Susan Stockwell

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border, colonialism, environment, globalisation
Visual Arts (drawing, installation art, painting, sculpture)
Asia, Eastern, Europe, Western
Taiwan, England (UK)
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December 17, 2007
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Susan Stockwell is an artist who makes sculpture, installation, drawings and films. She is based in London and exhibits in museums and galleries all over the world. Her exhibitions include, ‘Susan Stockwell Selected Works’ at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, ‘This and That’ an exhibition forming part of an artist in reside at the Shenghua Art Centre in Nanjing, China and she will be showing with Patrick Heide Contemporary Art at the Miami Art Fair in December. She was artist in residence at Taipei Artists Village, Taiwan as part of a Visiting Arts programme of cultural exchange between Britain and Taiwan. She has taught extensively in the UK and America and is presently a part-time Professor of Fine Art in the school of Architecture and Visual Art at The University of East London.
Susan Stockwell (born in 1962, Manchester, UK; lives in London) creates delicately provocative works in sculpture, drawing, collage, installation and film that transform the overlooked materials of everyday life. She studied at Sheffield Hallam University and the Royal College of Art. Her solo exhibitions include ‘This and That’ at the Shenghua Art Centre, Nanjing, in 2006 and ‘Susan Stockwell, Selected Works’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A), London, in 2001. Her recent group exhibitions include Patrick Heide Contemporary Art’s presentation at the Miami Art Fair 2007 and ‘Mapping the Imagination’ at the V&A October 2007 – April 26th 2008. She has received awards and travel grants from the British Council and inIVA. Her work is held in museum collections around the world, including the V&A, Shenghua Art Centre and Binghamton Art Museum, New York. She is part-time Professor of Fine Art in the School of Architecture and Visual Art at the University of East London.
Stockwell explains that her practice is ‘primarily concerned with transformation’. Her work comes into being intuitively and experimentally through a practice in which process, subject matter and materials are equal elements interwoven to create a multiplicity of meaning. She is influenced by artists such as Eva Hesse and Meret Oppenheim who interrupted the formal regimes of the Western fine art canon by introducing materials and practices traditionally belittled by their association with domestic, feminine realms. She shares with these artists an impulse to reveal matter spilling from its formal containers – whether its industrial packaging, cultural value or linguistic identity. In defiance of hierarchical and fixed taxonomies, Stockwell’s practice seamlessly conjoins the apparently distinct categories of craft and ‘fine art’, evanescence and monumentality, waste matter and high production, sensual beauty and political critique. Similarly works such as the giant paper Pom Pom (2002) have a fragile, almost accidental, quality that belies their intensely considered, meticulous construction.
Stockwell employs the disposable industrial and domestic materials that pervade everyday life. She works most often with paper, but rarely in the standard form of the blank, virgin page that seems to wait expectantly for our mark. Rather, the paper she employs is heavily inscribed with its intended use - maps, dress-making patterns, toilet tissue, books, calligraphy paper - or a past use that designates it as waste - coffee filters, tea bags, torn packaging. She chooses these materials because, in her words, they ‘act as ready-made signifiers’ which she can sculpt and combine in ways that delicately reveal their obscured politics and hidden beauty.
Pattern of the World (2000), for instance, presents a map of the world painted in tea over a paper dress-making pattern. The little luxuries of the traditional English domestic scene are reassembled in a vision of unexpected violence, not least because once scaled against the map, the dressmaking pins that hold the paper pattern together symbolise the vast tears in fabric of the planet made by the forces of global trade and imperial acquisition. At the same time, as a stain over the globe, the innocent-looking cup of “English” tea is re-associated with its role in the making of the British Empire. Indeed, while Stockwell’s series of maps created from materials such as rubber tyres and tea bags are ‘accumulations of the debris of everyday life’ they also:
""conjure up additional implications of accumulation, the strongest being the desire to appropriate everything from luxury goods to land to people. And in mapping out her chosen locations, Stockwell reminds us of the cost of this far-flung impulse."" (Anat Rosenburg, Art on Paper, July/August 2000)
Intriguingly, Stockwell’s manner of revealing domestic objects to be complex symbols in the grand history of trade, nationhood and imperialism is one that also potentially reveals women to be powerful agents in that history rather than passive participants and victims. Empire Dress (2005), for example, is a costume sculpted from maps of the British Isles in a style typical of the upper classes at the end of the Victorian era. Its symbolism is evident on close inspection: a large mark at the breast where a broach might sit is in fact a map of Manchester, the dark heart of the British Empire’s cotton industry at that time. The sculpture brings a new twist to a venerable if little-examined art historical theme that connects maps, costume, power and femininity: as Alicia Foster points out, one of the forebears of Empire Dress is the seventeenth-century Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth I in which the Queen stands triumphant in gorgeous dress over a map of England.
Stockwell manages to address both the romance and the damage of history without polarity or polemic. Instead, her response is transformative. We see this at work in ‘Paper, Steel, Paper’ (Visual Art Centre, Scunthorpe, 2006) which explored the now largely defunct industrial landscape of the North of England and the contemporary accumulation of waste. As Foster remarks on that solo exhibition:
""there is no heavy-handed message here about pollution, wastefulness, or the dark side of Western consumerism. Instead, Stockwell invites you to contemplate and consider what art might be, to look hard at the world, at what you barely notice and do not value – to find profundity and beauty there."" (Alicia Foster, ´Paper Steel Paper´ Exhibition Catalogue, 2006)
In late 2007, Visiting Arts awarded Stockwell an artist’s fellowship at Taipei Artist Village. She saw the residency as an opportunity to reflect on what she describes as issues of ‘global politics and Chinese imperialism’ embedded in the debate over whether Taiwan can and should remain independent from China. The Centre staff supported her research into Taiwan’s history by arranging access to the Department of Transport’s maps and conversations with cultural studies specialist Dr Liao Hsin-Tien. They also introduced her to a calligrapher and a tea expert and invited her to experience a Taiwanese tea ritual. In addition she toured Taipei, tracing its accelerated growth into a global city on a site where only forty years ago there were rice fields and buffalo. Taiwan, she writes, is ‘a Buddhist country and Taipei is full of temples, shrines, monks and prayers nestled in amongst a concrete jungle.’ This form of cultural and material incongruity, and the quandary of establishing a sense of place in a space whose identity is rapidly changing, drew Stockwell to develop a new body of map drawings collectively entitled Line. These works derive from her investigation into the transportation and mapping systems of Taiwan and other Asian cities, as well as her home city of London. They employ traditional craft techniques such as paper-cutting and sewing, and local materials such as rice paper, calligraphy paper and maps. As in many of her previous works, transformation is its profound theme.
Line exhibited as part of ‘Citylogues’ at the Taipei Artists’ Village Gallery from 9 November to 30 December 2007. To see and find out more about Susan Stockwell’s work, visit:
Author: Cathy Haynes


