Clay

Clay

The Decay of Belonging

The Decay of Belonging was created during the artist’s final year of university at Loughborough University for the Bachelors degree of Fine Arts in 2017. The project was developed in 2016 and 2017 with the final outcome being exhibited on site at Loughborough University School of Art and Design in the Degree Show 2017. 

The artist spent the first 18 years of her life growing up on a farm in rural Cheshire, UK. Constantly surrounded by the farm-life of her family and the surrounding farming community, Studley often found it difficult when moving to study art at the university town of Loughborough. With a degree programme focussing mainly on non-natural art techniques and mechanical processes, the artist commonly felt disconnected from her personal experience and her studies. 

After relocating to Teruel in Spain to study a year abroad at the University of Zaragoza, Studley was able to learn and explore more classical approaches to her practice. These modules were mostly based on sculpture; stone carving, wood carving, and mould making, which gave her a new outlook on the use of materials, particularly natural materials. 

After returning to Loughborough University in 2016, Studley decided to focus her final degree project on sculpture and installation, incorporating the techniques and skills she had learnt in Spain in using natural materials. Through this, she hoped to challenge this disconnectedness she had previously felt between her personal experience and her practice. 

During this time she started interpreting her disconnectedness as displacement. The consistent moving between locations had arguably detached her from her upbringing in the rural landscape. She hoped through research into the land of her farm and experimentation with natural materials it produced, she could build a greater personal connection to her art practice. 

Supported by a continuous interest in social politics and art politics, Studley began making not only connections with herself to the environment but also to understand on a larger scale the connection between the environment, humanity and society. This was further aided by a theoretical approach to ecological conscious way of thinking about the process of art making whilst completing the research project of her awarded First Class Dissertation; An Investigation into the Ecofeminist Theory; The Innate Connection between Women and Nature. 


Throughout the project, The Decay of Belonging, Studley intended to discover a more sustainably conscious way of making art, reducing waste and considering the location as part of the artwork. Furthermore, to reconnect with her heritage, Studley decided to research the materials available to her from the farm she grew up on. By sourcing clay from her home and relocating it to Loughborough University, she hoped to reflect upon this personal journey between places. Throughout the year the artist experimented with clay, creating body casts, small sculptures, and installation happenings so as to understand its capabilities as a material, both in the raw form and fired form. She was also able to document the development of the art pieces in the outside environment, considering the processes of change due to weather and external elements. 

For the final presentation of the project, 3 large sculptures were presented in an outdoor space of Loughborough University, School of Art and Design. The aesthetic of the final work was developed over the duration of the year. Studley aimed to make a personal connection to the work by creating installations which reflected a more human component. Each sculpture was thus an abstracted form taken from continuous observations of her own body. This site-specific installation hoped to embody the sense of disconnectedness between two places that Studley hoped to portray to the audience. This was achieved through the use of clay and farm materials such as straw and manure which were brought to the university over the course of the year. To connect the two sites, the materials were then presented in a site-specific art piece at the university. The installation was then subjected to external elements and left to grow and decay over a period of time. By relocating the land as a material, from the farm and presenting them as an art piece in another location she hoped to show the movement of life as a process rather than as something fixed.
In order to reflect her own movement. Conceptually, the work intends to show the beginning of something in one place and the finale of it in another. In other words: A decay of belonging to one fixed point.

Additional information

Firstly, the clay was sourced from the artist’s farm in Cheshire UK. This was achieved through researching areas of the farm which were rich in clay earth. Later it was transported to the ceramics department at Loughborough university where it was separated between soil and clay. Afterwards, the clay was placed in the clay mixer and combined with water and straw to create a daub. 

Several small experiments were made with the clay by extracting the water from the daub using a slab of plaster so that the clay became more malleable. This allowed for making small sculptures.
The clay was also used for filling moulds and creating body casts. These casts were then placed outside on the farm and their decay was documented.

In order to find out the biodegradable qualities of fired clay, the artist was also able to make several experiments with firing the clay sculptures at different temperatures so that they remained porous. Their decay was then documented over a period of time. 

The final outcome combined stones, straw, branches and clay in order to create a site-specific installation; a series of biodegradable sculptures.


Ingredient list

Stone, clay, straw, wood, manure, grass.

Maker

Kate Studley