STUDIO CONVERSATION WITH STUDIO HOLDER JULIANA CAPES
I’ve moved my studio around Edinburgh for 20 years. Before I was here, I was in Out of the Blue and I’ve been in Wasps as well, so I’ve got a lot of previous installations and exhibitions that get recycled into new work periodically.
How is this one?
This is the best studio I’ve ever had.
What makes it the best one?
Well, I think it’s the space, to work and to make things within the space, to hang things to have a few different threads of work going at the same time and leave them out, letting them percolate a bit. And also the community as well.
The other studio holders and the ESW members.
Yes, it feels really active and there’s a lot of people working, making really current work and there is energy. I really like the fact that there are people here all the time making new things. All the time. Feels like you’re really part of a contemporary situation.
You’re very constant in trying to engage the public, to make a point. You have a few obsessions, maybe: wings, flying? Even these umbrellas or the balloons are also about flying, aren’t they?
That’s true. Some obsessions there are definitely around the birds. Things have been going for a long time, I’ve got a whole collection of photos of dead birds. It’s fascinating, something that should be flying and should be free, being earthbound and so close to look at and see how amazing it is. But also terrible to see. A lot of my work is cusp between something that’s so beautiful and so wonderful, but also maybe disgusting or wrong, or… the cusp is something that really interests me, this emotion in a broken bird, the emotion in the broken umbrella.
You are working on a broken bird now.
I’m working with ceramics; I’m making these wings. These are test pieces that are marrying the broken umbrella collection with the ceramic pieces. And so I’m experimenting and playing with that to see how it works. I’m quite pleased with it, it’s the first time I’ve worked with porcelain to make the feather aspects of the pieces. It’s really great having the ceramics studio downstairs.
I’ve worked with this idea a bit for the last decade or so, but I was using paper for this part, now I’m really enjoying the ceramic because I really like the fragility and the ability to break.
Married with the plastic and the fabric, I really like the materiality of it altogether, it’s got potential.
I’ve seen some of your work and it’s always about numbers. You use many umbrellas, coins, balloons.
I really want more of them. I want hundreds, but I can’t really afford it. I mean, I don’t know where I’m going to get the money from, but I do want more of it. I like the idea of flocking and crowds; the way things join together replicating objects.
To overwhelm the viewer.
Yes, and also, I feel it’s a way to create movement as well. You can make a flow through the objects of the installation. And also, it’s the similarity, the repetition which makes you stop to look. A group of objects has its own mass and body. I’m inspired by flocks of birds in flight and just enjoying objects as well as being a big collector. I like having groups of things to work with.
Birds, umbrellas, balls, balloons, what else?
The pennies and chewing gum. There’s a piece I make often called pavement astronomer. Where I join up the chewing gum on the pavements with chalk to make star constellation.
I work with all those quite ephemeral things.
When I’m working in sculpture and installation, I wrestle against making something permanent. I don’t necessarily really want to make it permanent, and a lot of my works aren’t permanent. These are quite interesting because these are more object based and I think they’ve come about because of having the space here and almost wanting to put a foot into sculpture to really make use of the facilities as well, but it does pull against my natural instincts to make something impermanent.
Your installations and your pieces look quite dramatic sometimes, there is a sense of performance in what you do.
Yes, I think that some of the installations that I have made can always be, they are inherently performative. It’s just part of the process of making it and becomes a really big part of the entire piece. The pavement astronomer piece where I join up the chewing gum or the piece where I fill in the cracks in the pavement with the pennies, I’m there for a whole day on the pavement doing it, and people come along constantly to talk to me and ask me what I’m doing. So, it becomes a performance and becomes a conversation too, it becomes an exchange with the audience the whole time. I’m adopting a position, I’m trying to annul the luck in this street and trying to ask questions about the future through chewing gum and there’s a silliness to it, but a seriousness to it as well.
People engage with on different levels, and you get really interesting conversations that go into or around the ideas or fly above them and they inform the piece and become the piece as well and I don’t necessarily think of myself as performing because I’m not pretending. It’s a genuine inquiry, as these are things that I think about.
What’s next? What are the projects waiting for you?
I’ve been working a lot in film, in order to try and bring my participatory? practice into the film and I want to relate sculptures to the film. And there’s a couple of films I really want to make as well, but at the moment I want to finish two that are in the pipeline. I’ve been making films about natural colour phenomenon for a few years, and I’ve got some that I’m working on describing rainbows. So, I really want to finish them and work with them in this space as well. They’re not resolved, but hopefully they’ll be a bit more resolved in this show in September. They might get married up with the rainbow beach balls at some point as well. Really bright fluorescent rainbow. Beach balls that my kids were obsessed with. Kept buying them from the corner shop and we played with them in sea, and they feature in and some of my films. So, I was interested in bringing the object out of the film and into the gallery. They are an interesting little encapsulation of a rainbow and that cusp, again, of something being quite beautiful, but also pretty awful. A single use plastic toy and can get blown away on the sea and be swallowed by fish. There’s a lot of emotion embodied in a rainbow, a big amount of thought and hope. In these darker fabric pieces oil and the fabric make a refracted rainbow. The dark silk makes me think of oil spills and I have introduced this ephemeral effect on top of them.
I’m going to be showing a film at Sett Studios in Leith and these fabric pieces are going to be part of the film installation as it’s all related. There’s going to be cinema curtains around the screen, and I am keen to keep working with this fabric in more sculptural ways.
More about Juliana’s work here