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Llangollen Massive Heedz, 2020

In August 2020, as part of the Interview Series, we sat down with the Glyndwr students and recent graduates that were part of the Llangollen Fringe Festival art project, Massive Heedz. We discussed repositioning through the lockdown restrictions, taking what was originally planned as a street party, to an online process that will hopefully continue into the 2021 Fringe

Thank you to all those involved! Check out their Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/llangollenm…

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Jessica Mehta, 2020

For the final entry to our Interview Series, we finish with Jessica Mehta. We interviewed her as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practicing artists were continuing their practice and how they are adapting during the pandemic and with the restrictions this brings.

Hi my name’s Jessica Mehta, I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and I’m currently self-isolating in Portland, Oregon.

So I started out my career many, many years ago, considering myself strictly a poet and that has gone on to expand to being an interdisciplinary practice. I integrate visual art, photography and various forms of technology into my work because, even though I do consider myself a poet as a foundation, my goal has always been to make poetry, and particularly indigenous poetry, as accessible and engaging as possible.

A lot of people think of poetry as dry or boring, elitist, inaccessible, and I really credit that to a lot of Western schools first being introduced to, what we call poetry, in high school with things like Shakespeare sonnets. Obviously our first real introduction to poetry was probably children’s books, for example Dr Suess is a phenomenal poet. But we are taught to think of poetry as having very stringent guidelines that aren’t necessarily fun, and at heart I think art and poetry should be ‘play’ and that includes fun; obviously that doesn’t mean that it’s not hard work. Only certain people will ever pick up a poetry book or attend a poetry reading, even fewer will seek out indigenous poetry, so I had actually had several books published by the time I really started digging into how to make poetry more exciting and engaging to a wider audience. My first foray into that was taking an experimental form of poetry that I call the ‘Antipode’, which can be read forward or backward, word by word, and putting that over family archival photos of my ancestors, including my parents and sisters who are incarcerated. These poems specifically spoke to mass incarceration is one of the many disparities faced in post colonial America today by indiginous people.That series is called “Redact” or “Red Act” and it has been featured in exhibitions around the globe; it’s actually going to be included at a show in Kentucky in October. That still is kind of a more traditional format, it’s 2D work, it still encourages people to participate in poetry in a different way, rather than picking up a book; obviously there is some intersection but different crowds will go along to a gallery opening compared to a poetry reading. So I followed that up by working with the co-founders of the virtual reality company “Equal Reality” to create proprietary software that allowed users to embody the narratives and poetry of indiginous women. This includes myself as well as various women I worked with when I put together an anthology of work by incarcerated native women. The thought behind that was really two goals; one, research shows that embodiment in VR has the capacity to permanently increase a person’s compassion, empathy and understanding. Now that research is out of Barcelona and was focused on domestic violence, so, it was all men, men convicted of domestic violence, half of them experienced abuse in virtual reality and half of them did not. Those who did reported higher rates of compassion, empathy and understanding even years after that singular experience. So my hope with doing poetry in Vr is that, best case scenarios, non-native users will experience similar results, the worst case scenario, not that this is a worst case, but more people will be exposed to indiginous poetry. Pretty much everyone wants to check out VR if it’s offered, I did that as a mobile pop-up series for about eighteen months prior to COVID. At the same time, poetry and VR was really just a means of getting tha engagement and getting different audiences, so there’s the research aspect of it and then just the general outreach aspect of it. I also started incorporating performance poetry art into my creative practice, this is a series called “Embody Poetry” and there were two shows that happened before lockdown, one in DC and one here in Portland. That involved a non-professional but paid model, who inhabits a body, traditionally hypersexualised and/or under represented in contemporary western arts. I work with them, they select one of my poems that is then hand painted by me on their form in front of audience and they have the autonomy and choice to invite audience members to paint a word or not, and having that kind of authentic and genuine human experience and involvement demands attention and silence to a degree I haven’t seen in non-live shows, and it’s just a way of literally and figuratively bringing poetry to life.

So now, what am I working on right now in quarantine? So I’m actually, I’m recording this in August and I’m the virtual poet in residence at Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. I obviously could not be there, they’re not having any artists there this year but I did have the chance to visit there a couple years ago and give a lecture at the talking circles series. So right now, they’re supporting me by offering a platform for weekly artist talks, and also financial support to undertake a variety of projects, including prepping for the release of two books in 2021, both through different presses, as well as putting together a single issue journal/anthology called “Interpunct” that features indiginous poetry using traditional printmaking, like a risograph, letterpress and screen printing, that also includes the poets actual handwriting. At the same time, I am also a resident at a local studio that I can do in person called The Independent Publishing Resource Centre and that’s where I’m learning and getting better at these printmaking techniques, so spending a lot of studio time right now. I also have upcoming exhibitions that things are getting shipped out to, all kinds of stuff happening along those lines. 

So that leads to what’s next. I did mention the exhibit in Kentucky coming up in October. I also was supposed to be the resident artist at Keep Saint Pete Lit in St Petersburg in Florida in September but that has been bumped to May (fingers crossed) and that’s the big thing I’m looking forward to right now. I also received the public impact award from the British Association for American Studies or BAAS and that is bringing me to England in order to disseminate information on a research project that I undertook which shows how the Wise Indian Trope, which is kind of similar to the Magical Negro Trope, is still very prevalent in real time using search engine optimisation analysis and what I do to make money is I run a content creation company that specialises in SEO services. Not sure right now if that is actually going to happen because it was awarded at the beginning of 2020, I’m supposed to be in England by the end of the year and that’s not going to happen so we’ll see how an extension works on that.

