Smooth skin, good angles, strained smiles, perfect shapes. Every time I see these slick surfaces on Instagram, I feel a sickly twinge; a sinister and disturbing feeling that my own body is not good enough. Can this feeling move me forward? Or will it make me overthink my appearance? These questions repeat themselves often, swirling around my brain as I try to make sense of it all. The same can only be presumed of British artist Daisy Collingridge, whose work takes a long hard look at our insides alas, her artistry propels these questions into ones of beauty, as seen through her instinctual textile pieces which turn us inside-out, examining our insides as if they were to form a visceral second skin.
Splanchnic delves into an anatomical concept closely related to our internal organs. Collingridge's fascination with anatomical structures comes as no surprise, given the artist's own upbringing in a medical family. Medical education provides a systematic perspective on the world and humanity in general, offering a lens that remains unaffected by beauty constructs; Collingridge describes this perspective as ‘pragmatic and logical’. Her journey into anatomy took a significant turn when she visited Body World by Gunther von Hagens, an experience she found simultaneously ‘horrifying, fascinating, and confronting’.
After graduating from Central Saint Martins with a degree in womenswear, Collingridge's interests expanded into sculpture and performance, where she continues to explore the dynamic nature of the human body, in motion, today. 'Movement is a theme that runs through all my work, even the apparently stationary works have the potential to move. Perhaps I associate movement with something living?' reflects Collingridge.
As I enter the exhibition, I am greeted by dancing figures adorning the walls. These human forms, meticulously crafted from hand-dyed jerseys in a palette spanning shades of pink, ochre, and orange, resemble bodily contours, muscles, and flesh. They are captured in the midst of motion rather than posed statically, inviting me to think about how our bodies experience sensations and how they move within us. This alone furthers my own questioning and objective perception of my physicality. The strong connection with her works lies in the tangible sense of materials and colours. ‘In looking at bodies and the relationships we have with our own bodies, it makes sense to use an emotive medium like fabric,’ explains Collingridge. ‘Here is something fragile and impermanent about fabric, yet it is resilient, stretchy and forgiving. I like to use fabric to change the environment. It’s fascinating to watch the transition in people’s faces when they step into a space that is soft on the floors and the walls; I think people relax.’
However, encountering a pony rocking toy in the second room can evoke intense feelings as it takes you on a journey oscillating between horror and pure joy. In this space, with walls adorned in pink fabrics, there are also photographs capturing performances featuring models dressed in 'flesh suits' - bulky costumes made from various flesh-coloured materials, creating the illusion of muscles and tendons. These sculptures both conceal and simultaneously reveal the essence of the body, as well as our fears and expectations of ourselves. For Collingridge, wearing them serves as a safe space, offering a renewed sense of freedom where she gets to be someone or even something else, describing it as a cocooning experience.
Pina Bausch, a prominent German dancer, choreographer and Collingridge's muse, once said 'I'm not interested in how people move, but what moves them.' Within these words lies the notion that a person's true essence is hidden in their inner life, subjectivity, and desires, all of which can be discerned through their movements. In a similar vein, Collingridge demonstrates the courage to express these invisible worlds as she crafts her flesh suits, stitch by stitch, challenging the static and idealised images of bodies portrayed in the media. 'We are quite obsessed by our skin/surface level. I have attempted to reference what lies beneath the skin. We are biological beings made up of numerous complex systems. We are not just the skin, hair, and clothes that we see. The wearable pieces reference these organic muscular structures and the latest work explores the internal more explicitly,’ she says. ‘I’m just trying to understand and represent a tiny part of what makes up an organic being. I am acutely aware that nothing I make can ever come close to the insane complexity and beauty of the human form.’
With Collingridge's precise and accurate surgically-crafted techniques, the artist expertly imbues her creations with a sense of warmth, capturing the dynamic and changing nature of the human form, bringing me back to the core of my own being, flesh, bones and all.
6 October — 11 November 2023