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Sian Bonell's Career with Sculptures and Photography

Sian Bonnell introduced students during a guest lecture for the University of Huddersfield. She began the talk with a project she began in 2011 during a residency in Rome. Creating self-portraits, where she would reperform gestures found in renaissance paintings to explore belief structures. She used one of her most recent projects as a starting to point to where her previous practice and education has led her.


Sian believes her practice falls within ‘a paradoxical space between sculpture, performance and photography’. As she was initial a sculpture student at the Chelsea School of Art but would use photography to document what she was doing with sculptures she was creating and curating. Inspired by Cubism, she would place shapes around her studio in a playful way, taking photographs to test what designs would look interesting. This led her to start using photography to experiment with light and how it could draw in space, using mirror shards to interrupt the flow of light and documenting her findings through imagery.


Her projects would then go on to be a collaboration between her experience creating sculptures and documenting them through photography. As her personal practice slowed down for a few years whilst Sian begun to raise a family, she would go on family walks and usually bring objects back home like feathers and shells as a way of remembering the experience. Which gave her the idea to reverse this and bring objects from her experience from home onto walks. An example she shows of this, is an image featuring a biscuit cutter in the shape of a sheep, place upon a rock in a natural sheep grazing setting. Sian noticed the image resembled the chalk cut figures in Dorset, where the photograph was also taken, such as the Cerne Abbas Giant. With this resemblance of culture, the image and others within this project also worked as a commentary on land and food usage, as at the time of photographing the UK has facing the BSE outbreak.


Initially left upset after people found humour in this project, it led Sian into embracing and making more work with themes of absurdity and humour. Putting Hills in Holland (2001) combined the ideas of absurdity and making sculptures out of everyday objects, where Sian would use domestic items to create the hills and photographed the sculptures using a pinhole camera, making sure the flat horizon of the Netherlands was present in the frame. Sian’s photobook Everyday Dada (2006) used the same ideas of absurdity by creating sculptures out of poor-quality food as a political statement on the food provided for low-income households. The food being used the project being divided into chapters, replicating historical landmarks, creating furniture for the households and humorous ways food can be served.

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