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An Interview with Georgie Mason: on creating from the inside out, sculpture and oysters

Updated: Mar 15

Georgie Mason is a multi-disciplinary artist who explores the unconscious mind, inner barriers and healing, often through found objects and interplaying practices.


We spoke to Georgie about working from the inside out, producing work as part of a residency programme and her recent sculptural project 'Planeta Ostra'.


Photo credit: Eunice Pais


You work across a whole range of disciplines. How do you know which discipline is right for the piece of art you are working on? What comes first, the discipline or the subject?


For me, making art isn’t a predictable or linear process at all, it happens in a different order each time. Sometimes I’ll be humming as I stroll along the Thames foreshore and a song forms that turns out to be about themes I’ve been thinking about, through the context of the shore. Other times, an interesting material catches my attention, which becomes the catalyst for a wall-mounted sculpture. Other times I’m daydreaming, and then I have a fully-formed vision for an installation so I work backwards, not knowing what I’m doing or why, and the subject gradually reveals itself. 


Recently I’ve been thinking of my discipline as multimedia collage. Under this all-encompassing umbrella, I feel freer from the struggle to pinpoint what kind of artist I am or should be (a self-appointed pressure!). I am thinking of collage in terms of Lucy Lippard’s definition; as a ‘juxtaposition of unlike realities to create a new reality.’ She talks about collage as dialectic, as a revolution. This is how I see it: various ingredients - my own thoughts; ‘zeitgeist’ thoughts that whirr around the collective consciousness; physical environment, and materiality - get whisked up together in the vessel of my bodymind, and come out as art in some form that, I hope, puts disjunctive ideas back together in a way that critiques outdated traditions and systems and maybe proposes a possible new direction for the future. 



Mindfulness, psychology and healing are a big part of your practice, and how you speak about your work. How do these themes influence and guide your creative practice?


I’ve always been influenced by Eastern belief systems that acknowledge the outer world as a reflection of the inner world. For me, making art is a way of making the internal external. As author and spiritual psychotherapist Ralph de la Rosa says: ‘to integrate our experiences, we have to make them manifest’. 


I’m very interested in shadow work; uncovering blind spots of the psyche to become more self-aware. I have found that it’s the aspects of myself I have most wanted to hide that hold the most potential for transformation. When I bring love to those parts of myself, they turn into ‘gold’ and this process of inner alchemy is mirrored in the way I work. I collect objects that have been buried, hidden or discarded and ‘rehome’ them into safe spaces, making the invisible visible; the shamed, proud; the silenced, loud.  


Whilst I refer to myself because I don’t want to universalise my personal experience, I know my experiences are shared. So many of society’s problems are a product of inherited judgment systems that stem (way back) from an individual who, unwilling to acknowledge an uncomfortable feeling inside of themself, invented an external scapegoat to blame. My art is unique to me but it is also about something much bigger. I see it as gentle activism, an outward-facing side of a toolbox of inward practices of meditation, energy healing, therapy, nervous system regulation etc.  


As my friend, ex-lawyer and founder of School of Sensual Arts, Henika Patel, says: ‘The framework for a harmonious society doesn’t lay in the law, it lies in our cells (…) One person’s inner conflict can start a war (…) Never underestimate the impact your individual journey to inner harmony can have on the common collective’.


If everybody could look inwards at their own blind spots instead of projecting outwards and blaming others then humanity would, I believe, have a better shot at not imploding. I say this not as a person who is perfect at this by any means, but as a person who tries. Through making my own inner process visible and working from the inside out, I hope to inspire others to take a similar approach until, fragment by fragment, we can piece together a future that is brighter and more harmonious. 



Your most recent work is a piece called Planeta Ostra, a glowing sphere of oyster shells that has been installed amidst concrete structures in Portugal. What was the inspiration behind this piece?


Planeta Ostra was made during my time at PADA: an art residency in Portugal. Whilst there I was thinking a lot about traditional belief structures that unconsciously form our personal and societal frameworks, until we interrogate them and propose alternatives. For example, in Western society, a predominant ethos has prevailed of relentless productivity, grind and growth.  While not inherently wrong, the approach bulldozes softer qualities of heart, intuition, and slowness, the result of which is often hollow, unsustainable, and leads to burn-out. 


