WECA Artist In Residence - Kate McDonnell

We’re delighted to have a 6 week Artist Residency at The Art Cohort funded by the West of England Combined Authority.

Kate McDonnell works in sculpture and installation. Her practice is firmly rooted in process art and influenced by postminimalist artists such as Richard Serra and Eva Hesse. She was a Porthleven Prize and SANE Creative Award winner, and won the 2021 Gilbert Bayes Award. She is a 2021 ArtConnect Artist to Watch and was shortlisted for the New Emergence Art Prize. 

The Residency

McDonnell’s current works are born out of the mental states she experienced at the start of the pandemic. They are testaments to feeling trapped, lonely and scared, and yet at the same time, bored. They are inspired by the few workaday materials she had to hand in her flat at the beginning of lockdown. They engage with a sense of time endlessly stretching ahead, and a compulsion to move to save off the distressing isolation experienced.  

Working Title: ‘Worry’

The Artist proposes during the Residency to make many strands of over-sized worry beads from bread clay and displaying them as an installation. Building on her Do Something, Anything work she’ll explore the concept of repetition, purposeless activity and anxiety, firmly rooted in the materiality of Covid lockdown isolation as a physical act. The final installation will be a remnant of the processes used, conveying the growing mental unease through effect and creating a memorial to the anxiety that touched many of us.

Loneliness is extremely stressful. In the same way that imprisoned wild animals engage in repetitive movements to self-soothe, McDonnell proposes to explore this purposeless activity. A study by Emily Holmes of the Medical Research Council indicates that handling objects such as worry beads and engaging in menial activities can disrupt the effects of PTSD.

Breadmaking became one of these distractions during lockdown. Also, mental asylum artists in the 19th century made sculptures from chewed bread as an activity to stave off the isolation of confinement and occupy their time with the only modelling material available to them.



Earlier this week Kate had some participants helping role the bread beads. We have loved seeing all the people participating, especially the younger generation. It has been truly inspiring to hear all the pandemic stories and experiences that people have shared.   

 Exhibition Installation