Be careful what you wish for: A Sculptor’s Reflection

Morley sculpture tutor and artist Alexandra Harley reflects on her time in lockdown so far.

I honestly don’t think that I am responsible for this outbreak but just a few weeks ago, I dreamt of being able to have just two weeks of solitary time in the studio. I wanted time to think, draw and mull over ideas for a new project and be away from all distractions. 

Now, after weeks of uncertainty regarding the Covid 19 and anticipation for a lock-down, here we are with an uncertain lengthy period of social isolation. Colleges were shut before the term ended with no idea of when we might be back. I was glued to the computer rather more than I had expected during those first few days while I organised projects for students to continue independently. Morley asked me to offer an online class and, whilst I relish a creative challenge, I really could not see how. I struggled to cope with an iPad video and clay covered hands – sadly I am not expecting a call from Spielberg or the National Theatre either for my acting skills anytime soon. I didn’t even attempt something for the bronze casting students. I don’t think any of my students are able to set up a foundry in their kitchen! But being online is also thankfully, a vital way of keeping in touch and making sure loved ones are ok. Now the ‘new normal’ is here for a while; we possibly, probably, face several weeks – maybe months – of isolation.  

I have been organising ways of working and what I plan to do. I keep reminding myself that I do not have to get everything done at 90 miles an hour because the timetables are not there for the moment. First job? Find the studio floor! I rarely play this game, I never win by finding all of it, largely because of the distractions when I find the ‘treasures’ – attachments, small tools etc, but now there is a small chance that I might actually complete the task. I had stocked up on Dremel attachments in anticipation of this lock-down and I am relishing the prospect of finally finishing the cleaning up of some bronzes that I poured with other members, Terry Jones and Paul Bonomini. 

I had hoped that an outdoor exhibition ‘Valley of Vision’ would be able to take place in the beautiful village of Shoreham in June and July. Sadly, but wisely, the decision was taken to postpone the show several weeks ago. In preparation I had been working with paper; the food blender was requisitioned (but as making paper pulp makes food taste bleurgh, all soup will be lumpy from now on) and I created textures with pulp on the stiff card I usually use. I am pleased that I have work ready now for when the show is rescheduled. Bizkarroi is in the photo above.

Paper is ubiquitous and ideal for working with at home. Despite the peculiar colour contrasts I have encountered which makes it look a tad strange, if it doesn’t work, it is not a problem to change it. It is ideal for trying out ideas quickly and as a non-precious material I love the freedom to cut, squeeze, pull apart, re-glue and re-shape… and sound like the verb list by Richard Serra. At home I have an enormous list of jobs as long as my arm to tackle, but I suspect I shall not be dealing with those with much enthusiasm!

I am also making good use of the spring weather to be outside and carving stone. I wish you all well – stay home, stay safe, see you later in the year.

Alexandra Harley is an artist and Sculpture tutor at Morley College London. This piece was originally published in the Royal Society of Sculptors newsletter. Take a look at the sculpture and art online courses Morley is currently offering.