Trio set stall out with clay, wire and paper

CASTLE MARKET ART PROJECT    Judy Hockley with her hare sculpture.      31 March 2011
CASTLE MARKET ART PROJECT Judy Hockley with her hare sculpture. 31 March 2011

THE first artists residency at Castle Market has culminated in a two-week exhibition currently on show in empty retail units on the Lower Ground Floor where the group of three have been working for the past eight weeks.

Market traders and customers have been following the progress of the work by Jo Wallace, Silvia Champion and Judy Hockley as their installations have taken shape.

For nearly two years art has been exhibited under the Art Stalls in the Market scheme but the group wanted to take the arts initiative further by creating new work in situ. They thought a residency would provide the public with an insight into the making process of an art work and offer the artists a challenging experience of creating in a public space exposed to direct feedback of the public.

“Our experience has been extremely positive,” says Champion. “We’ve had interest from a great variety of people stretching from regular market visitors to people interested in history, people knowledgeable in animal wildlife or students keen to chat to artists doing a residency, people who used to do art themselves, and so on. People bring down images they took or found and think they could be relevant to us, offer to collect newspaper for us and repeatedly come and check our progress.”

At the same time they feel they have been able to give something back to the market. “It brings down people who might not come to the market otherwise and it livens up the Lower Ground Floor where several stalls have closed down and where it is generally quieter than upstairs.” They also see it as a gesture of support to the traders who face an uncertain future and a dispute over rents.

The artists are part of a group which has been meeting for about six years originally to provide mutual support that was lacking after graduating from Sheffield Hallam University and since then others have joined.

A core of four became involved with the Castle Market project, although Lorna Knowles had to drop out eventually due to illness and the others are keen to acknowledge her key role in the process.

The artists have had to factor in work and family commitments into their eight-week project which has seen each of the three take differing approaches to what they have created. Austrian-born Champion took an idea she was interested in beforehand, and continued to develop and build on it in the market, adapting things to the space and public. Wallace arrived with no pre-conceived idea of what she would do but trusted to something emerging from the daily practice.

Champion had spent time researching the Castle’s history in the local section of the library and some of the researched material is displayed in the space during the residency for visitors to be viewed. Her project involves paper mache shapes with a finishing layer of newspaper text in a specific font and size without headlines or images. This particular aesthetic together with the type of shapes she makes evoke piece of armour or remnantsof the building found when excavating a castle.

The number of shapes has grown and their arrangement changed as the weeks have progressed.

Jo Wallace’s project is based on making clay heads and exploring them in both the real environment of the studio and the virtual reality of digital photography. The heads emerge during the making, and although not modelled on any real person capturing recognisable expression and character is important, she says.

They are displayed on squares of cardboard, a material which the artists uses regularly, which here serves to point up issues such as scale, context and meaning. She was also interested in seeing how the cardboard, treated in certain ways, resonated with its woody tree origins which in turn relate to the earthy clay of the heads.

Hockley’s interest is in nature and she has produced figures of crows and hares out of wire and paper. “I wanted to look at the relationship between nature and the city,” she explains. Crows are creatures you see everywhere whereas hares, with whom the artist has had a long fascination, are only seen in the country. Both have a lot of mythology associated with them.

“Without intending to, we have all ended up using paper material in our work in some way,” remarks Champion. “And what’s good about it is that it’s a way of recycling,” adds Wallace.

The exhibition in the Lower Ground Floor of Castle Market will be launched on Saturday and be on view until April 23.