This distortion is mirrored in the received view of emotions as weakness; and women as subordinate to men.  I learnt that in factories in the former CUF industrial park, where the residency was set, women - whilst allowed to work - were only ever in ground level positions, and only allowed to live on-site if they were married to a male worker.  To me, the post-industrial landscape of the CUF empire with its rough, brutalist aesthetic, toxic petrochemicals and historic grind-and-grow mentality, was the perfect backdrop to convey the notion of personal and societal burn-out, and within which to inject a symbol of regeneration and abundance. 



Photo credit: Eunice Pais


Can you tell us about the process of bringing it into being?


I was on the residency for two months and it wasn’t until the start of the second month, during a meditation, that the idea coagulated into a formed thing. People were telling me it was too ambitious and I wouldn’t have time. But the idea was like a baby and there was no way I could abandon it when the whole concept is about nurture!  


I tried to find a metal worker, armed with nothing but a first name and a Portuguese-speaking pal because he didn’t speak a word of English. After an hour of wandering about the wasteland asking random men in factories if they knew Jorges, we found him. But he couldn’t do it within my budget or timeframe so I had to step up to the challenge myself. I went to the metal store, got the poles, then got the welding gear out and brushed up my skills. 


Sporadically, I took an empty three-wheeled suitcase in a cab to the beach to collect shells. Then I drilled four tiny holes in each shell and attached them to the structure, which I’d covered in chicken wire. I made the sculpture in two halves so when I was finished, I had to enlist the help of all ten people on the residency to lift one half up at a time onto the founder Tim’s car roof, which he drove to the industrial park to install. 


The actual installation I couldn’t have done without Tim. With a long career as a sculptor of his own plus time working for Damien Hirst, he was very capable and came up with numerous creative solutions to problems. Finally, after some quite hairy moments climbing and dangling off structures, we got it up. It was an epic feeling and I felt so thankful to everyone because it really was a collaborative effort, I couldn’t have done it alone. 



The piece is created from oyster shells. What do they represent for you, and within this artwork? Working with found and buried objects is a theme across your body of work. What draws you towards them, and to this way of making?


Oysters produce twenty billion eggs per mating season; an archetype of fertility and abundance. Like many expressions of the feminine existing in a productivity-centred world, these shells are exploited for consumption: eaten as aphrodisiacs or commodified for pearls, then discarded.


They are also hermaphrodites, thus the perfect metaphor for a recalibration of the imbalance between feminine and masculine energies.  For me it’s crucial not to demonise existing structures (thus recreating the reverse imbalance). It’s about bringing fluidity and deconstructing binaries in favor of embracing the full spectrum of experience.


On a personal level, the repurposing of the shells in this artwork symbolises my own transformation from fragmentation to wholeness.  


In a macro context, the shells represent picking up the pieces of a broken system and remaking it into something sustainable, circular, hopeful, abundant and glowing, like a pregnant thing about to birth…



Photo credit: Eunice Pais

 

You developed Planeta Ostra during the PADA Art Residency in Portugal. Can you speak about how the residency helped shaped this project, and you as an artist?


The residency was a unique way to work amongst other artists in a shared space, with crits and casual conversations about each others’ work. I’d recently done my MA but as a part-time student, I didn’t have a studio there so missed out on the immersive experience. It’s a very comforting thing to be around other artists because you realise your own fears and doubts are shared. Working on my own in my usual studio, it’s easy to think everyone else has got it sussed! 


The frequent visits to museums and galleries, as well as tutorials with the lovely curators, was hugely inspiring and kept me critically engaged with my work.


The metal workshop and having access to Tim’s help within that was amazing for me: I don’t have that anymore and I really valued it. 


The site of the CUF was originally the reason I wanted to do PADA so much and the materials, from shells to purple pyrite to exploded resin barrels, were just so inspiring to me. It was the perfect place to explore materiality that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. I really want to go back for that reason!


And finally, the people were what made it and I now have a network of artist friends across the world - in fact, I’m going back to Portugal this Spring to stay and collaborate with one of them, Eunice, who photographed the project for me. 



Can you share one piece of advice for artists who are starting out, and developing their craft?


Use the times that you are thinking of giving up because it’s too hard, your studio is too small, you’re too isolated, you can’t make enough money to live (etc.) to dig deep, discover you are stronger than you thought you were, and channel that strength into your practice.


And - create your own community: connection is a human need and artists, because of the nature of the job, have to work harder than most to find it. 



Georgie's new solo show 'The soft animal of your body' is at RuptureXhibit in Hampton Wick from 25th March - 1st April. 


Find out more about Georgie's work here.


Photo credit: Eunice Pais




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