During 2015 the plinth at Chelsea College of Arts, which normally houses the Henry Moore work, Two Piece Reclining Figure (on loan to Yorkshire Sculpture Park), will host a series of sculptural works by alumni. The first in this series is by Aaron McPeake who was awarded his PhD in 2012. The work titled, The Sound of their Deaths in Australia, is an interactive bell-bronze work which alludes to the histories of the Millbank site. A bollard, which stands just behind the Henry Moore plinth, commemorates the transportation of sentenced prisoners to Australia until 1867.
The work is essentially a bell, with a large marine rope attached to a timber clapper. The shape of the bell also bears reference to animal husbandry, to the bells often worn by cattle and goats to maintain control. Being interactive, the work provides an aural and haptic experience and those that encounter it can consider the past experiences of the site.
As McPeake is acutely visually impaired (registered blind) his sculptural work often has a sonic element. However, this is not to say that he considers that the sound is somehow a replacement for the experiences surrounding visual acuity but rather that it is an additional element for viewers to consider and reflect upon. Furthermore, much of his work has an interactive and haptic element, something that confounds the museum standard of not touching even the most robust of sculptural works. He believes that wherever practicable, sculptural works should have the capacity to be experienced in many different ways and be accessible to the widest of possible audiences. McPeake also works in many other media including film, photography and printmaking.
McPeake’s PhD thesis, Nibbling at Clouds – the visual artist encounters aventitious blindness, is an holistic study of the impacts vision loss has on the visual artist. The thesis draws on the experiences of a panel of artists (who lost eyesight in later life) and includes his own experience as well as how he has developed his own practice. The resulting artworks are a consequence of engaging with subjective themes and making processes, which have been mutually informative.
There will be a Private View for the work in the courtyard at Millbank on May 5th 6-8pm.
The work can also be viewed and heard at McPeake’s website.
Top image: The Sound of their Deaths in Australia; medium: bell-bronze, bell with wooden clapper (leather covered), marine rope and stainless steel fixings. 45kg