Dwelling on domestic roles, relationships and spaces

The home, with all its repetitive tasks, familiar domestic sounds and objects will be explored through sculpture, video and photography in Debra Swann's latest exhibition Dwelling.

The home, with all its repetitive tasks, familiar domestic sounds and objects will be explored through sculpture, video and photography in Debra Swann's latest exhibition Dwelling.

It will be held at Bonington Gallery on Nottingham Trent University's City site from 9 October.

Presenting themselves as possible artefacts, the objects created are constructed from materials Swann has collected and is fascinated by. She takes reference from objects and sites often associated with a bygone era. Using found objects such as a tin bath, Swann transforms them and creates a tension between the object and the materials they are constructed with.

"I call these objects relics but, although they are part of our heritage, we are still using all these things today," says Swann. "It is about how you think you will leave those traditional roles as woman behind, in a more contemporary society, you think you won't see those objects again but then actually you find yourself doing the same tasks and using the same objects as generations before you."

Swann continues to play with impressions of time in her exhibitions, such as coating a modern household object in a marble-like effect; Fablon, giving it an appearance reminiscent of an ancient antiquity. The resulting object operates both as an historic reference and a symbol of the everyday.

"By imitating a classical sculpture, I hope to create an ambiguous object that echoes a utilitarian function and functionless at the same time," says Swann, who teaches BA Fine Art students at Nottingham Trent University.

Using materials in this way, including foil, paper and straw, the artist blurs the lines between fact and fiction, making the viewer question what they are looking and how they establish truth.

I'm not going for horror but often there is quite a dark humour to my work.

Debra Swann, Artist

In an essay about Swann's work, Joanne Lee, artist and Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University wrote:

"Swann has taken on a host of roles, performing variously as scientist, explorer, or philanthropist in order to scrutinise the making of personal and subsequently cultural myth and history. Turning her fascinated but critical gaze upon the objects, tasks, desires and emotions that make up domestic life particularly since becoming a mother. Swann's investigation – during which she is both the subject and interrogator, makes clear the very strangeness of the now and the close at hand."

On first glance, some of the pieces can appear macabre – three skulls placed on a suitcase for Study for a family portrait (Skulls) or her Babies (on Sticks) work for example – but she says she does not set out to shock.

"I'm not going for horror but often there is quite a dark humour to my work," says Swann.

Dwelling follows on from Swann's exhibition Long Time Dead at Space Station Sixty Five in London last year. It is a progression of her artistic research, inspired by visits to Derbyshire historic house Calke Abbey. It is the first solo exhibition of Bonington Gallery's new autumn / winter programme.

Duncan Higgins, Professor of Visual Arts at Nottingham Trent University, said: "This is a really exceptional exhibition that further explores the themes and ideas in Debra's work and gives us a wonderful chance to see a new series of imaginative and creatively challenging works together."

Dwelling will be on show at Bonington Gallery, Nottingham Trent University, Dryden Street, from 9 to 29 October. More information and opening times are available on Bonington Gallery's website.

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Kirsty Green, Press and Public Affairs Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8799, or via email.

    A preview of Dwelling will be held on 8 October 2014 from 6 pm to 8 pm where media will be able to interview the artist.

Dwelling on domestic roles, relationships and spaces

Published on 3 October 2014
  • Category: Press; School of Art & Design

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