MGM 2004 - Wild Thing At Glasgow's Project Ability

By Kerry Patterson | 06 May 2004
Shows a photograph of a papier mâché sculpture of a deer, which is stood on a white plinth in the centre of a white-walled and wooden-floored gallery space.

Photo: Deer by Robert Reddick.

Kerry Patterson went off to find where the wild things are and found them in Glasgow.

Wild Thing is an exhibition presented by Project Ability as part of Museums and Galleries Month 2004 and is running until May 21.

Project Ability is an arts organisation that works with children and adults with learning difficulties and mental health problems in Scotland. It runs workshops and exhibitions for emerging artists at their Centre for Developmental Arts in Glasgow.

The exhibition includes sculptures by six Project Ability artists, ranging in age from 17 to over 70. All of the pieces are made from papier mâché and are either life-size or 'larger than life'.

Shows a photograph of a papier mâché sculpture of an owl, which has been mounted on a wall.

Photo: Owl by Ronnie McCulloch.

The artists worked in collaboration with ceramic artist Susan O’Byrne in an intensive week-long workshop to create the models.

She explained that animals were chosen as the theme because of their "emotional connection for many children. They can be a comfort for some in childhood and old age."

"Animal stories help streamline complicated adult life and feelings, while their various names, behaviour, body shapes and patterns can open up and develop a child’s imagination and learning."

Once the artists had chosen the animals they each wanted to sculpt, they twisted and tied bunches of 'withies' (stripped willow) into the skeletal shape of the animals. This skeleton was then covered with papier mâché and decorated with paint or collage.

Shows a photograph of a skeleton sculpture of a praying mantis. It is standing on a plinth in a white-walled gallery space and in the background there is a photograph on the wall and a small unit into which has been placed a screen showing a video.

Photo: Praying Mantis by Jonathan Beatts.

Each work is accompanied with a photograph showing its development and a video, which shows its progress from drawing to fully formed work of art.

Two of the artists chose to depict birds. Cameron Morgan created two brightly painted bats, which contrast with Ronnie McCulloch’s more subdued owl with its carefully crafted wire feet and individual photocopied feathers.

There is even a praying mantis, notable for the fact it has been constructed by covering the willow skeleton with masking tape.

Although not as colourful as other sculptures, its method of construction makes it equally interesting. Also worthy of note is Robert Reddick’s deer, decorated with a beautiful collage design.

Shows a still from a video. The image is made up of six screens, each showing a different shaped woven sculpture. On one of the centre screens a man can be seen in the act of weaving a sculpture.

Photo: still from Wild Thing video. Richard Weeks.

Susan O’Boyle noted that "working on this project reminded me that papier mâché, though a humble medium, can be almost as versatile as clay, and can be used to produce both highly dynamic and subtle work."

Indeed, papier mâché has the advantage of being an accessible material and this exhibition shows it can be used to produce ambitious sculptures.

Although the exhibition is small, it is worth having a look to see the weird and wonderful creations that have been made from this modest material.

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