'The Empty Nest' by Tamsyn Challenger
This is the first sculpture in a new body of work by Tamsyn Challenger addressing female sexuality, specifically Challenger's own, in a series that will draw upon her recent history.
'The Empty Nest' is part of the 'After you.' works, and sees the chronology of intimate relationship working backwards to end in the 'Before you.' series. It sees a departure from previous work, in that it is confessional and personal. However, this particular 'After you.' sculpture also speaks to environmental and socio-political concerns, referencing species dwindling after loss of habitat due to human encroachment, the make-shift housing for displaced populations and identification of mental illness.
On a visit to Royal Holloway, College Curator Laura MacCulloch introduced Challenger to the work of Christiana Herringham, whose story has impacted on the making of this particular sculpture. A Victorian patron, female suffrage supporter and copyist, Lady Herringham's legacy of art forms a core part of the University's collection. One of the paintings in the Picture Gallery is of her two children, the oldest of which died at a very young age. Tragically, Christiana ended her days in various asylums.
'The Empty Nest' is made from found/gathered material (courtesy of HackLab in Edinburgh) and comprises of fire alarm cable twisted in a chaotic physical incantation reminiscent of basket weaving, symbolic of activies used to occupy the mentally ill in asylums.
This initial 'scratch' sculpture is being displayed to accompany the David Vilaseca Memorial Lecture Tamsyn Challenger was invited to give this year, entitled 'On Truth'. It was be held in the Picture Gallery on 14 November and the sculpture can be seen during Public Opening Hours until mid-February.