It’s now the last chance to see the first of a series of displays featuring work by artists who are also staff members in the Costa cafe on the ground floor of the Gallery.
Wish Factory, by local artist Michele Harris, launched the series and is also accompanied by the unveiling of her first new work in several years on the Gallery’s Mezzanine.
We are delighted to announce that Umbilical, her new drawing, has now been acquired for The New Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection.
Michele has worked at the Gallery since 2000 both as a Gallery Assistant and Artist Educator. In August 2014 she suffered a brain haemorrhage whilst at work, which left her hospitalised for six weeks. She also temporarily lost her eyesight and endured several operations and a long rehabilitation process, until she was able to return to work at the Gallery in May 2015.
This year Michele began to make new artwork and Umbilical is her first completed new drawing. In her artist statement about the work Michele said: Umbilical, is a very significant work for me as it was the first work I completed since my brain haemorrhage. This left me blind for a while, and I didn’t know if I’d see again, let alone be able to draw. Umbilical is about my relationship with my 5 year old daughter Poppy. She has always been fascinated and comforted by my hair, especially when it is plaited. Braids often were a symbol of fertility and it seems fitting that it has become a talisman for Poppy, which induces a sense of calm and security.
Visually it became a symbol of the connection and interdependence between us that in form resembles the umbilical cord. In the drawing the braid is becoming tangled and cluttered with twigs that eventually overtake it and become a nest-like form representing nurturing protection.
A lot of the twigs and branches I used for inspiration were collected with Poppy on the school run and I made sure that the plaits I referenced were from toys like Anna and Elsa from Frozen or My Little Pony manes and tails. It represents playfulness and innocence and also the pain of accepting that had I not survived she may have had to rely on the toy plaits as a substitute.
Michele’s work explores the shadowy corners and ambiguities associated with innate elements of the human condition – hope, despair, wishing, sacrifice, bliss, the fear of living and the fear of dying. The symbols used in her work are rooted in the rich tradition of myth and superstition. Narratives form and the objects on which the works are based begin to symbolise transformations and metamorphoses from incarceration to freedom, despair to hope, life to death.