When I was given the DOLPH brief I really wanted to be clever with it, to think around it and find a unique angle in the way some previous artists had. But my practice doesn’t work that way – there isn’t a lot of quick, snappy thinking going on. The themes come out slowly during the long careful process of making. So I decided to keep this show simple and honest. And being honest is where you’ll find the generosity the brief mentions. I’m showing some of the things I hide when people visit my studio – the beautiful books I cut up and the images I think I’ve looked at for too long.
You can read the show any way you like, it’s not linear, but somewhere at the beginning there is a painting by my grandmother: a larger image constructed from smaller intersecting shapes and colours. There is paper – lots and lots of paper.
All coming from the old abandoned encyclopedias that are my main resource. I have a fascination with 17th- and 18th-Century prints depicting the natural world; landscapes seen through the eyes of explorers and geologists in intricate monochrome detail. I've included some here, look closer and it’s clear the images I’m drawn to are the ones in which these landscapes don’t sit quite right; a volcano errupts, the sea is too rough, the chasm too big and the sky too heavy. It’s all connected to my own anxiety about the natural world. I find solace in confronting these fears head on and as you can see, I break them down into tiny fragments then put them back together miniscule piece by miniscule piece. This leads me to the crux of it: the small things. I've included my collection of artists' miniatures and some of the tiny paper cuttings that are the building blocks of all my work: small things, small pieces, small details. I guess I wanted to say – simple themes aren’t less interesting, referencing the ephemera of the past doesn’t make your work part of it, something small isn’t always less impressive.
Ambrosine Allen 2016