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Alice Sheppard Fidler: Sandbags micro commission

Alice Sheppard Fidler in conversation with Bricks artist Nick Grellier, October 2020

Pink velvet sack filled with something on paint-splattered floor.

You sent me an image of your new work; shall we talk about it?

Yes, I showed you the first element of a new installation piece I have started developing for the Bricks micro commission.

You mentioned there are more elements, how will the work evolve?

I will keep making the individual elements as long as I find the right fabric. The piece will have an indefinite number of individual elements that build up to make the whole, in the same way that my previous installation ‘contract’ came together. That, too, used a sandbag form. There will be a point in the work’s development when I will take it out of the studio to see how it behaves in different environments.

So the bag is filled with sand?

Yes, I am drawn to work with sand as it’s a versatile and what I call ‘nomadic’ material. I like the fact it’s fluid yet renders objects stationary when filled.

Is the fabric dyed?

No, that’s how I find the fabric. I’m working with used velvet in a range of colours, pinks, beiges, browns, it takes quite a time to find the right colour and ageing to the fabric.

Previously when chatting you mentioned road signs, how does that connect to this piece of work?

For the last few years while driving back and forth on motorways, my attention has been drawn to the sandbags that hang on road signs.

I am already familiar with the sandbag form from working in film and television where I used them as a theatrical tool, as a means of shoring up film sets and lighting stands.

The sandbags on road signs are also performing a function, holding information signs in place, yet at the same time they manage to have this discarded, useless quality about them.

I wanted to investigate this strange interdependency, and also the dualistic nature of the sandbag, how something can be so needed and ignored at the same time.

Looking at the photo again, your first element looks a bit like a body

It does, doesn’t it? I became aware of that as a sensation as I was filling it. I’m not sure whether that’s to do with the way the sand moulds it, or if it’s the sensual quality that velvet can bring, perhaps both.

I am wondering whether this piece of work refers to something personal or if it’s about a global issue. It’s making me think of tsunamis.

I have been thinking about flooding and about how people use sandbags in an attempt to control water, that has been a local and global issue, but I have also been thinking about bodies on beaches in relation to the refugee crisis.

Roadside sign saying SLOW on grass verge beside low bridge with silver car blurred passing by.