I have a significant relationship with the land having grown up on a farm. The daily routine of caring, educating and riding my horses has brought a wealth of experience. My world coexisted within the larger frame of the family working dairy farm nestled in a rural community of West Devon. As farm girl turned urban dweller, through my artwork I intend to leave my mark and show evidence of my experience. My thinking and making is supported by theoretical research and I cascade my experience and knowledge through my teaching.
CV: 2017 - 2020 MA Multidisciplinary Printmaking (Distinction), UWE
- Research Practice (2018): An exploration of the research methodologies that could support an investigation into how the myth of the 'rural idyll' is reflected by object, imprint and ephemera?
- Eaton Fund Award (2020)
- Artist in Residence at the Museum of Rural Life at Waterperry House and Gardens (2019)
The rural anti-idyll: how the myth of the 'rural idyll' is reflected by object, imprint and ephemera
The focus of my work is the interplay of positive and negative, or between one space and another, set within a rural context. The French philosopher and semiotician Roland Barthes suggested that there is no one single meaning from a given line of words; rather they are a 'space of many dimensions', the text being a plethora of references from many sources. Apply this to visual art, and the reader is compelled to contribute his or her own experiences and knowledge in order to interpret a visual event.
My imagery here challenges the imagined notion of the farmscape rural idyll. The ideas come from my background growing up on a working dairy farm where I viewed the world through the experience of horses. Horses have become the prime focus of my work. My autoethnographic approach - using self-reflection and personal experience - and tacit knowledge of the subject matter has led me to explore the flux that exists between rural idyll and reality.
Barthes tells us that the rural idyll is a false reality. Raymond Williams, author of The Country and the City, calls this phenomenon the 'golden echo', meaning that the perpetual mythical image of the landscape as the pastoral wonderland is timeless. In contrast, 'reality imagery' presents an 'anti-idyll' or 'rural horror'.
My work makes reference to Susan Sontag's paper, 'Aesthetics of Silence' (1967). Sontag implies infinite reinterpretations from both the artist and the viewer. The negative space allows the audience to sketch out new prescriptions for looking and seeing. The space or absence (silence) would imply it's opposite (object) and demands its presence. Therefore, less can be presented as more. Critical thinkers Barthes and Sontag tell us that the absence of information is the signifier to the viewer to interpret what they are seeing. That the mold or cast, positive or negative image, of a motif could be transformed into poetic structures will generate dialogue. The work here gives emphasis to human and horse presence - hoof prints in the mud - and the ephemeral indicates conditions that render the invisible visible and allows for unpredictability, spontaneity and temporality.
According to Sherry Turkle, author of Objects of Desire (2007), there is a 'dynamic relationship between things and thinking'. Objects make the mark and leave the trace. The phenomenon of the indexical mark indicates an object in the context in which it occurs. This trace or mark, repeated over time, becomes a motif. Indexical signs have a cause-and-effect relationship between the sign and the meaning of the sign. The relationship between object, imprint and removal, aptly embodies the printmaking process.
Bricolage - the deconstruction and reconstruction of objects and ephemera - encourages reinterpretation and reinvention as the context of events change. This in turn influences and informs decisions. Reinterpretation is learning and this gives the work agency. The exhibition provides rich, imaginative and vernacular descriptions, exploring and communicating the secret heart of things. The playful approach of Bricolage becomes a way of facing the emotions and traumas of life and making sense of the world. The relationship between myself and my subjects - horses, objects and spaces -- forms the visual investigation, which in turn informs and communicates.
'Unheimlich' (Sigmund Freud, 1919) or 'uncanny', can be used to describe something that is familiar yet strange, showing that something that is meant to remain secret or hidden has come out into the open, making in-between spaces and actions visible. Not looking but seeing. 'Traditional art invites a look. Art that is silent engenders a stare.' (Sontag, 1967).
The Arte Povera art movement (literally 'poor art') is also pertinent to my work. The ready-made, appropriated objects here - a hunting jacket, horse rugs, riding boots - are functional but conceptually rich. The original notion behind Arte Povera sought to provoke change by asking the audience to consider that art could be made from anything, and didn't have to be commercially viable.
