Updated: Oct 7
This week we are talking with artist, sculptor and researcher Poppy Jones-Little, discussing how are interests in 'lumps' has inspired a whole art practice.
Can you briefly describe yourself and what you do?
I am a recent Fine Art graduate from the Uni of Leeds, having spent a year studying in Dresden, Germany (2018-19). I am currently living with my mum and helping to care for my disabled sister in these tricky times, while considering postgraduate courses and continuing my practice. Through sculpture, photography, lecture-performances and musings I explore ‘lumps’ and their ‘lumphood’.
Is there a past project that you were most proud of creating? Why?
In adapting to covid19 regulations I began to consider how audiences may access my work, and so I attempted working with audio-visual as this can be distributed via my website. My piece ‘no
copyright infringement is intended’ was a direct response to the contingencies of ‘displaying’ my
work, while touching upon the longstanding issues of inclusivity, access and alienation born from
the infamous ‘white cube’ gallery space. Speaking frankly and openly felt exposing, I’m embarrassed in how I slipped over words, swore and laughed. I am not often proud of my work -
certainly this piece is not visually stimulating or polished, but it felt quite brave.
Poppy Jones-Little, ‘No copyright infringement is intended’, video, 8:08 min, 2020.
Would you describe your art practice as sculpture and what led you to pursuing a practice in this?
I would definitely say that my practice is, and has always been, sculptural at it’s core. It began with an interest in ‘stuff’ - textured, tangible found and raw materials. I began to wonder why I was drawn to ‘stuff’ and what this ‘stuff’ might have common. Purely sculptural concerns became conceptualised, and I began to unpack the lump of stuff I was working with. I think the world is already so full of stuff, I need not make any more but rather draw upon that which already exists. Discarded things and broken objects have interesting material histories which I enjoy working with, drawing out the lumpiness. Yet, I also enjoy how audio-visual pieces may feed into this; Patricia Milder suggests that language is a material ‘as amorphous and non-systematic as it gets’, making it perfect for a practice focused upon the ‘amorphous’ lump.
Is there an element of art you like or dislike working with? Why?
I am constantly grappling with the guilt of ‘waste’, and avoid working with raw synthetic materials that cannot be recycled/easily reused. This consciousness has been tricky for me to navigate as my practice prior to 2019 focused a lot on latex, ceramic, acrylic mediums, silicone, plaster, expandable foam etc., and I really loved how easily these materials could be manipulated together to produce classic, readily-recognisable ‘lumpy’ forms. Throughout lockdown I only used ‘waste’ materials which helped me to avoid guilt - I constantly question the importance of my output, and where it sits within the world.
You describe how research is an important part of your practice. How is this used in your approach to art making?
Yes, definitely. Each piece I make stems from a reading, or compilation of readings which have mentioned ‘lump’. I will focus on the page containing ‘lump’, drawing out various inferences, imagery or crunchy little nuances. This may only be a sentence, such as ‘multi-lump bound states’ or ‘ding an sich on the surface’ - just something that sparks my interest and enhances my understanding of how ‘lump’ might occur. I like to title my pieces with a reference to the reading
which inspired its making - a nod to its origin.
Poppy Jones-Little, detail of ‘ding an sich- on the surface’. Wood, screws and staples taken from Chesterfield chair, 45 x 15.4 x 16.2 cm. 2020.
What projects have you recently completed?
I am an artist participant in Skye Williams’ ‘Unknown Communication’ project. The ongoing project consists of Williams’ initial collages being distributed digitally to different artists; each artist edits a collage and sends it back. The edited collages are circulated continuously between participants, building various layers of communication between us. I’ve also recently completed a 4 week course entitled, 'Dementia and the Arts’. Compiled by UCL and Created Out of Mind, the course focused upon the intersection between the arts and the sciences to shed light upon what it might mean to live with a dementia. The discussions regarding 'in the moment' experiences, co-creativity, non-verbal multi-sensory interactive arts and ‘object handling’ as an arts-based activity, have all shown me how crucial art practices are within wider society. Alongside this, I am continuing to invest time in making work, thanks to funding from a few awards.
Why do you make art?
I ask myself this question all the time. I often come to the conclusion that I work with materials in order to make sense of the world. I feel that ‘lump’ is a heuristic device which helps me to re-evaluate ‘things’, ‘objects’ and ‘lumps’ in my proximity. I also enjoy the discussions I can have with other creatives.