MA The Royal College of Art, London, UK
BA (Hon’s) Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Solo exhibitions:
‘Paper, Steel, Paper’ 20/21 Visual Art Centre, Scunthorpe, UK
‘This and That’ Shenghua Art Centre, Nanjing, China
‘Stitched-up: Paper and Politics’ Studio Caparrelli, London, UK
‘Text and Work’ The Gallery at The Art Institute at Bournemouth, UK
‘Coffee House’ Studio Caparrelli, London, UK
‘Susan Stockwell Installation’ Lyon and Turnbulls Auction House, Festival Exhibition, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
‘Susan Stockwell Selected Works’, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
‘Material Accomplices’ Finesilver Gallery, San Antonio, Texas, USA
‘Accumulations’ Thomas Korzelius Fine Art, New York, USA
‘Accumulations’ The Economist Plaza Gallery, London, UK
‘Embedded’ Battersea Arts Centre, London, Angel Row, Nottingham and Wrexham Arts Centre, Wrexham, Wales, UK

Group Exhibitions:
‘Citylogues’ Taipei Artist’s Village Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan,
‘Miami Art Fair’ Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, Miami, USA
‘Mapping The Imagination’ Victoria and Albert Museum, UK
‘Blind Memories’ 198 Gallery, London, UK
‘Conversations’ Ambrosino Gallery, Miami, USA
‘Pulp Fantasy’ 20/21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe, UK
‘The Biggest Draw’ Millennium Gallery, Sheffield, UK
‘Constructive Paper’ The Harley Gallery and Foundation, Nottinghamshire
‘The British are Coming’ Fiberscene, FIBERARTS, USA
‘London Art Fair’ England and Co, London, UK
‘Sartorial’ England and Co, London, UK
‘Connections’ The James Hockey Gallery, Farnham, Surrey
‘The Map is Not The Territory’ England and Co, UK
‘Sculpture a Spectator Sport’ Bryanstone School, Dorset, UK
‘Bursary 2002’ The Royal Society of British Sculptors, London, UK
‘Festival Exhibition’ Bourne Fine Art, Edinburgh Scotland, UK
‘Multi Storey’ Tart Gallery, London, UK
‘Subway Special a Democratic Platform’ Aldwych Tube Station, London, UK
‘X’hibit 99’ Battersea Arts Centre, London, UK
‘Here Artists Interventions at the Aldrich’ Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut, USA
‘Paper Spaces’ The Neuberger Museum of Art, New York, USA

Forthcoming Exhibitions:
‘Susan Stockwell’, Canary Wharf, London
‘Sharon Louden & Susan Stockwell’ Patrick Heide Contemporary Art
‘On the Map’ Sheffield Millennium Galleries, Sheffield
‘Body Space’ Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle, UK
‘Susan Stockwell’ The Art League, Houston, Texas, USA

