Stumped: Sophie Jung, Elisa Noguera Lopez and Darren Harvey-Regan

Following the Gallery’s recent event Stumped: Photography and Sculpture, we asked the three artists that contributed to the evening a bit more about the projects they presented.

Stumped invites three artists/photographers to present and discuss a single, often incomplete, project with which they have reached an impasse. The event happens in a public forum, enabling artists to have a constructive conversation as well as support from a gathered audience. For this session, artist Darren Harvey-Regan led a conversation on photography and its relationship to sculpture, installation and three-dimensionality. Also presenting and receiving feedback on their work were artists Sophie Jung and Elisa Noguera-Lopez.

Sophie Jung

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1)   What led to you working on this project?

I started working on it while I was in a public residency at Casino Luxemburg, where I was given a wonderfully large white cube to work in. While visitors came and went – I was going back and forth from London to Luxemburg. So every time I left my public Luxemburg studio for a few days I made sure all my objects, often stuff I’d been fascinated with during childhood and re-discovered while staying with my grandmother during the 3 months of the residency, were arranged in a neat and tidy manner. Wouldn’t want visitors to think, etc. I kept thinking, “Ha, they’ll think this is art now – when really…what?’”

I enjoyed their temporary fixedness, so I started dressing them up in stories, anecdotes, quotes, rhymes. I dynamically fixed them into shapes to conceal their particularity, accidentally. A self-aware justification, delving into the fun of general serendipitous perception within art.  It’s all about abundance through variation. 

2)   What is the work?

It’s  an on-going series of sculptures. They are quite photographic in spirit, since rather than create out of nothing, I combine and reference. I frame a certain constellation of things in the world and glue them together with text.

All the objects have different time-lines, different densities. Some are drenched in memory, others serve to be more of a formal girder, helping the composition to radiate; others are fragile little textures, unknown to me but full of sensual potential. I arrange them in a way I feel is compositionally balanced, something I used to obsess about in photographs. Their elements quote within the piece and then the piece quotes the context it appears in: they mimic “the contemporary”, camouflaged – dressed in cool muteness they unexpectedly begin to reveal all. 

3)   How were you stumped and what will your next steps be to develop the body of work?

How can I deal with their modularity at the point when they enter the public domain? Is it against their nature to fix them? The different pieces recycle their elements, which are reincarnated in many narratives. Like a poet, who couldn’t let go of her o’s and k’s and d’s I can’t let go of my pink ball, the plexi sheet or the sticky-tape: they are the vocabulary from which I form my sentences. If one piece goes, so do at least 5 others with it. I don’t want to reproduce their elements, they are auratic originals, but I did photograph and archive every variation and keep going back to those images. They hold something intriguing: they’re either an instruction manual of how to rebuild or a visual memory of something long gone, and the choice is mine. Can the pieces gain strength by entering into the minefield of photographic discourse? Can the discourse be transcended? Or am I taking a shortcut with a trap-door? Hmm. I guess the next step is to flatten the sculpture and animate the text and see what that does.

Elisa Noguera Lopez

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1) What led to you working on this project?

When I was working on an earlier project, I had the opportunity to photograph some beauty contest chickens. In these photographs, the creatures were isolated from the farm environment by colourful textiles and presented standing on side tables. In the final image a flying saucer was carrying a fluffy creature through a colourful space. The first 3 photographs of chickens were initially shown in a group exhibition last year. Then an extended version of the project was selected by the Format photo festival team as work in progress. The temporary title was 100 chicken 1 egg. I presented the people from Format with 1 egg, 16 photographs of floating chickens and the intention of photographing 84 more.

2) What is the work?

With the project presented at Format I was interested in generating a cacophony of colour, pattern and the creature’s gestures. At the time I was reading an essay from a German intellectual celebrity, called the The Egg Principle from the book Bubbles. In the book, he develops the concept “micro-sphereology” and the significance of spatial consciousness to create reality, the world and life. In The Egg Principle he looks at how various forms of life emerge from the egg and shape our understandings of creation and birth. He uses the idea of a bubble as an analogy for the nurture of an individual in different stages of life.

3) How were you stumped and what will your next steps be to develop the body of work?

At this stage I realised the work needs to have a different presence. I keep thinking about an installation that creates space rather than how the photographs are framed now. How do I liberate the chicken from the boxed structure without losing the idea of a container? How do I make them feel lighter and accentuate their vitality and their limberness? Recently I have been collecting motives which were part of home furniture. I am interested in the beauty and banality of these fractions of homes. How do I introduce these motives to the chickens in a coherent way? At the moment I am looking for more chickens to photograph. At the same time I am experimenting with these found motives to convert them into plinths. Slowly I’m gathering elements that can be organically grouped within a space.

Darren Harvey-Regan

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1) What led to you working on this project?

When I’m more preoccupied with the processes of photography, a (frustratingly) frequent problem occurs in not knowing what to actually photograph!  Photography about photography, but photographs of what?  While I try to think through the visual subject matter that might carry my sense for the work, without eclipsing it in its own associations, more often than not I regularly end up trusting a more intuitive approach, a subject that feels right, its reason for being right I hope the work will uncover.  In the case of this project, I’d developed a certain draw towards hand tools.  While the collection grew in my studio however, any sense of what to do with them didn’t!

2) What is the work?

The tools eventually became a work titled Beauties of The Common Tool, Rephrased, a type of appropriation derived from Walker Evans’ 1955 commission for Fortune magazine in which he photographed five common household tools – a celebration of form and photography.

An initial playing around with Evans’ images led to montaging them together, creating a set of five hybrids. From there the desire to make these image hybrids real seemed a natural step, resulting in many months sourcing tools that matched Evans’ originals.  These tools were cut in half and re-joined, recreating in the world the objects that had previously existed only in my montages.   Rephotographed to emulate Evans’ work, the cut tools are once again made whole, entailing a reversal of photographic trajectory: where photography typically starts with something in the world and makes an image of it, here pre-existing images have been made into something in the world.

3)  How were you stumped and what will your next steps be to develop the body of work?

It was actually serendipity that finally bridged the divide between my frustrated collection of tools looking for a project and the eventual work based on Walker Evans’ images. A friend’s Facebook profile picture changed to a tool image: too small to fully decipher, it appeared to depict a trowel cut in half and rejoined, an idea perfectly suited to both my interests and objects but apparently –  and annoyingly –  already made by someone else! The small trowel image however, located finally in print resolution, prove to be Walker Evan’s very-much-whole trowel, leaving me with not just a free idea, but the context of his project around which to shape it. I guess this can all sound a bit too fortuitous, but it’s also the pay-off to my persevering with collecting tools and trying to discover the work in them for so long, a reminder to stick with it, since eventually something has to give!

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