Holes, Cracks, Gaps and Loopholes; a Micro-Residency at The Observatory(SPUD) , Mottisfont Abbey

supported by TVAF
How the ‘French Artist’ fits in the local cultural and social landscape at Mottisfont.

By Laurence Dube- Rushby
Dates : 25th/26th

I spent two days within the Observatory space at Mottisfont Abbey, investigating Loopholes, gaps and cracks within the architecture of the Abbey, the landscape and the building of the Observatory. 
I set out to highlight  cracks and holes with natural elements such as coloured wool, pigments, fabrics or clay (as temporary non damaging installations). I  also used my own body (as “the French Artist Character”) and invited the public to use theirs to create shapes as individuals or groups to investigate these gaps and the ‘space between things’.

I proposed to use the architecture and garden as a metaphor for the wider social context, exploring how artists use ‘cracks holes and loopholes’, to find their way into systems which they navigate, investigate and transform through their unique artistic vision.

My residency at the Observatory  kick starts a PHD study during which I will investigate the pedagogic values and place of artists in the learning environment and contemporary social contexts.

The work was documented by photographic records, notes, sketches and mind maps, to be presented throughout the two days within the open studio space and online.

The interventions were visible to the public eye, some subtle and some visually obvious. (All negotiated carefully with the place to insure health and safety as well as ecology and heritage safe keeping.)

Project Inspirational Glossary:

Loophole- a small or narrow opening, as in a wall, for looking through- an opening or aperture.
a means of escape or evasion; a means or opportunity of evading a rule.

Holes; a hollow place in a solid body or surface- a place or position that needs to be filled 
because someone or something is no longer there                          

Gaps; a break or hole in an object or between two objects- a break in continuity-
Synonyms: opening · aperture · space · breach · chink · slit · slot · 
pause · intermission · interval

interlude · delay · break

Day 1: 
Emotional Arrival; "It's all mine!"

"All night, I have been dreaming about this place and how I will use it."

First Sight

Only two days and 360 degrees 

Marking my Journey

A sense of play

Where to start? 

I create  my own game;
After several failed attempts to light the log burner and warm up from early morning chill, I decide to mark the limits of the 'view frame' set between the edges of the front door space. Using the shape of the log burner bottom piece  as a template, I create a dot as a pattern which will guide my journey around the 360 degrees turn of the Observatory.
I activate the turn until the dot appears in the middle of the view, repeating the action until I complete a full circle.
The action warms me up and kick starts my 'looking out' into the wider physical and metaphorical landscape.

Warmed up, I carry on investigating open and shut windows to the outside of the  'box'.

Looking in, looking out, who can i see? who can see me?

What can I see if I look closer? 
How can I see, me?

The Traces of Others

Where are others? 
        Other artists who occupied the space before me, other visitors who have enjoyed it, other occupants of Maud Russel's world, the eccentric lady of the house who used to patron artists, offering them space and time to think and create.
        My memory of other interventions in the space, my knowledge of the history of the house, my imagination and my understanding of the landscape will all inform what I will observe, do and think when on site.

How do 'others' relate to me, being here?
How does my presence change the way they look in?
How do they change the way I look out?
Does it affect the way I look within?

How do they know how I see?

The French Artist Character;

How do I fit in?
What is acted? What is me? 

What is what I am expected to be?

Do I fit in?

How do I, Artist, make meaning in these gaps?

Evening, calm retrieved 

Day 2;

Artists as Agents of Change


How do artists 'interfere' with elements, materials , people and systems? 
What do we make, and what do we transform? 

The Others(part 2)

What is my art practice ?
What kind of Artist am I?

                   Am I real in this box, extracted from life? 
                                                                                                                   Am I imagined?
                                       Am I imagination?
                                                                                Am I a representation of life?

Passing through for a short time...

The Artist Identity (Part 2)

The "French Artist" Revealed

            The "French Artist" implies a cultural statement which seems to have become an integral part of my practice. Through discussions with other mixed cultural background artists, I realise the dimension of my "frenchness" as something "that can not be shaken out of me". However the French artist makes a 'mocquerie' out of what is expected to be her own culture, according to a stereotyped character shaped by a British imagery. 
            The character, although positioning herself deliberately as 'displaced', becomes "of the place and of the culture.

Changing place and viewpoint:

            In relation to a past artwork "a Thousand Sheep" made during a residency in farm and using sheep wool and natural dyes, I am naturally attracted to the Shepherd's hut opposite the studio. My 'other artist identity' as maker resurfaces as a safe place to be; one that can be defined by a clear end product.
The Artist Shepherd 

The "Shepherd Artist"

The many questions raised by the work, the landscape, the encounters with people and materials, all inform the next stage of my practice. 
The residency is a precious time for an artist to immerse herself into deep meaningful enquiries; how does my practice inform my research but also my life.
How does it affect my thinking? How does it affect and inform  others around? How do I express my difference and my vision?
The conversations with the public made me realise, how much, people don't know what artists do, or more simply, what I do. In turns I tried to respond, and my response was different each time, changed by who asked and how they shaped the question. As an artist, I constantly work  with 'not-knowing' what I do; I explore and experiment, seeking responses and raising further questions. My practice is constantly shifting, following the path of intuitive response and ceasing the materials and shapes which lead the process.

I stood as a shepherd with ease and pride because I could define what I am supposed to do.
Standing daily as an artist is a much more complex undertaking which can not be defined by uniforms and standards. 
How can we define the values of artists without limiting their action and field of enquiry through this definition?

Can Artists remain amorphous and still  be understood and valued as experts of their practice? How can this lack of definition, seen as 'difference', be of value in social and  educational contexts?

The French Artist
The Observatory
October 2016


  1. Great to read and see all the images here, Laurence. I also love the question of your research. Thank you for sharing and Best luck.

  2. Wonderful questions, beautifully compelling images.


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