Laura Ellen Bacon

(1976–)
Laura Ellen Bacon's 'Split Forms' were made especially for an exhibition at Roche Court curated by Sarah Griffin called the nature of things. They appear to flow down the facade of the Artists House, gently undulating and swelling to create two orbicular nests. Constructed by hand using a simple, repetitive technique, the sculptures with their organic shape and obvious associations with the natural world, create a contrast to the rigorous, modernist architecture of the building. As their name suggests, both sculptures are riven, allowing us to consider their inner structure as well as their outward appearance, in much the same way as we regard the pierced, hollow forms of Hepworth and Moore. Moreover, we are drawn into the cocoon-like and protective shelter they seem to promise.


It is perhaps unsurprising that the sculptures at Roche Court were quickly occupied by birds and insects, which recognised them immediately as their own. However, looking at them from inside the Artists' House, the scale and shape of Bacon's work also renders them supernatural. Glimpsed through a window, suddenly they have a powerful and muscular - if not ominous - presence, with each willow stick creating a distinctly taut and sinewy appearance. They enthral and inspire wonder, not only for their size and intricacy, but because no one looking at them can ever quite believe that Laura Ellen works alone or that she achieves such great speed.


Indeed, it seems impossible to look at Bacon's sculptures without asking how they have been made. Their apparent simplicity of form is deceptive and we see on closer inspection that they consist of a complicated system of knots and weaves, which create a complex series of furrows and waves. Employing, as she does, basketry techniques, it would still be wrong to regard Bacon's work as craft - an often tricky and contentious term for many artists - but rather as exploring the boundaries between the homespun and high art. Ultimately she takes mundane materials and traditional methods to create something strange, beautiful and compelling.