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Archipelago by Sineid Codd

Archipelago by Sineid Codd

Sinéid Codd ‘A Fuller Acquaintance with the Archipelago’ at the Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

The artist Sinéid Codd talks to Jude Montague about the meaning and methods of her show about intuitively made island exhibition.

‘A Fuller Acquaintance with the Archipelago’ is an exhibition of photographs, paintings and a few actual islands from what the artist calls a co-created Lilliputian world – a play of sculptural islands, surrounded by sea – a visual dialogue between the literal and the imaginative.

Living in St Leonards-on-Sea she is drawn to the transitory relationship with the edges of land. Her work is derived from found objects that connect her with themes of loss, longing and hope – in part, an act of transformative repair. Aligned with her involvement as a socially engaged practitioner, she works to embrace a multitude of interpretations in her work.

The artist describes the seeds of her archipelago as coming from the feeling of abandonment from UK leaving Europe and developed in response to Covid-19 and our climate emergency. She hopes the fossilized and cast islands, made from found objects, elicit reflections on community and climate change. These islands, maybe, can be perceived as environments of isolation and self-generating material entanglements.

In lockdown, Sinéid intuitively began painting islands, before realising she had isolated them from the group.

In 2020, the archipelago was installed in a vast, raw, unmade space in the Observer Building. Codd recalls that it came alive, as relationships between islands became key in this dark world. She thanks photographer, Alexander Brattell for contributing his own approach, that of psychological reportage, in his documentation of this miniature world.

Archipelago Installation shot - Sineid Codd

Sinéid Codd exhibition. A Fuller Acquaintance With The Archipelago. Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, East Sussex UK. 27 January – 24 March, 2024.

JM: Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into making art.

SC: What a question! – I couldn’t answer this without a lot of words!…

I’ve lived in St Leonards since 2005. I was born by the sea, in Scotland, and moved with my family to England as a young child. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t finding and making things, and I was very engaged at school when drawing and painting. My love of the miniature was originally derived from playing with my Britains Miniature Garden and exploring rock pools on seaside holidays.

Thanks to an enlightened art teacher, I went to art school aged 16 and felt the world open up! Following a two years art foundation, I studied Fine Art BA at Winchester School of Art. My 1979 Degree Show was an installation with images and found object assemblages, influenced by American box artists and my research into Aboriginal culture.

A few years after moving to London, aged 22, I was showing paintings in the Mercury Gallery (Cork Street), Whitechapel Open and Royal Academy, and was involved with the First Womens Work Exhibition at Brixton Art Gallery. Alongside my personal practice, I worked in community arts and art teaching. I wasn’t very comfortable with the gallery scene, especially private views, and chose a different path.

I joined the seminal All Ladies Number One Brush Team in 1989 for an exhibition at Swiss Cottage Library. I was working with found objects again. We went on to collaborate in making large scale site-specific public installations to commission, e.g. ‘Flotsam and Jetsam’, a pavement installation for The Great Outdoors Festival, South Bank – we were interviewed for Radio 4, Womens Hour. Amongst other great projects, our installation, ‘The Dresses: An Archaeology of Childhood’ shown in an empty shop off Carnaby Street, organised by Alternative Arts; we were filmed and interviewed by Ian Drury for his Metro Arts LWT TV Arts programme, which was brilliant! Our archives are held in the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths College, curated by Althea Greenan.

Throughout my practice, I’ve always moved between my need to make personal work as well as community / socially engaged work with others – so when I can bring both these aspects together I feel whole. By the mid 90’s I was working with several London galleries as a freelance artist educator. Rather than seeing participatory work in the gallery foyer, I wanted it to be shown at the centre of the gallery.

Sinéid Codd - Archipelago - photographed by Alexander Brattell at Hastings Observer Building

Sinéid Codd – Archipelago – photographed by Alexander Brattell at Hastings Observer Building

Based on a previous personal work comprising layers of objects found on London roads, I devised ‘Tales from the Riverbank’ – a co-created participatory project / installation and approached Café Gallery, Bermondsey (now Southwark Park Galleries). The then Director, Ron Henoque and the Bermondsey Art Group were hugely supportive, and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation funded the project. Local residents of all ages and abilities made responses to the Thames through audio stories, drawing, painting, text and found object assemblages – brought together in a layered installation set under the raised floor of the gallery, lit from below, creating an amazing and beautiful immersive experience for participants and visitors. Alongside some participants, I was interviewed for a feature on Costing the Earth, Radio 4.

Many other good things happened after that…

Alongside developing socially engaged projects with various institutions, my personal work became focussed on making vivid monotype prints taken from found flora; works that were shown with the Curwen Gallery, London from 2005 to 2013.

I studied MFA at Camberwell College of Art, UAL 2014-16 and put all my ideas in a metaphorical trunk to start again with play in mind. Alongside renewing my way of working and thinking with found objects, for my MA installation ‘.-pause’ I focussed my install on drawing visitors curiosity about the work by them needing to look through or into spaces within objects to see what was happening.

