Investigating the life of things across space and time

Quarry (2016)
painting, collage, textile, printmaking on canvas; 165cm x 40cm

Quarry (2016)

Gallery of Quarry details, exhibition installation and studio documentation

The story behind Quarry

Like Paolo Uccello’s Hunt in the Forest (1470), Quarry came into existence from dark to light. Uccello's technique created a theatrical depth and drama that I wanted to capture.

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.

Like Uccello, I painted a black ground over white gesso to create a rich, infinite space. Uccello’s foliage was painted in from dark colours to light whereas he worked the figures, animals and tree trunks from white silhouettes, resulting in a vibrant tableau.

The covered complexity of his forest reminds me of the fan-canopied ceilings of mosques and cathedrals so I site my strange protagonists in an immense echoing chamber, interrupted by ‘void’ forms created through the process of cutting and making other shapes. The bird-like creature is the artist of The Hunt in the Forest, Paolo di Dono himself (known by his nickname, Uccello, which means ‘bird’, given to him because of his unique depictions of the natural world).

The river in Uccello’s forest appears in Quarry on the right, suggesting that we are are still somewhere dripping wet, but now we are underground, beneath the roots of Uccello’s verdant, fertile dream. Whether the sightless creatures hopping, slinking and darting back into the shadows are the hunters or their prey, I leave to your own interpretation.

Quarry was first shown in the exhibition Quarry at the Brocket Gallery, London in 2016.

More works from Quarry

Cleave: a black smooth board sits behind a blacker abstract shape with a red cloaked figure standing on a rock

Cleave (2016)

As if peering through a gap in the trees this art work focuses on the relationship between light and dark, quarry and hunter. The colour and form of the red figure references Uccello’s practice within the late Gothic tradition and reminds us that red is the colour of fairytales, representing blood (virginity, violence, death).

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Mantle: neon green background with a figure standing, a black cloth thrown over their head and body, with sky blue hose and black shoes. A strong black shadow extends from the feet out to the bottom edge of the image

Mantle (2016)

As if standing in front of a green screen this mysterious figure invites us to imagine a space in which anything is possible.

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Query: Raised pale embroidery like old scars on a pale linen, with fragments of tapestry and collage strewn across the whole canvas

Query (2016)

In Paolo Uccello’s preparation of his wood panels for Hunt in the Forest (1470), he glued canvas over knots and scored lines into a black underlayer of paint to mark tree branches and vanishing points.

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Salt: Lines and patches of embroidery against a pale brown linen background, reminiscent of a set of ruins in a destroyed landscape. A figure with a beak as big as its body and that covers its face entirely, tentatively steps across the ground.

Salt (2016)

Salt is mined, extracted and evaporated. Stitching mends holes, fills in blank space. This artwork began life as the back of an unfinished needlepoint and grew into an exploration of geology and archeology.

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Silk: an embroidered image of bright autumn trees in yellow and orange sits against a black linen background, with tree silhouettes behind

Silk (2016)

This work started as an old needlepoint completed by an unknown sewer, that I unpicked, leaving only these trees intact. It was a way for me to look at the stage without the players.

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Slip: Against a fluorescent orange backdrop, a painted figure with blue hose and a dark green tunic falls headlong into a black hole

Slip (2016)

Falling is an uncontrollable action. When we fall (over, apart, in love, asleep) we become vulnerable; quarry. Caught between spaces this figure falls headfirst and downwards.

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Trace: two sets of arches, one in a pale sandy stone with overgrown ivy and the other, identical in outline but a flat black silhouette, sitting on a mid-grey linen canvas. The outlines of three greyhounds are stitched in white thread, leaping through the arches

Trace (2016)

I wanted to create a work that used just a few very strong elements to show the power of a repeated shape. I drew this grid over Uccello’s painting to reveal his mastery of perspective and as the starting point for Trace.

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When much had been forgotten: fragments of tapestry, collage and embroidery in the shape of statues and organic forms are scattered across a pale grey-brown linen

When much had been forgotten (2016)

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.

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A walk in the woods: a blue-legged figure with a dark cloth over their head and body stands against a brick wall with plants growing round it

A walk in the woods (2016)

This conversation between Sarah Gillett and the writer Amy Lay-Pettifer digs deeper into the artist’s relationship with Paolo Uccello’s painting The Hunt in the Forest (1470) and her wider art practice.

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PACK: A person in a blue hoodie on a bicycle looks behind them to see hundreds of dogs chasing them through a wide, empty city street

PACK

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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