Gallery of Cleave details and exhibition installation
The story behind Cleave>
Paolo di Dono, called Uccello (1397–1475):
The Hunt in the Forest (c.1465-1470)
tempera and oil, with traces of gold, on panel; 177cm x 73.3cm
The Hunt in the Forest is held in the collections of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Uccello uses a Renaissance colour palette with red and green colour pigments and accents of gold, now faded to give the painting a magical jewel-like quality. This is reinforced by the overall unreality of the scene and Uccello’s affinity for Gothic art, as evidenced by his creation of stylised patterns. In Cleave, a gold thread runs through the textile collage pieces.
The word cleave is interesting for its opposite double meanings:
- to split apart or cut open by force, often related to the natural world as in ‘he took a large axe to cleave wood for the fire’ or ‘the water will eventually cleave a channel through the rock’. From this we also get the words cleft, clove and cloven – originally as tenses of cleave
- to stick together, often related to relationships and/or the body as in Shakespeare when Macbeth says to Banquo: ‘If you shall cleave to my consent, when ’tis, It shall make honour for you’ or in Genesis 2:24 of the King James bible ‘man shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh’ but also ‘Rose’s tongue cleaved to the roof of her mouth’. The word is related in origin to clay and climb
I also took inspiration from Uccello’s preparation techniques to stretch cotton over board before gessoing and sanding down repeatedly to create a matt, smooth surface.
Cleave was first shown in Quarry at the Brocket Gallery, London in 2016.
More works in Quarry
The relics and ghosts of long ago are brought together here as if in a wild dream of nature. Starting from the verticals of Uccello’s trees and dotted lines he cut into the wood I wanted to present a landscape of fragments that offers a framework for a narrative.
The dogs in south London are running. One of the big ones slows down as it passes me and I step back as its nose swerves into my crotch, waving my arms as though that would make any difference. If it were really hungry it would just eat me but I get a face full of hot meaty air and it’s a lucky day.
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He is a red man all over, everyone can smell it. Even through the jasmine oil I apply so liberally before each shave he reeks of rusty iron and musk like the heavy gate to the bull’s field that was left open last year. I prattle on about the weather and tug my comb through his beard with my fingers crossed. Every time I snag on a knot I wince, afraid by the size of his huge hairy fists and the bulk of him sprawled across my biggest chair.
“And this is the sign for asleep,” says Alison, closing her index fingers and thumbs together in front of her eyes. “Go to sleep now my darling.”
She smooths out the duvet cover with her hands, uncreasing the printed astronaut suit, flattening the stars in their cotton void, repositioning the blue Earth from sliding off the side of the bed. She kisses Bill’s hair, feeling his fragile skull millimetres away from her lips. “Night night.”
“Night night Mummy,” he says.