This year Blackhorse Workshop was invited to take part in the British Council’s ‘Housewarming’ Residency Programme together with two other east London organisations, Rabbits Road Press and Troy Town Art Pottery. Three international artists from India, Pakistan and Mexico were selected to create objects for the British Council’s new global headquarters in Stratford, east London. Due to the pandemic, these residencies produced by Create London have instead taken place virtually over a six week period.
Blackhorse Workshop has been collaborating with contemporary artist Sakshi Gupta from Mumbai, India. Since June Sakshi has been developing a light-emitting sculpture piece for the main foyer of the new building. Her work seeks to answer questions regarding waste, recycling and industry as well as the natural world’s relationship to the manufactured. Through weekly online sessions, we have been working with Sakshi to bring her ideas to life. The remote nature of the residency has allowed for exploration of new forms of creative exchange, and has forced us to be more inventive as we work collaboratively to push against the restrictions of the global pandemic.
Sakshi has designed the form and shape of the sculpture to consist of a disrupted canopy, a sail and a beam of light. She intends to use scrap metals from construction sites, specifically corrugated iron sheeting. The material reflects dismantled temporary settlements and ideas of movement and the need for stability.
We caught up with her to ask how she has found being involved in a remote virtual residency and how it has shaped her practice….
Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your work as an artist up til now?
I am a sculptor based in Mumbai, India. My practice frames human conditions of understanding, progressing, suffering, and halting. My work grapples with the need to achieve a balance between life’s inherent polarities, exhibiting this by utilizing materials often considered waste or ordinary. Engaging with scrap material presents me an opportunity to work with materials that contain their own histories, evoking notions of transience and resilience. My work aims to encourage viewers to reorient themselves and reconsider how they perceive what is typically overlooked. I see my practice as an immersive journey through form and material, towards the non-material and experiential.
How have you found working virtually compared to your usual very hands-on approach to making work?
Material, particularly found or discarded material. has always aided my explorations and articulations of intangible ideas. In the context of this Virtual Residency, being unable to engage with material in a tactile manner has opened up considerations of alternative ways to think about it broadly and within the context of my practice. I realised how everything around us, including our own body is material – this thought was very liberating. It made me consider all that I was using from within my home-studio environment as well as all the interactions we had for this project virtually – as potential material to work with. I was provoked to think in more conceptual directions, and to research and reflect upon the question, ‘What is Material?’
What has it been like working with Blackhorse Workshop over the last six weeks?
It has been a wonderful collaboration! Having support from the workshop helped me fine tune the concept of my work. The maquette of the space at the British Council that Toby built allowed me to visualise my work within the space. Blackhorse was very resourceful in helping me connect with the space, sourcing necessary equipment, and introducing me to relevant collaborators (Yesenia Thibault Picazo and East London Radio). I’m very grateful for the support and fruitful conversations.
What will you take from this virtual residency experience, and has it helped you develop artistically?
This experience has made me re-look at my practice and examine many aspects of how I approach the making of my work. I found myself questioning site-specificity and distance given that we’re all working from home. Most importantly, the residency pushed me to conceptually explore my materials as I did not have physical, direct access to them. To make up for the loss of an intimate involvement in the making of the work, I decided to record the sounds of it being made. This has opened a new world of exploring the emotional and sculptural potential of sound in the complete absence of touch. The sounds produced by the material would enable me to pay closer attention to its nuances and particularities, that would perhaps have gone unnoticed or taken for granted, otherwise.
I hope to be able to visit Blackhorse Workshop in better times! I would love to interact and work with Mhairi and Toby and meet the rest of the team at the workshop when it would be possible to travel and come to London.
Sakshi’s sculpture is currently in production and will be finished and installed at the British Council’s new global headquarters this November.
We can wait to see the end result!