In just over three weeks DIS/rupt will open at Gallery Oldham. It’s time therefore to have another posting from a TSG member’s studio to find out about the work visitors will see in Oldham. Shelley Rhodes will be well known to many of you through her membership of TSG but also through her teaching. Always interested to hear where ideas come from, as before, I asked Shelley what area of the DIS/rupt project she had been exploring. The piece is titled ‘Only Five Percent’ so I was keen to know what lay behind the title:
My work explores climate change specifically in relation to warming sea temperatures which are affecting the world’s coral reefs.
I am a great beachcomber and on some of my travels I had collected a few tiny coral fragments from the beach. They were beautiful, mainly bleached white with interesting marks, pattern and detail.
I had already begun to draw and use these as a source of mark making. So it was a natural progression for me to develop this interest.
Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt
I focused my research on coral bleaching, which is thought to occur when water temperatures rise for a sustained period of time. Coral is a living creature and the most obvious sign that coral is sick is coral bleaching. This happens when the algae on the coral surface dies or leaves the coral. The algae give coral its colour, so without it the coral has no colour and the white of the limestone shell shines through the transparent coral bodies.
Whilst researching the project I came across a lot of statistics, mostly relating to percentages linked to the amount of bleaching on reefs around the world. One shocking statistics that I came across was ‘only five percent of the worlds coral reefs are in pristine condition’. Another stated that ‘fifty percent of the world’s reefs are damaged through bleaching’. I wanted to portray these statistics, so I decided to create one hundred small components with each representing one percent of the world’s coral. Half of the units are shades of white which represent the bleached coral. Five of the units are very brightly coloured, with the rest somewhere in between.
What are the materials and processes that you are working with?
I made marks made by printing, scorching and stitching. The marks were inspired by marks and patterns found on coral. I used a variety of lightweight and transparent fabrics which I fragmented, manipulated, shredded and layered.
Some of the pieces are very distressed as I tried to portray the skeletal qualities and fragility of the damaged coral. I also discharged colour to emulate the bleaching.
I wanted to refer to the many written statistics that I discovered during my investigations. So I included text relating to my research. I did this using image transfer methods and digital printing directly onto fabric. I also had some mini thermofax screens made, so that I could print the text easily throughout the piece.
Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?
The one hundred units are displayed in a block 4 deep x 25 wide. The overall size is 1metre in depth x 3.75m wide
Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?
It is wall mounted. Each individual piece is hung separately so there is space between each component. The individual pieces are for sale. The pieces that were sold in Stroud have been replaced with a ‘ghost’ image of the original piece printed onto tracing paper. I like the way that this represents the fact that some of the world’s coral species are slowly disappearing. These ‘ghost’ images may increase if sales are made at each venue!
What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?
I hope they will become aware of the catastrophic bleaching events that are taking place on the world’s coral reefs.
Thank you Shelley. I think people seeing your work in the gallery will be struck by how you have visually represented global warming and how the warming oceans are effecting coral reefs, such a fragile environment. If you want to see more of Shelley’s work in DIS/rupt then remember the dates.
Hope to see you there.