Portalis Collaborator Interview – Lily Ford

What influences did you draw on for this project?

The main influence for Portalis was the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which was introduced to me in the Hollow Earth exhibition by artist Frank Heath in his audio-visual piece On The Beach, Episode 3. The idea of hiding away something treasured to ensure its survival, and the effort involved in doing so, I found really exciting.

What processes did you use in your work?

I’m a quite an instinctive and immediate maker: I purposefully keep my making practice quite playful and experimental. For Seeds for an Uncatastrophic Future, I recycled dry scrap clay bodies and built these up to create a sedimentary effect. This and the inner cave idea was tested on a smaller scale which is now exhibited on my fireplace. The ‘seeds’ placed within my sculpture required reflection time. I tried to remember what, as a child, I would've wanted for my adult self; I translated what this symbolised that to me now into a child’s perspective. Overall, I’m really happy with these pieces, and the process has reconnected me to my younger self.

Lily's hands sculpting clay

What are you hoping to convey in the title of your work?

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is referred to as a ‘Doomsday Vault’, or a vault for a post-catastrophic world, in which the vault is opened, and the seeds are used. As a very hopeful child, I don’t think I viewed my future as possibly catastrophic, so this cave and the ‘seeds’ inside represent my early intentions.

How does your work for Portalis relate to your past work?

My work is ceramic, usually porcelain and currently miniaturised. I am interested in themes of childhood, play and incorporating this back into my practice as an adult. The work I have created for Portalis feels very in line with this.

Will this project influence some aspect of your future practice? If so, what and how?

I’ve enjoyed collaborating with other artists whilst still keeping my work personal. I think a lot of my fear around publicly exhibiting work has been quelled. It’s been a challenging but really enjoyable and inspiring project, and I’m really thankful to Nottingham Contemporary and my collaborators for their consistent effort and help along the way.

a close up of wet clay being sculpted

Did you try new approaches for this exhibition that led to new discoveries?

Collaborating and creating work in harmony with other artists has felt like an alien yet enjoyable experience. Creating a cohesive exhibition of work, including the graphics and design of the room, has been a real team effort and I’m really pleased with the results.

What feelings or meanings do you imagine your work conveys?

My work is intended to feel playful and intriguing. It could act as a catalyst for viewers to reflect on past hopes and current possessions that may be taken for granted. I hope it creates a space for reconnecting to childhood.

a close up shot of Lily's ceramic sculpture

Your support is vital

A small one-off or regular donation helps us present free exhibitions, events and education programmes across the city, up and down the UK, and around the world.

Cookie Consent