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In May 2006 Claire Morgan was awarded first prize for Red or Dead in the first Premio Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, International Competition for Young Sculptors.
3.5m (l) x 2.25m (h) x 1m (d) approx
3500+ fresh cherries, steel supporting structure, nylon thread
This sculpture takes the form of a precise, 3-dimensional arrow, curving upwards in space. It is made of thousands of fresh cherries, individually secured to an equal number of nylon threads that hang from the ceiling. The tip of the arrow is positioned just above head-height and the end is around the full height of an average person. This back end is open, so as to create the illusion of a void that can be accessed, though this 'space' does not actually exist due to the threads holding up the lower parts of the arrow. Each part of this sculpture, i.e. thread + cherry, exists entirely independently of the next and so the form is extremely fragile and moves subtly and constantly due to people moving around the room. The sculpture is quite imposing or aggressive in some ways, yet made through marking unconnected points in space using organic matter. Over a period of time the cherries will decay, and so the colours and textures of the work will change considerably over the course of the exhibition.
While I am interested in site-specificity, the gallery setting enables me to explore a culmination of ongoing concerns. This piece is more purely about physicality and formality than a lot of my other work. In previous 'arrows' the form has been directly linked to the cycles the materials naturally undergo: leaves falling downwards; dandelion seeds being carried horizontally by the wind. This time the combination of material and form is not intended to be read in the same way. The arrow is more symbolic of a journey or the passing of time. The piece is assembled so that the tip of the arrow will die first - this direction is important metaphorically. The work explores the points at which seemingly opposing forces merge and become the same; beginning and end, male and female, control and chaos, life and death and life in turn.
The process of making the work has something in common with drawing without a rubber, but I am drawing within a 3-dimensional space. All measurements needed are judged by eye. As each new cherry is suspended its presence makes those behind it inaccessible. This means that any mistakes cannot be 'erased'. I hope this results in there being a kind of honesty about the work, and I wonder if this honesty, risk, and potential for weakness can actually be seen as a strength. The same form could be created more effectively using computer to plot precise points in advance, but my view at present is that this would defeat its purpose. The process of making is both intuitive and exhausting. Due to the materials, the work needs to be made as quickly as possible during a short but very intense period immediately prior to its exhibition. The sculpture appears to be both precise and chaotic in nature; documentation of a flawed attempt at perfection, reflecting the impossibility of complete control or certainty.
Formally the work combines strong male and female symbolism. The aggressive presence of the arrow contrasts sharply with the inner, vortex-like space that can be found by looking into the rear of the sculpture. Bodily connotations are created through the changing colour, texture, and subtle, animalistic movement of the cherries. The form will be sharp and geometric, but the sculpture will still have an organic feel, through the curves, colours, textures, and imperfections. Once again the title may appear to connote something else: blood, youth and eventual decay. The smell and colour of the cherries and shape of the arrow may even begin to suggest something sexual, but the overall feel of the work will be dictated by the precision of the form, its fragility and its visible atropy. When naming my work I am drawn to utilise existing terms or phrases, often loaded with conflicting meanings. I try to achieve some level of purity or universality within my work, and in doing so, create something that can be read on a number of different levels. In this way, the title may lead people in completely divergent directions as to what the work may mean, but conversely the simplicity of the work may allow the title to be stripped of all previous meanings, dissolving any conflict. I have chosen to use the words more simply, presenting them as an uncomplicated statement: at any point in time the constituent elements of this sculpture, cherries, will be either red or dead.
Text taken from the artist's statement written about the work as part of her proposal. All photos of Red or Dead were taken by Claire Morgan. The two detail photos are of a preliminary work in the studio, the remainder are of the completed work at Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, Milan.