Bowls in a Feragile World
8 February – 4 March 2023
Artist Debra Shipley shares some further reflections on her Bowls in a Fragile World exhibition…
"My interest in bowls has spanned a period of over 50 years. I have a small personal collection which, for me, represents people around the globe. I originally studied Anthropology and the ways in which people interact with their environment is something which continues to fascinate me. The bowl is a practical shape originally created by people using materials which were local to them - wood, stone, clay, grass, leather; later metal, glass, plastic. My bowls are made from material locally available to me in 21st century England - junk mail, discarded envelopes, packaging.
My bowls have no practical purpose but they will, I hope, take on a motivational one. Our ability to care for ourselves, both individually and globally, is fundamental to both our own survival and that of our planet. In many cultures, worldwide and over millions of years, the bowl has been linked to daily food consumption - the very basis of human survival. That survival - the ability for everyone in the world to daily consume a bowl of food - is now being challenged on an unprecedented scale with the onset of climate change.
For my art I have focussed on the basic form of the food bowl, a shape universally recognised, and I have used that shape to symbolise human need. I have created my bowls using materials which are themselves part of the problem - the rubbish which we are daily putting into our refuse bins. I have also included dead leaves, petals and other organic matter, reminders of our natural environment and how vulnerable it is. Like our environment, my bowls are very fragile - without care they will disintegrate.
At first, when preparing the junk mail and envelopes to make the paper pulp used to create the bowls, I very carefully removed the little plastic windows from the envelopes along with any other bits of laminate. I tried to select discarded paper which had the least ink printing and which didn't seem to have any extra coating. So, I was truly shocked to find tiny bits of plastic imbedded in my final work. Look carefully at my bowls and you will see dots of colour and typeface - evidence of inks and coatings. You will also see tiny flashes of reflection as the little plastic pieces catch the light. Initially, I tried to remove the bits of unwanted plastic during the making process, but I quickly realised that removing them wasn’t easy and the removal itself was damaging. This became the the underpinning narrative of my work. A metaphor for the pollution in our shared rivers, seas, earth and sky along with the realisation of the difficulty of its removal.
Our global environment and the means to support ourselves has become threatened by our human actions. Pollution on a global scale has corrupted our ecosystem and we are facing enormous problems to rectify the damage we have collectively created. The poorest on the planet will suffer first, but ultimately we are all now at fundamental risk with climate change bringing fires, floods and inevitably famine. My hope is that when you look at my bowls you will take time to think about this and take whatever action you are able.
Other work in this exhibition expresses my love and appreciation of the beauty I see in nature all around me. This beauty fuels my desire to try to speak up on behalf of nature and to do whatever I can to raise awareness that there is everything to lose."
The urgent need to protect our planet for the future is being put in the spotlight in the latest exhibition at Norwich Cathedral’s Hostry.
Bowls in a Fragile World – a show by Norwich-based artist Debra Shipley – will run from Wednesday 8 February until Saturday 4 March. The exhibition will be open seven days a week from 10am to 4pm (3pm on Sundays) and entry is free.
Debra’s paintings and three-dimensional works aim to be beautiful but thought-provoking and draw into sharp focus how manmade pollution on a global scale is threatening the world’s eco system.
Norwich Cathedral Hostry will present new work by The Arborealists and guests on the broad-brush theme of trees and the sacred. It will aim to articulate the profound, spiritual essence of sacred ideas and sites through the significance and emotive power of trees.
Tim Craven, The Arborealists Founder.
Steve Baker - Matilda Bevan - Carolyn Blake - James Colman - Gary Cook - Jane Courquin - Frank Creber - Graham Crowley - Mike Dodd - Ferha Farooqui - Alex Faulkner - Richard Gilbert - Deborah Goatley Birch - Elizabeth Hannaford - Michael Johnson - Ursula Leach - Charles McCarthy - Flora McLachlan - Ange Mullen Bryan - Melanie Rose - Angela Rumble - Frances Ryan - Melissa Scott Miller - Colin Self - Gigi Sudbury - Peter Ursem