Teresa Wells is a bronze figurative sculptor and current artist in residence at The Other House South Kensington, with two of her pieces on display in the lower ground floor atriums. Teresa, who now works out of a foundry in Shropshire, is the eldest of six and grew up in North England. She is an advocate of being able to become something through hard work, focus and creation. Starting her artistic career as an illustrator, where she learnt the hidden messages of body language and cultural metaphors, she now channels these subliminal messages into powerful bronze sculptures.
Could you introduce yourself to our Residents?
I’m a figurative sculptor, working in bronze for about 5 years now. I am also a member of the Royal Society of Sculptors in South Kensington. I make work about human survival – not necessarily dealing with difficult and challenging moments in human life, but also celebrating how difficult it can be in the day-to-day. I look at the incredible challenges that we face and how people get through this. I was blessed with two disabled children who have double disabilities, my daughter being treated here in South Kensington, and seeing them overcome this adversity really inspired me, and now my work. The human spirit/essence of when someone goes through something difficult, but they don’t give up and power through is what really captures my imagination.
Tell us about the sculptures you are displaying in The Other House South Kensington.
I Spirit was designed to explain what it feels like as a female and dealing with everything women and mothers must do – the demands and constraints of family life and working – balancing all of this and perhaps feeling quite burdened by it. I came to a point in my life, when my second child found some independence, and I went off and did an 18-month residency in a bronze foundry and it was completely liberating – I felt like a child again, that had discovered something wonderful. I speak to many women who endure so much in the day-to-day and seek liberation. In a way she looks quite tortured, and the position is there to represent the constraints and difficulties that a woman endures, but she is also draped over an arc of light and that is her spirituality and freedom.
Weight of the World is about the difficulties that men experience in expressing themselves – they deal with all the stress and pressures that life puts on us. Whereas a woman may be able to express this with friends, it is often harder for a man, carrying these feelings inside and creating internal conflict. I wanted to show a man bent double and constrained within a circle which represents the world and these constraints.
Could you tell us about your style and how it developed?
I had always been terrified of human anatomy and for a long time I had been an abstract sculptor. I was making mixed media stories of small-scale human figures, teaching myself human anatomy, and I thought ‘I will set myself this as a challenge.’ I began to study anatomy books and the human figure and won an award from Richard Deakin, one of the turner prize winners – out of 3,500 entries, I was selected as ‘Best in Show’ which totally blew me away!
I was then on a field trip to the British Museum one day and bumped into another famous sculptor called William Tucker, who taught Richard Deacon, and he suggested bronze as my next move. A week later, I was at another exhibition showcasing my story pieces and I met a man who had a bronze foundry in Shropshire – it all seemed to slot into place. I went for a course and 18 months later I was still there and completely in love with the technicality and physicality of the process. I love how the material has a real connection with time, value and history – when you talk about bronze you think of the Ancient Greeks and Rome and its longevity means it will be here forever. When you buy a piece of bronze, it’s a legacy for the future.
One of our brand pillars is to create memorable experiences – are there any memorable experiences that came about because of your work/art?
I was honoured to work with Juliet Sargeant this year on a garden celebrating 50 years of Blue Peter – the concept came about by a charitable organisation donating to the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and it was a project about giving back. Someone anonymously donated enough for 4/5 gardens to celebrate the end of covid and celebrate coming back together. One was to commemorate Blue Peter and so I made a sculpture for the RHS Bridgewater Garden in Salford. It was my first time at the Chelsea Flower Show, I met Valerie singleton, and it was just an incredible experience and such a confidence booster for my work too! I used to watch Blue Peter as a child, and this was a real full circle experience for me to come back to adventure and craft as an adult.
Favourite exhibitions/must visit displays in London?
I like to stop into Tate Modern and Tate Britain. I really love the British Museum – I love how it’s all about human beings and I take great inspiration from there. In South Kensington, I love the V&A – my favourite are the Raphael rooms. They have this wonderful church-like ‘hushness’ about them – it’s dark and you feel so relaxed, as if the world has disappeared and you can just sit there and take in the tapestries. The Cast rooms also blow me away, just by the scale of the pieces!
Is there a particular message you’re passionate about sharing through your art?
The ability to survive through adversity – that’s what inspires me!
I have so much ambition for where I want to go. There are certain things I want to achieve and I’m hungry to try anything – commissions, great works and a great public work is one of my next big challenges! I want my pieces to go, and I need to move into new work and let them take on their own life.
I have a new agent and have also just been added into a few galleries in London so it’s all onwards and upwards…