The Familiar and the Uncanny | Dorcas Casey
Mule Head | Jesmonite, Fabric and Iron Powder | 65 x 55 x 45cm
Poised between the familiar and the uncanny, Dorcas Casey's sculptures capture the ambiguous and sometimes unsettling imagery from her dreams. Interested in the idea of discarded and marginal things returning as powerful presences, Dorcas works intuitively to transform familiar, domestic materials and unusual found objects. Often favouring craft-based techniques, such as hand stitching, the sculptures take on an array of fascinating textures and marks, giving substance to previously intangible ideas.
We caught up with Dorcas to delve a little deeper into her practice and to get a behind the scenes look into her studio in Bristol.
What drew you to sculpture?
I’m interested in memories, dreams, folk rituals, ideas about ‘the unconscious’, and how objects and materials can prod at these themes. I love sculpture because it is an obstacle, it's physical, it's grounded, and it has its own rules. I love the way sculpture can disrupt a space and have a bodily impact on you as a viewer. Sculpture is made from physical ‘stuff’, and this stuff comes with its own baggage and associations, meaning that it can be many things at once. As an artist I like the fact that making sculpture uses your whole body, it’s not a static process, it's very dynamic like a dance. Making physical things is hard work as you have to grapple with many challenges and limitations, but there is so much potential for unexpected things to happen during the making process; sculpture has a mind of its own.
You often use found objects within your work, what is it about these materials that interests you?
I'm drawn to objects and materials that have a link to personal memories and often remind me of things we had in the house when I was growing up. I’m particularly interested in materials that have had a past life as something else as I find these objects are rich in associations. I often use old clothing fabrics, gloves, blankets and bedspreads as I like to reference the domestic interior and the human body but in an oblique way through the materials I choose. I feel there is a link in there somewhere to the figurative language of dreams; forgotten, outmoded possessions returning as something powerful and present.
Roe Deer Head | Jesmonite, Fabric, Iron Powder and Real Antlers | 30 x 30 x 25cm
Ram Head | Jesmonite, Fabric and Iron Powder | 60 x 40 x 20cm
Your Ram Head sculpture is such a striking piece, can you talk us through the process of making it?
When I’m thinking about making a particular creature I always like to go and see one in the flesh. I therefore started by making drawings of a ram from life and observing its behaviour and character. They’re such solid, stubborn and uncompromising creatures. I make the heads in clay, usually working very fast at this stage and then continue by constructing the surface with fabric and stitching. I use Jesmonite (a type of resin), to make these surfaces solid so that I can make a mould and cast them. I make the moulds myself, which can be quite a long process, and then I cast them using Jesmonite and real iron powder. The iron powder rusts to create a soft corroded surface, giving the clothing fabric back its tactile, soft qualities whilst also implanting a sense of solidity and weight.
What do you hope viewers take away from your work?
I like my work to be poised awkwardly between the realms of the familiar and the uncanny. I’m happy for meanings in my work to remain ambiguous. I hope that my sculptures recharge something forgotten or hidden in the psyche and agitate in some way the part of us that responds to images and symbols, maybe an archaic part of our minds that has been obscured by contemporary busyness and noise.
Finally, what are you working on at the moment?
I have been learning to cast my sculptures in bronze as part of a Qest Scholarship, working with expert sculptor Ian Middleton. It’s an amazing process; working with wax, making ceramic shell moulds, learning to pour molten bronze and to work the metal afterwards. I feel very lucky to be able to learn such an ancient sculptural process and it feels poignant to join a lineage of sculptors, spanning thousands of years, who have learnt to work closely with this medium. I’ve also recently been awarded a grant from the Arts Council, which will fund a period of research and development exploring ceramics as a medium for new sculpture. I’m very excited about this fresh direction in my work and the opportunity for dedicated studio time to follow my curiosity and see where it leads.
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Dorcas Casey Biography
Dorcas is a Bristol based artist working from Jamaica Street Studios in Stokes Croft. After studying Sculpture at Winchester School of Art, Dorcas went on to complete a Masters in Multidisciplinary Printmaking at UWE and is now a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors. Dorcas won the Public Speaks Award in the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize and her work features in the book 'The Language of Mixed Media Sculpture'. Dorcas has exhibited her fabric sculptures at Banksy’s Dismaland and performed with her sculptural costumes at Glastonbury Festival and at Hauser and Wirth Somerset. Dorcas was also commissioned to work as lead artist for Artichoke’s PROCESSIONS in 2018 and awarded a QEST Scholarship to study bronze-casting in 2019.