What kind of artists influence you the most?
I think it really depends on what I’m making at the time. When reflecting on ‘no copyright infringement is intended’ I became really invested in what it might mean to be a ‘speaking artist’ and so I explored the history of this. I realised that the voice is often anchored by objects - Joseph Beuys and his blackboards, Mark Leckey and his bridge, Andrea Frazer and the institutions which house her satirical tours. As I often work meticulously with a heightened sensitivity to material, I have become interested in the practices of artists such as Doris Salcedo, Sofia Hultén and Anita Molinero. In general though, anything by Lee Bul or Otobong Nkanga makes my heart sing and Keith Tyson’s lecture drawings hit different.
Poppy Jones-Little, 'the lump of stuff which makes her up’, 2020. Deconstructed towel with image of towel, 59.4 x 104.2 x 131 cm.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
I realised during my degree how intensely competitive a creative environment can be. I found this to be a little unnerving at times, often thinking ‘I’m not tactical enough for this!’ haha. I learnt how much I value genuine, free flowing conversation and critique. On another note though, until recently I was quite oblivious to the enormous waste produced by arts pavilions and fairs; there is a clear privileging of that which is more economical, which might be good for business but isn't great for our environment! While organisations, such as Rebiennale, work to reuse and recycle materials, I often wonder ‘is it enough?’. I don’t think ecology should be an afterthought, but embedded within the arts sector.
You have described your interest in the concept of lumps. When did you first come across this term and how does it inspire you?
In 2016 I encountered the term ‘lumphood’ in Theodore Scaltsas’ account of Aristotle’s Theory of Substratum - this was a turning point. Scaltsas uses ‘Lumphood’ to infer the nature of being a lump, but does not define this further. ‘Lumphood’ often feeds into discussions of ‘thingness’ and ‘objecthood’ - lumps are not the same as ‘things’ or ‘objects’, nor can they be assimilated with ‘hunks’ or ‘blobs’. A lump is a something that is also a non-thing, but not a nothing - and I am yet to pin it down. As discussed in my work, ‘what is a lump?’, it amazes me that a word which often goes unnoticed can be so loaded. (https://www.poppyjoneslittle.com/what-is-a-lump)
With the latest social distancing measures putting a strain on artists, has your practice
changed or adapted in response to this?
I am so grateful for the challenges this has presented as I never would have attempted to work with audio-visual; the act of speaking that would have usually occurred within gallery spaces or studios shifted to become a constructed, self-conscious lecture-performance. Yet, it was hard to adjust - it was no longer safe for me to pick up discarded, waste materials from the streets and so I began to work with broken household materials. It has been tricky trying to work alongside isolating with and helping to care for my severely disabled sister, but online opportunities have been a true blessing. I also believe that the shift that galleries and museums are making to more effectively utilise digital media is a good way forward in terms of accessibility - it is far from perfect, but helps to remove some physical barriers.
Poppy Jones-Little, pieces of wasteland, between, Paint & rust, 58 x 73.5 x 64 cm, 2020.
In your sculpture ‘pieces of wasteland, between’, you combine a variety of materials. What is your process in choosing materials and what themes do you try to portray with them?
It is not often that I’ll seek a particular material to work with, rather I wait until something makes itself known to me. I tend to work with whatever arises in that moment - ‘pieces of wasteland, between’ is a good example of this. I was scraping old paint from my Mum’s garage door so that we could repaint it, and noticed a big lump of paint slithers had piled up. I was reminded of Virginia Woolf’s short story ‘Solid Objects’ (1918); Woolf notes that ‘lumps’ are found within ‘sites of demolished houses’ and ‘alleys’. It became clear to me that ‘lumps’ are associated with the remains of human experience or action - just as the lump of paint arose from my scraping. These thoughts and links to my research occur while working with a material, but I do not want to dictate the viewer’s opinions. I never intend for my pieces to be totally didactic, but I love that they act as springboards from conversation - I really value hearing what the work might mean to others.
Formally, I found the orange rust with the blue paint a delicious combo, and was amused at the thought of a sculpture being comprised entirely of paint!
Poppy Jones-Little, 'Der Lumpensammler & the poet: both are concerned’, 2020. Deconstructed and bound chair. 40.2 x 192.4 x 96.3 cm.
A short message from the artist.
Thank you for engaging with my work and providing this opportunity for me to share some of my rambles - in the current circumstances this really means so much.
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