Various artists' statements
Foundling, 2008In China, I have been told, there are orphanages devoted entirely to children with cleft palettes. These children are mostly 'foundlings', children who have been anonymously abandoned by their parents. In China, the combination of stigma, lack of access to medical treatment and the 'one child policy' means that the parents feel that they have no alternative but to give up their children. This is not because Chinese parents are heartless, but because the world they live in has no space for these children. In the west, a cleft palette is not really a big deal. It is easily fixed by a common operation, and in fact these children are often gratefully adopted by childless couples from Australia. The somewhat grotesque baby in The Foundling also does not quite fit into the car seat that it has been left in. Perhaps it is a genetically engineered creature that has been deemed a failure. The work poses the question of who should be responsible for providing it with a loving home.
Doubting Thomas, 2008The story of 'Doubting Thomas' was a popular theme for European artists during the renaissance and baroque. The story is from the New Testament of the the bible, and describes how the apostle Thomas, upon being told of Christ's resurrection demanded to touch the wounds themselves before he would believe that it had happened. In English, a 'doubting thomas' has come to mean a real sceptic, one who refuses to believe without absolute proof, even when to everybody else the truth is obvious. Caravaggio painted a particularly beautiful example, which shows the incredulous disciple with a finger stuck knuckle-deep in the stomach of Christ. It is a wonderful mixture of reverence and goriness, and when looking at it I feel that perhaps Thomas wasn't so much dubious as curious. It looks like he just wanted to feel what it was like, and I don't blame him. I do worry about scepticism. There are so many things in the world that we can't touch, like climate change or extinction, but they are real nonetheless.
The Long Awaited, 2008Empathy is at the heart of my practice. I don't think that you really can - or indeed should - try to understand the ethics of something without emotions. It can easily be argued that such a focus on empathy might distract from a true rational understanding of the issues, but in fact that is exactly what I am aiming to do. Emotions are messy and they do get in the way of rational discourse - as they should. The empathetic nature of my work deliberately complicates the ideas. It is one thing to argue for/against cloning when it is just an intellectual issue. However, things change if you have a mother or son who might need it. I like to think that my work understands that the point at which 'good' becomes 'bad' does not stand still, which is why it is so difficult to find. Ethics are not set like morals, they have to be constantly negotiated. Bioethics are especially flexible, which makes them especially difficult. However, sometimes our feelings find a way through these difficulties, and we are able to create connections and bonds that defy the expectations of others.
Balasana, 2009Balasana is the sanskrit word for 'child's pose', one of the main resting positions in yoga. As a sculpture, Balasana is also a point of repose in my artistic practice. It is a moment of calm, without conflict or even much in the way of uncertainty or paradox. It is a dream-like work. When you dream, things seem to make sense at the time but when you think about them later they are incongruous. What you are left with is more of a feeling - more emotional than rational. We wonder why there is a wallaby - which is a kind of a small kangaroo - lying on the girls back. Together they are in a version of 'balasana' where two partners collaborate together to increase the intensity of the stretch. For me, the dreamlike quality of the work extends beyond the surreal juxtaposition of human and animal, suggesting a world where people coexist harmoniously with the natural world around them. This is a dream, I know, and likely to remain so.