‘Hardcore Cottagecore’

Tom Bull
August 19, 2023
 to November 25, 2023
In spaces around Croydon

Free & open to all

I grew up in Northamptonshire and my relationship to folklore and emotional memory is at the heart of my practice. Recently I have been cladding unwanted playhouses into sculptural cottages with a process known as wattle and daub. An archaic procedure in which a lattice is daubed with clay and hay, the process harks back to a non-industrialised time, where things were sourced locally and built sustainably through land and labour. However there is also a trend of characterising rural practices and techniques of a bygone era as “simpler times”, although disease was rampant, violence was everywhere, and lifespans were short.

I want to explore this with the people of Croydon through a series of workshops that centre around the periphery of what was and what remains of Croydon’s folk heritage, talking about urban change, labour, class, location, heritage, folk narratives & nostalgia. Croydon locals will be invited to handover their unwanted plastic playhouses for a workshop of local residents of Croydon to thatch & clad with a series of industrial/rural substances as well as other charged and critical engaging material. Inspired by the plethora of architecture (such as mock Tudor pubs and houses) on show in Croydon, each playhouse sculpture will have their own individual quirks and characteristics.

Once completed these works will be installed inside the roundabouts of Croydon. Either overgrown, a site for unconvincing advertising or garish art installations, these quasi-urbanised wormholes are often neglected and overlooked as active land. However, these 360 plots, provide the perfect greenery for some unsuspected sculptural housing. There is potential for the work to form landscapes, transform spaces, create vessels, build communities, perform, produce pathways, wonder, or fall into rumours.

Join Turf and I in this sculptural endeavour to up-cycle local unwanted idyllic playhouses into earthen sculptures that ooze with life and layers upon layers of calcified entombment.

a photograph of two playhouses. the one on the left is painted black elevated on stones, the one on the right is painted a dull, brownish colour
I make sculptures as an absurd attempt to capture the lived experience within these dark, strange, and untrustworthy times. Through a landscape of folk horror, the rural, modernity and rituals, I investigate the tension and slippage between fiction and representation, violence and sensitivity, truth and mythology. With a wide range of tools and materials borrowed from architecture, model making, craft, aspirational design, preservation, farming and forestry, I employ a sculptural practice that confronts and manipulates traditions, time periods, location, lore and genre. My most recent works interrogate “country life” by challenging issues around land, loss, community, wealth, nostalgia, access, labour and violence. These sculptures are nuanced and complex, not just imitating life but working within it, for they do not seek answers to life’s ambiguities instead they highlight them as well as their resultant anxieties, playing with them as a visual medium, giving them form and presence.
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We will be cladding a series of children's' playhouses in wattle and daub and transforming them into pseudo-cottages.