Artist's Statement: Laura Ellen Bacon on creating a Murmuration at the Holburne Museum in Bath

| 22 September 2015

Laura Ellen Bacon has transformed the façade of the Holburne Museum, in Bath, with an "intricate yet imposing" Murmuration sculpture, woven in willow

A photo of artist Laura Ellen Bacon working with strings of willow for her Murmuration installation at the Holburne Museum in Bath
© Paolo Ferla
“As with any of my works it’s an abstract form but it’s meant to feel as if it is embracing and growing upon the structure of the building. In the case of Murmuration, I want it to feel as if it’s in flux and as if it does have a movement within it.

I’ve taken my queue from starling murmurations and the way that they swell and contract and spread. Although it’s not a copy of them, I’m trying to achieve that style of flow and movement and flux.

A photo of artist Laura Ellen Bacon's willow installation on the facade of a large building within a grand garden for her Murmuration installation at the Holburne Museum in Bath
© Paolo Ferla
I’m able to do that with the technique that I’m using with the material. What I try to do in my work is to use the material in a very simple and pure way. I like my pieces to convey a natural sense of the form being there.

The form has to have a reason to be there, but of course when you’re engaging the use of a building there are various things that I want to adhere to. Fixing and entwining work onto a façade is quite complicated – trying to make the work feel completely at home, like it’s sweeping through the façade rather than feeling fixed and poised and held.

A photo of artist Laura Ellen Bacon's willow installation on the facade of a large building within a grand garden for her Murmuration installation at the Holburne Museum in Bath
© Paolo Ferla
There are some logistical considerations about height and weight and fixed points and things, but more than that it’s about trying to make the work feel free, like it’s been brought to the façade with its own energies, if you like. It needs to feel at home there. It needs to be sited and positioned quite intelligently.

It’s really hard to make something feel very natural, at one. It can be a bit of a self-conscious process making something which is highly visual and can be seen from so many different angles while it’s being made. It’s such a luxurious thing to be able to unveil a finished work. I hope that anyone who comes through the gardens will be naturally intrigued.

A photo of artist Laura Ellen Bacon's willow installation on the facade of a large building within a grand garden for her Murmuration installation at the Holburne Museum in Bath
© Paolo Ferla
It’s wonderful at the museum – I have such a lot of encouragement. That’s really important to me. There’s quite a risk in commissioning someone to create an artwork that doesn’t exist until it’s finished. The team of volunteers are impeccable in their skills and such great company. There’s a great camaraderie within our group, it’s a great experience.  That really helps feed my creative energies.

All of the willow that’s been used is from a very local willow company in Somerset who are brilliant and able to send the willow pre-soaked, which is really useful. The willow is one-year willow which means it’s literally been growing for a year. It has to be soaked for about a week so that it’s really flexible and all those thousands of knots can be tied. The willow’s soaked in a big tank – it has to be completely submerged.

A photo of artist Laura Ellen Bacon's willow installation on the facade of a large building within a grand garden for her Murmuration installation at the Holburne Museum in Bath
© Paolo Ferla
It has a lovely aroma when it’s being used and sometimes you can smell the willow on your hands for a while afterwards. It’s a nice smell, similar to a sort of rush matting smell. All of my work is made in all weathers but while I’ve been here in Bath the weather has been mostly gorgeous.

While I’m working I drink in the atmosphere of a place. All of the work has been made above the gentle murmurings of the city, so I’ve heard the traffic and the wind. I’ve been up there in the full sun during the day which is a great piece of luck, really. The traffic is moving, the visitors have gently come through the building the whole time while the work’s been made, and it’s been really nice to capture the comings and goings of the city and the visitors as they explore the gardens below.

A photo of artist Laura Ellen Bacon's willow installation on the facade of a large building within a grand garden for her Murmuration installation at the Holburne Museum in Bath
© Paolo Ferla
I’d love people to come and see the work in the flesh. There are all sorts of different views of it. It is also about the detail and the hundreds of hands that have gone into it – the hand-tied knots and all of the thousands of curls that make up the form.”

  • Murmuration is at the Holburne Museum until October 4 2015.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three places to see great installations

Wellcome Collection, London
Alice Anderson: Memory Movement Memory Objects features more than 100 works by the artist, entirely mummified in copper thread, creating glistening landscapes of beautiful, uncanny, transformed objects. Each piece is an exploration and act of memory. Until October 18 2015.

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent
In Paul Scott’s hands, domestic ceramics mutate into subversive comments on our life and times. His expert manipulation of familiar motifs like the Willow Pattern gives his work special resonance and broad appeal. An exhibition of his work, Confected, Borrowed and Blue, is organised by The Holburne Museum. Until February 7 2016.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield
The immersive current exhibition in the Chapel and Underground Gallery features work from across Bill Viola’s career. Considering the universal themes of life, death, love and spirituality, Viola examines facets of the human condition, holding a starkly intimate mirror to our strength, our fragility, and the impulses and inevitabilities that unite us, giving tangible visual form to abstract psychological and metaphysical experiences. Until April 10 2016.
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