You can keep up with what I’m doing, follow me, interact, send me comments, questions, on social media. I’m easy to find on Twitter @cherokeeroseup or Instagram @thischerokeerose or you can email me from my website at jessicamehta.com. Reach out and I look forward to hearing from you! Bye.

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Alex Billingham, 2020

For our penultimate instalment in the Interview Series, we interviewed Alex Billingham as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. They have provided us with a window into their current practice and how they have repositioned with lockdown restrictions.

Who are you?

My name is Alex Billingham. I am a live artist based in the West Midlands. Most of my work deals with my genderqueer identity and how I approach different topics. I’ve got a particular interest in nuclear technology, slightly born from my childhood and how we relate to it, and all the surrounding cultural baggage of it. It’s quite nice to take that and reinterpret it from a genderqueer perspective because a lot of the information that’s out there about it is very much written from a white cis male perspective so it’s quite nice to have a slightly different view on it and a different way of interacting with the material. I also have a climbing injury which is meaning that, year on year, my mobility is reducing, so previously I have been making live art that is very physically demanding, very exhausting, but I’m finding that I need to spend more and more time recovering from the performances so recently I’ve been shifting more into film making as a more sustainable approach and also because I found I really love the editing process. It’s quite interesting, the difference between live performance and a recorded performance and how they work in different ways.

What is your artistic practice?

My artistic practice is, like I said, mainly as a live artist but I also work as a curator for Vivid Projects in their live art programme, currently working on a live art programme for ten artists called VLTV, which we had developed anyway because there wasn’t as much live art and art available on the internet, and we wanted to address that slightly for people who couldn’t physically make it into the gallery but the COVID hit and everybody did it, which was brilliant, it’s great but obviously it meant that we could refocus, so it could be less about the audience and more about supporting the artists so that they’re in a position to hopefully continue making art when we come out of this. I’d also recently developed my first theatrical show called “Nuclear Tides”, which was obviously about our relationship with nuclear technology because I really wanted to see how liv art would work within theatre, because although they share a lot of the same tropes they’re very different things. It’s quite interesting creating within that quite tight structure of theatre.. Obviously lockdown has stopped any theatrical touring of that nature which was annoying because this year was the year that it was going out to tour nationally, but once lockdown is lifted again I’m hoping that it will begin touring in Liverpool, but obviously we’re going to have to see how that goes.

I was quite fortunate in the sense that I decided to also this year make my first feature length film called “Iceworm” and I had already got the principal photography done in Norfolk so I was in a position to actually have all the footage and learn the editing process. Obviously it’s meant that I’ve shifted much further away from doing traditional live art and much more into learning how to edit this year.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently coming off quite a few projects. I have literally just recorded a micro commission for Shout Festival called “Glistening Scum”, it’s about Donald Trump and it involves me bathing in twelve litres of glitter, obviously referencing his golden showers. It was a piece I initially did for a project four years ago when he got inaugurated, inaugreated? When he got sworn in. Because I find him a detestable human being and needed an outlet for that, three hours of bathing in a bath of glitter, people could come and talk about their feelings about Donald Trump with me and give me golden showers. This piece is completely different although the base premise is the same it’s been specifically designed for film so it’s incredible heavily edited. It’s quite a grotesque piece. Very much borrowing from the sci-fi horror in the 1970s.

A lot of my practice also involves sound work, using things like theremins, sort of old fashioned synthesisers. The reason for this is I very much like to use my own material, I don’t like to borrow or use other people’s material if possible and it gives me a lot more control. Initially I was learning the sound technology to build soundscapes for my performances so it became a more encompassing thing which led on to the theatre, although obviously with doing film work, that’s incredibly useful for that too and a lot of the sound I make sounds like it possibly comes from the cutting room floor of BBC’s radiophonic workshop.

What is next?

As I say I’ve been extremely lucky with having the film to edit so that’s meant I’ve spent a lot of this year learning editing skills, learning film skills, I’ve probably watched every Youtube tutorial on how to edit something or film something. And although I don’t like this kind of talking to camera, performing in front of a camera, that’s fine. Next up, possibly a wee bit of a break because I’ve had a lot of projects that have come to fruition at the moment but I’m hoping next year to make my first vinyl record using some of the sound techniques, mainly because everyone loves physically holding something, the idea of having a vinyl record is lovely, but also I think it’s a good way of preserving and keeping something which is so ethereal. I’m also looking at working towards my second feature film, hopefully with that one it won’t just be me because although I’ve done most of the principal photography in Norfolk, obviously a lot of it with lockdown meant that a lot of it was filmed in my studio or in my back garden so a lot of it is using me or nature so it would be nice to use other people within the film and actually build up a wee bit.

Where can we find you?

You can find me at alexbillingham.co.uk that should have links to my Vimeo page and also my Instagram.

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Johnny Burrage, 2020

We interviewed Johnny as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. He has talked about ways in which he had to manoeuvre and reposition to align with restrictions.

