Plausible Objects / Difficult Things
Alison Pilkington

A Little Hollow
With my hands cupping
I make a little hollow.
A hollow to nest in,
a hollow for dreams,
a hollow to dance in,
and lost things.
In this hollow I hold
my hopes and dreams.
Turning in my fingers,
slipping through the light.

Much of my work originates with drawing. It is the genesis of my ideas for paintings but it is coupled with my writing –small pieces of prose and poetry that I use to explore my ideas. I consider my paintings akin to visual prose. I express myself through painting but I juxtapose my paintings with titles or poems that I consider extensions of the ideas I am exploring. 

With Sculpture That Will Never Get Made it was not so much an idea passed over but more my own toying with the idea of making sculptures. The paintings that I have made are my personal expressions about the possibility and limits of object making. I had read Heidegger’s ‘thing theory’ a long time ago when I was researching for my PhD. At that time, I was more interested in exploring the medium specificity of painting and the inherent thingness of the material of paint as a form of expression and vehicle for ideas. Does the material paint become a ‘thing’ or does it always retain a ‘thingness’ to it as the artist grabbles with it and its many possibilities? Images and ideas can become unstable for the artist and for the viewer. Paint can create that instability in how it is handled. I suppose some of those philosophical notions seep through into the work in allegorical forms. Objects are unstable, paint makes things slightly strange – broken down perhaps, or uncanny. For me, my handling of the material of paint is at the heart of how the viewer responds to the image. I am always drawn back to painting to express my ideas so the paintings explore my own doubts and fear of failure possibly, lack of courage and knowledge of things to do with sculpture. All in a playful way, I hope, for the viewer! In this painting the sculpture/figure object is unstable, slightly leaning or unsure of itself. It is also exposed in a wilderness landscape. 

Lord of the Hollow is a birdlike creature propped on a ledge or a house structure. I wanted to make it comic and absurd and ‘strutting its stuff’. Characters that I have developed in paintings frequently emerge and re-emerge in other paintings. Sometimes they are secondary characters in the background or in the distance. At other times they take centre stage like in this painting. Lord of the Hollow is one of a series of paintings and drawings that I am currently working on for a show in 2021. I started exploring this idea of ‘hollows’ about two years ago. I am thinking about ‘hollows’ as visual and psychological spaces that we might inhabit. They contain spaces and ‘not-quite’ creatures. I also consider these hollows to be alternative narratives or alternative zones or spaces where things are happening simultaneously.

I make small maquettes that I use for painting but never large sculpture. I seem to have been asked about this a lot recently but my ideas seem to naturally flow through the medium and the material of painting. I use paper collages and little maquettes as sources and preparatory material. I have been making little models for many years for paintings. I have shown them in exhibitions. For now, I prefer to keep them in the studio for reference but I may expand on them into larger sculptural forms and site-specific pieces in the future – hence my anxiety around sculpture! The cut-out shape is transformed through the painting process and can represent various things. The shadows, for me, always seem to represent an excess or an ‘other’, that space or state that is just outside of reach and or seemingly inaccessible, like the unconscious. I try to keep it open-ended for the viewer but for me it is like peeping into my unconscious. It’s also about cutting through modernist tropes around flatness and surfaces of painting albeit in a playful way.

Image 1. Sculpture that Will Never Get Made, 2020, oil on gesso board, 24×18 cm. Photo the artist. © the artist.
Image 2. Lord of the Hollow, 2019, oil on canvas, 120×100 cm. Photo the artist. © the artist.
Image 3. Wanderer, 2018, oil on canvas, 25×30 cm. Photo the artist. © the artist.

© Alison Pilkington and Frances Woodley

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