Clare Phelan

Clare Phelan is a printmaker who works directly with the ancestors of our digital world. Cyber culture theory, and the idea of a ‘cultural lag’ in our understanding of advancing technology inform her work. Following a twenty year career as an Art Psychotherapist, Clare returned to education, completing an MA (distinction) in Visual Art at Bradford College in 2014. She subsequently spent three years honing her printmaking skills on the Complete Printmaker Programme run by Hot Bed Press in Salford.

In the making of her distinctive abstract prints, she uses found objects of nineteenth and twentieth century coding technology, including textile jacquards, musical box discs and IBM punch cards. Steel music box discs become etching plates, and cardboard and paper artefacts are used to make Collagraph prints.

During 2017 Clare was shortlisted for the Flourish Award for Excellence in Printmaking and was a recipient of the ‘Art&’ RAW Talent Award for Emerging Artists. In 2019 she was shortlisted for the London Contemporary Art prize and was winner of the Scott Creative Arts Foundation, Emerging Artists Award. In 2022 Clare received the Saul Hay award at the AIR Gallery Open annual awards.

The Ghost in the Machine series was produced following research done in the Archive at Sunny Bank Mills. I became fascinated with the reuse of an old wages’ ledger due to global paper shortages in 1928. “Peg plans” designed to programme the textile looms, were physically cut and pasted onto the pages recording the names of mill workers.

This duality of information, a record of man and machine, appear together in The Ghost in the Machine series as they do in the wages’ ledger, offering a visual narrative of life in the mill. The series speaks to the dehumanisation feared in a growingly mechanised world of the early twentieth century characterised for example in Fritz Lang’s
‘Metropolis’ (1927) and Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Modern Times’ (1936).

The work also considers the parallel anxieties in the early twenty- first century associated with the Datafication of Everyday Life and its impact on our ability to make sense of our lives.”