Artist's 'beautiful, overlooked' objects inspired by autistic sons
- Credit: Alison Lam
Muswell Hill artist Alison Lam's work is influenced by raising two autistic sons with complex needs.
The ex art teacher has just completed a six month residency at Lauderdale House, where her artworks in metal and ceramic are on display until September 20.
"My practice centres around discarded and overlooked objects which links to my family dynamics having two boys with autism," she says. "I know how it feels to be ostracised and not fit in."
"It began to develop when I collected some discarded objects from the floor of a metal foundry. The irregular, fragmentary nature of them reflected the way I see my children being perceived by the world around them. Like these fragments, my children are unique and, although they differ from the norm, they are beautiful.
"I take small pieces and blow them up so people can see the detail. It makes us look again and engage with something that's small and insignificant."
Also on display in the Courtyard Gallery are examples of her projects with local schools and Camden's disability youth group. Working with 70 Channing and Parliament Hill pupils, Cabinet of Curiosities was based on the natural environment of Waterlow Park, and Lauderdale's Victorian resident James Yates.
Pupils made clay impressions of natural objects which they turned into bronze casts, porcelain works and cyanotype prints. Meanwhile the disability group worked with polytile printing, portraits, cyanotypes and ceramics.
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"We did a lot of digging on James Yates who was an eccentric collector of exotic plants," says Lam. "He documented them, did watercolours and held soirees to show them off. We spoke to a local historian, then looked at what he collected and I asked them to respond with pieces of small clay pressed into found objects - broken twigs, leaves, mud and rocks. We videoed journeys around the park and they sculpted with their hands, responding to the texture, sound, movement and colour rather than the objects."
The finished works were then placed into cabinets and displayed during the Highgate festival.
Having worked with special needs pupils in secondary schools - and describing herself as "extremely dyslexic" - Lam is passionate about "that invaluable experience you can get through art".
"It's an amazing way to express yourself if you can't through normal channels."
Lauderdale House director Katherine Ives said: "Alison’s experience, commitment to social practice and her own creative vision made her a perfect match for us. Not only have the projects exceeded expectations but she has brought welcome energy and a creative catalyst to the House as we emerge from Covid. Long term relationships with artists bring a richness to our programme and enable us to offer artists a new creative platform."
Lam will be running free workshops as part of Lauderdale Open House on September 5, based on the broken eagle statues in Waterlow Park. She has made up paper templates for participants to decorate with a poem or materials, and says people "can respond to that discarded or broken feeling."