Marion Michell's art touches on childhood, on growing up and its anxieties. It is as much an exploration of memory as of physical experience. Not necessarily concrete memories, more moods and atmospheres, interwoven with elements from myths and fairy tales.
Crochet allows her to frame childhood memory in a very direct, tangible way. The quaintness of the medium, its look and sensory qualities, make evocative links to a lived (and imagined) past. Her outfits skirt the border of reality as a way of thinking about bodies, bodies that buckle under the strain of difference, and draw their lifeblood from it.
Over the last few years her work branched out into explorations of inherited memory. This shift of focus came with a widening of scope and media (from photography, collage, assemblage, stitching, to thread drawings, creation of heirlooms, Twitter-projects, etc.). Her visual language strengthened and expanded; art-practice became inseparable from writing.
Dense with symbolism, this is small and intimate work, intense, a bit scary, and loaded with humour, ambiguity and contradiction.
Can you describe your practice in a few words?
For a long while I explored childhood memory, mostly through crocheting outfits in extra-ordinary shapes. The acquisition of a pair of unevenly sized children's shoes on a flea-market in Berlin made me fall back in time and I started casting sideways glances at (German) history.
What is your earliest memory of art?
The first time I remember being at a museum was during a week-end trip to Paris with my parents. I was maybe 12 or 13 years old. We went to the Musee du Jeu Paume, which at the time housed a famous collection of Impressionist painting. Manet's huge Le Dejeuner sur L'herbe bemused and fascinated me. Two fully dressed posh-looking gentlemen paid no attention at all to the implausibly naked lady right there with them, bright as a light and looking as if nothing was amiss.....
Have you shown your work in a non-white cube space before?
Yes, several times. Many years ago I had a solo show at the public library in Offenbach/Germany (video work). I also exhibited in a shoe shop in Northampton (paper-work) and at Peckham Women's Centre (installation/performance)
What does this sort of space bring to your work?
The audience was a different one every time, and the work seen by people who might never enter a gallery. One of the video-pieces I showed at the library (made for my degree show, and now integrated into a book-shelf fiction, K-M) related to Kafka's novella Metamorphosis. The leap from the intense private pleasure and deep disquiet of reading to the public display of my own visual condensation felt less precious here, but also more precarious, more under scrutiny. I wished today I had tried to directly engage some of Offenbach's book borrowers in conversation about their own imagery.
Does the environment in which you exhibit your work change how your work is perceived?
Of course, for myself, and prospective viewers. Art builds and questions (sometimes tenuous) relationships with its environment. I cannot wait to see my work at Geddes Gallery, have an idea it will look as if it had lived there through the ages. When I unpacked the pieces from the boxes they were stored in they seemed like a collection of heirlooms, come down to me in mysterious ways. In Mr Giordani's former home they may well come into their own kind of embodied and spirited presence, all the while speaking about absence, about loss. Or so I hope.
What is the future for art?
I worry. A huge abyss stretches between the treat to art education and the under-appreciation of making and thinking and the art world as a bustling market place for a minority of makers and their overpriced and overvalued pieces. We soldier on.
If you could meet one artist living or dead, who would that be and why?
Actually, at the moment I would like to meet Walter Benjamin, in Berlin or Paris. I'd need to wear an invisibility cloak as I wouldn't dare speak to him. Maybe I could be spectrally present while he was in heated discussions with his friends-artists, authors, philosophers, of a time I'm drawn to and frightened by.
What is your greatest weakness?
Forgetfulness. Apart from a few exceptions I do not seem to be able to hold onto more than curiously sketched impressions of past experience. Or indeed books read, films seen, places travelled to. I have very few childhood memories(which may well fuel my artistic explorations) and crave connections to all stages of my life.
What was the last exhibition you visited that unnerved you?
Ori Gersht's, This Storm is What We Call Progress at the Imperial War Museum 2012, esp. the video piece Will You Dance For Me. I remember the vast and terrifying space opening between the image of an 85 year old dancer Yehudit Arnon (face and dancing hands luminous against a black darkness), and the horrific story she told of being forced to stand barefoot in the snow in Auschwitz after she refused to dance at the concentration camp guard's Christmas party. I could not take my eyes off the stunning imagery, watched and listened over and over again, and wanted nothing more than to turn away.
What place do aspects of traditional craft play in your work?
I do consider myself a visual artist whose work hovers on and explores the threshold between art and craft.
Who have been your main influences over the years both in historical and recent terms?
The first artist I was interested in on my own terms was the painter Paula Modersohn-Becker. Thereafter: Louise Bourgois, Christian Boltanski, Doris Salcedo, Eva Hesse, Marisa Merz and Ishiuchi Miyako.
What projects do you have coming up in the future?
No concrete plans at the moment, apart from my participation in Complicity. Artifice and Illusion which opens at Collyer Bristow in March. I seem to be at a stage where I need to take stock and rethink my practice, its visual thrust, the place writing has, and how best to use the internet and social media to place my work and have conversations.
|We Were Wicked We Were Wild 2011|
Marion Michell is a London-based visual artist & writer who has exhibited internationally (Germany, Lithuania, Spain). Her solo-shows were at R-Space Gallery, Lisburn, Northern Ireland (2015); The Arthouse, Wakefield (2010); and Public Library, Offenbach, Germany (1998). Selected group-exhibitions took place at Oriel Wrecsam, Wrexham; BHVU Gallery, London; New Hall Art Collection, Cambridge; M. K. Ciurlionis National Museum of Art, Kaunas, Lithuania; PSL, Leeds; Phoenix Brighton; KunstLANDing, Aschaffenburg, Germany.
Born and raised in Germany, Michell moves between languages and media to cast sideways glances at history. Her work (crochet, photography, collage, assemblage) is intimate and intense, and takes pleasure in lingering on the threshold between art and craft.She is a graduate of Central St. Martins School of Art & Design (1997). Between April 2012 and May 2015 she wrote a blog (Sleep-drunk I dance) on The Artists Information Company's (a-n) website and hopes to return. Last year she explored instant on-line art-communication through a twitter-project (#artling, @marjojo2004). She has given artist’s talks at Central St. Martins School of Art & Design; The Arthouse in Wakefield; and, in May 2015, via Skype, to R-Space Gallery in Lisburn.