Deborah Duffin

Five pieces for Liberty Global, 2017

In 2017, Deborah was commissioned by Liberty global to make five pieces, which would encapsulate their aims and aspirations. The sculptures were to be made with wire, cable and fibre supplied by the company; they requested a variety of shapes. “I spent some time looking at the companies brand and reach, and tried to gain a feel for the industry as a whole. I came up with a variety of ideas linked with communications, connections and relationships. Then, I began experimenting with the materials they had sent me. Some were similar to those I had used before; others were new to me. I started to strip down cable where it was possible and experiment with processes and shapes. As I worked, the ideas I had in mind began to make sense with the forms I was producing, so that I was able to come up with ways to design relevant forms. This was a significant change to my usual intuitive way of working, rather than simply seeing what would emerge. I used the titles to give the viewer an idea of what I was trying to put across through the forms. This was an exciting challenge which took me into new territory”. The company was very pleased with the result: “We absolutely love them! The way you have managed to depict such things in the sculptures is truly amazing.

Titles: ‘In the Loop’; ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’; ‘Cloud Connections’; ‘Hotline’; ‘Aspirations’

Commission for University of Exeter, ‘White Entwined’, 2014

Following completion of the indoor pieces for the universitys sculpture trail, Deborah was asked if she could make an outdoor piece. “I was inspired by the site and loved the great sculptural trees, so I suggested I design a piece for one of the trees. The malleability of my work was a worry, in relation to possible vandalism, so we agreed on a piece that could be secured around a branch approximately 5 meters from the ground.”. The piece was made with recycled wire and cable collected over many years, with durability for the outdoor site. The main form hung down in space, gently moving in the breeze, while a long tail acted as both a visual decision and a practical way to attach the work to the branch, its colour fading into the colour of the branch. “I and a technician, spent six hours up and down in a cherry-picker, on one of the coldest days of that December – it took me a week to recover!

Commission for University of Exeter, ‘Blue and Orange Zigzag with Citrus Circle’, 2012

At the opening event of the Devon Open studios, held at the Northcott Theatre, University of Exeter, the head of Arts and Culture at the university, spoke about his desire to develop the campus. He invited sculptors working in locally to introduce themselves to him during the event. “I managed to set up a meeting with him. He showed me the work around the campus, and beautiful and inspiring place, and on seeing photographs of my work, he immediately said he had a space in mind for a piece. He bought a piece for one wall in the student common room, which echoed the vibrant colours of the furnishings, and asked me if I could make a related piece for the opposite wall.” Deborah designed an organic piece, which zigzagged around the screen – one of a series inspired by rivers, pools and waterfalls. Each piece was made with wire, cable and cut up food and drink containers, colour drew the eye around the form and across the space. Strips of wire and tiny scraps of material were used to form an overall effect of movement along the piece.

Private commission,

A friend and neighbour, who ran his own small business had an interesting alcove in his workshop, which he felt was crying out for a work of art. A roughly hewn space with exposed brickwork and interesting holes, which must have originally served some purpose, provided a counterpoint to the delicacy of the work. This piece was one of the early pieces Deborah had made from more durable materials: wire and cable, and led to an explosion of ideas, which she developed over the following years.

A celebratory sculpture for British Telecommunications, 1995

In 1995 Deborah was head hunted for this commission, since in those days there were few artists working with wire. BT wanted a piece made with their old telephone wire to celebrate their move from analogue to digital. “I was told I could do anything I liked, but there was a very tight deadline of a couple of months. I worked 16-hour days, seven days a week throughout that time, in the searing heat of summer, with an assistant for a few hours a week. I had to dismantle huge lumps of equipment – boxes, wire and electrical components, which were so heavy I could only drag them across the studio floor. I had asked for them to be sent as they were, to maximise the possibilities for me.”. She created a four-part floor piece, consisting of fans and tails, which were then mounted onto boards to be installed in the foyer of their headquarters in Hemel Hempstead. “The Managing Director arrived to see the finished piece on his bicycle! He was friendly, and relaxed, and loved the work.” Before leaving the studio to be installed, the piece was shown in an open studio event, and as a result she was offered a solo show for the following year.

Commission in the home of an architect, 1986

London architect, Ian Logan, had bought a number of drawings over the years and Deborah had worked with him on several projects. He asked if she could create a sculptural piece in the stairwell of his home. “ This was a new experience for me, since I knew I would need to think very carefully about how the space was used as a thoroughfare, and design the work around these needs.” Ian had admired a series of pieces she had made with wire and net fabric based on waterfalls and rivers and this work informed the new piece. A net waterfall hung from the ceiling at the top of the stairwell, then wound its way down the staircase, creating small waterfalls as if cascading over rocks and stone, on its way down. The finished piece was a 3d drawing, made from wire, paper and net fabric. It hovered against its support, veering out at places where room allowed, creating a contrast of energetic states between the gentle, slow movement of a river and the frenzy of a waterfall.