As part of our December Mostra Meet the Artists series, we spoke to Holly Hendry (Rome Fellow in Contemporary Art) about ideas of absence, presence, and containment.
Making and building processes are a big part of your sculptural thinking and in your latest work you are focusing on the idea of the mould and the cast as a sculptural form. I know you visited the collection of casts in the amazing Cinecittà Studios. How important was this experience for your residency in Rome?
Visiting Cinecittà was really important for me. As well as still being a functional workplace, the workshops hold an amazing collection of sculptures that were props for films, ranging from full size versions of the Colossus of Constantine or Mickey Mouse, to architectural mouldings and reliefs. I have been interested in the idea of sculptural edges – specifically the mould as a container as well as being a sculptural form in itself – the way its inside becomes its outside when used to cast from, and its relationship with the authentic or the copy in terms of reproduction.
It has been useful for me to see replications and copies of actual artefacts in places like Pompeii where the original is in the museum and a direct copy has been placed in the site. I have been thinking about the way our relationship changes knowing what is ‘real’ or ‘fake’ and what that really means. I have also been looking and thinking about reliquaries while I have been in Rome, and their function as the container for relics that are often said to be body parts of saints. These containers become just as (if not more) important as their innards, acting as the physical form of contact between worshippers and higher realms.
For me, these ideas of containment have connections with moulds too. I love that Cinecittà has become this graveyard of fragments, body parts, mould parts that seems able to deal with the cast as what it stands for as both a precious original and a cheap reproduction. I have been thinking about them in relation to the idea of a sarcophagus – directly translating as skin case or flesh eating stone. These sarcophogeal skins are a sculpture as reliquary or grave – a shell of memorial referencing their counterpart existing elsewhere. The Alberto Burri monument in Sicily does the same thing, speaking about an absence (the ruined town in Gibellina) through its own presence. So that is why Cinecittà felt so important to me with all the old moulds and forms – these objects as the spaces that speak of other sculptures – and the logic or procedure behind keeping these ‘skins’ of the sculptures that would facilitate their potential recreation.
You have a show at Frutta Gallery in Rome until January 2019. Could you tell us more about this project and do you think there is a connection between this show and the works you are showing at the December Mostra?
The Frutta show was a way for me to work through thoughts concerning sculptures and images. The title of the show was GUM SOULS which conjured something that simultaneously speaks of material base-ness and a higher realm. I have been reading about ‘out-of-body experiences’ and the idea of a soul as the character of your body – something full of life, yet the only materially ungraspable part of our body, and the word gum, for me, conjures something quite physical, be it in your mouth or a rubbery texture that gets stuck to the bottom of your shoe. (I think that reliquaries can reference both extremes of carnal and transcendent too.)
The works in the Frutta show also deal with humour, using fake, joke-shop-like body parts that are commonly used to give the illusion of life, because faking can also be funny. I was interested in the way that these objects (and hopefully the work too) straddle the lines of humour and mortality – dumb Halloween style bodily appendages that represent ancient figures of abjection such as the vampire, ghoul, zombie or witch. Using these materials, the Frutta show presents these sliced or lobotomised anatomies in the form of a series of wall and floor-based sculptures. They are made from cast sections that are placed together (in the same way that you would construct a puzzle) to create a form of chunky image that straddles the lines of image and sculpture – flat but fighting to be three-dimensional.
Since I have been in Rome I have looked at lots of floors, and images made from other materials, such as mosaics and opus sectile images (created from fragments of broken tile and marble shards). They are objects that have been pushed into a flat surface to form an image. I was particularly excited about the ‘Unswept Floor’ mosaic at the Vatican and the use of shadows and perspective on a flat surface to depict detritus. It also made me think more about rubbish, breakdown and bodies and I have started to make works that acts as containers for things – perhaps bins or money boxes.
The work for the Mostra has similarities to the Frutta works in that the Mostra work is made from parts that fit together. However, it feels different through the way that the new work has more of an architectural function, standing away from the wall. I have been using perspex to make sections which has an interesting effect on the weight and form of the materials and I feel excited to keep going with this.
Holly Hendry (Rome Fellow in Contemporary Art)
Holly’s work is currently on show alongside the six other resident artists in December Mostra, opening hours 16.30-19.00 until Saturday 22 December 2018.