UPON REFLECTION 2020 SARAH MISSELBROOK – £16.99/16.99€ + p&p
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Above shows sample spreads from Upon Reflection 2020 publication as pdf flipbook.
A reflective process looking back over 20 years of the artist’s multidisciplinary practice. The book presents observational sketches, photography of processes and performances to camera, gallery-based exhibitions, site-specific sculptural installations and the written word. From clinical spaces to burnt forest environment, the visual journey through the publication shows a migration from on to off-grid existence and a closeness to the cycle of life and death.
- Softback : 88 pages, full colour
- ISBN: 978-0-9565475-1-4
- Product Dimensions : 220 x 220 x 6.5mm
- Publisher: Grish Art, First Edition, October 5th 2020
- Language: English
“and always at the centre of the work is the human bone, whether it’s spines growing from the shiny body of a shell-like incubus, or the suggestion of injury or muscular spasm, voicing the status of humanities threatened by prejudicial aggression. Misselbrook’s works are personal, relevant, challenging, inspiring and haunting.”
James Robinson, artist & director of Art & Design at NLCS.
“Misselbrook is asking questions of her audience, and herself. When you enter into a dialogue with the artwork and the artist, medium and media, senses and matter, the narrative laid out by the artist is no longer only ‘hers’ but ‘ours’.”
Maija Liepins, artist.
“a ‘journey’ that references educational and religious institutions, interior and exterior spaces, bodily terrors and dream-like nature.”
Nick Stewart, artist.
by Maija Liepins
I first became aware of Sarah Misselbrook and her work when she made an application to CAS for a two week artist residency to take place online. CAS, otherwise known as Chapel Arts Studios, is a contemporary art organisation in North Hampshire, England. I started at CAS as an Associate Artist, I am now a manager there, and an independent artist, poet, and creativity guide.
For CAS’ artist residency BlockChain 2018 Misselbrook submitted an image of ‘Affirmation’ with her application along with her statement of dissent, as per our request. Sarah was selected by curator Susan Francis to join one of seven pairs of artists collaborating through a dialogue of visual contemporary art and social media.
The photograph submitted by Sarah shows the artist standing in a gallery with her arms outstretched, her chest bound in bandages and constricted by a ‘body cage’ or armament that covers her mouth and encases her head and torso with a metallic ripple. Her gaze is straight on and direct. The artist is holding a knife and fork on the end of long poles that extend her ‘wing span’ by 2 — but I didn’t notice the cutlery at first. It took me a while to realise that this image is, for me, less about silence than it is deeply resonant of hunger, wild appetites, and socially conditioned restraint.
In ‘Women Who Run With Wolves’, Estes explains that,
‘cultural—that is, super-ego—overlays and injunctions, are not experienced by women as emanating from the soul-Self psyche, but are felt as if they come from “out there” from some other source which is not innate. The cultural/super-ego overlays can be very positive or very detrimental.’
Spending time with Sarah and her work, I experience art in the dialogue and the meeting. When I read this book for the first time I found I had tears welling in my heart, ready to burst the banks of my eyelids. There is beauty in this quest. Transformation. In the land she stands. Tears of Love. Tears of beauty. Tears of Life itself. “I am trying to connect with you.” Nature inside and outside. Misselbrook lays bare to me the sensations and questions and rhythms of the forest and I recognise them as my questions. I don’t mean in a possessive way, I am not laying claim to her territories. Rather, she is extending that long-reaching fork so I may taste the fruits I couldn’t reach.
‘Like the tree, growing in a too small space, shaped by what the conditions allow, imbibe, alchemise. There is no separation between me and my environment. Together, this is our moment. We are. This is. I am. We are this.’
Misselbrook’s digital residency as part of CAS’ Blockchain Dissent Art 2018 culminated in a film titled ‘Between Spaces’ filmed in her studio (the forest) in a valley in Catalunya, Spain. What I didn’t know then was that the questions evident in Misselbrook’s performative solitary practice are integral to her approach and were to feed unexpectedly into what I was exploring at CAS. In earlier years as an Associate Artist, and project manager, I had begun an investigation into dissent as a potential emerging methodology. As such, I’ve come to understand it as a dialogic and communally-reflective creative practice. I was about to publish an essay in Chapters of Dissent Vol 1.1 ‘Dissent: a Creative Practice’ (but Sarah didn’t know that yet). And when I accepted Sarah’s invitation to write a foreword for this book I didn’t know quite how resonant her work would become, enriching and breathing more life into the conversational poetry we began to exchange in 2019.
Being with Sarah’s work, not just looking but really ‘being me’ with it, there exists both the discoveries of new meanings—such as those I pen and offer to her, and also the interweaving of text and images in the pages of this book.
Studying further photographs of Sarah’s installation ‘Affirmation’ (pg10) the ‘body cage’ spoke to me of my experience of internalising social constructs and the physical toll it takes when they are not life sustaining and in tune with our human needs and the health of the ecosystems on which we depend. The parable offered by Sarah Misselbrook on page 8 draws attention to the knife and fork in her hands which I had not noticed before. I thought Sarah was posing or at least performing. No, perhaps she is simply reaching out to us.
With her work and indeed this book, Misselbrook is reaching, asking questions of her audience and herself. We journey with the artist — and that is how I arrive here, having responded to a question: “Can you hear me?”
