Things: Gail Olding

An excerpt from Trebuchet 9 : Materials. Conceptual Artist Gail Olding on the use of things.

Gail Olding, Pulse, 2017

Often when artists talk about materials the mind conjures unworked clay, rolls of canvas, tubes of paint; products that have fecund properties but are in some ways inert. They have potential but await the artist’s vision to give them order and meaning. The tube the paint came in is rarely referenced in paintings, and though a still life showing the discarded tubes used in that same painting has a glib frisson regarding the artistic process, more often viewers aren’t asked to analyse the specific history of the paint. However, for artists using found objects, the history of the materials becomes centrally important.

Do you see materials as the starting point or the end point?
It’s a gut feeling about some material, or an idea. And once I have an idea then I have to go and source it. I have spent a lot of time in the past trying to source things, which always starts with a Google but then leads me to ask people I know. Who in turn say, ‘oh, you could ask so-and-so’. 

Gail Olding,Crush, 2018
Gail Olding, Crush, 2018

I live in the town that I was brought up in and so I know a lot of the people that I went to comprehensive school with. These people did a whole range of things, including manual things like car mechanics, bodywork and woodwork. So, I’m still very much in touch with people who do a wide range of things that are really useful. 

Would you say Each Day is more of a kinetic-esque sculpture?
I’d say it’s an installation as it’s a fabrication. But yeah, it doesn’t move but it looks like it does. The material itself is important here precisely because they are stainless steel spoons. Now, we know the background of it is obviously The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot, which when I read it just resonated. I knew that I had to get a load of coffee spoons! 

They’re all from eBay, so it wasn’t as though I came across a load of spoons and thought, ‘what could I do?’ The poem triggered it. It just makes you realise that the whole thing about death is that we’re heading towards it. Come on, get on with your life, stop drinking coffee!

Limited Edition Print
Gail Olding Wall Sculpture #8
Available here

You wrote that Each Day is a ‘warning to us all to take on a life of purpose’.
For me it’s to take on purpose, rather than just having a life where it’s easy, where we know what we’re doing every day because it’s all safe and all mapped out. Rather that we should take risks and we dare. Sometimes it goes wrong, and sometimes things collapse and don’t work. But it’s better to have done that and made a contribution than playing it safe…


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