Soft Sculpture in the Oak Hall

This week Soft(83) is installed on the piano in the Oak Hall. This is the third in a series of sculptures made for West Dean House around the theme of sensory experience. For the Oak Hall I was trying to make a sculpture about listening to music. The title Soft means 'listen' and 'piano'. (83) is the number of sketches, maquettes, choices explored and decisions made, when planning and making this final piece.

On the mornings of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week I took some unfinished pieces of soapstone, alabaster and acrylic and placed them together on the piano in different arrangements. In the afternoons I continued working on each element, based on decisions made that morning. By the second day I had narrowed down from about 15 main choices to three. On the last day I made the irrevocable last changes that would lead to one arrangement out of the many I began with.

In the two previous sculptures (Mr James Takes a Walk in the Refectory and Eye Cue in the Library) most of the decision-making had been done prior to installation: the research was undertaken and sculptural elements finished in advance. Only the exact position was still to be fixed. I think of this way of working as 'site specific', in that the piece is made with a specific location in mind.

With Soft(83) I wanted to be 'site responsive'. It was important that each of the elements was incomplete when I started, to allow for the possibility of truly responding to the piano and Oak Hall setting. The sculpture remained fluid for as long as possible, and was still in flux until the last minute.

This way of working was exciting, as it allowed me to work more closely with the setting and offered an increase in retained possibilities and potential. It was also tiring and nerve-wracking, as stone and acrylic are not quick materials to work with. I had to put in some late nights to make happen the decisions taken earlier in the day.

The three sculptures will now all be in place for the week starting 1st February and then again from the 15th February for one week.

I'd appreciate any comments to [email protected] or the Visual Arts pigeonhole.

Jane Fremantle

1st February 2016