Each Shrink-wrapped Painting is accompanied by a list of instructions, which anyone else can/must follow if they wish to participate in the work. I start the works with conventionally stretched and primed canvases. Sometimes, instead of newly stretched canvases, I re-use paintings that I have abandoned as failures, and sometimes do not stretch canvas at all, I leave the stretcher bars naked.
In the studio, I proceed to lay these painting surfaces flat and face up on the grey concrete studio floor. These rectangular picture planes – look eerily like vacant slabs in the mortuary waiting to receive a body. Lying dormant on the floor, the canvases begin to be loaded up, with objects such as studio materials and personal effects. Vitally, the bodies that come to rest here are things from the real world. I see the canvases as receptacles, receivers of the things in my everyday life. The process of storing objects, through loading up the canvases, is revealed in the surfaces of the Shrink-wrapped Paintings, which transparently index the process of their own manufacture. Over weeks in my studio, whilst working on other bodies of work, I place more and more paraphernalia on the canvases. Pretty much anything that enters my orbit can end up in the works: empty blister packs of paracetamol, studio debris, remnants of other works, plates, accoutrement such as trainers, gifts from ex-boyfriends, train tickets, clothes, jewellery, packaging, birthday cards etc.
Embalming a painting made of everyday stuff is comical – and intentionally so. I wish to make works that are alive and always becoming, rather than preserved and static. Transparent shrink-wrap is employed so that all the items given over to the paintings are visible. Once bound into the painting, these objects cannot be retrieved; in this way the hosts act like donors, giving parts of themselves away to keep another ‘alive’. But the transparent indexing of their own making which I referred to earlier, conversely, disappears. The transparency that one expects with cling-film vanishes; instead, the paintings appear to be coated in an opaque film. The more items are added, the more layers of shrink-wrap that are used, the less visible the materials in the paintings become. The labour of participants is erased but simultaneously recorded.The objects are absent (as they are visibly out of reach), but the physicality of the work done presents itself as sheer bulk, like the swelling of a pregnant stomach. Because I cannot easily see what is added into the paintings, nor do I ask for a record of objects added, there can be no judgment value placed on what has been gifted to the work. This in turn dismantles any hierarchies between a precious keepsake or a discarded shoe.
When these paintings are exhibited, a wave of anxiety washes over me as I leave them in the care of others. When I re-meet the works I am overcome with nausea and a feeling of elation, because although the works were unmistakably mine, they feel alien to me. I realise working collaboratively makes me vulnerable, yet this vulnerability is imperative for the work to take place. As I re-meet the works and peer through the new layers of suffocating plastic that now embalms the works I begin to discern new objects.Looking at these works I acknowledge them as mine yet not wholly, which allows my nausea to subside. Importantly it becomes impossible to trace where my work ends and where my collaborators’ work begins.
These paintings cannot be experienced all at once, there is future life and labour to come, they will never ‘end’. These paintings are never complete, any experience of the work, is merely just one of many momentary experiences.
Text by Sarah Kate Wilson
Importantly, I am not the sole creator of the Shrink-wrapped Paintings, I delegate their making to others, as a means of ensuring their ongoing duration.