Church has an unparalleled ability to depict the essence of an occasion, a way of life or a state of being, purely through the collection and artful arrangement of objects and ephemera. In her last series of work, ‘At Your Service’, her subjects ranged from ‘High Tea’ to ‘Sunday Roast’. Each composition was made up of a number of pieces of vintage tableware and when viewed from a distance resembled a medal, thus cleverly exploring the multiple notions of service.
In ‘Insignia’, Church again manages to source the perfect pieces and, by arranging them to illustrate her theme, elevate them to something extraordinary. Insignia are emblems, symbols, flags and coats of arms - those badges we create to identify ourselves, either as individuals or groups. Church has created a series of Insignia symbolising boys (titled ‘Frogs & Snails’), girls (‘Sugar & Spice’), gentlemen (‘Gentleman’), gentlewomen (‘Gentlewoman’), and couples (‘Union’).
While her work unabashedly romanticises these states of being, it is both nostalgic and current. Rather than wanting to neatly ‘box’ people, Church hopes those who see her work will “recognise in each ensign elements of their own histories and realities” and that, for example, ‘Sugar and Spice’ will have as much resonance for the mother of young girls (who was once a ballet-loving ingenue herself), as for her little girls themselves.
Just as a coat of arms is made up of a number of elements each representing some aspect of the bearer, Church’s insignia are collections of symbols. The trophy in ‘Gentleman’ represents the drive of man to achieve and central to the work is a vintage boxing bag representing strength, agility and strategy. The pearls adorning ‘Gentlewoman’ were traditionally given to a woman by her fiancé upon their engagement or the birth of their first child. The foliage adorning ‘Union’ is a metaphor for the growth and evolution of two people together over time. Each and every element of these compositions has been painstakingly considered and subsequently sourced. Church describes this process as being “like having a pair of divining rods - I just had a clear idea of what I needed to find and a sixth sense kicked in and helped me discover it all”
In 2012 Church moved to Toronto, Canada from Waiheke Island, New Zealand and she describes the finding of the numerous pieces needed to create the insignia series as “an absolutely magical way to familiarise myself with my new home”. Videographer Vuk Dragojevic followed Church on her hunt and has documented the process in a charming video which can be viewed on Church’s website