While ‘A Fuller Acquaintance with the Archipelago’ is related to my earlier installations, I feel it is very much closer to my heart and is a work that speaks of community and the pertinent cultural and environmental issues that we are living through now.

Portrait of an island - Archipelago by Sineid Codd

Portrait of an island – Archipelago by Sineid Codd

JM: What does archipelago mean to you?

SC: The nucleus of my archipelago was the abandonment we felt from UK leaving Europe – I became obsessed with photographing rocks in pools of seawater on the beach. I had started to make island forms, some of which were in my solo show with Project78Gallery in 2019,‘as small as the world and as large as alone’. Then I just kept making more of them. Now a community of around 40 islands, together they become a miniature world open for interpretation from curious visitors or researchers.

The archipelago is a community and connectedness – that was once a body – now disconnected from each other, but still related, though they don’t always get along well together! Each island has a different personality and different features – mainly a mix of organic and architectural forms. These fossilized and cast islands, made from found objects, strongly elicit reflections on community and our rising seas and bleached corals due to climate emergency. The islands’ topologies, biodiversity and culture differ and there a strong feeling of abandonment throughout the world – we do not see any of the people who may have lived on these islands.

In reality, archipelagos can form as a result of erosion, sedimentary deposits, rising sea levels, and other geographic processes that can make a series of islands from one land mass. The British Isles is the fifth largest archipelago by area, comprising of more than 5000 islands, with Great Britain and Ireland being the two largest islands.

JM: Tell me about working with found objects – why found objects? what do you look for in a found object? and where do you find these objects?

SC: Objects find ME all the time – a broken chair leg from the street; a burnt piece of wood from the beach or a broken ornament in a charity shop.

My work is derived from found objects that connect me with themes of loss, longing and hope – in part, an act of transformative repair. Objects take part in all our lives and they’re often the custodians of our memories. But a found object brings something else – a good ‘find’ is a THING that makes me curious about how it came to be lost or discarded, how it appears, what it’s personality is – the dents, missing parts, warped forms, give the object a sense of having lived, having a story to tell.
I feel a kind of reparation takes place when an object I’ve found, finds its purpose alongside other objects or materials when I’m making.

Last year I was involved in the “Yoolysees” exhibition at ESPS, curated by Lucy Brennan Shiel and, I was responding to James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, based on Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. I combined objects alongside individual islands from the archipelago into assemblages on small floating shelves that, especially in the context of Joyce and the book, started to appear as alters. It was when I was giving a talk about my work that I realized that of course, as a child I believed in transubstantiation because I was brought up in Catholicism. Though I left as soon as possible, I am still entranced by the power of objects to hold meaning.

Sineid Codd

‘An Odyssey for Yoolysees’ curated by Lucy Brennan Shielone of 18 assemblages comprising of found and collected objects and a plaster island made with found objects 30w x 40h x 20h Photo: Alexander Brattell  2022

JM: How do you incorporate the objects into a made piece of work – what processes to you use

SC: I incorporate objects in various ways – assemblages; necklaces that aren’t quite jewellery; sculptures. I see my island making as a low-tech form of monotype 3D printing – collecting impressions taken from objects and casting these forms in plaster or jesmonite. Sometimes objects are immured within a form.

JM: Why Hastings Museum and art gallery as a venue – any comments about installation

SC: I‘m drawn to collections and museums in general because I collect and work with objects. I particularly enjoy visiting Hastings Museum & Art Gallery because of the diversity of the collections, which hold a richness of cultural, political and technological histories and narratives: the museum retaining a sense of the early Wunderkammer.

I wasn’t sure how the exhibition would work in the Walkway Gallery, however, responding to its’ architecture, I think my install of photographs, text, paintings and actual islands produced a dream like atmosphere in which visitors could feel they were having encounters with the islands while on a stroll.

Individidual portrait of an island - Archipelago by Sineid Codd

Individidual portrait of an island – Archipelago by Sineid Codd

JM: What do you hope people will get out of the show?

SC: I hope visitors have been drawn into this miniature world and that they’ve formed their own narratives through the works.

Here are a few of the speculative texts from the installation, which I began writing for insta posts a while back:

‘Our geologist and archaeologist inform us that all of these islands were formed from previous objects that were lost by humans.’

‘Found recently at the outer edges of the archipelago, the Spectrum Islands are the most colourful we have come upon so far in our navigation through this Lilliputian world.’

‘Our researchers are finding that these islands may have been abandoned by humans due to toxic chemicals left in the ground.’

Sinéid Codd studied MFA at UAL, Camberwell College of Arts, 2016. Her work has been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally and supported by a-n, SPACE London and Arts Council England.’

Archipelago, an exhibition by Sinéid Codd is at Hastings Museum and Art Gallery. You can visit Tuesday–Saturday 10am–5pm; and Sunday 11am–4.30pm. The exhibition ends Sunday 24 March.

You can find out more about Sinéid Codd via her website and Instagram.

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Posted 16:52 Friday, Mar 22, 2024 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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