Artist Profile: Holly Hendry

13 September 2021

This month’s Artist Profile focuses on Holly Hendry, who is one of the featured artists in the Arts Council Collection touring exhibition Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945 and the focus of a new film by the Arts Council Collection.

Holly Hendry is interested in defining the architecture of spaces by exploring the possibilities of space, colour and density, which is inherent in the wide range of materials she uses in her site-responsive sculptures and installations. She is interested in what lives beneath the surface, from hidden underground spaces to the inner workings of the body.

Her process positions casting at it’s centre where she uses a wide range of materials including plaster, steel, silicone, cement, jesmonite, plywood, rock salt, soap, aluminum, marble and even lipstick and chewed gum. Her works bring up questions about consumption, the environment, and bodily implications. In the new film she explains, “I guess it becomes about the agency of objects and our relationship with them.

Material unknowns are an important part of her process, as she states “A lot of making in my work relies on instinct or changing things at the last moment or material emergencies or slippages then become a really essential part of the work and that is something that is almost impossible to predetermine.

Hendry’s sculptures attempt to materialise actions: things are pulled, pushed, squished, sliced, chopped, stretched and even bitten. Her works can often look like a geological cross-section, where there has been a process of excavation to object this object from something larger. Discussing her work in the Arts Council Collection, Hendry notes “This work ‘Gut Feelings (Stromatolith)’ is one of the first works I made using a layering technique where I was working with made up material aggregates but thinking about things archeological or biological and objects that relate to edges and boundaries and parts where those edges and boundaries intermingle with other bodies and objects and so that happens through digestion and decomposition and break down… I titled the work Gut Feelings because I was trying to get to that physical idea of digestion or moment of when your tummy rumbles, active digestion happening inside you, and it highlights those systems within you. It references that action in the gut that you don’t think about when you’re going about your everyday life.

In the film, Hendry mentions how it feels to be in the Arts Council Collection and how especially as a younger artist, the acquisition of this work offered financial support but also put her work in dialogue with a long line of British artists in the Collection. 

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Watch the full film below to learn more about the artist and her work currently on display as part of the touring exhibition Breaking the Mould: Sculpture by Women since 1945.

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The Arts Council Collection is the UK's most widely seen collection of modern and contemporary art.

With more than 8,000 works by over 2,000 artists, it can be seen in exhibitions and public displays across the country and beyond. This website offers unprecedented access to the Collection, and information about each work can be found on this site.