Engaged and engaging with one another via Instagram and then Whatsapp, the year 2019 brought Sarah and I together in a spontaneous collaboration while we were both contributing to The Laboratory of Dissent 2.0 ‘Inside/Outside‘. We can use the context of dissent to remember to ask of ourselves and each other in all our interactions ‘what is your no? what’s your yes? what is happening in the space between us? What can you do to honor yourself, your environment, and your relations, especially when that means acting or responding differently?’ These questions help us find alternatives to prescribed notions and are especially pertinent for the relationships we collectively find ourselves in, in relation to other living things in our non-human ecology such as our planet itself and our respective beloved forests.
“Being real, doesn’t mean being reckless, it means allowing ‘la vos mitologica’, (the mythological voice, to speak. One does this by shutting off the ego for a while and letting that which wishes to speak, speak.”
This is how Sarah and I have been writing to one another. It is an honour and a delight to have connected bravely, reflectively, and creatively with Sarah Misselbrook as we each weave our own grotesque and beautiful personal mythologies which live and breathe, in dialogue, ‘behind’ our artwork offering (we hope) sustenance to ‘others’.
As collaborator, responder, reader, witness, interpreter, critic, or an ‘other’, when you enter into a dialogue with the artwork, medium and media, senses and matter, the narrative laid out by the artist is no longer only ‘hers’ but ‘ours’. As the words and images in this book pierce your heart there is no discernible difference between the two, the work becomes something else in the encounter with it. A new event in the dialogue between forest, self, I and ‘other’, creation and destruction.
UK orders from October Books
To purchase your copy of Upon Reflection 2020 from October Books in Southampton, either by post to a UK address or in store collection, please complete the following order form.
Address: 189 Portswood Rd, Portswood,
Southampton SO17 2NF, UK
Hours: 9:30 – 5:30PM
Phone: +44 23 8058 1030
To purchase your copy of Upon Reflection 2020 from outside the UK, please complete the following order form. We will then contact you with a full p&p quotation.
10/19/2020 at 6:45 pm
it looks like a wonderful book, a feast for the eyes,spirit and imagination, well done sarah what a magnificent achievement, i look forward to receiving a copy soon xxx
10/19/2020 at 6:52 pm
Thank you so much Anna, what wonderful and motivating words xx
10/20/2020 at 11:08 am
I am always fascinated by Sarah’s work, and look forward to exploring her process further through this book.
10/22/2020 at 2:09 pm
Wonderful, thank you Peter. Enjoy!
10/27/2020 at 7:31 pm
My copy of the book has arrived from October Books. It is a truly beautiful work, showing the breadth and freshness of Sarah’s practice.The book does justice to a consistently inspiring body of work created over the last two decades or more. If I could recommend it to everybody, I would.
10/28/2020 at 4:54 pm
Peter, your response to the work and connection with the book genuinely fuels the desire to explore further the preoccupations of my practice. Thank you for your support and encouragement.
11/09/2020 at 1:31 pm
When I finished reading Sarah’s book my eyes were filled with tears. There is something so special about having her poems running throughout and alongside the artwork like a river of commentary which describes concepts in a much more organic and immersive way.
Throughout the book I was finding it hard to pinpoint the emotions I was experiencing. I realised that it’s the same feeling I get when I drift down cold rivers, swim in the sea, sit watching a fire, walk through the woods foraging for mushrooms and berries or digging soil in the garden to grow vegetables. It’s this comforting emotion that makes me feel small, content and fully accepting of the fact that I will be part of the soil and the sea one day.
I am very grateful to have such a beautiful book that I can look through when I’m not able to experience these things in nature directly. It’s not only mindful and relaxing to read through but a comfort. No matter how divisive the world becomes I can remind myself that one day we’ll all be turned to dust or soil. The world will keep turning when humans have gone and ultimately the earth will be turned to ash too.
I try to find peace and joy within the relationship between this sadness and contentment.
So I’ll keep floating, searching for the ‘other’ too.
12/04/2020 at 5:22 pm
Wow! Thank you Caroline, what an amazing response to the book. This year especially, the thought of you connecting with the images and words so strongly is such a comfort. S x
12/04/2020 at 10:11 am
The October Books event last night was an absolute tonic in these strange, disconnected times. Much love + respect to all of those involved who brought this creative endeavour into fruition.
12/04/2020 at 5:21 pm
Thank you so much for taking the time to join us, your question was particularly profound, challenging and thought provoking. Much love x
02/12/2021 at 8:49 pm
We slowly savored Sarah’s book at my house over the course of a couple weeks, and what a treat it was! I wasn’t familiar with Sarah’s artwork beforehand and the topics she covers such as the devastation of our natural environment and rigid social constructs really rang true for me. What especially surprised me about her book was her writing. Reading these pages felt like having a conversation with the artist and it was a breath of fresh air during these trying times. Thank you Sarah for sharing your work and words with the world.
02/14/2021 at 5:46 pm
Wow! Thank you so much Amelia for your feedback and for the strong connection with the work and the words. Such a motivating response to the book, I hope we keep in touch! Sarah
05/17/2021 at 8:09 pm
I am familiar with Sarah’s work since 2010, yet I hadn’t had the chance to experience it in its complexity and scale of ideas before the arrival of this book. I was fascinated and moved by the honesty and the authenticity of her practice, by the ways her poems interact with the imagery in the pages, by the ways the subjects flow from personal to public.
05/18/2021 at 2:46 pm
Thank you so much Nina, for your insightful feedback and comments on the book and the work.