Frame 61

Elizabeth Corkery

Frame 61
Elizabeth Corkery

Background/education: I’m original from Sydney, Australia and have been living in the United States for nearly eight years. I began my undergraduate art studies in Sydney in 2004 but I wouldn’t cite that date at the start of my “art practice”, perhaps my final year.

I was a Printmaking undergrad and this final year marked the point at which my work began to move away from works on paper to approach techniques related to environment and installation. This shift has been sustained in my work over the course of the last eight years and my projects have tended to be rather large-scale, research-driven bodies of work. 

Repetition and reproduction: Given my background in printmaking, the history of the reproduced image has always been fascinating to me. For those unable to travel, famous pieces of art, far-off cities, landmarks, noble houses were all experienced through the printed reproduction rather than in person. This notion of the lived experience of space versus the encounter with an image depicting a space is something I continually return to. When the work has related to architecture and ornament, repetition has become crucial

as repeated forms are almost always present in the structure of buildings. One of my pieces “Laurentian Repeat”(2012) depicts screenprinted images of a staircase that climb up the wall on modular shelving, repeating in a similar manner to actual stairs. The particular staircase was generated from photographs of Michelangelo’s Laurentian Library in Florence, so there was an additional linkage to printed reproductions as they related to the book or the library as archive. 

Traditionally in printmaking you would make a large edition of a print but only present one print that you’ve annotated, sign framed etc. When my work began dealing with architecture and spatial form, I started using the print more as a component part and the entire run of prints would be part of my installation, either paneled onto walls, leaning against walls or stacked on top of each other.

Structures/objects: In 2012 I did an installation called "Absolute Monarchy", which consisted of around 200 individually screenprinted panels depicting the Hall of Mirrors form the Palace of Versailles. The panels were all attached to the walls using cheap plastic mirror clips that because of their sheer quantity became an important feature of the piece. From that point I’ve always been insistent that the work lay bare their modes of display. Nothing becomes so illusionistic that it can be fallen into, the pieces always remind you that you’re looking at a picture that requires some method of attachment to a wall or a shelf, or however they’re displayed. 

That same Versailles piece was reimagined for a group show and instead of paneling the walls, all of the screenprinted pieces were stacked up between wooden shims. This new iteration was called “Hall of Mirrors” and I enjoyed how the reference to space, to a “hall”, gave the stacks a sense of potentiality, like they were just about to encounter some further action. This stacking gesture has come up a couple of times since that project and I think as a result I still consider my free-standing works to still be prints, but just prints that take up space.

Stately homes and vast gardens: I’ve become quite fascinated by how these environments communicate power, social structures, personal eccentricity, but actually the concern is less about the spaces themselves and more about how they’ve been represented. Through the centuries gardens have been depicted through engravings, paintings, interior frescos, miniatures, actual reconstructed environments in the case of Victorian pleasure gardens, opera and ballet stage sets, and most recently cinema. My 2013 installation “Nowhere is There a Garden” looked to address these shifting forms of representation within the one environment, landing on cinema as a guiding structure. 

Close-ups, establishing shots, scenic panoramas and shifts in scale and focus were all cinematic modes of display that unfolded during ones movement through the work. Pieces of enormously differing scale were hang close together forcing an abrupt shift in focus while stacked lattice cubes create a feeling of a cross-fade as they entered and exited views across the room. I’m convinced that our movement and ways of seeing while experiencing gardens reflect on our awareness of post-filmic representation and this remains a focus for my work.

Pictures of Pieces, BEERS LONDON 2015

The viewer: My aim is to prompt a reconsideration of our state of viewing or experience of space. I often cite my work as proposing a structure for simultaneously looking at the representational view of the garden whilst physical being in a staged, “garden” environment. I look to ways I can combined free-standing structural forms that engage with a physical and present experience, with printed, pictorial representations that connect to time past; a space that has previously been visited or traversed and whose spatiality is now limited to two dimensions. 

I guess I want to remind the viewer that there is value to be found in the corporeal experience of a space. It is of course fabulous that so many exhibitions can be viewed online from anywhere in the world, but I try to reassert the disconnect between the image of the thing and the thing itself. I actually personally treat like photographs of my installations as entirely separate ideas rather than any sort of faithful depiction or documentation of what the work had truly been.

