final of the review


Artist: Sue Wightman

Piece: To be wood or not to be wood

Mixed media including found driftwood, household paint, wire, electric bulbs, etc.

Music by Krzysztof Penderecki

19th May 2012, Warwickshire College, School of Arts



With the intriguing and witty title To be wood or not to be wood Sue Wightman’s installation in a perfectly white cuboid of the exhibition space combines ideas of minimalism and Colour Field movements. Found natural objects – driftwood – and electric light bulbs suspended in the air invite the audience to wonder around the maze accompanied by discordant music by Penderecki. Driftwood pieces are covered with three shades of blue paint, and the naked electric bulbs are lit. The movement of the observer/visitor agitates the driftwood to move in a way that seems to suggest affinity with Penderecki’s Threnody as well as introducing a vision of the unquietitude of the sea. The links to the sea is threefold: the materials used (driftwood); the colours, and the movement of the pieces in the response to the audience.   The harsh light of the naked electric bulbs highlights the artistic interference with the natural shapes and colours and repositions the sea storm into a white exhibition place, about 80 miles away from the nearest beach.


The natural found objects are developed through manipulation of their position in relation to the audience and the application of colour. The artist’s intervention with the objects does not change their nature so much as highlights their character and displays such elements of their surface that were hidden or unnoticed before. The artist references works of such installation artists as Anna Truitt, Cornelia Parker and Esther Stocker while filling her work with her own playful treatment of colour and ability to unify and juxtapose visual and auditory elements in one elegant piece, with a slight feeling of danger and excitement of an unrestful sea.


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