[highlight1] ‘Nests and Cocoon-Like Forms’ Installations [/highlight1]
The work of Laura Ellen Bacon has been described as, ‘monumental’, ‘uncanny’, ‘compelling’ and ‘beautifully strange’. Laura’s contemporary sculptures were initially inspired by nests and cocoon-like forms and she has since developed her own unique language with materials – a language that communicates the properties of the materials she uses and her strong desire to turn chaotic amounts of raw materials into ‘spaces’ of some kind.
Powerfully organic in appearance, she invariably creates site specific art and has gained a strong reputation for her large works in built environments, interior settings and rolling landscapes, including Chatsworth, Sudeley Castle (for Sotheby’s) and The Artists’ House at Roche Court in Wiltshire.
Weaves: at Chatsworth garden
A flowing series of woven sculptures created for the Chatsworth Kitchen Garden are already weaving a spell on visitors, with cries of ‘lets walk this way’ being heard from those who spy the new piece. Award-winning artist Laura Ellen Bacon from Darley Dale, in Derbyshire was commissioned by the Duke of Devonshire to create the piece to help encourage visitors explore this part of the 105-acre garden.
Crafted using willow from Somerset and bamboo from the Chatsworth estate, Laura has created an impressive four metre tall archway, accompanied by three smaller woven forms which all lean with the slope of the Kitchen Garden. It has taken three months to create these pieces entitled ‘Forms of Growth’ with Laura spending many hours in the garden painstakingly weaving the materials.
Laura said: “I have designed the forms to appear as if ‘growing’ towards the garden. Each form has a powerfully organic feeling and visitors have been thrilled by the various forms and their ‘natural’ presence. Each form is evidently man-made, but carries a curious notion that it might just have grown by itself.”
One couple who watched the sculpture being created said: “The arch at the entrance to the kitchen garden is a superb structure; we greatly admire its flowing lines and the definition of its shape which adds real interest as one walks towards the garden. It must have taken amazing patience and attention to detail to achieve the intricate weaving but the result is spectacular whether viewed from a distance or close up. We look forward to seeing your willow structures each time we visit and we hope that they continue to be appreciated and enjoyed by everyone at Chatsworth.”
The Duke of Devonshire said: “Everyone at Chatsworth is extremely grateful to Laura for completing this beautiful suite of pieces so quickly. She has been delightful to work with, and I am sure that ‘forms of growth’ will become a very popular destination for visitors to the garden.”
Split Forms: at Roche Court
Laura Ellen Bacon’s ‘Split Forms’ were made especially for an exhibition at Roche Court curated by Sarah Griffin called the nature of things. They appear to flow down the facade of the Artists’ House, gently undulating and swelling to create two orbicular nests. Constructed by hand using a simple, repetitive technique, the sculptures with their organic shape and obvious associations with the natural world, create a contrast to the rigorous, modernist architecture of the building. As their name suggests, both sculptures are riven, allowing us to consider their inner structure as well as their outward appearance, in much the same way as we regard the pierced, hollow forms of Hepworth and Moore. Moreover, we are drawn into the cocoon-like and protective shelter they seem to promise.
It is perhaps unsurprising that the sculptures at Roche Court were quickly occupied by birds and insects, which recognised them immediately as their own. However, looking at them from inside the Artists’ House, the scale and shape of Bacon’s work also renders them supernatural. Glimpsed through a window, suddenly they have a powerful and muscular – if not ominous – presence, with each willow stick creating a distinctly taut and sinewy appearance. They enthral and inspire wonder, not only for their size and intricacy, but because no one looking at them can ever quite believe that Laura Ellen works alone or that she achieves such great speed.
Indeed, it seems impossible to look at Bacon’s sculptures without asking how they have been made. Their apparent simplicity of form is deceptive and we see on closer inspection that they consist of a complicated system of knots and weaves, which create a complex series of furrows and waves. Employing, as she does, basketry techniques, it would still be wrong to regard Bacon’s work as craft – an often tricky and contentious term for many artists – but rather as exploring the boundaries between the homespun and high art. Ultimately she takes mundane materials and traditional methods to create something strange, beautiful and compelling.
