Untitled (Busts)



These four small sculptures bring together two situations that are independent of each other but have been brought into contact with each other through their authorship and their materiality. They were made by my mother, Jill, whilst she was receiving Chemotherapy in 2014, and they depict four people who were helping her through the process: a consultant oncologist (Nicola), a volunteer at the cancer support centre (Jan), a staff nurse in the chemotherapy unit (Lisa) and a Macmillan breast care nurse (Nicky).

My mother retired from teaching art in a school for children with behavioural problems in 2005, and papier maché was one of her favourite mediums. The newspapers she used to produce these objects were copies of the South China Morning Post which I collected when I was in Hong Kong between 11th and 15th June 2013. The earliest copy was published on the day that Edward Snowden had broken cover in Hong Kong, and over the following days he was feeding fresh revelations to the South China Morning Post about the NSA’s activities in the region, during which time the Executive Council was struggling to establish its legal and political position in the affair, in relation to Beijing, Washington and – of course – its own citizens.

Both Snowden and my mother utilised the medium of ‘newspaper’ to different ends, one as a political and informational tool, the other as a medium through which images and meaning could be formed. In this work, the two are joined indirectly through me as I moved the medium across national borders, such that it could be processed into a new form, ready to be redistributed. A newspaper reports and comments on everything its owners and editorial staff consider news, and that its readership, its advertisers and its owners consider important. It is, however, impossible to read the Snowden story by looking at the sculptures – it is simply one part of the constellation of events represented in the paper: his revelations flowing through the blood of the body politic, as the NSA bugs were flowing through the blood of information channels, as the chemo drugs flowed through the blood of the hands that made the sculptures – the same blood that flows through the body of the work’s middleman author, me.

My mother became too ill to finish them off to the standard she wanted, and died before she could add the final touches. This places the two individuals at either end of the sculptures’ production beyond reach, a fact that – conversely – joins them through the representations inherent in the materiality of the objects: the newspaper revelations and the figures represented signifying two encounters with different forms of establishment (the press/the medical profession) that eased a passage from one life to the next, albeit whilst trying to prevent such a passage taking place.

Exhibited in:


The Tetley, Leeds (24 Sept 2019 → 19 Jan 2020)

The Landis Museum

CCA Derry-Londonderry (26 May 2018 → 28 July 2018)