1- Who are you?

Hi. I’m Johnny Burrage, I’m 34, I live in Hereford and I’ve just finished my Masters in Fine Art at Hereford College of Arts. I finished my Illustration BA in 2010 and have since been working in art, marketing (at Market Arts Studios Hereford, in the Hereford Butter Market), sales and the odd game reviews. I also like to write and make music.

2- What is your artistic practice?  What drove you to work as you are now? How has this been impacted by
lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

My practice consists of using found objects and configuring them to make something that holds more significance. It can involve construction, 3D and 2D scanning and print, photography, projection mapping, procedural mark-making via apps, animation, and paint. This has become more computer-based during the first lockdown, being away from my studio in Hereford with very little source material from the outside world and even less found objects. Obviously fewer people are on the roads losing things, and fewer people felt safe having clear-outs of things that they didn’t want to have to clean themselves, before giving it away. Not only that I couldn’t get my materials, and only having an old computer with a very old graphics card in at the time, anything that was too complicated and 3D would make it crash, so I started playing around with in-game map editors to make larger pieces from the 3D assets. Obviously the 3D printer and large-scale print, as well as a lot of the construction tools. I began to put more of my efforts into the 3D side of it after getting a better graphics card, self-learning a lot of newer software like 3DS Max and Blender, which I had used some of before along with Sculptris but not this much for recreating found textures into 3d assets. I also took to using abandoned 3D assets which were then manipulated in their textures and forms too to be later projected onto certain dismantled found objects.  After being diagnosed with depression since the lockdown, and coming to terms with that, as well as nerve problems, it’s all been a little stifleing to say the least. The elements of a dark satire in my work still remained as there was plenty of info to work from at home, researching constantly. Which is probably the main point that drives me in my work as well as the themes and subject matter.

3- What are you currently working on?

Currently I’m working on a few collections, one involving painting broken lcd tv screens on to donated blue felt notice boards, which I’m layering laquer on to give a transformative to, then projecting a gif of cornershop noticeboards on, with one of them sawn to pieces that will be on the floor.Another, Is a blowing up, out of proportion, of a very small piece of reflective found material, which has been prodceduraly reformed, then printed, painted, and projected, and will be soon all hung in situe with an enlarging dross effect, so certain angles all will match up. Market arts studios has been a really useful and key to me in progressing my practice. If I hadn’t had the space or the time there I wouldn’t be able to make half of the pieces I have done, which I’m eternally greatful for. The final fine art Masters show ‘STRATA’ (pictured) has been really fun to put together and something that I’ve put months of work into with the rest of the Amalgam8 team at Canwood Gallery. It really put into perspective a lot of forms of communication that I wanted to play with along with, the digital uncanny, the simulacra, the digital disconnects in integration, the meta constructs, illusion and free will.

4- What is next? – How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progression?

Soon I want to help my friend Jack Hodges (Twitter @jack.hodges.artist.hereford ) with a lot of the organic 3d modelling of clothes/characters/object design of a game that he’s currently working on which is magnificent and locally has been really well received, and not only because he’s done the vast percentage of the modelling of it alone, but because it’s historically accurate (https://youtu.be/txu6fX11aJc ). When it comes to my work in terms of going further, it looks like the lockdown has made me come to terms with a lot of things, my skill gaps, gaps between my ears, re reading about the Ginnungagap and other self aggrandising mythos. The process of looking more into abandoned 3D assets has become really interesting to me, like what is happening to this glut of talent which is sitting in someones recycle bin and how might there be a way to really give that a platform, the unfinished objects.

5- Where can we find you?

https://johnnyburrage.wordpress.com/portfolio/

https://www.instagram.com/p/CGNawQHpwBY/

https://youtu.be/WgfPWEZUchQ?t=164

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Andrew Brooks, 2020

We interviewed Andrew as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. He has talked about ways in which he had to manoeuvre and reposition to align with restrictions.

Who are you?

Hello, my name is Andrew Brooks. I am an artist, musician, composer and I work in architectural education.

What is your artistic practice?

My artistic practice is interested in stories, either as a collective or direct motif, or as a thought process about how to find stories about the world and retell those stories. That could be finding very specific stories that people are telling or finding specific information or observations about the world and representing them. I tend to represent it disassembled in some way to give more space for the viewer or person experiencing the work to bring their own context to avoid something declarative, to have something more implied, give them a little more space. The ways I work are quite broad. I use video and sound. I also work through music and performance; I’m a saxophonist. I also work with paper and ink and mixed media, sometimes paint, similar to the piece that’s behind me in this, and installation of these elements and experiences are very important to the work, probably something from my architectural background, creating spaces that you inhabit and different spaces thinking about how you are going to inhabit them and what’s happening around you and curating that experience is key to parts of my work.

