Polly Gould  VOLTA NY 2017  booth D1

Polly Gould  Liberty's Pedestal  2017  black-out fabric, thread, watercolour, found wood and brass  135 x 35 x 30cm

1 - 5 March 2017

Polly Gould’s work on show at Volta 2017 shares some common origins in the horizontal and vertical ambitions manifested during the long nineteenth century, which, according to the historian Eric Hobsbawm, began with the French Revolution in 1789 and ended with the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Drawing upon such references as architecture’s capacity for utopian visions, Victorian science fiction, and the Heroic Era of Antarctic Exploration, Gould presents drawings and sculptural works in blown-glass, stained glass, watercolour, gold leaf, fabric, and found objects.

Gould has made works from her encounters with the watercolours of Antarctic explorer Edward Wilson (1872-1912). Wilson joined two expeditions to the South Pole, making many drawings and watercolours during his time in Antarctica. Horizon (false horizon) combines pencil copies of Wilson’s topographical drawing with watercolour circles that are translations of Wilson’s colour annotations. In the glass globe series Anamorphic Landscape, disparate landscape views from the Wilson archive are painted in watercolour onto sandblasted glass. Their distorted shape is corrected when reflected in the mirrored spheres, creating miniature worlds.

Architecture for an Extinct Planet, Birds of Paradise features coloured glass and magic lantern slides, copper and solder. The title references the science fiction leaflet Utopia; Or, the History of an Extinct Planet Psychometrically Explained by Alfred Denton Cridge, published in 1884, and the utopian architectural writing of Paul Scheerbart, Glass Architecture, 1914, in which he promises that building in coloured glass will allow for wide-ranging cultural transformation.

The work Monument to Folly, a wall-leaning sculpture in black-out cloth, watercolour, wood, brass hinges, and gold leaf, is modelled on Trump Tower, Fifth Avenue. Made in sewn fabric it recalls the building Trump Tower replaced: The Bonwit Teller & Company ladies fashion department store, built in 1907. There, artists worked as window dressers, and Jasper Johns first presented his flag painting as a backdrop to fashion mannequins. Monument to Folly is influenced by another writing by Paul Scheerbart, The Gray Cloth: A Novel on Glass Architecture, 1914, in which he describes an internationally famous architect who builds in coloured glass and the contract that he asks his wife to commit to, promising to wear only grey and white so that her fashion will not detract from his architecture. Liberty’s Pedestal, a sewn version of the plinth that supports the iconic statue, and Trophy a wall-based piece, also refer to this nexus of fashion, femininity and architecture.

In these works, with their interest in the historical, the reactionary or outmoded, Gould shows that the desire to return to past glories can betray a profound misapprehension of the nature of the challenges that face us in our current times. Gould compares the redundant ambition to be first to the South Pole to the equally redundant architectural aspirations spurred on by utopianism or vanity.

Polly Gould works across media in which storytelling plays a strong part, either with performances that narrate the artworks in some way, or in the fictions and histories that inform the works. These might be sculptures in glass or fabric, sound or video works, installation pieces, drawing, watercolour, found objects or pin-boards. With an interest in collections and archives Gould has shown work in places such as the British Library, London, and Botanic Gardens in Cambridge and Sydney, and in natural history museums in Bergen, Norway and Maastricht, Netherlands, as well as showing in galleries internationally. Gould was selected for the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2007. She has a short-story in a collection of fiction by contemporary visual artists in Britain, 2006. Polly Gould studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, and has undertaken both Fine Art and Theory residencies at the Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, Netherlands. She has recently completed a PhD in Art and Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London and is currently post-doctoral research fellow in design-led architectural research with ARC Architectural Research Collaborative, Newcastle University, UK.

For more information and invitations please contact us at danielle@daniellearnaud.com or visit the VOLTA NY website.


Polly Gould  Erebus and Northern Islets  2012  silvered hand-blown glass sphere, watercolour on sandblasted glass


Polly Gould  Observation Hill  2012  silvered hand-blown glass spheres, watercolour on sandblasted glass


Polly Gould  Trophy  2017  black-out fabric, thread, watercolour  20 x 20 x 9 cm


Polly Gould  Monument to Folly  2017  black-out fabric, thread, watercolour, gold leaf, wood and brass  195 x 65 x 65 cm