Process, ideas: I’m inspired by such varied things that it can often come as a total surprise. In fact much of the work I’ve produced over the last three or four years were either directly or indirectly inspired by an chance encountered I had with a painted scrim at the Madrid Botanic Gardens in 2011. It was attached to chainlink fencing and was covering up garden renovations happening behind it. It depicted this idealized garden scene that was presented in lieu of a view to the actual garden. I loved how you could see the grommets and zip ties holding it up and it’s something I still think about. 

Then it’s often the case that something I undercover during the research for a current piece won’t be be terribly applicable for that work, but may then form the basis for what project may come next. For instance when I was looking into the Victorian tradition of building toy theaters for my “Small Decors” (2014) installation I was off on a tangent reading about the advent of Interior Decoration as a Victorian phenomena and how there were these pattern books where built-ins and millwork could be viewed and selected like a shopping catalog. I knew I was interested in pursuing that however it didn’t play into the “Small Decors” work but rather it formed the basis for my wallcovering in "The Modern Interior.” (2014) 

Studio/routine: Part of the reason we moved to Rhode Island from Boston was the affordable studio spaces that are available in and around Providence. I share a studio with my partner and artist Graham McDougal and we have our space in an old mill building in Pawtucket, RI which gets amazing light through sky-light sawtooth ceilings. There is ample room for swinging a couple of cats around. We can get pretty large-scale work made in there and when I need specific silkscreen facilities I also use a community printshop in downtown Providence called AS220. My days vary incredibly during the week as I piece together a few different freelance gigs between researching for new work. 

Today for instance went like this:

  • 7am pick up a couple of screens I exposed yesterday from the printshop
  • 8am breakfast/coffee/emails etc 
  • 9am pull some proofs of a contract print I’m working on and send photos to client.
  • 12pm Follow up with RI tax department about my business registration (the glamor)
  • 1pm Return books to RISD library and use facilities to properly photograph spreads from a couple of specific books.
  • 3pm Open access at the Steel Yard, a facility where I’m taking a ceramics class
  • 6:30pm Ceramics class. 

Naming work: My titles more often than not come through the research process of the work's production. They can end up referring to the source material of the image I’m working with, as was the case with “Pellerin Curtain” (2014) or “Jacobson Curtain“ (2014) which refer to the original artists of the toy theatre sets I was representing in the paintings. It can be turns of phrase or titles used by writers, “The Modern Interior”, a two-person show I did with Graham in late 2014, was a reference to a specific book of the same title by Penny Sparke that really influenced my thinking on that specific work. It could also recall terms used by other artists as it was in the case of “Small Decors” my 2014 show in Glasgow. “Decor" which was a favored term of Marcel Broodthaers for his installs, and he directly related it to the French meaning of the word, that of a “film set,” which was different to the English derivation, meaning decoration. He was an important figure in my thinking about that body of work as it dealt directly with the structure of the wintergarden. 

Influences: Sara Van Der Beek, Carol Bove, Matthew Brannon, Ciara Phillips, Pablo Bronstein.

Future/shows: In August this year I’m going to be a resident in the London Summer Intensive which is a month-long program run through The Slade, UCL and the Camden Arts Center. My residency is going to be preceded by a month of traveling through the UK and Ireland specifically visiting locations from Kubrick’s 1975 film “Barry Lyndon” and re-documenting some of the sites in which crucial action from the movie takes place. 

After my exploration of Glasgow’s Kibble Palace wintergarden, I’ve held a desire to create a piece that invokes the act of travel, accumulation and display that these structures are so connected to. I have the opportunity to present a new body of work in the Orangerie glasshouse at the Tower Hill Botanic Gardens, in Boylston MA late this September.

For the piece I’m going to reinterpret the gesture of accumulation and classification through the “revisiting” of sites from Kubrick’s film. Throughout this elaborate costume drama the buildings and formal gardens provide a location, reflect on the narrative and contribute to the historic staging of the film. Their role in the process of cinematic “re-creation” - evoking a period in the 18th century filmed in the 1970s - is also fascinating both in terms of the inevitable changes the gardens would have undergone since they were built (most in the late 17th century) and also the suspension of the garden’s appearance at the time of filming, much like the actors themselves, it is held in the “eternal youth” this cinematic representation. I think this idea of suspension ties effectively to the circumscribed environment of the wintergarden and its constant suspension of seasonality and the outside world and I’m excited to see the work installed in a few months. 

Artist website

Publishing date of this interview 29/04/16