How has your artistic practice been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

Well at the start of the pandemic, I had a couple of projects that I was going to work on, both of them were to do with the motif of storytelling and involved going into people’s homes and meeting them where they were comfortable in their space and talking to them, hearing stories, telling stories to them and recording their reactions or them telling the stories as well, and making work which related to that. As the end of March rolled on, and we all went into full lockdown, that was a complete impossibility. So one of those projects which was working with people with a functional neurological disorder, FND, that has sort of remained on hold. The other one of those turned into one titled, “Isolation Stories” and that was where I would read somebody a story over video call and obviously the context of the call, Skype and Zoom, has become a major way for us all to interact and relate to each other so the work is a recording of them listening to a book of their choice, whether that is Stephen King, Brett Easton Ellis, Hermann Hesse or Dr Seuss, Rhold Dahl or Phillip Pullman, I’ve read all sorts of different books to people. All those recordings last from five minutes to pretty much an hour, an hours’ long reading. 

Now obviously that is pretty much the same as the work except I have done it in person previously, but the pandemic context really changed what the work was about, what it is actually talking about. The other two projects which came directly out of lockdown, as a masters students finishing off a fine art masters at the University of West England in Bristol, and I had access to their central loans equipment store and I was able to borrow a bunch of audio equipment, including six shotgun mics, a lot of frames and cables and stuff to record with, so what I did was, I’m very interested in sound and the way that sound is used as one of the things that I work with and I built a frame which was the six shotgun mics mounted on a pole so it could be walked around with and carried on a frame and so that would be able to record a true surround sound experience of what was going on. I had a mobile phone on a gimbal recording where I was walking and I did walks around the city of Bristol. One of those walks was 9am on the first Monday of lockdown so we are talking true apocalyptic scenes, sort of ‘28 Days Later’, completely empty, and that was a two hour walk around the city, through the very busiest parts, the business district, past the train station where everyone would be walking usually and it was obviously completely silent. The other recording project which I embarked on was a dawn chorus recording, recording the dawn and the sunrise, but obviously because there’s so much less traffic and planes overhead as well, again you got a unique recording of birdsong coming up and also capturing the sky without any vapour trails. That one has actually turned into a piece called “There are only two planes over Victoria Park” because there were two planes in three hours that went over the top of the recording. The video recording was of the sky’s colour changing, not so much the sunrise but just looking at the sky.

What are you currently working on?

What I’m working on right now is I have been trying to present those in such a way so what I said at the start was trying to disassemble my practice, disassemble the story that I’m trying to tell, the information, find specific information, I think it’s been a way of trying to present those so that they aren’t a declarative literal representation, it gives space for a little bit more interpretation rather than a direct document of it, so that’s one of the things I have been working on. “There are only two planes over Victoria Park”, is projected from above. There is a wash over the participant with speakers surrounding the projection onto the floor. Putting the projection of a film, the visual, in a place repositioning it so it’s not a primary element of the experience.

What’s next? How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progress?

So what’s probably been really interesting, or one of the best things that has come out of lockdown is that I’ve moved from Bristol up to just outside Edinburgh, 30 miles east of Edinburgh on the coast in East Lothian. I think what’s been really nice is the connections that we’ve been able to maintain, I was part of various artist groups with people who I did my masters with, we’ve started an artist collective called Flooring Collective and I’m also a member of another Bristol based collective The Artist Project Space, TAPS. What’s been really surprising is that through lockdown, although I’ve moved 350 miles away, my connection with them is just as strong as if I was still in Bristol and our cohesion as groups is probably stronger because we’re able to and it’s so usual to meet online, and that’s been a really good thing to come out of it. I think my pieces now, I’m starting to work less directly with the pandemic but more working with it’s context, so trying to find new opportunities and new ways to present work, new ways to exhibit work, but also going to some of the older projects, so like the FND, functional neurological disorder sufferers, working with them and actually using what I’ve learnt through the Isolation Story project to engage and push that project forward in the new context.

Where can we find you?

You can find me at my website ajb-art.com , on Instagram or Twitter @bajbart.

I also recommend taking a look at the collectives that I’m a part of, Flooring Collective on Instagram is just being launched and The Artist Project Space or TAPS which is Bristol based. I am always open to collaboration and chatting to people whether through the Isolation Stories, I’d still be happy to read people stories over video, or just to connect, chat, discuss ideas or projects, feel free to drop me a line.

Thank you very much and thank you very much to Dispensary Gallery.

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William Hughes, 2020

To continue our Interview Series, offering an insight into artists’ practices whilst under lockdown restrictions, we interviewed William Hughes to see how he has adapted and if these unprecedented times have inspired further development.

1- Who are you? Introduce yourself

My names William Hughes, I’m an artist from Coventry. I’ve just finished my fine art degree at Coventry University. My practice developed a lot over my degree and now I have a studio practice I am excited about and am keen to explore further. Using handed down material and notebooks from my grandfather, I create pieces exploring processes of memory and remembering. I create works of abstraction and suggestion set in spaces that trigger feelings of familiarity in the audience using often discarded, weathered material. 

2- What is your artistic practice?- What drove you to work as you are now? How has this been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

Since being in lock-down I’ve tried to keep positive; creating work with what I have available to me. Ordinarily I create work on canvases, and create traditional films for projection, yet through these times; these resources are less available. 

