Nicola Manuel: Hello Holly, congratulations on obtaining a first class honours this year for your Fine Art BA at Slade School of Art. Could you tell us a little about your practician and your sculpture work that is shown on your website?
Holly Hendry: Thank you, being at Slade was a great experience and I’m already missing aspects of it!
The work that is shown on my website is mainly images of work that have been created within the last year. Most of my work is quite site-specific as I usually use an aspect or feeling about a space (whether it is the site I am working in, or a place that personally connects to me, or both) as the starting point within my practice. I look for architectural elements that engage the body in a social, as well as physical, way. A lot of my sculptures physically rely on the surrounding architecture and it is this relationship, these points of intersection, which excite me. I have also recently been thinking about institutional interiors and the use of colour as a tool within architecture, as well as how colour can physically affect the body.
My BA degree show piece was called ‘R:255 G:145 B:175’. It was a large, pink inflatable, that I made to fit the exact dimensions of the negative space that it sat within, that was then squashed against the architecture by an aluminium structure that supported it from beneath. The windows (within the part of the building that it was situated) were open so that the air pressure caused the latex membrane to bulge out of them, which could be seen from the outside of the art school. The title ‘R:255 G:145 B:175’ referenced a specific shade of pink that was previously proven to initially increase hormone levels in the body and induce calmness on its viewers, having been tested by being painted in the cells of a prison block in Seattle. Through this specific work I wanted to play on these ideas, using the effects of the colour but also challenging these ideas through the physical form and tension of the sculpture.
NM: Your work definitely plays a huge interaction with the physical space it is located in – like you’ve said through your degree showpiece, even the colour had a very crucial connection with what was happening to the object.
How important to you is the relationship between your sculptures and the human mind?
HH: I primarily think about my sculptures in relation to an individual’s body, and how we use our bodies to navigate space. Saying this, we can’t use our bodies without using our mind and it is these connections and scripts that we have built within our minds that I like to play with and challenge. Through a specific shade’s meaning and history, I would hope to rouse certain feelings and test associations that we already have archived in our minds. I try to create a sense of that feeling of familiarity or unease that we psychologically associate with various colours and environments. I would hope that this helps the viewer to make links within the work, to the things that I have been thinking about, or sparks a curiosity in the materials at use. For example, in the work ‘Colour Complement to Haemoglobin’ I used the exact green that is frequently used in hospitals, on the walls and as the colour of the scrubs, due to the fact the title suggests. This colour is used i5n this institution to aid in showing up blood that might have been missed otherwise. I was thinking about structures that we use everyday from the jaw structure inside our mouths to the structures under the floor that support us. I think the minty green aided these ideas through its associations of sticky toothpaste too. Ideas of inside and outside always seem to crop up within my work – our internal thoughts and external behaviors, inner and outer structures that we use, blood from inside our bodies marking the scrubs and walls that clothe and surround us.
NM: It certainly sounds like you have a strong though process before and during your work; it’s interesting to hear the ins and outs of the meaning to your work.
When you’re set a new project, what are the first three steps you take?
HH: I don’t really set myself projects, my work usually emerges from a variety of sources and ideas, like places I’ve been or something that I’ve read. I try to base my more ambitious works around upcoming things that I have planned, like exhibitions or if I were to have a commission/plan for a specific location.
With these situations, my first step is to look at the space that the work will sit within, as it is such an important factor in my work. These aspects, combined with my current interests and research at the time will form the basis of the project. I then go through a process of testing materials and trying ideas on a small scale, working through my ideas until it is right for me. Recently, for more large-scale works like my degree showpiece, I have had to use architectural software to model the work, to work out dimensions and get an overall idea for how the piece will look. This has been a really interesting step, especially as my work is usually so material and process based, but I like that dialogue and the fact that the working processes are so different – it is definitely something that I would like to pursue in the future.
NM: Interesting process! What’s been the most unusual material you have worked with?
HH: Probably candy floss… I was trying to make it into geometric shapes by putting it into moulds so I had to make lots, but the humidity in the air makes it shrink to nothing so it was a challenge to make so much in such a short space of time.
NM: That’s definitely the most unusual material I’ve heard to work with!
A question completely off from sculpture work – if you were to go to dinner with a famous person, either dead or alive, who would it be and why?
HH: Errmm..I would say either David Attenborough or Verner Herzog I imagine they’re both very wise and I think either would make for an interesting conversation!
NM: David Attenborough just has that voice that you could listen to forever. Got to love Frozen Planet too!
As a round off to this interview, what’s next for you now that you’ve finished university and have stepped into the working world?
HH: I’m currently doing a yearlong fellowship, called the Woon Tai Jee fellowship, which is based at Baltic 39 in Newcastle. It came about after I won the Woon Prize for Painting and Sculpture in July and so I’ll be based in Newcastle for the year, working towards a Solo Show in September. Artist and friend Lily Hawkes and I also have a show at Lewisham Art house this coming February and within the next few weeks I am visiting Sharjah for a project scheduled for completion in March 2014, so next year will hopefully be pretty busy!