My outcomes have been developed as a result of learning and application of new methods and skills to problem solve. This includes complex mould making techniques and Photoshop artwork for large scale photo screenprints. I adapt ideas and ambitions to capitalise on limited resources in the realisation of outcomes: bees wax shell casts of a saddle. The concept and aesthetic of the wax saddle is engaging. It is perfect and true in its imprint despite being imperfect in its constructed form. The beeswax evidences the indexical marks from rider, horse and material. It also communicates fragility and temporality and offers the audience a 'sensory gap', inviting participation. Although absent, a rider is implied, suggesting the possibility of a journey through the countryside. It offers both truth and myth in the rural imagination. The yellow, perfumed beeswax aptly pertains to the 'golden echo', the perpetuating imagined pastoral wonderland.
Pending: 2020 Sally Gaden: Hand Made, Waterperry House and Gardens, Waterperry, Oxfordshire
2020 Sally Gaden - Southmead Hospital, Bristol
2019 Sally Gaden - Design Space, University of Gloucestershire, Park Campus, Cheltenham
2019 Where the Heart is... Sally Gaden and Juliet Duckworth - Wraxall House, Wraxall, Somerset
2009 City of Bath Printmakers, The Bear, Bearflat, Bath
2006 Sally Gaden - The Red House, Exeter
2005 Summer Printmaking Exhibition - RWA, Bristol
2003 Sally Gaden: Rural Ideology, Myth, Reality, The Education Centre, RUH, Bath
2003 Sally Gaden and Kelly Gummerson - The Bay Tree Gallery, Bradford on Avon
2002 Talent 2002 - The Citadel Gallery, Chippenham
2002 Sally Gaden - Plough Arts Centre, Torrington
2001 Christmas Show - Hot Bath Gallery, Bath
2001 Apples of Gold - BRSLI, Bath
2001 Sally Gaden - Combe Down, Bath
2001 Sally Gaden - Beaten Track, Chippenham
2000 Christmas Show - Hot Bath Gallery, Bath
2000 All Angles - BRSLI, Bath
2000 Fringe Art Fair, Bath
1999 Christmas Show - Hot Bath Gallery, Bath
1999 Fringe Art Fair, Bath
1998 Christmas Show - Hot Bath Gallery, Bath
1998 Sally Gaden and Felicity Keefe - Ariel Centre, Totnes
1998 Feasting the Eye - BRSLI, Byte Festival, Bath
1998 Fringe Art Fair, Bath
1998 Horse - Stroud House Gallery, Stroud
1997 Christmas Show - Hot Bath Gallery, Bath
1997 Cooking the Books - Byte Festival, Bath
1997 Mirror Image, Bath
1997 Fringe Art Fair, Bath
1996 Holbrooke House, Wincanton
1995 Artist as Teacher 111 - Hot Bath Gallery, Bath
1994 Women Light up the Night - Berlin
1993 13th Cadaques International Miniprint - Adogi Taller Galleria Fort, Barcelona
1992 City of Bath Printmakers - Victoria Gallery, Bath
2017 - 20 MA Multidisciplinary Printmaking (Distinction), UWE
1999 D21 Assessor's Certificate, City of Bath College
1995 Certificate of Education (FE), City of Bath College
1994 Further and Adult Education Teacher's Certificate - stages 1 and 2, City of Bath College
1989 BA (hons) Graphic Design, Bath College of Higher Education
1993 - to date Printmaking Lecturer at Bath College teaching on the range of Art and Design courses; Adult Education and Levels 1 to 4.
- 1996 - 2014 Printmaking Subject Leader
- 2014 to date L2 UAL Art and Design Diploma Course Leader
2018 to 2019 Part-time Printmaking Lecturer at UoG teaching on a range of BA (Hons) courses including; Interior Design, Graphic Design and Visual Communication, Fashion Design
I also work as a freelance Artist, working to commission across the areas of Drawing and Illustration, Printmaking, Sculptural Making and Photography.