Shadows Past

September 8, 2007


This silhouette of me is a piece of work I made as an art student in 1992.  I first got a friend to draw round my body as I lay on the floor of my room on a large sheet of paper. Later I cut out the figure, took it outside and chalked round it on the cobbled street, leaving the body as a negative space.  The circular dish is filled with ashes, which later I used to fill in the body shape…….

battlebridge-r18.jpg Battlebridge Road 1992

At the time I made this piece I didn’t really know what I was doing, and recently I’ve been embroidering little slate flakes without quite knowing why.  I suppose in both cases it’s been a kind of ‘thinking hand’ process…….


The unresolved piece I made as a student must have been lurking at the back of my mind for 15 years, since I’ve now decided I want to use the embroidered flakes in a similar work – but this time much larger and far more ambitious.  Rather than using an outline of a body I intend to trace round an elongated human shadow, using the tracing as a template in which to carefuly place the embroidered flakes……..


Pencil sketches never come out clearly when scanned, but this is a rough sketch showing the shadow figure on a low horizontal plinth being admired by two amazed gallery visitors to the left. (The blurred shapes in the lower right corner are just three flakes drawn actual size on the A4 paper) The shadow template will be drawn from life from an actual cast shadow which I may have to enlarge to get the scale I’m hoping for. 

What I particularly like is that the work can be re-assembled within  different shadow templates,  hence I think the working title should be ‘Metamorphosis’.


The idea of using a shadow reminds me a little of Andy Goldsworthy’s ‘Rainshadows’ – (though I didn’t have his work in mind when I hit on my idea for ‘Metamorphosis’).  In his ‘Rainshadows’ Goldsworthy lies on the ground at the commencement of a shower of rain or snow and then gets up to leave a dry ‘shadow’ on the wet ground. To my mind they are among his most eloquent works. You can see one at Yorkshire Sculpture Park  (scroll down their webpage to find ‘Shadow Stone’ )


Returning to ‘Metamorphosis’,  each little slate flake is an embroidery complete in itself – yet each separate flake will contribute to the greater whole of the complete shadow figure. The slate flakes themselves might be considered as analogous to random filling stitches. They will not be stitched down to any backing because I want the work to have a vulnerable and impermanent feel, and as already stated the flakes can be rearranged to fit different people’s shadows in different situations. This mutability is important to the piece.


I hope that a huge shadow of stitched slate fragments cast slant-wise across the gallery floor might  suggest the idea of ‘shadow’ in a loosely Jungian sense of the word. On the other hand perhaps the piece is just about the pleasures of stitching…….




2 Responses to “Shadows Past”

  1. Maggie Says:

    It was good to meet and chat with you at Birmingham K & S, and if you visit my blog , you will see that talking to you has heightened my sensitivity to shadows… thank you so much for the inspiration. Best wishes

  2. clydeolliver Says:

    Hi Maggie
    It was nice meeting you! I’ll put a link to your blog in the next posting

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