In my work I combine textile human sculpture with melancholy drama. Underlying a darkly playful theatricality, the puppet-like figures are a psychodramatic exploration of the dynamics of life and death.
I am fascinated by the concept of the ‘Uncanny,’ and Sigmund Freud’s investigations into of the ‘return of the repressed’; ideas that were turned into a visual form by the Surrealists. Through looking closely at the uncanny devices, of combining irrational disparate items and ideas, I seek to create unsettling new realities. The familiar is changed to become unfamiliar. My process of binding and layering strips of fabric to form the figures is reminder of the mummification of dead bodies and I am drawn to the study of bog bodies and other ancient remains. The work aims to repel and attract simultaneously, in a Bataillean embrace of the death drive – “in a persistence of life and the pull of death” (Bataille).
Made using a process of layering fabrics over a wire skeleton and finishing with gesso and paint, the slowly formed, half-life sized human bodies are a vehicle for revealing uncomfortable emotions or memories. The figures are child-size but their wizened faces hint at a lost innocence and weary experience of life.
The materials are often the starting point for the work. Found items from around the house initiate contemplation, followed by a process of imaginative transmutation. Abandoned domestic objects, materials, and furniture are used to create dramatic claustrophobic scenarios. The installations recall traumatic events, random accidents, wars, and natural disasters. I enjoy the process of merging and weaving together real events with imagined anxieties, dreams and fairy tales.
My work has been shown discrete works and as part of larger installations which use a group of sculpture human figures. Often the work is imagined as if looking at the figures as actors on an uncanny stage set. Over the last few years, I have built room-sized immersive, walk-through, installations. These tableaux critique art history, reconstructing in visceral three dimensions a particular genre, painting, or historical period. Subjects treated in this way include the Romantic artist’s studio in the re-creation of Henry Fuseli’s painting The Nightmare, a sensationalist turn of the century inspired Yellow Room and the re-imagining of the lost people of Doggerland - the now submerged land that connected Great Britain with continental Europe, 6000 years ago.
Romantic artists Fuseli, William Blake, and other visionaries such as Richard Dadd and Arthur Rackham are influences, as well as the Surrealists and post Surrealist artists. I collect random found pieces of ‘uncanny’ text to be kept and used for reference later, family reminiscences, transcripts of my dreams, unusual fairy tales and newspaper cuttings. Alongside my sculpture and installation work I continue a long-standing practice of life drawing, which constantly informs my work.
Bataille, Georges, Literature and Evil, (1957)
Teresa Wilson, 2023