels I’ve completed recently for a new piece of work. They are hand embroidered with cross stitched cotton thread and each measure approximately 35cm tall by 13cm wide. All told I will need to complete 12 of these panels to realise the work.
The work has evolved out of my unicorn research and follows on from my previous Unicorn Dating embroideries. he work will similarly address issues around internet culture and online dating, albeit approaching it from a different angle.
This work is turning out to be quite the commitment in terms of time and energy as each panel is taking in the region of 40 hours to stitch… give or take; so don’t expect to see any images of the final work until the new year!
The exhibition will present an exciting open exhibition of works from a mix of creative locals, including painting, sculpture, digital art and photography. This will include a new digital video that I’ve created as well as some of my puppets.
Holly Stewart, a grandmother from Kanasas, USA, quilted giant penises for an exhibition at the University of Kansas City entitled “Local Grandmother Quilts Giant Penises”. Funding for the exhibition invitations was secured via this Kickstarter campaign.
In her Kickstarter video the artist has explained how her interest in decorative members sparked from her time working in a sex toy factory:
I was looking on Craigslist for jobs and I saw an ad for a position that was sex positive and I had to know what that was. When I looked at it it was to be a de-molder in a dildo factory. I just knew I needed to be able to tell my grandchildren I had even applied to be a de-molder in a dildo factory. When I got the job it was even better.
I love the impact of these objects, the oversized brightly coloured phallic sculptures are as affirmative as they are transgressive. I particularly like the carnivalesque quality to the works.
Apparently, these sculptures formed a part of Stewart’s MA exhibition in which she appropriates the penis as a symbol of power whilst “contextualizing her work within ‘third wave’ feminist theory.
It’s a shame that Stewart only found internet fame with these works because of the novelty factor associated with them but if this brings her work to a wider audience it can’t be a bad thing.
Farmer McPhallus is a wild man unicorn farmer; my alter ego for a new series of works resulting from my unicorn studies.
The costume is inspired by traditions of wild man costumes that are a part of folk traditions around the world, particularity in northern Europe. The costume is comprised of a grey wolf head mask and a pair of trousers made up of the ‘skins’ of soft cuddly toys and teddy bears. The wild man’s body is white with black markings as pictured.
The body of work I’m producing around this character is performative, involving Invictus, my unicorn hobby-horse, as well as a number of other unicorns. It will take the form of video and live performances
Details of new videos and performances will be available in the coming weeks.
Drowning (Not Waving) is my first attempt at making an automaton. I’ve been talking about making automata and kinetic sculptures with fellow members of the Pack of Wolves for a few months now. With a few days to spare over the summer Faye Scott-Farrington and I got together in the studio to set to work making our first automata.
The final creation seen in the video above is made almost entirely from MDF, aside from the porcelain doll hands. Before this however, we had to gain an understanding of how basic cams and cranks work. Following some research online we created a couple of cardboard maquettes to help us figure out how the basic mechanics would work.
Having grasped the basics we set about making more permanent constructions from wood and MDF. I created a simple shelf to house the machine and then I cut each cam individually, sanding them to as near a perfect circle as I could. These were then drilled out an mounted on a piece of dowel that would act as the main crank.
Using offset concentric cams I was able to ensure that the hands would all raise and fall at diffferent times.
The motion in my automaton is a little rough which I think is in part due to the bamboo skewers I used to spear the dolls’ hands. I also had to add some extra weight to the cam plates beneath the smallest hands because there wasn’t quite enough weight to enable the hands to drop back down again.
Keep an eye out on Faye’s blog for some photos of the automaton that she created. It’s a suitably creepy machine!
The Pack of Wolves have been invited to show a recording of their Punch and Judy performance from “Once Upon Again…” at Kalopsia’s new exhibition “Con-Textiles-Isation” in their Edinburgh gallery space. The exhibition will explore the intersection between performance art and textiles.
Performance and Textiles are two strands of artistic practice that rarely meet, yet here they become entwined in a manner that seeks not only to return textiles to its rightful place in the orbit of contemporary art, but also to showcase the conceptual and communicational potential of the medium.
Works by a selection of international artists will be on display and will include performance pieces interwoven with the use of classic textile techniques and textile pieces that engage both physically and conceptually with performance. There will also be live performances at the opening on the evening of the 8 August 2014.