I make small-scale objects in bone china occasionally displayed with mixed media components. My artistic practice is a fusion of influences stemming from the still life painting genre, cabinets of curiosities and collage. I collect natural materials from local woodlands and man-made objects from a wide range of sources, which are then transformed, altered and restaged. These objects fuel my interest in the relationships between disharmony and ambiguity on the one hand and stillness and calm on the other. Experimenting with materials is of great interest to me. I combine different techniques to discover new possibilities. Depending on what outcome I want to achieve, I cast, stain, hand build or alter the findings to create one-off pieces. I enjoy creating ambiguous gatherings and conversations and playing with unlikely mixes of surfaces, colour and compositions. As a recipient of a Creative Wales Award in 2015 funded by the Arts Council of Wales, I travelled to Japan to experience Japanese culture and to receive Ikebana lessons, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, in Tokyo. This experience has encouraged me to examine the selection and arrangement of objects and explore the use of colour in my practice.
An essay by David Whiting for National Touring Solo Exhibition Catalogue.
The Language of Clay: Still, 2017.
Eve Hesse, Gillian Lowndes, Jacki Parry, Neil Brownsword, Joseph Beuys, Rachel Whiteread, Anne Gibbs; a diverse group of artists perhaps, but all have explored with great delicacy and sensitivity the wonders of the familiar, the charge of objects seen and felt around us. It is about corporeal potency, a rich transformation involving sensory properties full of visual suggestion. It also strikes me that, to use a phrase favoured by the late poet Geoffrey Hill, such work is about the power of ‘expressiveness’ in art, not about the comparative insularity of ‘self-expression’. That is to say, in Gibbs’ case, such work goes beyond the purely autobiographical, though it does touch on our collective response to what is around us, the strata of meanings in the physical layers of our environment and the furniture of our lives.
Clay is a highly responsive and malleable medium which can bind together (literally and metaphorically) any number of other raw and created components. Gibbs’ sculptural collages are still highly personal, but in the sense that they deal with artefacts that connect with us all, they salvage things from our own shared experience and histories. There is a level of familiarity about her imagery and what she trawls, an intimacy about her choice of form and materials. Her use of clay, notably bone china, with other items, found or made, is also a trigger of recognition and memory. Different fragments are transmuted as she binds them together in work that goes beyond any superficial ‘style'. It is given a deeper sense of texture, a fertility, through the eclectic nature of the objects she utilises and improvises. They needle her inventive imagination, and they needle ours.
The natural and the human-made, both the valued and the discarded, are bound into Gibbs' own resourceful world of stitching, threading, piercing and joining, where every act of making, of construction and piecing together, is also an important part of her philosophy. It is just as much about the process. The fragile nature of this process adds to its intimacy, another quality she has in common with the other artists I mention. It is a gently regenerative creativity, this bricolage of pieces reevaluated and remade. Gibbs is artist as retriever, but also as provocateur, in her understated way pricking at our consciousness, making us think afresh about the fabric of our interior and exterior worlds. Like Rachel Whiteread’s sculpture, this is an art of the human imprint, about the ghost or residue of our presence and activity. Her sculptures have potency because they are about a kind of interaction, not only between artist and object, but between their constituent elements. They evoke different human rituals, playfully reconfiguring and subverting the often familiar and ordinary into something other-worldly. Her work becomes strangely talismanic, triggering association, a surrealism of the everyday, grounded in fact in our own close experience.
In her Crossing Boundaries installation of 2015, there were casts that resembled party-like food moulds, there were charred pin forms, utensils harnessed with thread, a sprig of lichen bonded to a twig, suggestive of a bonsai-like still life. The presentation evoked the layout and various tools of table ceremony, the colours uncannily bright and festive. Gibbs’ most recent work continues this sense of studied placement and arrangement, a sense of relationships no doubt deepened by her recent time in Japan, where the sense of poise and the interconnectedness of things comes out in the Japanese approach to objects and spatial harmonies, concentrated and expressed in daily ritual and display.
Gibbs' intensely focused explorations go beyond the purely conceptual. This is a sculpture that is felt, visually tactile, in its different textures and surfaces, and where colour too is sensual, even evoking qualities of taste and smell. These are sculptures of reconstitution, taken from landscape and seascape, the urban and the domestic, and on the evidence here, more distant, imaginary hinterlands. They are given new frisson because of the eclectic dialogues and narratives that Gibbs opens up for us, what the art critic Robert Hughes would have called ‘play-off’. These become a domestic tableaux of another kind, work that reminds us that nothing in our complex, sometimes hidden and always extraordinary surroundings can be taken for granted.
David Whiting, 2016, Art critic and writer