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.
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.