Awards and Grants:
‘Taiwan-England Artists Fellowship Programme, Visiting Arts
‘Mapping Project’ The institute of International Visual Art (inIVA)
‘AHRC Small Grants for the Arts’
‘Research and Development Awards’ (UCCA)
‘Annie McCall Heritage Project’ European Funding Board
‘Lambeth Arts’ Development Fund,
‘Research and Development Award’, Surrey Institute of Art and Design
‘Research Sabbatical’ SIAD
‘Bursary Award’ The Royal Society of British Sculptors
‘Research and Development Award’ SIAD
‘Champions for Change Millennium Award, Peabody Trust
‘Sainsbury’s Arts Award’, Sainsbury’s Supermarket
‘Research and Development Award’ SIAD
‘The British Council Travel Award’
‘Research and Development Award’ The University of East London
‘Research and Development Award’ Wimbledon School of Art

The Guardian ‘Susan Stockwell’ Guide Preview, Robert Clark, 11th Nov
Catalogue, ‘Paper, Steel, Paper’ Susan Stockwell with accompanying essay ‘Material Pleasures’ By Dr Alicia Foster, 20/21 Visual Art Centre, Scunthorpe
Scunthorpe Telegraph, ’Recycled Exhibition’, Article, 8th Nov
BBC Radio Humberside, Live Interview, 4th November,
Crafts Magazine ‘altered states, Susan Stockwell and the politics of paper’, By Carole Tulloch
Elle Decoration ‘Creative Spaces’, Images, March
Map Magazine, ‘London Artists Create in Nanjing‘ Nanjing, China
Catalogue, ‘This and That,’ Shenghua Art Centre, Nanjing, China
ARTFORUM Critics Picks, London, ‘Susan Stockwell, Studio Caparrelli’, June,
Surface Design Journal, ‘Susan Stockwell Revisiting the colonial Project’ by Jessica Hemmings
Text and Work, Brochure with accompanying essay by Rosie Miles Curator of Prints and Drawings at The V & A, Bournemouth Arts Institute
FIBREARTS, ‘Post Colonial Discourse in Garment Form,’ Jessica Hemmings, V&A Magazine, Article - Frontlines, ‘Pattern of The World’, May-Aug
The Map is Not The Territory part iii, Catalogue, England and Co, London
B,B,C, Radio London, Interview, The Lisa Anson Show, 6th Nov
Leonardo Music Journal, ‘Not Necessarily English Music’, Front cover
The Scotsman, ‘Hang it in the Louvre’ Susan Mansfield, 13th Aug
B,B,C, Scotland T,V, ‘Regional T,V, News’, 9th Aug
B,B,C, Radio Scotland, ‘Arts News‘, 9th Aug
San Antonio Express News, ‘Gallery Stroll’, Finesilver Gallery, Dan Goddard
Radio 4, ‘Midweek’ with Libby Purvis, 19th Jan,
Art on Paper, ‘Museum and Gallery Review’, Anat Rosenberg, July/Aug Magazine, Gavin Street, February,
Time Out Magazine, ‘Art Preview’ Martin Herbert, Jan 6th

2007 ‘Visiting Arts’ Taiwan-England Artists Fellowship Programme, Sept- December;
‘Mapping Project’ inIVA, Three year project including conference and exhibition;
‘Artist in Residence’ Charles Edward Brooke School, Creative Partnership
2005/6 ‘Artist in Residence’ Shenghua Art Centre, Nanjing, China
2004 ‘Visiting Artist’ Annie McCall Heritage Project/Stockwell Park School, London,
‘Visiting Artist’ Stockwell Park School, Stockwell London, UK; ‘Visiting Artist’ Kingsdale School, Dulwich, London, UK
2002 ‘Taking a Line for a Walk’ A Drawing of Stockwell, ‘Mapping Stockwell,’ Stockwell Festival, Lambeth, London, UK; ‘Visiting Artist’ Stockwell Park School, Stockwell, London, UK
2001 ‘Artist in Residence’ Finesilver Gallery, San Antonio, Texas, USA
1997 ‘Visiting Artist’, Ohio State University, Ohio, USA

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
Binghamton Art Museum, Binghamton, New York, USA
Karol Vail Collection, New York City, U,S,A,
Thomas Korzelius Gallery, New York City, USA
Christopher and Georgia Erk Collection, Finesilver Gallery, Texas, USA
Studio Caparrelli, London, UK
Shenghua Art Centre, Nanjing, China
Seeds of Peace Charity, USA

The University of East London, 0.2 Senior Lecturer, Fine Art, AVA
University College for the Creative Arts at Farnham, 0,5 Senior Lecturer
The University of East London, 0.2 Associate Lecturer and Visiting Lecturer
Wimbledon School of Art, Associate and Visiting Lecturer
1997/8, The Ohio State University, Professor in Sculpture

Visiting Lecturer:
2007 Camberwell College of Art and Design
2006 Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York, USA
Chelsea School of Art and Design, London
2005 The Victoria and Albert Museum, London
2004 The Art Institute at Bournemouth, The University of East London
2000-3 Bryanstone School, Dorset, The Royal College of Art, London, Ringling School of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida, USA


This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the partner institutions.

Taiwan - England Artists Fellowships Programme


(25 January 06 - 14 May 06)


Susan Stockwell, official website

Empress Dress
Paper, Glue, Paper
Hong Kong