Olivia Bax’s ensemble
“Sculpture, for me, offers a way of seeing that other media cannot offer. A three-dimensional object carries different perspectives depending on the viewing angle, and how much one is willing to search for inner workings and cavities.”
- Olivia Bax
Continuing our commitment to supporting the next generation of creatives, we welcome our latest artist-in-residence at our flagship. Rising star of contemporary sculpture, Olivia Bax presents an exhibition of thoughtful conversation starters in The Focus Room at Browns Brook Street, showcasing our unrivalled London Fashion Week edit.
Just like the designer pieces on display, Olivia’s works form a complementary and harmonising ensemble (hence the name of this selection of artworks). The exhibition is made up of three sculptural ensembles crafted from found and made objects. Read on to delve deeper into the mind of this exciting young sculptor…
On becoming a sculptor…
Since I was very young, I enjoyed being creative and knew that I wanted to go to art school even though I had little understanding about what being 'an artist' entailed.
I also enjoy literature and theatre so when it came to choosing an Art Foundation course I was attracted to Wimbledon School of Art and Design because (at the time) students could try painting, sculpture and set design. When I built my first stage set, I cast aside the set measurements for the model, thinking I could be more ambitious. I made an extravagant set on multiple levels, with flying glass balls. I remember the tutor looking at my set in dismay - it was hugely impractical. ‘You’re a sculptor, not a set designer’ he told me - and I guess he was right!
On her inspirations…
I take inspiration from my surroundings. I am drawn to a wide range of things including architectural features, domestic objects and anything ergonomic. I have an interest in transitions - that idea of conversion translates into an interest in systems and devices.
I have a lot of artist friends, many of whom share the same studio block in South East London as me. Conversation with them provides constant stimulation and encouragement. My partner is also an artist so discussing ideas is a daily occurrence. And then there are books and the theatre too.
On her creative process…
My process follows a number of steps, starting with a linear drawing in steel. That becomes an armature or skeleton on which to build the structure. Then solid sections are made with chicken wire and covered with a hand-generated paper pulp. The pulp is a mixture of discarded newspapers (collected from London stations), discarded household paint (collected from DIY shops), PVA and plaster.
Since the lockdown, I have been collecting other rubbish, such as polystyrene packaging for electrical items (in abundance while the city grappled to make home offices). I have been considering how linear sections and solid parts can intersect and interweave. The armature works simultaneously as a structural support and a restrictive cage.
On the artworks in the exhibition…
Glissade and Pump appear to be at work: funnels, pipes and tubes suggest places where liquid or a substance could be collected. I was considering human networks, tunnels, filtering systems, the inside of buildings or our working cities. In particular, I considered how we negotiate in and around these man-made structures and how they force certain directions. Glissade is mounted on wheels, its custom stilettos allow the work to glide from studio to exhibition venue to runway.
Boo-boo is a surplus of mass with struts which pierce and bruise the surface. The work is in part influenced by an image I received of my cousin’s foot cage after an accident. At the time, I read a lot about the apparatus itself. The original contraption was inspired in the 1950s by a shaft bow harness on a horse carriage and was made with bicycle parts. By applying pressure from the outside, the foot cage realigns the bone and heals it. Boo-boo suggests the external metal work could be inflating and deflating the form simultaneously. Perhaps the metal is constraining the mass, or supporting it, or both. The work is a merging of the organic with the violence of the artificial. Like the land we inhabit, the sculpture shows signs of slicing, changing, manipulating. This is what is left.
On materials and colours…
Colour is important. It is mixed into the pulp and therefore becomes an integral component rather than a surface treatment. I like to play with sculptural hierarchies and assumptions. For example, sculpture should be heavy and made from expensive materials.
My sculptures are light, and made from waste. The sculptures in this exhibition have been considering bronze patina principles but applied to paper pulp. I patinated the surface by letting watered-down discarded household paint spill over the sculptures and stain the surface.
On collaborating with Browns…
The collaboration with Browns gives my work an opportunity to be seen in a new setting: away from the mayhem of the studio or the exhibition cube. Here the work will have to participate in a new ensemble with clothes and accessories. Whilst they are functional, my sculptures allude to function but are functionless. Interestingly, bags are an item which I draw frequently. As with any vessel, I am curious about the difference between exterior and interior space - what is visible and what is hidden.
I appreciate Browns' ethos to support up-and-coming designers alongside established brands and I am delighted to be part of a collaboration which I hope sparks many new conversations.
You can find Olivia’s sculptural installation showcasing Browns’ unrivalled London Fashion Week edit in The Focus at Browns Brook Street, from the 16th September to 12th October. Some of our favourite brands, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Mugler, Jacquemus, and many more will be on display.
Words by Sophy Davis Russell
Photography by Tim Bowditch, courtesy of the artist ©Olivia Bax
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