Artist-in-Residence: Blue Firth

The Visual Arts Department at West Dean College is pleased to welcome Blue Firth as Artist-in-Residence. Firth will use the three-week residency period to explore questions about the nature of material and its relation to both historic and contemporary contexts.

Firth will be in residence from 12 January - 1 February. All residents are provided with a large, dedicated studio space within the Visual Arts department. Full-time students have tutorial support and taught sessions with all artist in residence, and attend an artist talk.

"My practice focuses on how to encounter historical narratives, and how perception can be toyed with through built environments and participatory events. Often an engagement with the paranormal and surreal is used to open up ideas of 'site' and 'memory', and to build upon the atmosphere that an artwork or gallery space might hold in relation to the physical presence of an artwork. What predominantly starts as a research based practice is manifest into physical forms which, when staged, discuss space, history and memory in a way that is playfully void of the whimsical or symbolically obvious. Large scale pattern is used in an illusionary way, heightening the importance of surface and texture as tools able to transform spaces into other realms. Recently the use of sound has become a helpful addition to discuss presence and non-presence. GPS technology and internet ready phones have been used as the conduit to present analogue audio works which are made accessible in designated sites, pushing the idea of site-specific work and engagement.

Over the past year, I have been working on a series of large scale commissions, which has highlighted a want to explore a more object based practice. How can I translate the use of research and pattern into smaller forms? Recently I have been using clay found near my house to make highly naïve vessels and garlands. This use of an immediately local material urged me to question its historical currency, and if this currency could be used within my work to start to introduce new objects and materials. It is the use of materials which have an innate link to history that I would like to explore over a period of time such as the residency. Ceramics surely can be used to question idea and memory, but could this be toyed with to subvert the archaeological connotations? How could ceramics fit within my practice which currently relies on the application of surface onto built structures? Could textiles be a way to extract the flat surface pattern? How do natural materials sit alongside modern composite ones, especially the likes of Corian which emulates the appearance of stone and marble, but carries none of the historical context with it? I would love to explore these questions within an artistic community which holds both the arts and crafts in equal and high regard such as West Dean, and to be able to designate a period of time solely to the experimentation and research of materials new to my practice."