Lockdown, 2020

During lockdown I walked the streets of Eastbourne counting elm trees in the throes of death. The latest victims, bark freshly stripped bare, limbs sliced back to the trunk with flesh still warm, orange almost breathing, and the grey stumps that stand as a reminder of what has passed, markers of time.

 

The ‘girdling’ reveals an anthropomorphic skin. Pores, blemishes, scars of a life lived long enough to hold the memory of past epidemics. My reaction is visceral, I know that this has to be done to prevent the disease spreading but staring each death in the face – the sudden catastrophic end of a tree struggling to survive stands as a harbinger of our times.

 

As my thoughts transitioned from counting trees to trying to comprehend the daily covid statistics, images of the vulnerable people I knew and had photographed in happier times fell into my head and became inextricably linked with the trees.

 

In the images it becomes hard to differentiate between the heartwood laid bare and the human skin, drawing attention to our shared cellular physiology and the interconnected nature of our existence in life and death.

 

This work continues my exploration of how we react to life changing events, the split second – the breath – between life and death. Controlling chaos, coping with emergencies, keeping hold of memories and letting go. This pandemic has been all about that breath, focusing our minds as never before on the mechanisms that keep us alive.

Green House, 2020

Closed for 10 years, this nursery has fallen deep into dereliction. Unable to bear the pressure of keeping the business afloat the owner locked the gate and walked away. The extended lockdown has released nature to climb, twist and grip the buildings in a stranglehold of bindweed, bramble and ivy. Creatures scurry in the undergrowth and new ecosystems have developed to support rare species. The impenetrable guard of nature also shields its alternative function, drug dealing. The tension cuts through the air.

Towner Gallery, Eastbourne 2019

As part of Towner’s ‘Art School’ programme I had the opportunity to spend seven days working in a clear, white walled gallery space. Away from the distracting accumulation of stuff in my home studio, I worked with a limited range of mainly ephemeral materials to create prints, collages, and 3D assemblages. The public were welcome to visit and chat with the artists throughout the day. I invited the visitors to collaborate in the work by having their photographs taken with their eyes open and then with their eyes shut. Every day I mixed and manipulated the pieces to create a new composition growing in scale across the gallery walls.

Standard Issue Zine: 27 Collages, 2019

Collage selected for page number 2 of the Standard Edition artzine curated by Simon Barker and distributed from the Towner Gallery.

Installation, Curious Projects Studio, Eastbourne 2016

How does our memory play tricks on us? If we hear a story often enough can it make it seem true? The Dutch author J Bernlef’s 2003 novel 'Outside It’s Monday' is an ode to memory. You cannot live without memories, believes the main character "When someone’s no longer here, memories are the only thing left, so you cherish them, try to prevent them from fading away." Sedimentation, distortion, capturing a voice, repeating a story.

Blue Monkey Network residency, Eastbourne College 2014

  Herbert Cole writes in ‘I am not myself – the art of African masquerade’, – "the masker neither talks nor acts like a true human, and as he careers wildly through the village seems to be outside human laws". For this project I was exploring how our perception of each other shifts,  the transition that can happen from welcome benevolence to mistrust and abuse when it is hard to understand our actions - actions triggered by dementia or mental health.

https://bluemonkeysharedspace.wordpress.com/claire-shoosmith/

© 2020 Claire Shoosmith

claire.shoosmith@googlemail.com

@clshoos