DOWNES, Ruth, 1954
Tea party in the Mayoral garden, 2000 - 2001
approximate installed size 170.0 cm x 400.0 cm x 400.0 cm
While developing my public artworks, I was exposed not only to the diversity of peoples' needs and aspirations, but also to their desire to belong in their community. I learnt the value of accessibility - that my sculptures should positively enliven and enrich our daily lives.
This sense of 'daily life' led me to look at the rituals in all our lives. Domestic paraphernalia has also absorbed and fascinated me, shared and familiar objects that could touch a diverse audience. It soon became apparent that the rituals surrounding tea offered a vibrant and cohesive theme. They also proved a rich artistic vein to mine. The personal and intimate nature of the drinking vessel, 'the tea cup', and its supportive partner, 'the saucer', was my ideal starting point.
From here I ranged far and wide, exploring the imagery of tea cups, the sayings and folklore associated with tea, playing with language as much as with materials. I have enjoyed generating a sense of fun and humour by amalgamating unexpected materials, techniques and words. Each of the forty completed works or 'characters' has developed a striking individuality, yet, when assembled as a group at a mayoral tea party, they represent a community not unlike our own. Just as in any social setting, the guests gravitate to where they feel comfortable - the extroverts take centre stage while the remainder seek out compatible souls.
Ruth Downes, October 2001
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