Jessica Harrison was born in St Bees in the North West of England in 1982. She graduated from Edinburgh University with a practice-based PhD in Sculpture in 2013 and currently lives and works in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In recent years Harrison has focussed on creating her ceramic sculptures by ‘remaking’ and transforming found objects. It is a process that involves extensive research into both the history and material properties of apparently familiar sculptural objects and figurines, challenging that familiarity by exploring the possibilities of the medium. Her re-imagined versions of existing cultural artefacts have a paradoxically recognisable, and yet distinctively new quality; often grotesque, always intriguing, and made perfect by way of their imperfections.
“My work” she says, “is often about remaking something. I have worked with found objects for a long time – modifying things to try and understand them better, often by changing the properties of the material. This creates a sort of warped familiarity, that generates a certain tension for a viewer, but it is this familiarity, and that tension, that I rely on to explore different themes within my work. I am thinking about how we value certain objects or materials, what we might define as authentic or false, or good or bad, as well as the implications or change in meaning of something that has clearly been handled.”
These reimagined objects invite questions about truth and falsehood, originality and reproduction, and our engagement with the unreliable authenticity of the online world, but beyond these conceptual concerns there is, at their heart a delight in the tactile possibilities of the medium and how the physicality of making relates to ideas of handling and touch, and by implication to the artist’s ever-present interest in the female form:
For me, the body – along with attendant ideas of gender, sexuality, and bodily boundaries - provides an almost limitless area of research. Additionally, I’ve always had a keen interest in anatomy and anatomical history, but this is an area in which women’s bodies seem historically under-represented, perhaps because it is more taboo to disclose the inner workings of the female body, or to reveal how they are made… So with these works I am thinking about how women are put together, how they are formed through the squishing of bone china in between my palms, and the smearing of the clay. In remaking the figures in a more unrefined way, I hope to bring them into a more plausible and physical space, activating the poses that in the originals are passive and inert.