Clare Ferguson-Walker: Dystopian Forms

Ship of Fools.jpg“Ship of Fools”
Orwell was often concerned with obedience and the eradication of human diversity and eccentricity. I imagine “Ship of Fools” as a representation of various aspects of humanity cast aside to make way for a “perfect” world.
Sorrowful Siren.jpg
“Sorrowful Siren”
Human / animal hybrids exist in an Orwellian dystopian universe, the Siren character plays a mournful song about the chaos an uncaring force has left on the worlds oceans.
“Everything is Relinquished”
Humans are literally reduced to insectoid status in Orwells’ worlds, individual identity is taken and humans become nothing more than numbers.
Clockwork Heart.jpg
“Clockwork Heart” 
The automation of humanity on pain of death. people are reduced to perfectly timed mechanisms.

“I find making sculptures incredibly hard work, requiring an enormous amount of patience, but they haunt me in visions almost constantly and the only thing I can do to relive the pressure of that is to make them. I’ve come to realize that they are the language of my sub-conscious mind communicating with me and thus can be interpreted as one might do a dream. Characters, animals, symbols and positions all hold relevance and make up a kind of narrative interpretation of reality, although of course they all come from a sub-reality, another world parallel to this one.

I often don’t really know what they are about until they are finished and I can look at them and try to decipher their meaning, they are often about sadness, beauty and the concept of what that means, grief as well as joy and also often feature archetypal characters from myths and legends.

I trained as a sculptor and have always worked really hard to pursue this as a career. I have a home based workshop in Wales in the U.K where I live with my husband and two children. I work with a small team of mould-makers and casters whom I trust completely.”                                                                                                                                                        Clare Ferguson-Walker

Salt + Shaw: ‘On Location’


“On Location”: A proposal in response to George Orwell’s experience of Sheffield

When George Orwell encountered South Yorkshire, on ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, he set foot in our past. At this time, our parents were toddlers and our grandparents were miners, labourers and domestics; facing unemployment as they raised a family and taking in washing to make ends meet. Our lives have been very different to theirs, escaping to the ‘big city’ of Sheffield, where art college took us on a journey away from the pits, steelworks and factories that could have employed us. But, even then, the “fiery serpents of iron” could still be glimpsed through the open doors of the foundry and the sound of the drop hammer was a reassuring heartbeat through the night.

Orwell’s perceptions are both shocking and resonant: “Sheffield, I suppose, could justly claim to be the ugliest town in the Old World.” It’s where we live, partly remembering how it was in the sixties and seventies, partly remembering family stories from longer ago. Now we find ourselves in a region where heavy industries have almost disappeared, leaving only a few traces of what once thrived. Pit wheels stand as monuments to mines closed in the 1980s. A shopping centre has crouched over the site of the Edgar Allen Foundry since 1990. In 2001 a museum opened, in what was once the world’s largest steel plant, to show how record-breaking amounts of steel were made; but without the necessary heat, labour, danger or productivity.

So, to return to Orwell’s encounter with the industrial North, how do we find South Yorkshire in 2018? What remains and what has changed? Have these unreported places fallen from public attention and concern – conveniently disappearing, in fact? What has happened to the landscape and topography; the re-use of space, the removal and replacement of industry?

How will we respond once out ‘On Location’?

What do our past connections and present links mean to us?

What will we discover, write about and record?

How can this gathered material be used to produce a new artists’ book?

In both a personal and political exploration, we will be looking for the clues and details just beneath the surface of the contemporary urban landscapes on our doorstep. George Orwell’s observations, perceptions and experiences in the same region are the sparks igniting our ideas and rooting our proposal in a deeper past. What remains or resonates from this time and what has been erased?                      Salt + Shaw February, 2018

Project update: “Two of our books (What? and Looking For Mr Orwell’s Chimneys) and 2 limited edition prints (Nothing Happened) will be shown in Room 103 @Saul Hay Gallery October 11th -November 11th”

About Salt + Shaw                                                                                                                “Their practice is frequently linked to location, to finding objects, discovering stories and creating narratives in response to a particular place, whether man made or natural. Ideas become concepts through negotiation, which inform the construction of their book works, making inextricable the links between all the elements only made possible by their partnership. …..a way of thinking and working  together where exploring and testing ideas outside eventually leads to the making of the physical objects, which have been negotiated into existence by the two of them. ….their commitment to collaboration and the further making of book works as conceptual artefacts.”                                                                                                            Balancing Act: the inextricably bound book works of SALT+SHAW  [Linda Newington, The Artist’s Book Yearbook ISBN 978-1-906501-06-8]

In the collections of:
• The British Library, London
• The Tate Library, London
• The National Art Library, V&A Museum, London
• Winchester School of Art Library, University of Southampton, Winchester
• University of the West of England, Bristol
• Chelsea College of Art and Design, London
• Manchester Metropolitan University
• Glasgow School of Art, Scotland
• London College of Communication
• York University
• Coventry University
• Private collectors in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia


Room 103 @ the Orwell Society Symposium May 2018


The Orwell Society are holding a symposium at Goldsmiths College, London on Wednesday 30th May 2018. Through their generosity, I have been invited to present the “Room 103” project. This will take the form of a half-hour slide show of work by participating artists, followed by a period of questions and observations from the floor. The Society are also kindly arranging space for a table-top presentation of examples of artists’ work, which will comprise original prints and books. The auditorium has a capacity of 250. In keeping with the ethos of the man under discussion, the event is free to members of the public and all are welcome. Further details to follow.

The Orwell Society blog is a wealth of essays on aspects of Orwell’s life and work.

and can be found on Facebook

Note to artists: If Orwell’s writings have influenced your work, now is the time to contribute something to this site, as the symposium will be a perfect opportunity to present your work to a knowledgeable audience who share your interest. See guidelines on front page of this blog.

glenn ibbitson orwell