June 26, 2014
From her East London workshop, Scots born installation artist Lee Borthwick has been creating custom natural artworks since 2009. After studying textile design at Grays School of Art in Aberdeen, Lee received a MA in constructed textiles from the Royal College of Art in 2008. She combines her love of wild landscapes with organic materials and hand construction techniques to create works that provide a tactile, reflective and poetic experience for the viewer.
Consenses Interview with Sally Taylor:
Your Name: Lee Borthwick
Where you live: London, England
Where you came from: Galashiels, Scottish Borders, Scotland
Your Medium: Mixed media installation, wood work
The name of your work: Light and shade
Dimensions: (32cm length, 48cm width, 7cm depth & 2.5kilo
Price: Wholesale (how much would your work be to buy?)£650
What made you want to participate in this project?
An opportunity to break away from the confines I have created in my everyday practice. The project would allow me to explore a new and alternative approach to developing a work of art. Further to that it was a great opportunity to be involved with such a diverse and inspiring project.
Without going back to the film I sent you what stands out about it ?
The colours remain the predominant memory for me. There were so many shades of blue creating this envelop of sadness around the film.
What was your first reaction to the film? (thoughts, emotions, memories, tastes, smells etc?)
My first reaction was that I wanted to make a raft. Thereafter I tried to imagine what sounds would be happening, the movement of water, tear droplets, echoes, pain. I could understand the relationship to my work, the sense of reflection and water, the subtle tones etc.
If you had to choose one word to sum up the Film I sent what would it be?
What emotion did it elicit?
The strongest emotion arising from the video was the loneliness and sense of helplessness.
What was the film about in your mind? (Did it tell a story? Paint a picture? Etc.)
I felt the concept of the video was an expression of two people feeling the same pain and loneliness but who were unable to reach out to each other. Perhaps they held the key to each other’s happiness but they led parallel lives. Did they know each other? I am unsure; I believe it was two souls feeling the same thing at the same time.
Take me through each step of your process from getting the film to the creation of your work.
I watched the film a number of times and made a list of immediate responses, things like shadows, the colour blue, out of reach, fish bowl, water, reflections, loneliness, raft, drifting off and helplessness.
My initial reaction, often with my practice, is to make the first thing that comes to mind, I craved making a raft from driftwood, so I did that first and got it out my system. I also avidly did not want to utilize mirror, I wanted to consider other ways of creating reflective work.
I started to think about ways I could connect the characters, obvious things like dropping a rope down to this drifting character, a ladder or steps of some sort. However the overriding concept of the film with her being real and him being animated suggested to me that they would never cross paths, they led parallel lives. I started designing sets of stairs that would never meet, they would get to the same place but on opposing sides so they might see each other but not be able to reach.
I was at the same time wanting to address the colours, the strong sense of blue, the bleakness and the shadows. I experimented with painting the back of the surfaces to create a blue tone which appears in the shadows and bounces off the white background. The wood I used was staggered at different heights to exaggerate the shadows and increase the effect.
I worked with some birch branches from a storm felled tree from my own garden. The wood has its own story and carries its own sadness. It was not ready to come down, a vibrant healthy tree unfortunately taken by the wind. It felt relevant to the project and the beautiful and evolving bark enabled me to colour co-ordinate the steps from darkness to light, going from the depths to greater heights. The bark in situ will continue to evolve so it will be interesting to know what the piece might look like in years to come.
What did you title your work and why?
Light and shade-
The feelings that exist in the film are feelings we are all familiar with in our lives, the feelings of sadness and separation are transient feelings that come and go, you need to the shade so you recognize how good the light feels when it comes, the light reminds you the darkness doesn’t last forever.
What part of your work came to you first?
My first interest was finding away to demonstrate the meeting of these two sides, I started exploring steps and ladders first.
How do you normally create? How was this experience different?
I am very material led; my work is predominantly guided by the materials I work with. I explore how the materials will fit together and explore questions like; what does the shape want to do? Can I manipulate it? How can I draw attention to the beautiful details in the wood, in its surface or it’s bark or shape? I draw with materials and document the patterns as they form, it is only after this process that I start to draw on paper and think about what the piece could become or evolve into.
What techniques/tools did you use to help you express you’re interpretation?
My band saw was the main tool I used, I recently acquired it and enjoy manipulating tree branches with it. For this piece I spent time splitting the branches length ways so I get twice as much surface area from the branches as well as new forms as the wood adjusts and warps.
Are there certain choices you made which mean something specific to you that the observer might not know?
As explained in a previous question the reasons for selecting the birch branches may not be obvious to the viewer. Like with all my works you don’t know the history of the wood until you ask.
Extra credit: Did you enjoy this project? More you want to say about your experience?
I did enjoy the project and was fantastic to be invited to participate. The main challenge I had however was delivering a piece of work that does justice to the project and to my practice whilst trying something new within a short time frame.
What is has down has opened up a whole new set of responses and ideas for me to tackle in future work which is brilliant.