Be Soft Be Strong by Josephine Cachemaille

Be Soft Be Strong

Josephine Cachemaille

12 April to 08 May 2022

Cachemaille’s installations are driven by her desire to work through questions and scenarios from her life, often central to her family dynamics. In recent exhibitions This Way, That Way at The Dowse Art Museum 2021, and She’s a Force at Sanderson in 2020, the artist focused on exploring a scenario in the gallery space that focused on a positive future for her daughter Rosa.

Be Soft Be Strong is the most personal and emotionally charged series of works from Cachemaille yet. The exhibition is made up of a series of mixed media sculptures which work collaboratively to explore the transition of her daughter leaving home for university. The clay forms - hands, feet, ears, heads, noses - represent her daughter, husband and herself. Notably for the first time the exhibition features a self-portrait.

This installation, which focuses on the senses, also has a grounded tone. The figurative clay sculptures with their flat feet and palms convey a firm narrative of Rosa’s journey outside of the family home. Unlike some of Cachemaille’s previous exhibitions where text, often verbs, have played a more dominant role, these figurative objects now take centre stage and imbue a sense of action. They feel alive and depict movement in an assured manner.

“I think of the installation like a caravan of actions, and intentions - a parade of our implied bodies working collectively to move Rosa out into the world - the small metal sculptures like a support crew of playful, strong entities spurring her on.”

It is unsurprising that Cachemaille’s work has this active and charged quality, as the artist sees herself in ‘collaboration’ with her objects, materials, and media, “It’s not ‘me’ ”, she says, “it is ‘US’”. Cachemaille draws on philosopher Jane Bennett’s concept of “material vibrancy”. This informs her artmaking strategies; by intentionally anthropomorphising non-human things she aims to increase our awareness of what they are contributing. 

The artist makes explicit efforts to increase the human-like qualities and bodily aspects of her sculptures. She does this to form and create attachments to the artworks and charge them with agendas and roles. This is part of a wider process of welcoming magical or superstitious thinking and behaviors within her art-practice. This intentional act of creating and nurturing attachments in her studio is a self-soothing practice. Cachemaille has implemented these therapeutic methods as way to work through her emotions, in this case about her daughter leaving home, resulting in a dynamic and lively exhibition.


Essay by Felixe Laing

(Bennett, Jane (2010). Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press. ISBN9780822346197.)


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