Interview with Aesthetica Art Prize Sculptor Hollie Mackenzie

Interview with Aesthetica Art Prize Sculptor Hollie Mackenzie

Hollie Mackenzie explores the notion of the impossible Utopia by creating her own version of a dystopian landscape in the form of melting sculptures. Longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize in 2013 with her piece Downfall (2012), Mackenzie has been awarded a Royal British Society of Sculptors (RBS) Bursary Award. A further nine sculptors received these awards, selected from over 300 applications.

The artist’s work will be showcased in a group exhibition opening on 18 September, and presented in 10 five minute back to back talks at the Sculpture Slam on 8 October. We talk to Mackenzie about developments to her career since being longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize.

A: Downfall is a full sized melting staircase. What is the symbolism behind this?
HM: As art could be described as an exploration into pushing the boundaries of known phenomena; the aim of my sculptures is to call for an unknown, unthought and unsymbolised ‘labial’ language and space in this patriarchal society. By presenting something that is as out of the ordinary as melting wood in Downfall (2012), I am suggesting that we find the feminine ways and means of expression through art in order to establish feminine forms of symbolism and structures.

A: Which sculptors inspire you?
HM: In January I visited the wonderful marble sculptures in Florence and indeed they were breathtaking. However, within this Renaissance scene I couldn’t help but think of Linda Nochlin’s question of why there are no great female artists. A prominent contemporary art figure within my research is Marina Ambramovic. Drawing on the performance The Artist is Present (2010), Abramovic creates a new experiential territory: a ‘charismatic space’ in which new collective existential territories could be brought into being.

This encounter with force, in its isolation and intensification, dramatises the experience between Abramovic and the viewer. Maria Hynes describes Abramovic’s practice as a productive resistance in the face of the static rigid phallocentric power structures.

A: How have you developed your craft of sculpting pine wood, and what can this material offer you as an artist?
HM: My feminist artistic resistance begins by sculpting into a material that could be considered as masculine. Writing myself within the wood I perform my feminist resistance against masculine structures. As a predominantly masculine labour, I assume my position as sculptor and combine it with my identity as a woman. Only then can one recreate masculine labours as feminine and begin women’s journey to full emancipation and a purely egalitarian society.

A: How did being longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize affect your practice?
HM: The opportunity to be involved in different Art Awards and diverse exhibitions is a privilege and even more of an honour to be longlisted. It is lovely to learn that all the hard work can pay off!

A: You have recently been selected for the Royal British Society of Sculptors (RBS) Bursary Awards, congratulations on this latest accolade. What do you have planned for the awards?
HM: Thank you. The exhibition for the Royal British Society of Sculptors Bursary Awards is coming soon at 108 Old Brompton Road, London on Thursday 18 September to Friday 24 October 2014. I’m looking forward to exhibiting Downfall there as it looks to be a good event!

Also, my most recent sculpture Obscurant is currently up for nomination for the Broomhill National Sculpture Prize 2014. The Judge’s Award and the Public Vote Award will be announced in October 2014. You can cast your vote for Obscurant on the Broomhill website

To see more of Hollie Mackenzie’s work head to, and @MackenzieArtist.

The Aesthetica Art Prize is open for entries. Prizes include £5,000 prize money courtesy of Hiscox; For more information and to submit visit

1. Hollie Mackenzie, Downfall (2012).

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