Photography Into Sculpture: Abigail Reynolds
When I discovered Abigail Reynold’s work while researching contemporary artists for the Photography Into Sculpture week on Lenscratch, I was immediately enthralled by her sculptures of glass and photographs. Digging deeper into her work I found an artist devoted to the physical object and to celebrating “things almost forgotten, opening them up for reinterpretation”. From West Cornwall in South West England, Abigail works across many disciplines from event and film to print and sculpture. In her series The Universal Now Abigail folds, cuts and layers historical images to create subtly beautiful and tactile works. I find myself wanting to skim my fingers over the physical folds and edges, reaching for something unknown. With her studies in English Literature from Oxford University, it is not surprising that Abigail’s recent artwork delves into her enduring love of books and libraries. A small selection of Abigail’s objects are celebrated below and I encourage you to take your own deep dive into a broader spectrum of her practice.
Elizabeth Stone: When did you start to work with glass? Was there a catalyst? How has it changed your practice?
Abigail Reynolds: Recently I found a painting of glass bottles I made one school summer holiday when I was about 15, which reminded me that I have always been interested in the tricky character of glass. The distortion of view, the way it responds to light, the way window glass is always a collage as it reflects back as well as allowing a view through. And as well as that I think I’ve always been attracted to the many dualities of glass – for example it’s a metaphor both for being cut off or cut off from feeling (as in The Bell Jar by Plath) but simultaneously a metaphor for fragility because it easily breaks. So many contradictions!
I began using it simply because it’s always there in a glazed framed work, and my series The Universal Now is always glazed, as the paper cuts are fragile. I wanted to think carefully about how we look / what lenses we look through, and to use glass to forward that conversation in the work. At first I only used glass over a photographic image, but now I use it without an image – allowing the space it’s in to be that image.
Elizabeth Stone: When do you get bolts of inspiration?
Abigail Reynolds: When I’m out running usually, sometimes driving or cycling. I have to be moving. Sometimes it’s triggered by somebody commenting on my work, or using a word that just strikes me.
Elizabeth Stone: What keeps you working?
Abigail Reynolds: Curiosity
Elizabeth Stone: Do you listen to music when you work or do you prefer the quiet?
Abigail Reynolds: It’s not quiet in my studio because I hear the sea – louder at high tide but always present.
Elizabeth Stone: How do you see your work evolving in the next five years?
Abigail Reynolds: I want to talk about ecologies – and by this I mean the intertwined relations between nature and human society. Specifically holding to the society and place I live in, but loose in time. That’s what I will be thinking about / making around for the next five years. I want to make works that exist outside in public space – so the work can speak directly to this environment.
Elizabeth Stone: Where do you find the most joy in your practice?
Abigail Reynolds: In the research at the beginning of a new work. It’s just such a glorious open field of possibility.
What is one beautiful thing today that you didn’t notice yesterday?
Abigail Reynolds: If I can change ‘notice’ to ‘know’ – The word for grasshopper in French – sauterelle, like a little jumper – connecting with the english word somersault. Which has partly the same root, and connects with the word summer, which makes me think of grasshoppers. I love it when words spark off little cascades like that.
Elizabeth Stone: How do you play?
Abigail Reynolds: In the studio, I play by setting something up that interests me, usually this is something skill-based. I am an ideas-driven artist half the time, though this is quite intuitive for me, and the other half I am led by aesthetic feeling. Literally what I enjoy looking at!
Elizabeth Stone: What is your favorite tool?
Abigail Reynolds: My scalpel
Abigail Reynold’s work is represented in public collections such as the Arts Council Collection and New York Public Library. In 2016 she was awarded the BMW Art Journey prize at Art Basel to travel to lost libraries along the Silk Road, resulting in a publication and a film. In 2022 she completed a major permanent commission for Kresen Kernow, ‘Tre’, an original stained glass window. Over 2021-22 her work was featured in British Art Show 9, the landmark touring exhibition that defines new directions in contemporary art.
Follow Abigail here:
Three new sculptural works called Stelae (Stele I, Stele II and Stele III) will be installed at Kestle Barton, Cornwall, to coincide with the opening on September 9 of this exhibition of Fay Godwin’s photography http://www.kestlebarton.co.uk/arts-and-events/fay-godwin-under-a-turbulent-sky/
In addition a couple of Abigail’s Universal Now works that are part of the Arts Council Collection will be exhibited at the Courtauld Institute from 15 June to 3 September 2023, as part of the The Courtauld Institute of Art’s Curating the Art Museum programme.
Abigail has her work represented at Michael Hoppen Gallery
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