A quote from Robert Morris really influences my practice: “Memory is a delay. Memory is a fragment. Memory is of the body that passed. Memory is the trace of a wave goodbye made with a slightly clenched fist”. Memory is unreliable, fragmented and yet supportive; since being in lockdown, I have explored areas in which we feel supported and where initial memories are created – the home. My work is presented in setting curated to show a domestic environment where the audience can apply their collective memory to the space and lockdown has allowed me to explore my immediate surroundings further and deeper. Lock down has made me explore my immediate surroundings and curate my domestic settings. Inspired by such work as Jeremy Deller’s 1993 piece Open Bedroom, Hans Ulrich Olbrist’s piece 1991 The Kitchen Show and Harald Szeemann’s 2018 piece Grandfather A Pioneer Like Us, I have applied my individual themes of memory, the processes of memory and remembering in an environment where these memories would predominantly been made. I have explored areas and corners of my home and treated these as gallery environments by curating exhibitions in these spaces. An example of this is the work entitled: Overhaul. Overhaul looked at an exhibition in a domestic space that links parts of the home together: that being the hallway. Overhaul was created in the space based on residual mark, memory; nostalgic handed down material and the concept of ‘if walls could talk’. The amount of memories these walls we live in would hold, if they could talk these would be the most reliable interpretations. The work created from this domestic project have been some of my favourites; a series of canvas studies using deteriorated and recycled materials that I have available to me exploring residual traces from prominent memories. This project is ever expanding with the final outcome to hold a fully curated exhibition throughout my home. This will explore the idea of memory through a radical response showcasing faded and weathered artifacts, candid family moments and residual traced processes on canvases and reclaimed material. 

Being an artist through lockdown has been quite a liberating process. I have tried to keep positive and busy throughout this ever-changing, unknown period. As well as this main project I have been creating a photography project. This black and white series is influenced from the Friedrich Nietzsche quote: “Thoughts are shadows of our feelings – always darker, emptier and simpler”. Digitally edited and drawn on photographs from Coventry. Exploring the traces of light and shadow imprinted into thoughts from positive or negative experiences; the project looks at mental health, social anxiety and self-confidence and the idea of being hidden in shadows’. 

3- What are you currently working on? (virtual exhibitions, creative movements, collaborative projects, maintaining production of work)

As well as developing the exhibition project throughout my home (which will culminate in either a physical or virtual exhibition) and the photography project (which will culminate in a zine and prints), I have been working on multiple new projects. 

Since graduating I have tried to promote my work as much as possible through social media platforms and projects set up by some incredible people! Being featured on pages such as: The Social Distance Art Project, Sad Grads and The Student Gallery has really boosted the social reach of my work and benefited my practice – so I’d like to say thank you to them!

During this time, I have developed and launched my website as well that is being regularly updated with new artwork and projects (which I will attach at the end). This has been great as it allowed me to edit and review previous work, something I should do more regularly. Working as an artist has its ups and downs but as I’ve said, it’s been quite a liberating process. I have applied for a lot of opportunities some successful and unsuccessful – but that comes with being an artist. I have learnt a lot about myself, what I can do, create and write about when I am given such a chance. I’ve been networking a lot, introducing myself to curators and other art professionals which has resulted in some incredible opportunities. I’ve started working with a community interest company which is incredible and was invited to be in an online exhibition with StudioELL (online) which was such a confidence boost. Also, I was recently part of The SHIM / Bachelors Show which was exhibited on Artsy. Being on such a platform is incredible and has led to more opportunities and personal development and I am excited (and a bit nervous) to see what happens next. 

Collaboration is important and throughout lockdown, this idea became more prominent. I, along with a fellow artist and writer friend have started to think about collaborative projects mixing art with the spoken and written word which would involve profiling art graduates in the Midlands area. This collab is a really exciting prospect in its early stages. 

The idea of keeping busy has always been a vital aspect in my progression. Throughout university I tried to keep busy creating work, reading and participating in projects / exhibitions to gain as much experience as I can. This belief was vital to keep me going throughout lockdown and will continue now we are entering a ‘new normal’. 

4- What is next? – How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progression?

The pandemic has if anything cemented beliefs I had already felt throughout my time in university but has allowed me to develop new ideas and projects; exploring new pathways and opportunities in a liberating sense. Staying busy throughout this period has its ups and downs, so I think I might have a little break over the Summer away from screens. This time away from screens / electricity will allow me to discover a deeper understanding of where myself and my work will go next. 

The pandemic made me explore my immediate surroundings (being my home) and this will continue and only grow moving out of this. Curating has always been a passion of mine (a career I hope to go into in the next coming years) and I plan to progress this knowledge and gain experience in this field. Pop Up exhibitions will play a role in this – I plan to curate a number of pop ups throughout Coventry city centre to try and get the public back into the city post lockdown. These are being planned at the moment but will be happening soon. 

I hope to start to work more in the arts in the city. A lot of projects and collaborations I was working on before lockdown were postponed and some haven’t started again so hopefully these will again soon. With Coventry being the city of culture in 2021 and the third Coventry biennial starting in Autumn 2021, I hope to get involved with both of these exciting opportunities and will do my best to do so. The pandemic has reinforced this interest. 

5- Where can we find you? Extra projects you are working on, social media, website, exhibitions you will be in, etc.

