On a sunny Friday I trekked over to Battersea to visit Felicity in her holiday- time, extra large studio in the new Dyson Building, part of the Royal College of Art.
Felicity makes photographic works and I interrupted a process of collaging large- scale prints on the floor, which will eventually form an image of gigantic proportions.
Felicity starts making work by walking, exploring and photographing sites. She is drawn to landscapes which have had an industrial function in the (near or distant) past. Although she makes work documenting places which have often undergone huge changes i.e. parts of the Olympic site, her work is not created so much from a politically charged perspective as through an interest in allegory (where visual forms represent ideas) and the use of images of building works or developments in the landscape to represent how temporary things are, and explore how we experience change.
Felicity almost disregarded taking part in this project, assuming she had no connection to porcelain. However she realised this was an opportunity to explore the history of the Bow Porcelain factory, which would build on work she made last year documenting developments in part of the Olympic Park at Pudding Mill Lane, not far from Bow. Since making the decision to apply for the residency Felicity has become interested in the images on some of the Bow Porcelain plates depicting eastern landscapes, but made in London. She finds the fact there are these fabricated landscapes used in Bow Porcelain production exciting as it links to the images she produces through her own photographic work.
Felicity was also drawn to take part in the Bow Porcelian project because her family is from east London and Walthamstow. They were furniture makers working in factories. Felicity is interested in how manufacturing existed and affected worker’s lives.
‘I have never worked in a factory myself. Through my work I look at drawings and plans but I don’t know what they mean- I have not experienced them.’
Felicity came into photography through documenting her performance and installation work, and it is now the practice which she makes art work from. She is currently studying an MA and has developed a specific way of working using a medium format camera which creates larger prints and allows large scale work. For her last body of work Felicity went through the process of taking documentary photographs, gathering printed images, physically playing around with how they are put together and creating one larger scale image, and then went back to it digitally [scanning the image into her computer, using image editing programmes]. She is excited about the fact she is going to use the dark room to produce her new work. She will trace her final composite image (made through this manual collaging process) back onto large acetate prints, and then she will be able to print using an enlarger from these. Felicity wants to create more gestural work with a rougher feel and this is easier to achieve when the outcome hand made as opposed to digital.
Felicity told me she does not pre- plan the composition of images, and doesn’t imagine an image and then create it. If she is inspired to do so she may add to an image six months later. Her method reflects the way the city and urban landscape is in transformation.
Felicity is excited about working with subject matter which predates photography. Her work based on exploring and depicting the historical layering of the city has not taken her much beyond 1900s (when people began using cameras) previously.
‘This project is different to my previous work as the transformation took place so long ago.’
Because of the nature of working with industrial landscapes most of Felicity’s work has barely any colour. At the time of the Bow Porcelain factory in the 1700s the landscape must have been green. In reflection of this Felicity predicts a change in the palette, materials and processes she uses.
What I find really interesting is the process I have gone through looking at Felicity’s work from presuming her work was largely produced digitally, to hearing her talk about her family’s historical relationship with factory/ furniture production and seeing how this relationship to production is represented in the fact her composition takes place by hand in large, unwieldy hard- copy format, and that she is experimenting with new processes to make her images more reflective of her incidental decisions and movements. Somehow this reminds me of those ninety artists who all lived and worked in the factory hand painting objects which were mass produced in Bow.
Felicity’s work for the Bow Porcelain project is at the moment in the research stage. She is looking at the exact site where the Bow Porcelain factory was, through maps of the site, and taking images of the buildings around it. Today this is a development of new flats on private land, and parts of the site have very high security. Felicity is sure in the time of the Bow Porcelain factory it didn’t used to be like that and she wants to find out about and highlight the ways people used to live.