Samantha Donnelly (centre) at the opening of her exhibition “Contour States” at The Cornerhouse, Manchester
AW: The exhibition literature notes that your work is “concerned with the powerful effects of media imagery on the individual, and in particular with how the portrayal of women in the media shapes and defines them”. How do you think their portrayal in the media shapes and defines women?
SD: Throughout the show there are a series of gestures or points which edit or place ideas of what individuals were thought as, might be thought of as, may be, or may read themselves as. So, in a way the exhibition as a whole presents a platform where people (male, female and trans-gendered) can choose to re-read themselves in relation to objects, or choose not to. It’s not my position as an Artist to dictate, just to offer or present possibilities for an audience to interpret.
Outlining Venus (2012) Jablite, wood, emulsion paint, clamps, supatex latex fabric, acrylic paint, collage, card, steel, satin ribbon, gold schlag leaf, fablon, vinyl, MDF, paper, hazard tape, clamp, giclee print, acrylic, beef olive skewer, pastel Unique object 380 cm (l) x 240 cm
AW: Your installations include fashion magazines. What effect do you think the fashion industry has on the accepted female ‘ideal’?
SD: Fashion magazines are only one reference point in a sea of images. Images and representations are as old as time, take for example the Venus piece upstairs that quotes from the Venus de Willendorf (22,00 – 24,000 BCE). This is a stark contrast to the bottom image of Venus de Milo, the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty.
As a woman I am interested in how people connect to representations of femininity or ideals. But I feel that the work, and the exhibition as a whole, has many other concerns of ‘shaping’, such as Capitalism, Mass-production and Economies, Art and Art history, the Individual and the group, Philosophy, Mortality.
Method Act / City Limits (2012) Unique object: Glazed stoneware, clip, plastic, card, collage with original inks from publication, found gilded brooch, gluing clamp, bracelet, false nail, blu-tack, hand-bound fabric book, lighting gel. 32 cm (l) x 25 cm (d) x 70 cm (h)
AW: Your piece entitled ‘Method Act / City Limits’ includes what are generally considered aesthetically pleasing items, such as jewellery and an image of an eye with make-up, as well as seemingly fetishised images, like the long black fingernail and pink latex material. These items are balanced on top of a book, the cover of which poses the question ‘A Satisfied Mind?’ What do you think of the balance of concern in society and in the media for achieving a satisfying appearance and a satisfied mind?
SD: The title comes from Johnny Cash song, which is actually more concerned with Capital (money) as a form of satisfaction or being poor in money yet rich in emotional or spiritual ‘value’. So for me the work is about values and the desire for shiny or covetable things, and the drive for these which seems precarious.
Detail (2012) Unique object: Glazed stoneware, powder coated steel, PVC, plastic nails, corrugated plastic sheet, steel clamp, acrylic, fold-back clip, perspex rod, magazine, plastic wallet, elastic bands, imitation leather belts, fabric, Giclee print, acrylic paint, emulsion paint, wood 140 cm (l) x 190 cm (d) x 240 cm (h)
AW: With your background as a student of Time Based Arts, I was intrigued when you told me the clamps used to hold parts of the installations together signified the temporal nature of their relationships. There are also a lot of smashed or shattered objects in the exhibition, similarly suggesting changing states. Do you think the representation of women and their minds and their sexuality has changed, or is changing, or will change in the future?
SD: I’m fairly sure I’m not qualified to answer! I think talking about the ‘whole’ and of ‘women’ is kind of blanketing over a history with one story, with a new blanket that’s kind of, well, exactly the same. There are many different ‘women’s’ today, not just one movement with one aim, but a pluralism of individuals who all have different objectives. Change is inevitable over time in any realm, so yes, I think representations of women will change, just as the European Union will change and as Capitalism will undoubtedly alter.
Contortionist (2012) Stained earthenware, varnish, glaze, wood, plaster, pigment, acrylic, mirror, C-type prints, Sculpey, copper tube, supatex latex, electrical tape, aluminum clamps, steel clamps, fabric bound book, lighting gels, collage using original inks from publication, metal chains, acrylic nails, modeling wax, acrylic tube, tights, buttons, earrings, VHS film, neon fablon, MDF, paint, velcro, perforated steel sheet, aluminum film Unique object 403 cm (d) x 320 cm (w) x 205 cm (h)
Illusions of Supersaturation (2012) Unique object: Polystyrene female sport mannequins, jesmonite, plaster bandage, modeling wax, coloured beeswax, powder coated steel, timber, corrugated sheeting, supatex latex, polyester webbing, plastic covered hooks, nylon tights, polyester wadding, simulated pearl earring, cloth tape, glitter flecked corduroy, zip, lycra top, lighting gel, tie-back, coat hanger, foam, glazed stoneware ceramic, electrical tape, photocopy, found carved statuette, mirror, fabric, PVC, ribbon, neon acrylic rod, fold-back clip, C-type print 370 cm x 370 cm x 370 cm
Interview by Charlotte Gush
All images courtesy of the Artist and Ceri Hand Gallery
Samantha Donnelly’s exhibition ‘Contour States’ is at The Cornerhouse, Manchester, until Sunday 25th March 2012.