Flora Gare

Flora Gare willow horse, Flora Gare and children When I was young by Flora Gare
Lightfestival by Flora Gare
Inhale, exhale by Flora Gare

Hampshire-based sculptor Flora Gare makes delicate suspended structures which explore ideas about transience, memory and the passing of time. She works using a variety of materials – fibre optics, nylon threads, copper wire, resins, acetates – and has recently started incorporating old family photographs into her work. ‘I want to create the illusion of a solid volume in space, but to define the form using unexpectedly insubstantial, light-weight materials’, she says.


Your first degree was in fine art, what made you decide to specialise in sculpture for your MA?

I realised that I was interested in form when I was doing life-drawing classes. I found I was more interested in making the body as three-dimensional as possible rather than concerned about line or texture – I just wanted to describe the body three dimensionally. Also I think my father had some influence on me – he was a cabinet maker and violin-maker, and I grew up wanting to construct things.

What are your sources of inspiration?

My early pieces made from copper wire were based on the body. I felt that the copper wires were like veins and arteries inside the body and so I tried to replicate that sense of detailed patterning. Other early pieces were inspired by road and star maps, which I plotted on the ground and then suspended thin threads from the ceiling to the ground to make three-dimensional forms.

My first thread piece, which I made for St Andrew’s church in Farnham, was directly inspired by a spider’s web I saw in the church window. It was a continuation of the previous copper wire work, but this time using fine thread instead of copper wire and inspired by a spider’s web rather than the body.

Your work seems very varied, are there any particular themes linking the pieces?

I think my interest in light and the transient runs through most of my work. My pieces made out of suspended threads or wires have a temporary feel to them and are meant to define a see-through, almost ghostly, form in space. They also have a strong element of movement – as you walk round the pieces the threads seem to shimmer as they catch the light at different angles. In my newer pieces I have started using old photographs printed on to cloth or acetate, printing them in varying strengths to give an impression of fading and disappearance, and this again stems from my interest in the transient and the passing of time.

What materials do you most enjoy working with?

When I was at art school I worked with lots of heavy materials, doing metalwork and welding, but then I started to wonder if sculptures could be light and delicate rather than the massy objects normally associated with sculpture. I started experimenting with fine materials, trying to create large volumes out of light-weight, transparent materials. And now all my work is about light so consequently I use materials that hold or reflect light – transparent or semi-translucent materials. For example, I’ve made some pieces using fibre optics, but I also use nylon threads and copper wires in my suspended pieces which reflect the light.

More recently I’ve been working with resins which distort light in a different way. I’ve also experimented with printing photographs onto acetate which give the repeated images a type of 3D holographic effect. I’ve even worked with water – last year I created a series of ‘river banners’ a commission as part of Contemporary Art in the Surrey Landscape. Printed cloths were anchored under running water in the river Mole. It was about the movement of the fabric and looking at the images distorted through the water.

Can you explain your process of working?

Usually a material sparks off my imagination and then an idea evolves out of it. The best pieces are when the material and idea work together equally. Sometimes I have a complete vision of what I want to make with one piece inspiring the next one. But often when I start work on a new project my approach is more playful and experimental – I have to wait to see where I will go and what will happen. I do make sketches and maquettes before embarking on the larger work, that’s very important. I prefer processes that are quick as I am always teaching and involved in other projects and my focus is interrupted.

Do you enjoy working to commission?

There are some disadvantages to it as people see old work and want you to recreate something similar when actually you have moved on to exploring new themes/materials in your work. But the constraints commissions impose on your work often force you to do something new and can be very challenging. For example, I made a series of photographic wall panels for a school in Dover, but they had to be both tactile and child-friendly and so I came up with the idea of photographs behind giant bubbles of resin, like looking through water. It was the first time I had ever used resin and I was really pleased with the distorted, under-water effect it created and the smooth jewel-like surface and am now experimenting with resin to develop new pieces. Commissions are a good way to get your work seen by a larger audience and I like the idea of people interacting with my work and seeing how they engage with it.

How does your teaching work feed into your practice?

I do a lot of school projects, and often use wire and willow as they are very malleable, quite cheap and you can use them to make big, dramatic shapes fairly easily. The schools projects are really good fun, and I love seeing the children being creative. For the Theatre of the Making event on Thursday 28 May I will be working with families to make copper wire moving figures inspired by the Olympics. The copper wire connects to my work and introduces the idea of a 2D drawing developing into a 3D object, which is how I used the road and star maps to make my own forms.
My workshops help to fund my time in the studio, but it’s important to find the right balance between the two.

Interview by Diana Woolf