Pour­ing out her large-scale art in a flood of emo­tion

A 21st-cen­tury flood is en­gulf­ing an an­cient York­shire church. Sarah Free­man takes a look at art­works cre­ated from the things we throw away.

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - ART -

SU­SAN Stock­well doesn’t do any­thing on a small scale.

The artist has earned an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion for her large in­stal­la­tions made from ev­ery­day ob­jects and her lat­est trade­mark work has just been un­veiled at St Mary’s Church in York.

In the mid­dle of the an­cient church in the heart of the city cen­tre, vis­i­tors are now be­ing stopped in their tracks by a sculp­ture which spans from floor to ceil­ing. Be­gin­ning from the roof, a pool of metal and wire pours down to the stone floor end­ing in a mass of dis­sected com­put­ers whose use has been sur­passed by new technology.

“I spent a lot of time wan­der­ing around the space and think­ing how the piece would work best,” says Su­san. “ What in­ter­ested me was the con­nec­tion be­tween a de­con­se­crated church no longer used for the re­li­gious pur­pose it was first built for and our own throw­away so­ci­ety, which makes things ob­so­lete no sooner have they come onto the mar­ket.

“It also struck me that at its heart, the church was about com­mu­ni­ca­tion. To­day the idea of spread­ing a mes­sage has taken on a life of its own. The in­ter­net means that peo­ple from all over the world can con­nect in an in­stant and yet de­spite all those ad­vances some peo­ple

I spent a lot of time wan­der­ing around the space and think­ing how the piece would work.

feel more lonely and iso­lated than ever.”

Su­san sourced the four tonnes of old com­puter parts used in Flood from Se­cure IT Re­cy­cling in Cheshire where they will re­turn when the piece is dis­man­tled in Novem­ber. As­sem­bling the piece was painstak­ing, but hav­ing seen it just re­cently in­stalled in its new home, she has al­lowed her­self to breathe a sigh of re­lief.

“I wanted the fi­nal piece to have an im­me­di­ate im­pact, but I also wanted it to have some con­nec­tion with the ar­chi­tec­ture which was al­ready there. The red wires link to the colours in the stained glass win­dow and the sheer scale of the piece has, I hope, an ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal feel.

“Un­til an in­stal­la­tion is fin­ished you never quite know how a work will look, but work­ing with St Mary’s has been a re­ally great ex­pe­ri­ence. York is a fab­u­lous city and one steeped in an­cient his­tory. The dan­ger is that it ends up feel­ing like a mu­seum piece in it­self and hope­fully projects like this, which bring the past and the present to­gether, make peo­ple see it in a whole new light.”

Flood is the lat­est work to be added to Stock­well’s grow­ing port­fo­lio of work, which has seen her cre­ate sculp­tures from cir­cuit boards, re­cy­cled Chi­nese notes and the paper used to make te­abags.

For St Mary’s it’s also the con­tin­u­a­tion of a com­mit­ment to turn the me­dieval church over to con­tem­po­rary artists, which be­gan in 2004.

“Con­tem­po­rary artists are al­ways braced for the ques­tion, ‘what is art?’ and there are al­ways go­ing to be some peo­ple who don’t feel a church, al­beit one no longer used, is a suit­able back­drop for what we do, says Stock­well. “Per­son­ally, I think it’s a great idea. As an artist work­ing in dif­fer­ent spa­ces is part of the chal­lenge and at the very least I hope it gets peo­ple talk­ing.”

Flood opens to­day and the work will be open to vis­i­tors un­til Oc­to­ber 31. For more in­for­ma­tion on St Mary’s, Flood and pre­vi­ous in­stal­la­tions visit www.york­st­marys.co.uk

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: Su­san Stock­well with some of the six tons of re­cy­cled com­puter com­po­nents that makes up her art in­stal­la­tion.

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