Andy Holden-The Cookham Erratics review by Sacha Waldron
The Cookham Erratics, Andy Holden’s knitted sculptures made of foam and wool, at works/projects look like they should smell a bit swampy. Or less exotic perhaps, more pond like. At the very least a little damp, sodden mittens drying on a radiator.
The main gallery is filled with the cacophony of six sculptures jibber-jabbering away. Arranged on varying height grey squat plinths, the woolen jumper-rocks talk away to themselves, to us even, but not to each other. They are stuck inside their monologues, Samuel Beckett objects, part of the play but truculently not playing ‘properly’, awkward and obtuse. Each different shape is based on stones and pebbles collected by the artist from Cookham Churchyard where Stanley Spencer painted The Resurrection, Cookham in the 1920’s. One is crab-like, hunkered down as if under a rock and I hear it say ‘Days of Judgement’‘. This one tiny phrase is part of a much longer narrative about a man who, in his youth, would throw stones at Stanley Spencer as he painted. The ‘dear little crab’ from Alice Through the Looking Glass could just as well repeat that ominous snippet over and over like a not-quite survivor of Oranges are not the Only Fruit. As I listen further it talks of being a poet and of falling in love with someone much older at the village school.
Other shapes are miniature megaliths in greys, blacks and browns. The tallest is a shark fin or shrunken cliff and I stand under its curved overhang to better hear it talk about John Dunn, The Pilgrims Progress, blood, fleas and intercourse, about the Holy Trininties, Helisport and The Aegean Sea. Suddenly it says something about the film Fahrenheit 911 and it really is a cliff with the experience of a hundred people tramping and chattering all over it, their conversations seeping inside by osmosis. The micro-vignettes you pick out when you lean in closer to listen are not as interesting as the few words or phrases you catch as you stand between them or walk about. This allows you to create your own characters from the works, attach stories and personality. I surreptitiously give one of them a rub, as I would a cat’s neck.
In the office area of the gallery there is a maquette of the larger installation, the large woolen objects are shrunken, shiny ceramic. An ipod attached to the white plinth plays the soundtrack from all six sculptures and above hangs a drawing/collage. Images of classical marble figures and disembodied heads loom around the sculpture drawings, cartoon haunters from Scooby Doo.
The strength of The Cookham Erratics lies in the showing of these three stages of sculptural process. The different iterations and mediums alter interpretation entirely. The large yellow/orange woolen crab talking about love becomes, in its miniature ceramic form, a bird skull specimen from a Natural History Museum drawer. In its pen and ink drawn state it is an attitudey comic duck head. Abstract but suggestive forms, overlaid with narrative and voice are married to the viewer’s imagination and allow for readings that are both delightful and baffling.
I leave through the main space and one of the sculptures, a shy clam shell or rock pool cavern mutters away, ‘the image disbanded’..erratics disbanded’. I shut the door behind me as another dark pebble says something about a Fish Slice.