Process and labour intensive, the enigmatic plaster forms of this exhibition evolved intuitively from the artists’ work over the past two years. With layers of plastering, additions and extensions, carving away and ultimately sanding to a high-level finish, the work represents an extensive practise-based meditation through the medium of Plaster of Paris.
Despite their final presentation, the forms or feelthings emerged from a visceral negotiation with plaster involving both additive and subtractive working, a messy process of finding solidity from fine powder:
There is the pouring, the sifting, the mixing, a soothing warmth, a ferocious heat, and then, the cool. The cutting, hacking, chopping, sawing, scraping, sanding smoothing, washing, polishing – and the touch.
In order to physically cope with this I need to “suit-up” in tyvek, latex gloves and a full mask respirator. My practice requires continuous sweeping, cleaning, wiping down of surfaces and vacuuming.
Traditionally, Plaster of Paris is used in controlled and specific ways: the setting of broken bones; mould-making and casting of teeth and mouths for dentures and other orthodontic processes; the reconstruction of corpses for open caskets; as a moulding medium for the mass production of various items; fireproofing, and for processes and finishes in the building industry. Within the Fine Arts, Plaster of Paris is most often used as a process medium.
However, the works of this exhibition are ends in themselves, their insides and their surfaces have been negotiated over long periods with plaster in the artists’ studio. The emerging forms, the feelthings, are found in this way. There is also an element of letting go of the artists’ hand, as the hidden tension between plaster and water find their own balance to create solidity and strength. Importantly, the plaster assumes responsibility for all structural integrity, there is no armature and no technical guide to this way of working, it needs to be felt and worked through in an embodied sense. Thus, Feelthings can be seen as a collection of encounters with both the mess and harmony of creation and to acts of cleaning up, asking what it means to think or feel with a material?
Central to this question is the aspect of touch and duration. Despite their pristine finish, each piece was constantly handled over long periods of time. They are thus imbued with touch and, in turn, call to mind many of its associated sensations.
As with previous work, under the title of Gutspeak, Dominique Edwards suggests that the space between maker and material is both mysterious and multi-agential, an interaction of knowledge systems and affective engagements. The stakes are high for this endeavour, are the things we make mere reflections of our inner workings or do they breathe with a similar primordial urge to exist and extend influence? Aiding this kind of reading we would be better off looking to Viktor Schauerberger than to a kind of modernist formalism. Schauerberger turned to nature for practical solutions to engineering problems, mostly related to the outward and inward forces in water. His method was akin to a tuning-in, a long meditation on energetic states and a release from the binds of mechanistic thinking.
Similarly, the work of Dominique Edwards speaks to the androgynous coupling of creative forces in the world, cosmogonic myths, animism, new materialism and theories of affect that challenge the conventional separation and order of things. These positions reduce the distance between the viewer and the object. They present ideas about the interaction of intensities rather than a world of separate things. They attempt to redefine the human in a more relational ontology.
Finally, although the feelthings might recall associations with the human body and other recognisable forms, they are not made with these likenesses in mind. They are found in another place altogether.