You can find me on Instagram, that being: @will.hughesss. I post images of my work being created, hung in exhibitions and some photography – nothing too serious. My website is https://hugheswilliam74.wixsite.com/mysite – please feel free to have a look through. It is updated regularly with new work, new exhibitions and photography. My email is hugheswilliam74@gmail.com – please feel free to get in touch, it would be great to talk to other artists working through lockdown and potentially collaborate – who knows. That’s the beauty of this online working, there is freedom to interact with likeminded individuals and there are possibilities to work together on projects. I’ll attach my LinkedIn profile as well: https://www.linkedin.com/in/william-hughes-1072821a4/ .

Over the coming weeks I’m going to exhibited in Safe House in London with Uncovered Collective in the exhibition: Emergent Vision. This is going to be such a great exhibition and I am so excited to be part of this! If you are around London in October, be sure to come and see. Collaborative projects and pop up projects are starting to get momentum – I am excited for these so do get in touch to be considered for being involved. There will be open calls and the like moving forward. Finally, I would like to say thank you to Dispensary Gallery for allowing me the opportunity to answer and be part of the lockdown interview series. It’s been great – you are incredible for supporting artists throughout these strange times. 

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Nerissa Cargill Thompson, 2020

To continue our Interview Series, offering an insight into artists’ practices whilst under lockdown restrictions, we interviewed Nerissa Cargill Thompson to see how she has adapted and if these unprecedented times have inspired further development of her practice.

1- Who are you? Introduce yourself

My name is Nerissa Cargill Thompson. I’m a designer, maker and facilitator with over 20 years of experience of professional and community practice. I originally trained in Theatre Design but it was through my community arts practice, that my interest in textiles grew and a desire to develop personal artwork rather than just designing for others. I decided to go back to uni part time and enrolled on the MA Textile Practice course at Manchester School of Art graduating in 2018 so I consider myself an emerging artist even though I’m pushing 50.

2. What is your artistic practice? 

With a background in prop making particularly masks and sculptural costumes, I knew I wanted to use these skills to manipulate textiles through stitch, moulding and casting to create three-dimensional work. I am fascinated by how things change appearance & shape over time, not just eroding or decaying but also new layers of growth, giving interesting juxtapositions of structure and colour. I use photography, just on my phone, to capture both natural and urban textures that inspire my textiles and moments that suggest a story to me. I document and respond to the changes I see in the world around me and make work using old clothes and scrap materials for both economic & ecological sustainability.

[Image: Buy Better]

Most of my sculptural work highlights the issue of plastic pollution and climate change, influenced by the litter I encountered on the school run each day, knowing that this litter was entering our waterways and ending up in our seas and on our beaches; found washed up on my trips back to my Mum’s on the coast of Fife. I want people to consider the packaging that we use and discard on a daily basis; objects such as drinks bottles that are so lightweight and seem so insignificant that we barely notice them but will take centuries to decompose. I cast them in cement to make them heavy and solid, to convey the weight of the issue and the permanence of these disposables. The incorporation of detailed embroidery, inspired by nature, touches upon the way our waste becomes subsumed into the natural world around us. I have always been drawn to manmade objects on the beach covered in seaweed and barnacles or derelict properties overgrown with moss and ivy.

[Image: Before/After –Subway]

How I Make my Work:

My sculptures are formed using a combination of embellishing and embroidery to create coastal inspired textures, blending a variety of recycled fabrics to create subtle variations in tone. I stitch the resulting textiles inside waste plastic that I use to cast true to life
pieces with cement, giving a distinct contrast between the manmade structure of the packaging and the soft natural textures. This year I have started on a new series of work called No Man is an Island combining textile maps and landscapes in domestic plastic packaging as the embossed lines and grids remind me of those on maps. The title and work are about responsibility as even uninhabited islands are polluted by plastic and some islands are disappearing, suffering from the knock-on effect of climate change and rising sea levels.


[Image: No Man is an Island –Mapping the Issue]

3- How has this been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

When lockdown hit I was in the middle of my largest piece to date, a full world map over 22 panels for this year’s Prism Contemporary textiles exhibition at the Art Pavilion at Mile End.
Unable to go to the sculpture studio, I ended up having to cast it in my back garden nearly losing Alaska over the fence from a gust of wind and much complaining from my back. Unsurprisingly the exhibition was cancelled but went online so was glad I had preserved and was able to still share the work. The piece went on to be shortlisted for the Vliesilene Fine Art Textile award, another exhibition forced online but still hope to exhibit it “In Real Life” as both are hoping to go ahead in 2021.
My first piece responding to the pandemic followed this series. It showed a world map with hints of red showing the spread of the disease. I felt it fitted the No Man is an Island theme as it was becoming increasingly important that we all had a responsibility
of behaviour to help stop infection and that nobody could
escape the impact of this pandemic on our lives.


[Image: No Man is an Island –Global Issue]

As my work often responds to the litter found in my community, I observed a change in this on my government mandated lockdown health walks. I noticed fewer plastic bottles and take away cartons and started to find disposable gloves. This connected with my worry over plastic pollution but also, like I mentioned before, that notion of story. Being gloves, they are and shapes so suggest human presence no longer there. Some looked as thought they were still inhabited with a hand, others had fallen to form gestures (not always polite) maybe suggesting a feeling or reaction to the pandemic, some formed shapes like someone practicing shadow puppets and then there were combinations as thought hey were communicating at a time when touch and communication were so restricted and some combined with other little to suggest a situation. So I stated a collection of photographs as a way of documenting the pandemic.

