Speaking Surfaces Catalogue by Charlotte Huddleston
Jen Bowmast Calls herself into being 2020
Bronze, clay, copper, glass, obsidian, silver, wax, wood, wool
Jen Bowmast’s practice of making is grounded in metaphysical and spiritual enquiry. Metaphysics is derived from Greek, ‘after the things of nature’, and is the philosophical study of the nature of the world and what it means to inhabit it as human.
Jen’s practice and enquiry developed counter to the emphasis placed on predominantly European philosophy that she experienced during Masters study in art. This she “found frustrating” because her “more intuitive and emotional motivations in making work…had to be rationalised within an academic context.” As a response to the academic focus on knowledge acquisition, Jen tuned into the ‘unknown’ and began to use psychic mediums alongside philosophy and art theory. While she acknowledges that it was at first simply a strategic response, it has opened up a whole new way of thinking, doing and being that has developed into a core aspect of her practice. As the research progressed, Jen learnt of ‘transpersonal methodology,’ which originates in psychology and uses an approach of non-judgmental openness to experience. Jen took up this approach, which lends itself to developing intuition, empathy and self-awareness, and folded it into her material practice. In this way, the spiritual becomes a more personal, experiential understanding that is formed through living and being in the world.
Working towards an installation, Jen begins by observing site to “better understand the formal qualities, temperament and…atmosphere.” Her processes and methods include a studio-based ‘tuning in’ in advance of the installation, which involves reconnecting with existing objects from previous installations and making new objects; consultations with divinatory readers, scrying (looking for signs in a reflective surface), Molybdomancy (divination with molten metal) “as a way to expand ‘ways of knowing’ and understanding of the site.” When on-site, Jen spends time over a period of days developing rituals and rhythms responsive to the space, this includes collecting objects and materials from around the site. Working with these practices and with context in a highly responsive way, the “ephemeral and ‘felt’ take precedence over the intellectual and rational.”
Jen works with materials that themselves go through transformational processes as they are formed – glazed and fired clay, cast bronze, wax dipped plant materials, carved wood, casting molten metal in water – all reshaping their surfaces and appearance. As installations, the carefully chosen materials speak, the arrangements are intuitively placed in conversations between materials – the highly reflective and matte surfaces complementing and contrasting with each other. As artefacts that carry energies of the making processes, they can be seen as transitional objects located physically here, now and connected to other places and times.