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site specific installation
Tatton Park Mansion 2019
silk velvet, reclaimed military barbed wire

Susie MacMurray has an uncanny knack of going to the heart of the matter. Her work is somehow immediately evocative, reeling in the viewer to contemplate a sense of place, a feeling of loss, and a desire to touch. Her unusual combinations of materials and subject matter, in site-specific installations, are always intriguing and poetic. They provoke an interaction with the viewer, which draws on both physical and cultural associations.

In ‘Gathering,’ designed specifically to hang from the circular piercing under the rotunda of the staircase hall at Tatton Park, MacMurray returns to her constant theme of the ephemeral nature of life. To create this installation, she has worked regularly with small groups of volunteers, to hand sew tiny, luxurious, red velvet, ball-like elements, which she has then assembled to cascade in different configurations from the edge of the opening. The overall effect is of an eerie, dripping canopy of red velvet Spanish moss.

The luxury and softness of the deep red silk velvet, is impaled by protruding lengths of barbed wire, used by the MoD to train soldiers going to the Falklands, Kosovo and Afghanistan. The use of a material associated with conflict can be read as alluding to the narrative of cancer as a battle. This bringing together of such diametrically opposed materials lies at the core of MacMurray’s approach. She enjoys “the conversations between not always expected combinations of materials, or materials in contexts in which you are not expecting to see them.” Such juxtapositions are simultaneously appealing and disturbing. MacMurray works with and through materials, using them as a way of thinking about and expressing more conceptual ideas.

MacMurray is no stranger to loss; her husband died very young and very rapidly of cancer. In ‘Gathering,’ she examines this experience. The red silk she perceives as sensual, positive, bodily and precious, expressing love and desire and the living of life to the full. Yet the velvet impaled by the barbed wire is strangely beautiful and evocative. “Your life,” she explains, “gets pierced by this sudden ordeal.” The hospice helps by gathering people in its fold. Indeed many of the volunteers involved in the making of ‘Gathering,’ have been helped by the Hospice in this enfolding, supportive way, which MacMurray expresses in the gathering together of the red velvet elements.

MacMurray uses all manner of unlikely objects from rubber tubing, to barbed wire, to hair and wax, via a range of textiles and cords, combining them in strange assortments, to make them things of beauty and resonance. Her work is both solid and ethereal. She looks at the ephemeral nature of life. At life and loss, the soft, imperfect, human body that despite its imperfections is so glorious. She entices the visitor into contemplating the fragility of life, but also its joys.

Corrine Julius
June 2019

Susie MacMurray was invited to create this work to both celebrate and highlight the 20th anniversary of the Art Fair, which was established in 1999 to raise funds for the East Cheshire Hospice.

To purchase a piece of Gathering visit gatheringattatton
All funds raised go to East Cheshire Hospice.