Material Legacies is the culmination of a four-year research collaboration with The Hospice of St Francis, a palliative care charity. This collaboration explores how artistic making supports the bereaved to negotiate their own approach to translating and finding a place for the dead in their lives. Within this process, biography is distilled into three distinct experiences, which collect a range of materials capturing the essence of the deceased's archive. This deep interaction advocates how a material approach to loss can expand our personal and aesthetic relationships with the dead. These experiences provide momentary glimpses of relationships – through material and technological composition – that unfold unique stories of love and loss. Visitors are invited to connect with these experiences on a visceral level. The materials used become a language that is refined through the iterative process of making, as stories of the dead are told through the bereaved's physical engagement with materials and their collaborations with creative practitioners.
In the first room you will encounter multi-colored felt mushrooms, made for a mushroom-obsessed teenager, where the walls speak of washing machines, badgers and her voice preserved in a dictaphone. The maker describes the mushrooms as gaudy, cheesy and perfect. They reflect the adolescent relationship with faultless clarity honoring a person that is known longer in death then in life. The process of hundreds of pin pricks make the colored felt solidify, forming around the interaction as each mushroom is nurtured into existence. The next room contains clay, one of the oldest building materials in the world. This combines with words, projection and reflection to narrate a life told through trains. Stories weave through the geology of the Swiss Alps, commencing with a young boy trainspotting at Preston station after the 2nd World War, right through to the dying man watching Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys mediating his final journey. The last experience captures the breadth of the grieving process in textural detail as a body of works move the viewer from dark to light and static to fluid. Traveling across the works through some of those dark things. They speak of fingers pressing paint into canvas, rubbed raw as though they have been digging in the mud.
The exhibition as a whole expresses a new materiality of death that blends narrative, craft and archives. This promotes an approach to thinking through making that supports the co-creation of loved one's physical and digital legacies.