Spotlight

Spotlight artist Laura Ford

Championed by gallerist Alice Workman
The Wick - Spotlight artist Laura Ford
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The Wick - Spotlight artist Laura Ford
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Interview
Laura Ford
21 February 2024
Interview
Laura Ford
21 February 2024
Laura Ford’s sculptures are fantastical and unsettling in equal measure. The British artist’s work “Dancing Clog Girls” at Somerset gallery Bo Lee and Workman (until 2 March) is a case in point – from afar, the dancers appear like carefree children twirling in a circle but, get closer, and you will see their featureless faces, furry aprons and weeds growing out of their clogs. Ford took inspiration from a visit to a Baroque palace by Marie Antoinette in 1770, attended by local people, to create a sculpture that unpicks the illusions of refinement that entice children when they play kings and queens.
The work at Bo Lee and Workman’s exhibition The Guts and the Glory is a precursor to Ford’s solo show at the gallery in July. It ripples with the tension between reality and illusion, which is part of what drew Alice Workman – a director and co-founder of the gallery and Ford’s champion for The Wick – to the West Sussex based artist, alongside her ability to both attract and repel with her work.

Ford’s playful but finely crafted works encompass drawing, sculpture, painting, performance and set design, and are exhibited in the public realm as well as gallery shows, while being found in museum collections, such as the Tate and the V&A.

Says Workman: “I first became enamoured by Laura Ford’s sculpture when I saw the strange part human, part animal or imaginary figures she creates from fabrics and textiles. These sculptures are precisely composed, with equal attention given to position and posture, and the meticulous construction of clothes and adornments. As you look closer, the seductive nature of these creatures spark feelings of affection, yet we remain slightly uneasy as their motives and intentions are unknown.”

Ford’s sculptures elicit a strong response from onlookers. Workman adds: “I have enjoyed watching audiences respond to Laura’s work over the years; children naively approach her sculptures full of intrigue and fondness and, for adults, they are more emotive, but everyone eventually stands for a while and marvels at these fantastical figures. Ford’s works, whether in a gallery, public space, historic home or parkland setting, have an extraordinary presence that commands our attention.”

The artist mines her own personal history for inspiration, as well as a wide range of influences: “Interactions with people and family, current affairs, novels, podcasts, film and comedy – anything that gives me insight into the lives of others,” she says. “I also draw heavily on my own emotions and reactions to the world around me.”

Her greatest achievement to date is representing Wales at the Venice Biennale in 2005, she adds, alongside having solo exhibitions in extraordinary buildings such as Strawberry Hill House in London and Schaezlerpalais in Augsburg, Germany. This year is set to be a busy one for Ford, whose work will be in group shows at Phillips in London, Gallery Ten in Cardiff and Sculpture in Pilane, Sweden. She also has a small solo show at Margate’s Liminal Gallery in March, before she unveils a brand new body of work at Bo Lee and Workman in July.

For the Bruton gallery, she is drawing on recurring themes and inspirations, including Catholic paraphernalia, travelling fairs, magic shows, animals and the Two Ronnies – a long-standing influence. We’re looking forward to seeing how they manifest in her work.

About the champion

The Wick - Spotlight artist Laura Ford

Alice Workman is a Director of Bo Lee & Workman, which supports emerging and mid-career artists. Before founding the gallery with Jemma Hickman in 2022, she was previously Senior Director, Cultural Centres Europe at Hauser & Wirth, initially joining to develop the Somerset gallery which opened in 2014, and later overseeing the Menorca gallery development and Chillida Leku, San Sebastian.

“As you look closer, the seductive nature of these creatures spark feelings of affection, yet we remain slightly uneasy as their motives and intentions are unknown.”

Place of Birth

Cardiff, Wales

Education

Bath Academy of Art/Cooper Union New York, 1978 -1982
Chelsea School of Art, 1982-83

Awards, Accolades

Iserlohner Kunstpreis, 2016

Current exhibitions

The Guts and The Glory at Bo Lee and Workman, Bruton

Spiritual guides, Mentors

My husband Andrew Sabin, who is a fantastic sculptor and works in the studio next to mine. We share our thoughts on each other’s work most days.

Advice

Stay curious and keep a good work life balance.


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