Exposed: at Blackwell
At Blackwell, Laura Ellen Bacon is creating an installation of two large-scale works in red willow. These pieces have been developed in direct response to Laura’s knowledge and experience of Blackwell, its landscape environment and the climate within which it exists. She is creating two dramatic curvaceous structures, bonded to the building and the retaining wall of one of the garden terraces. The form of these two ‘clinging’ structures, which will span two floors of the external elevation, will emphasise their fragility against the relative permanence of the house.
In the Thick of It: The Gallery, Winchester Discovery Centre
It uses Somerset willow and also silver birch, which has been cut en-masse as part of heathland conservation in Hampshire, near to the gallery space. Much of my woven work is built on site, entwined into buildings, trees or other structures. I often create my forms from the inside out, which results in forms that are smooth on the outside, with an unseen, chaotic and frenzied interior that supports the surface texture.
By constructing this work, I wanted to turn my forms ‘inside out’ and allow the requirements of the structure to be visible on the exterior, while the experience of the internal space is revealed. My first study of such a ‘woven space’ was created at Chatsworth in 2009 and this project is a direct development of that.
The silver birch entered the gallery first and was tethered together with the willow to create roughly-hewn spaces, into which the willow forms were then developed. The focus is entirely on the internal spaces, all of which can be entered. The wonderful aroma of some 30,000 willow sticks and huge volume of freshly cut silver birch embraces the visitor as soon as the gallery door is opened.
Laura Ellen Bacon
My large-scale installations are almost always built on site, allowing me to form the works in a way that truly fits its location.
I began making my early works upon dry stone walls and evolved to work within trees, riverbanks and hedges, allowing the chosen structure (be it organic or man-made) to become host. Over a decade into my work, my passions have returned to not only merging with dry stone walls, but to the powerful connections with architecture. My work has to fuse with a building to succeed, both aesthetically and practically.
The forms I make have such a closeness with the fabric of the building, their oozing energy spills from gutters, their ‘muscular’ forms nuzzle up to the glass and their gripping weave locks onto the strength of the walls. Whilst the scale and impact varies from striking to subtle (sometimes only visible upon a quizzical double take), I relish the opportunity to let the building ‘feed’ the form, as if some part of the building is exhaling into the work.
My current work is inspired by nests and cocoon-like forms, and I make large scale, site specific work usually for landscape settings. I have a keen interest in creating spaces and build most of my forms from the inside, weaving around myself. Also, on a smaller scale and with the addition of tactile linings, my ‘Nesting Vessels’ are designed to make an architectural statement in the minimal interior.
My memories of making dens in the wood as a child remain a guiding influence, but I am also inspired by the work of artists such as Chris Drury and Gyöngy Laky. I often generate ideas as a result of workshops that I lead with adults and school groups.
I have developed my work since I graduated from my degree in Applied Arts BA in 2001. I have produced work in various landscape settings, as I wished, and now would like to incorporate new materials into new work. I also produce work for interiors, which have been shown in galleries in various parts of the UK. I have recently received a Crafts Council Development Award.
[highlight1] Data [/highlight1]
Name: ‘Nests and Cocoon-Like Forms’
Type: Installation, Sculpture
Materials: recycled PET
Technique: woven organic forms large-scale Installations
[highlight1] The people [/highlight1]
Artist: Laura Ellen Bacon – England
Text Description: © Courtesy of Laura Ellen Bacon, Chatsworth, Blackwell,
Images: © Laura Ellen Bacon, Chris M Elliott, Charles Wildgoose, Tony West, Chatsworth House Trust, Julian Francis, Richard Richards, Richard Tailby, Tomal Price, Sotheby’s, Karen Withak