MANY people know Trish O’Shea from community arts projects in the city such as the Encounters shop in Sharrow, Matchmaker with Sheffield United and a residency at Sheffield Town Hall.
Now she has an exhibition of her own work at the Cupola Gallery, Cast, resulting from two years of gathering and making objects and producing paintings, drawings, print and text to explore and respond to the urban environment.
“I like to walk the city,” she says. “I sometimes make sketches and sometimes write little notes or sometimes, just walk. After a walk I then make something. It may be weeks or hours after the walk. All the pieces here are as a result of me being in the city and creating work in response. The images are all a response to Sheffield ‘wanderings’ and the experience of say, the physical architecture, the time of day, the light, how places made me feel, what memories they conjured up – all sorts of stuff.
“People know me from engaging with people but this is about me and expressing what I feel and think,” she adds. “It was a case of reflecting on one’s life in the city and the changes that have taken place to both the city and my life.”
Indeed it was changes of circumstances which prompted the introspection and retrospection on her life since 1981 when she arrived in Sheffield.
Nevertheless she collaborated with a number of people on the project. One was sculptor Hanne Westergaard who helped her make the porcelain casts which give the exhibition its name.
These are of found objects accumulated on walks through the city to places that have been important in her life or else personal items including things In her possession from childhood.
They include such humble things as plastic ducks, bottles, pieces of cutlery and a doll’s shoe. “Casting has given them a new identity,” she says. “Porcelain is very precise and some ended up being damaged but they still have a beauty and character.
“Some of them are personal to me but others are things I have found which have their own unknown story but at the same time have universal associations.
“My grandfather was a master potter so casting and working with clay has given it another connection with an aspect of my life.”
“I am intrigued by the discarded, lost object. The way such an object can evoke a presence and a connection with the person who once possessed them. For this work I have brought together both found objects and my own and reformed some of them by casting them in porcelain, thus transforming the objects and giving them a new identity. I have saved all results from the casting process, seeing damaged and broken pieces as precious and beautiful in their own right and liken them to the human spirit.
“The objects act as souvenirs, as totems, as a way of remembering and often connecting place, time and people.
The exhibition also includes a record of what to O’Shea was a defining moment in her quest. “I always wanted to find a place to lie down and truly engage in the urban environment but that can prove difficult. One day with a photographer friend (who works under the name Postcard Cafe) we came upon this derelict building and when we went inside I knew immediately this was the place for that performative moment. I lay down and he photographed what for me was a very powerful expression.”
Cast continues at the Cupola Gallery until March 10.