A history of building
The new work begins on a flat bench. An assembly of found wood – natural or varnished, functional or shaped, straight or curved, jointed or glued – criss-cross, slot together and overlay each other to suggest the piece’s musical title Al-Medina. The eye dances over the patterns that never quite resolve into perfect harmony, but constantly challenges the viewer to explore the deeper reaches of its recesses. The title is Arabic for ‘the city’ suggesting arial views of North African cities whose labyrinths of narrow lanes enclose rectangular or square riads of uneven heights, hollowed out in their centres, and spied upon from blank windows that protect their secrets and mysteries from prying eyes.
In Lesley’s family, making, altering, dismembering, experimenting, and re-assembling was a constant activity. Her father, an electrician by trade, was an inveterate builder and mender. Tools abounded. Fragments lay everywhere, waiting for a purpose and a use. And from her grandparents she would inherit more ephemera – stamps, postcards and cigarette cards. Memorabilia of the earlier 20th century, when all the products of Britain and its empire clamoured for attention, the pounds, shillings and pence of the salaried and factory workers of the ‘workshop of the world’.
Her heritage of miscellaneous collections and fragments came together in evocative, often nostalgic assemblages housed in boxes and vitrines, not too distant from the artistic visions of the Frenchman Arman or the American Joseph Cornell, whose poetic, quasi-surrealist works had offered her inspiration.
Her home was gradually filling with both her inherited and her newly-found objects – genteel ceramics, scientific glass, soft toys, domestic tools, buttons, coins, door handles, lenses, old photos, textile and metal fragments, discarded woods of all shapes and sizes, and much more besides. This collection demanded to be put to use – which she did. The house would be embellished with stained glass windows, Cornell-like vitrines of full of poetic, nostalgic and tbbc whimsical items, and magnificent doors tapestried from precious woods, glass objects, polished metal surfaces – veritable sculptural creations of intricate originality.
Her recent work has shown more sharply defined characteristics contrasting, on the one hand, the anarchy of memory through delicate explosions of wooden shapes interlaced with found objects – discarded fragments of lives reassembled for the indulgence of our imaginations. And her evidently more controlled constructions of elaborately-layered hidden chambers and catacombs in the form of free-standing towers and wall pieces, compressed within the discipline of the circle, triangle and the square.
In her current work, both directions seem to feed off each other. The controlled work of the towers finding release in the aleatoric assemblies of memorial fragments, but both also speak of common threads of a concern to honour craftsmanship, the history and the poetry of human creativity, and to resurrect and cherish some of the discarded materials of our shared Earth. They also give proof of her dedication to working with the skills and the materials that she has gathered for herself, and her pleasure in sharing her work with others.
A guest post from Phillip Wright