[Image: Glove Story photos]

Initially I was keen to make three dimensional hands cast in gloves with textiles using my usual techniques inspired by macro photos of the coronavirus. Luckily I have this small studio in my garden so the textiles weren’t an issue in between the new task of home schooling but I usually do my casting in the sculpture room at Neo Studios in Bolton so that was an issue as too intricate for garden casting so I put these to one side and started to make some gloves out of leftover ripstop fabric; manipulating them using stitch and heat.

After the initial heatwave of lockdown (remember that) the rain came and I was seeing gloves washed along the gutters and caught in the drains reinforcing for me the notions of loss and waste. Loss of lives, particularly being PPE, of key workers.

I thought back to the embossed patterns of the food trays I used for the No Man is an Island series. They reminded me of drains and ants and cages so started to cast my manipulated fabric gloves in these. Entombed in the cement, it reinforced the permanence f loss and the long-lasting effect of this pandemic. As time went on, my collection of photos increased, death tolls rose and my series of panels grew, forming a Memorial. It also felt right to respond to the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests as part of this series.

[Image: Glove Story – Memorial]

For only a short time in Greater Manchester, lockdown lifted, and I was able to spend some time in the reopened studios in Bolton casting my three-dimensional gloves. Once done, I played with placing them on their own and in combinations both on plain backgrounds and outside like the gloves I’d found. I named them “The Three Stooges” after the way key workers have been treated.

[Image: Glove Story – Three Stooges]

3- What are you currently working on? (virtual exhibitions, creative movements, collaborative projects, maintaining production of work).

Unfortunately on holiday I broke my ankle getting out of basket swing so just as I got rid of my kids back to school and would have more time to make, I was sofa bound. I used an embellishing machine for my textiles and cast in Bolton so that’s all been on hold. I’ve been catching up with things like this, updating my website, applying for future projects and exhibitions and recording video workshops. A couple of new pieces from the ongoing Beached collection that I cast in that brief hiatus were selected for the Warrington Open which is currently on display until the end of December2020. As mentioned before the textile award shortlist exhibition is online and I have been part of local arts festival which went virtual using Mozilla Hubs and Artsteps software in which I presented an exhibition (with help from the wonderful tech team at Chorlton Arts Festival) It was a collection ofmypieces cast in local litter entitled “The Litter You Leave: Future Fossils”. I started back running some onsite art sessions with the disability group I am associate artist with and had been doing video workshops for over lockdown but unfortunately new restrictions have meant ending up back online but trying to keep them live now rather than recorded.

[Image: Artsteps exhibition]

4-What is next? -How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progression?

I could’ve stopped and churned out masks through this. I did make some for friends and family, from recycled fabrics of course, but I think it confirmed my resolve as an artist rather than a crafter which is a wobbling fence in the world of textiles. It was important to me to both respond to the crisis through my art but also to continue with both the ‘Beached’ and ‘No Man is an Island’ series of works as it felt like people and governments had been starting to take steps for change to help the climate crisis but the pandemic has caused a massive leap backwards towards single use plastics. Headlines like “More Masks in the Sea than Jellyfish” reiterate this. I have a couple of pieces combining the textures from ‘Beached’ with some 3D mask sculptures ready to cast when my foot is better. As I cast actual litter, the size of each cast is determined by this so to create larger works, it becomes about multiples which also reinforces the build upof plastic waste. I have been working onthe textiles for a piece called “Ten Green Bottles”that I am eager to cast.I am also looking forward to working as Lead Artist on the Green Loop project exploring plastic beach waste on the Fylde coast. This was due to be next year but has now been postponed until 2022. But basically, Iintend to continue to make work that makes people consider their responsibility for our environment. At an exhibition last year, someone compared my bottles that were on show to biblical samplers;beautiful to have around but a moral reminder of our sins.I was happy with that.

[Image: Message in a Bottle]

5- Where can we find you?Extra projects you are working on, social media, website, exhibitions you will be in, etc.

I am @nerissact on most platforms but I mainly use Instagram as it’s brief and visual. It gives an insight into what I’m working on, exhibitions and key photos I’m using for inspiration as it saves me trawling through my own photos too. I also find it the best place to discover and interact with other artists so please join me there. If you would like to see more of my work, I also have a portfolio website www.nerissact.co.uk where you can find the full range of my work and information on the workshops and community projects I run.If you are still here, thanks for watching and there should be some links to where you can see my work both online and in real life on the Dispensary Gallery website. Thanks for the opportunity to share my work and process with you. Goodbye.

[Image: links/credits]

Current Exhibitions:

Two pieces selected for Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival Open at Warrington Museum and Art Gallery. Invite only PV 10th September 11th Sept -20th December https://wcaf.culturewarrington.org/whats-on/wcaf20-open-exhibition/

Challenged to create mini versions of my workover lockdown for The Doll’s House Gallery in Levenshulme. Thurs -Sun 6am -10pm from 22nd August https://m.facebook.com/thedollshouseartgallery/

I have been shortlisted for the Vlieseline Fine Art Textiles Award 2020. Unfortunately the exhibition at Alexandra Palace has been moved online but will be fully featured in the Festival of Quilts publication and hope for a live exhibition in 2021.

