denise de Cordova


Location: London, Islington

Denise de Cordova is a sculptor based in London. She studied at Brighton Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, where she received her M.A. in 1983. After graduating, she spent a year at the British School at Rome, Italy as a Rome Scholar, where her interest in mythic narratives originated. She is a Henry Moore Foundation Fellow, a Stanley Picker Fellow, and in 2006 she was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Art, where she now teaches.

My sculptures take the form of hand crafted, painted objects that are assembled to create tableaux that incorporate representation and specific imagery as a means of exploring historical tropes and cultural constructs that centre on ideas of identity, landscape, myth and folklore. The female figure, birds, mushrooms, logs and boulders become part of an ongoing distillation of narratives that allude to uneasy alliances: the familiar and the uncanny, the domestic and the wilderness, the fictional and the non fictional. The important thing is that ideas conflate, that glimpsed moments, whether real or imagined, cohere to become sculptural “stagings,” evoking a memory or a scene that might be understood as a “heightened truth,” rather than one that is literal. The work is a personal collection of curated moments, where the ongoing lexicon of permitted imagery requires first hand experience in order to be “allowed” in the work. A bird, costume or rock has to have been “seen”.
Visual sources impact on choices that are made during the production of the sculptures. Console game graphics, with their painstakingly detailed geology, flora and fauna, and illustrated field guides may be of equal importance as Thomas Bewick’s wood cuts, or John James Audubon’s hand tinted engravings; the body proportions of a doll carrying as much meaning as classical Eurocentric sculpture; the palette associated with cosmetic counters in department stores as pertinent as the exquisite painted surfaces of medieval carvings.
At times, these dualities can be uneasy, and to accommodate this, I occasionally adopt a nom de plume in order to fulfill certain “making” desires. As Amy Bird, I am creating an ongoing collection of ceramics heroines that explore facets of the female psyche. The material specificity of clay, with its pliancy and wetness, is important, allowing for a sensual handling that translates directly into the work. Colour, as glaze, can pour, run or bleed. This contrasts with the drier, highly painted objects more familiar to my practice, where the accumulation of small marks in a large surface is critical, deliberately camouflaging and concealing the true nature of underlying materials, thus becoming the site for fiction, illusion and obsession.
The act of separation has been liberating, quelling the twin spectres of compromise and reasonableness. It means that tensions that exist between form and surface have a greater, purposeful clarity.
What remains common to both bodies of work is the grouping and regrouping of objects to create fluid narratives that adapt to different environments, whether gallery, church, kitchen table or museum, to amplify the enquiry into encoded cultural conventions.


Recent Solo Exhibitions

2015 “Lies and Camouflage,” Projects, LAF, London.
2013 “Congregation,” Jesus College, Cambridge.
2011 “ Salon Particular,” Middleton Square Church, Islington, London.
2011 “Dona Stones and Other Stories,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2010-11 “ Contemporary Sculpture,” Clifford Chance, London.
2010 “Women I Know,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2007 “Re-Reader,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2003 “ Cell Fire,” Flowers Central, London.

Recent Selected Group Exhibitions

2016 Forthcoming “Gothic”, Eagle Gallery, London.
2015 Grand Magasin Deux @ French Riviera, London.
2015 “Drawing,” Project Space, Royal College of Art, London.
2015 “WomanHouse,” Riverlight, London.
2015 “Editions,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2015 “Summer Exhibition,” Royal Academy, London.
2015 “Building, Dwelling, Thinking,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2014 “Some of My Colours,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2013-14 Grand Magasin @ French Riviera, London.
2013 “ A Bittersweet Salon,” The Old Match Room, Margate.
2013 “ Drawing” The Project Space, Royal College of Art, London.
2012-13 “Voyage North,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2012-13 “Small is Beautiful”, Flowers Central, London.
2012 “Threadneedle Prize,” Mall Gallery, London.
2012 “Bronze,” Metaflux Exhibition, Royal College of Art, London.
2012 “Summer Exhibition,” Royal Academy, London.
2012 “Meltwater,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2011 “ Hatchet and Helve,” Standpoint Gallery London.
2011 “ Mrs. Darling’s Kiss,” Arch 402, London.
2010 “ Then and Now,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2010 “ Summer Exhibition,” Royal Academy, London.
2007 “ From Elsewhere,” Campden Gallery, Chipping Camden.
2006 “Disrupted Narratives,” Eagle Gallery, London.
2005 “Asyntope,” The Gallery, Stoke Newington, London.
2004 “ Bird House,” 39 Gallery, London.
2003-04 “War and Peace,” Flowers Central, London.