This is the second residency at The Garage, Clifton, for Emma Gregory, Esmé Clutterbuck and Henny Burnett.
They are building trust and making collaborative drawings, sculptures and installations. Their ongoing shared project is called The House Protects the Dreamer.
The residency took place over four weeks from December 2020 to January 2021, between the first two Bristol Lockdowns. This stretch of time was broken up by Christmas, which took place with severe restrictions on getting together and transport. Unlike during their first Garage residency (September 2020), the artists were not allowed in the same space at the same time and had been leaving each other notes, found objects and pieces of work in progress to complete.
For the following conversation Henny is on the outside and Esmé and Emma are inside, masked, 2m apart at all times. The Garage space has been filled and refilled. At one point it looked like this:
Record of chat end of second Garage residency:
EG: Let’s just list some words that come to mind looking at the work we’ve made here… struggle for order; control; tension
HB: humour, lots of humour; ‘the domestic’; femininity; there’s lots of gender stuff here
EG: like used up, worn out?
EC: Like misery, as in ‘abject poverty’
EG: what do you make of the plait in this piece?
HB: hair-pulling, nastiness, it worries me
EC: I’m getting upset actually because that’s how my cousin ended her life
HB: My cousin did the same thing
EC: …but all my work has hair hanging in it. It hangs down your back. That’s what hair does.
HB: The petticoat is on one strap. Uneven. A bit desperate.
EG: I think it’s me bringing that element in. You often come in and balance things.
HB: Yes, I like symmetry. That’s why it upsets me – more than anything. I don’t like things slipping off.
EG: It’s louche. It’s lost its virginity.
EG: The net pieces are deeply sexual. Were the ones with willies made later?
EC: No they were made first. Turned into pants. It’s partly because of your legs (Henny).
EG: The legs were a catalyst.
EC: I made long legs with tissue first and then bound them up.
HB: They could be tails.
EG: They’re not though, are they? Those are male pants and those are female pants.
EC: I made a big one from a towel but then I thought… oh no. Can’t go there.
EG: Sometimes one makes a thing and wishes one hasn’t seen it.
HB: Your piece Emma with the tights is obviously referencing the pants.
EG: Everything I’ve done references the legs Henny or the Esmé’s nets. The butterfly net piece wouldn’t have been made without the Esmé’s nets first.
EC: I’ve been trying to make something with nets for years.
HB: But Emma your (bamboo) house was the starting point for all of it really. I’ve been making in response to that.
EC: Also, you said if I were going to use the towels I’d cut them up.. and so I cut them up.
EG: I like this piece that talks about knitting and I really like the piece stretching from wall to table. It’s just a twiddle but placement is everything. I’ve tried to twist it: put a torsion into it.
I love the ambivalence of the black things on the house.
HB: Protective? Danger?
EG: Malevolent tongues – sticks and stones will break your bones – and then they’re spears protecting and then they’re flames destroying…
EC: Charred wood in a house, bombed out…
EG: Ravens’ wings, all sorts
HB: There’s something happening between your fabric piece (Emma – pink monoprint on sick cloth looks like a stretcher) and your patchwork, Esmé.
EG: It’s not just the pink?
HB: I guess it’s because I know they’re both about your children.
EC: I see that as a stretcher
EG: Helen (Acklam) saw it as one of those Eskimo sleds
EC: Where is the rest of it
EG: It’s all still there in the plaits
HB: I love that you could reverse it… I think there is a lot more here than the first time around. More exciting.
EG: Helen thought so too. We’re getting closer to pushing each other.
HB: Particularly when you play ‘Puck’!
EG: It’s all those sessions on Zoom talking about the project and writing the (Black Swan) proposal. Hours and hours of chatting. As soon as we started to think about the house as being ‘unsafe’ for the dreamer. The house is ambivalent, sometimes a place for sanctuary but sometimes not. Then the whole thing is allowed to go a bit darker… Weirdly, some days I’ve been either too depressed to come or I’ve come in, burst into tears, and then started making. Really very raw. I don’t think that shows, that distress.
EC: It does. We’ve just been talking about how dark it is. I’ve just seen this (the two pairs of legs on the window wall between the windows). I like it because it’s standing up but it’s not legs. It’s something running down the wall.
HB: Well something went wrong.
HB: I’m excited about the show (Safehouse 2, London, in Sept 2021).
EG: We’ll have to watch the install and not play too safe. I’ve had trouble even sharing on Instagram this time. I’ve been feeling too vulnerable. You’ll have to make sure I get there (to the point of exhibiting). I’ve been having real trouble putting things out there for over a year. Instagram was my way of pushing back against this but now I’m having trouble even with that.