Today we are checking out the weird and wonderful world of Hand Maid artist Holly Rozier, read about the chat we had with her about her practice and make sure you visit the show on the 5th of March
You work a lot with small detail in large pieces using textiles. Is this what you saw yourself doing in the past?
I have always worked with similar materials and manipulating fabrics has always been where my strengths lie. I love the endless amounts of processes that can be used on textiles. The subject matter has changed over the years. I used to create work to do with nature, mainly focusing on growth and natural forms, but my work seemed to take a natural path into human forms/growth and life a few years ago. I didn’t think my work would be as large scale as it is beginning to become, as I used to do much more intricate, small scale work. It wasn’t until I left university and I could spend as long as I wanted on a piece without being concerned about being assessed on a body of work, that I realised my natural way of working is spending months on very time consuming pieces.
What do you think is different about your art?
I am not really sure what is different about it. I get told that it is really different, and that people haven’t seen anything like it before, which is obviously a great thing to be told. What I would like to think is different about it is my use of materials and techniques, and I hope that it challenges people’s perceptions of fine art vs craft. Textile art can sometimes be categorised as craft and I feel that there are a limited amount of fine artists that use textiles or create soft sculpture like myself, who aim to challenge that and thrive off of making people question where their work sits within the art world.
I enjoy the connotations that sewing and knitting have, and the fact that it is still seen very much as a female art form but more generally as a craft for women. Sewing, knitting and tapestry making were some of the first art forms that women were allowed to do. They had to leave the ‘serious’ and ‘respected’ art processes to the men because of course women were not allowed to be artists and couldn’t possibly paint or be sculptors. When I think about soft sculptures, I think about some of the first female artist who basically said “f*** that, we are going to take the processes we know and turn them on their head to become fine art that people will take seriously”.
I find artist Louise Bourgeois, who explores soft sculpture within her extensive fine art practice, a huge inspiration. I love that when looking at her work, I can feel the pure emotion that has gone into it, and that she uses textiles and stitching as it is the most effective and relevant process for the sensation she is wanting to convey. Bourgeois used creation as a means of catharsis; through creating her artwork she channelled past experiences and troubles from her life and relationships into the pieces. What better way to do that than using stitching and stuffing as a process.
When we feel stressed, troubled or frustrated through boredom or whatever else is happening in our lives, we (as women) are told to take up something like knitting, sewing or cross stitch – why is that? Because the process is therapeutic and can be used as a way of distracting us from what’s happening in our lives or in our head. People choose to make cushions, knitwear or decorative pictures – why? This is what I consider to be craft. Why not use the emotion you are doing this process to get rid of, or temporarily distract yourself from, to feed into what you are making. Why not allow what you are producing to depict or take form as what you are feeling. Embrace the emotions and create them instead. This is what I aim to do with my artwork.
What is it you really want to say through your various works?
My work isn’t made with a particular ‘message’. I want people to be able to relate to it, or be connected to certain emotions whilst looking at it, but I would like people to take whatever they want to from the pieces. My works are purposely quite visceral and emotive, as I want the viewer to have a response to them, but as for what that is I will leave that for the individual to explore. The reasons that I make the pieces and what I get from creating them could be the same as what the audience gets or very different, however if the pieces are stopping people in their tracks and speaking to them in some way then I am happy.
How do you see your art developing over the next 10 years?
I feel like I have only recently, over the past couple of years, started to make artwork that I feel genuinely connected to, and I think I am at the beginning of some ideas that I cannot wait to explore further. I feel more inspired to create more than I ever have and so I can’t wait to see what happens. I can see my work developing into much larger scale pieces/installations and maybe more site specific projects would be exciting! I seem to really thrive off of creating work that fits a proposal for a specific show or exhibition space and so that is an area of my practice I would like to develop. I would love to get my work out there more, get it seen by more people over the next 10 years for definite.
What would you say is the purpose of your art?
On a personal level the purpose of my artwork is to help me explore and handle emotions that I would otherwise struggle with. Creating time consuming pieces that are very involved gives me time to think about things, explore emotions and feel things that in everyday life I would choose to ignore. They say that time heals things, and creating my sculptures gives me that time. Creating my artwork is a means of catharsis for me, and I feel that that is the main purpose of it.
My sculptures generally act as emotions and beings simultaneously. Often they represent me and my emotions, or sometimes people that I care about and things which they are going through. At the same time I am aware that what I am expressing are all emotions and experiences that a lot of people have been through and therefore I aim for my work to reach out to everyone.
My feelings at the time of creation are ripe and ready to come out. They are poured out and forced into the bodies of the sculptures; the stuffing of the pieces is an act of containing the emotions inside the outer skins. The feelings get expelled from myself and rehomed inside the pieces I am making. To me, when I look at the finished pieces, I cannot get away from what I was thinking and how I was feeling at the time of creation.
The fleshy, manipulated or enhanced body parts I think, are a real ‘must see’ for art lovers, what reactions have you received from audience members?
I get a real mix of reactions from people towards my work, which I really enjoy. Some people are quite shocked by the pieces and I feel this is because it maybe makes people face or think about things that make us human that they are not quite comfortable with. So instead of just experiencing it, people try to remove themselves from it by asking me what it’s about. The visceral qualities of it can sometimes make people feel uneasy, and I have noticed a few older people completely avoid making ‘eye contact’ with the pieces. On the other hand, some viewers really enjoy the work, and just stare at it as if it is speaking to them. I get asked all the time how long it takes or how many hours I have put into it. I have always said so long as I get some kind of reaction towards my work I will be happy, the worst thing for me would be if I created something people could just glance at, or walk past with no reaction.
Is there any deeper meaning behind the parts of the body you choose to sculpt in the way you do?
When I first started focusing my work on the body I chose very specific body parts, often sexual, to get certain reactions form the viewer. I wanted to create feelings of shock and I also explored elements of The Abject in my work for a short amount of time, before moving onto creating more humorous sculptures. Now though, I use less specific body parts and create bodily fleshy forms that generate much more mixed emotions. My new piece that I am currently making, (for my first solo show coming up in June at Corridor Gallery in Brighton) although it features a range of different scale anthropomorphic forms that look less “human” than ever, deals with much more undeniably unifying and universally “human” emotions than I have ever explored before.