On approaching the Supernormal Festival site you are lead through a woodland decorated with fairy lights, the pathway slowly weaves further into the Oxfordshire hinterland fuelling ones curiosity and building a sense of anticipation. The background noise of activity grows, there’s an intermittent rumbling of bass, chatter, melody, laughter and the familiar summer cacophony reaches its peak as the trees gives way to the festival. It is at this very instance one is confronted by the spectre of a giant hulking spider.
Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwhich are the artist duo responsible for creating this first sculptural encounter, perfectly setting the tone of what is to come. The structure immediately brings about a number of associations and anyone even with the vaguest familiarity with 20th century sculpture will recognise a strong likeness to the works of Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois is an icon in and of her own right, a creator that defied and transcended every wave of art movement that occurred throughout her almost century long lifetime. She was a creator that defied the institutional patriarchy that is so doggedly entrenched in western art. She’s a female artist that managed to rise above the overwhelming majority of male artists and produce work that is just as important, influential and enduring as any of key works of 20th century art.
The spider is heavily symbolic of feminine nature, this symbolism is integral to both the works of Bourgeois and Walker/Bromwich. A representation of motherhood, the spider is an organic engineer, creating a home with one’s own body with skill patience and intricacy. The initial shock of the encounter is appeased as one walks amongst the looming form, finding comfort in its commanding embrace. This speaks to the Supernormal Festival experience, a home of creativity, at times challenging but also nururing.
The materiality of Walker/Bromwich’s work adds another dimension to the reading of it. The use of natural materials, found matter and re-purposed objects is a direct and unequivocal opposition to that of Bourgeois whose large sculptural works were commonly cast in bronze. This difference in materials is subversive, Walker/Bromwich utilises the symbolism of the arachnid and well as Bourgeois as an artist but challenges the inevitable institutionalisation Bourgeois failed to succumb. Bronze is the very substance of the art establishment, the very use of it is an act of commodification, turning art into comercial goods, the ever increasing monetary value of which, ultimately deprives the work of its potency. Drawing from the past, haernessing ideology and symbolism, Walker/Bromwich repourposes all with there use of materials to create an iconiclastic sculptural beast; making ideas of old pertinent to the present and pushes them future.