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The Comedy of Errors

Art Works: Forms of Control by Beth Shapeero

27 May 12 words: Beth Shapeero

"I am trying to form an ambiguous sense of understanding and locate the viewer in literal, nonrepresentational forms and structures"

This piece of work consists of a pink gemstone resting in the gap between the wall and a painted plywood board and beside it, on the floor, are three strange, pyramid-like forms. I found the gemstone in a gift shop - it’s very beautiful and quite tacky. I’d already roughly painted the board, intending it to be a base for a more complete painting, but I found the unfinished and unselfconscious qualities it had appealing. The ‘pyramids’ are off-cuts from the process of making canvas stretchers; they make very pleasing shapes where you can see the wood grain running through the form.

I often use reclaimed materials and waste left over from other people’s projects. I have lots of stuff like that hanging around ready to use; things that are unfinished or unresolved. At the moment I’m toying with some wax sculptures which are replicated forms of the wooden off-cuts - they are a bit gross and pick up lots of dust, but I like that about them. I am still not sure how or if they will come to be pieces of work, but I’ll just keep looking at them and playing about with other stuff until they make sense to me.

In Forms of Control I am trying to form an ambiguous sense of understanding and locate the viewer in literal, nonrepresentational forms and structures. The comprehension of weight, form, gravity, texture, movement and viscosity are sensations which appeal to a metaphysical understanding of place. I really want the viewer to be able to understand the work, not through intellect but through a physical understanding, but one that is tentative and subtle rather than overblown or clever. The title reflects the changing effect of control over different aspects of the work; for instance, the three wooden forms have been thrown down rather than placed, so
their positioning is by chance, whereas the pink gemstone has been carefully balanced. There is a certain amount of tension between what has been created by chance and what has been controlled.

Since making Forms of Control I have been playing around with the relationships between objects and how they might relate to the architecture of a space. At the moment I am working towards a solo show at Harrington Mill Studios in Long Eaton in April. It’s often the contrast in works that draws me in, between things that are given and withheld or perfect and imperfect; like an object that is beautiful but a bit dirty or something tactile that is a bit tacky, things that draw you in but push you away at the same time.

I come from Nottingham and studied at Trent for my BA, but I’m currently studying for my Masters in Fine Art Practice at the Glasgow School of Art - a massive luxury, as I can spend all of my time in my practice. I am spending a lot of time reading and thinking about my work, but also taking advantage of being at school. It’s amazing to be able to borrow equipment, attend life drawing classes and use the print and casting rooms – it’s overwhelming. Most of the time my work confuses me a bit, but there are moments of clarity. I don’t think things are supposed to be in black and white. I mess around with things I like but what I am thinking about is how to pull at the edges of the space in which we exist; somewhere between empiricism and rationalism.

Beth has a solo show from 15 April to 6 May at Harrington Mill Studios, Long Eaton. If you’re in the capital between 25 May and 23 June you can also see her work in Odds Against Tomorrow, at the Bearspace Gallery, Deptford.

Beth Shapeero website

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