(3,973 metres of crocheted yarn cord, 1,000 Benjamin Haematocrit tubes, glass test tubes, aluminium containers)
10cm x 290cm x 305cm
Jenny Mason is a Summerhall resident, a visual artist currently making three dimensional forms in air drying clay, plaster scrim, and mixed media (yarn, ink, wire, wax) with a particular focus on the theme of motherhood.
We selected Jenny from our open call for proposals because her idea brilliantly (and literally) combined Summerhall’s history with its present as a home for contemporary art. Last year, Jenny was given various items of ephemera and veterinary supplies from the old Dick Vet by another Summerhall resident who found them in a desk drawer. For the commission she has created a new mixed media piece using crocheted yarn and a stash of haematocrit tubes from the Dick Vet.
My work to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of Summerhall is called Accretion. This is the title of a work from 1968 by Eva Hesse. I very much admire her work and her freedom in working with different, often lo-tech materials. This title, according to Hesse’s notes, means “das Wachsen von getrennten Dingen zu einem”, or, “the growing of separate things into one”. So a perfect description of the melding together of different materials that make up this installation.
Back in December 2020 I was given a batch of Summerhall/Dick Vet School history and ephemera, found in desk drawers by a fellow resident. I happily took these off her hands as I had been incorporating found objects in my most recent body of work, dating from August 2020. My work from this period had been quite small scale using found objects, clay, scrim, and yarn. In particular crocheted yarn cords. These cords provided a nod to motherhood, to domesticity, to creating work despite the strains of lockdown, childcare, and homeschooling. And of course, representing the cord itself that attaches a baby physically to its mother.
For me they are a powerful symbol of motherhood running throughout my recent work. They are also portable enough to ‘make anywhere’, often when my son is busy with homeschooling tasks, or at home in the evening after he has gone to bed.
I set out to combine the dusty veterinary equipment, hard edged and precise, with my woolly, visceral, organic work. I wanted to scale up and see what would be possible within the time given. Amongst the boxes of Dick Vet ephemera was a round container of 1,000 Benjamin Haematocrit tubes. Micro sized glass open ended tubes used for one drop of blood sampled, to be spun at high speed in a lab machine. I wanted to use these tubes that had a very specific medical purpose in a completely different objective form. Summerhall kindly let me use one of their empty gallery spaces to build my piece.
I began building intuitively, with my 3,973 metres of crocheted yarn cord, 1,000 Benjamin Haematocrit tubes, and assorted glass test tubes and aluminium containers. Like the crocheting element of the work, the positioning of the 1,000 glass tubes was very much process based and meditative for me. Something that I could zone out to, rather than being cerebral and mapping out in advance where every single piece should fit.
The finished work is a sprawl of yarn and glass, the medical repurposed with the creative. Rather like the creative process itself, it can seem chaotic and disordered, spiky and aggressive. Out of this disorder comes art. This also reflects the history of Summerhall itself, once a highly specialised Vet School, now a huge artistic complex that means so much to so many.