Online exhibition now live: https://www.theknittingandstitchingshow.com/london/the-vlieseline-fine-art-textiles-award-final-selection/

The delayed transfer of the Staging Places exhibition from V&A is now set to open at National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford.19th Sept 2020 -10th Jan 2021

Currently open Thurs -Sun 10 -4

https://nccd.org.uk/exhibitions/staging-places

“So Why Not Do It Again” group online exhibition curated by Cultivate gallery.

https://organthing.com/2020/08/18/organ-cultivate-presents-so-why-not-do-it-again-an-on-line-art-exhibition/

Chorlton Arts virtual Festival 3rd&4th October 2020

https://chorltonartsfestival.org/virtual-arts-festival/

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Camila Lobos, 2020

We interviewed Camila as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. She has talked about ways in which she had to manoeuvre and reposition to align with restrictions.

1- Who are you? 

My name is Camila, I am a Chilean artist. Currently, I am living in Lisbon because of a scholarship I got from Gulbenkian Foundation for an Artist in Residency Programme at Carpintarias do São Lazaro, a cultural centre here in Lisbon.

2- What is your artistic practice? 

My work, mainly three-dimensional, aims to make the socio-political context visible, exploring the relationship between power and visibility. 

I make installations and sculptures that deal with the dichotomy of visibility. I understand the phenomenon of becoming visible as a conjunction of time and space, but mostly as a very fragile moment. I use different kinds of materials such as balloons, smoke, plants, glass, clear resins and diverse sources of light, because of its fragility. 

Through my practice, I explore how art makes visible those elements, which the dynamics of power moves out of our range of view. I understand my works as gestures that reveal the space and its particular conditions. From this emerges the interdependence between them and the space that surrounds them. I address interactions between space and human relationships (micropolitics). My practice works with the idea of context as a symbolic space, where projects are not simply placed but from where they also emerge.

My current research is developed in the intersection between art and human geography. Extrapolating my previous research around periphery, marginality and invisibility into global processes linked to migration, power centres and costs of progress in less developed countries. 

I am interested in the frontier as a concept and borders as materiality. I am currently developing a visual and conceptual research on the ideas of homeland, nation, and territory. I assess these throughout the deconstruction and resignification of existing national symbols (i.e. “Geofencing”, “Territory”, “Domain” and “All the countries that I know, or a story of celebration and decay”).

Outside of the traditional exhibition space, I am interested in creating projects that directly focus on local communities and public participation, which results in converting different geographical spaces into a neighbourhood, territories into communities. Staying connected with the ideas of homeland, nation, territory, and migration, I forge communal art spaces and shared experiences that help to build the cultural identity of the community and sustain it (i.e. “El lugar de la visibilidad” and “Brave into new times”).

-What drove you to work as you are now? 

Migration and the idea of belonging are not just important topics in my practice, but also has shaped my biography and way of understanding the world and the space that I inhabit. I come from a family of migrants, who arrived in Chile as refugees of the Spanish civil war in mid 20th century and I have been a migrant for almost my whole adult life, living in different countries such as Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Austria, for the past two years, in the UK, and now in Lisbon.  

I have been involved in projects related to belonging, migration and geopolitics because they are topics interesting for me (i.e.”El lugar de la visibilidad”, “Existencia en el borde” and “brave into new times”). But when I arrived in the UK -also around the time when the world turned to the far-right wing in terms of politics- nationalism has been more and more prominent. With that, I started to be more attentive to symbols of Nationalism, like flags and borders, so every time that I walk by the street anywhere, I recognize (or I am looking for) some trace of it. In the current political context seems urgent for me to, through my practice, create or attempt to create space of belonging, by embracing the value of multiculturalism and the human dimension of the context.

– How has your work been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

In practical terms, in the beginning, the lockdown was tough because I had just started a residency programme in Berlin in March this year, and I had to postpone this Residency and all the plans that I had for it, and come back to Chile as I, (and mainly anyone), didn’t know how the lockdown would evolve. 

While in Chile, I received a grant from the Chilean Ministry of Culture to develop my practice and my research and that was amazing in order to get time to focus and re-think my production. I was at the middle of that project when I received this scholarship to move to Lisbon, and that was surprising also because we were on a restrict lockdown in Chile and I wasn’t sure I could fly as the borders were closed. 

Pandemic and its restrictions, I think, have created a new scenario for artists, a hard one, because we have had to find new ways to create and show work and find opportunities. In my case, it is harsh because my work it is mainly three-dimensional and the physical experience of the work it is important for me, also because the context in which I create my works it is central for my practice. And we were, and still are, in a scenario in which our context is reduced, to our houses and studios, with minimum stimulus from outside. 

But, on the other hand, in terms of research, due to lockdowns and the pandemic, the world in 2020 has changed, perhaps momentarily or more surely, permanently. Our interpersonal relationships have changed, borders have changed in scale, from nations to homes, and with all this, our sense of community and belonging. Quickly with the advance of the pandemic, the borders, for some invisible, appeared predominantly to be closed, each being relegated to their territory of birth, confined to our personal space, restricted to relating to those close to us, or even with more distance than before.

This scenario also makes the inequalities in which we live, the precariousness of certain human groups and, above all, the segregation of our society, appear, with even greater prominence than before, which place us binarily on one side or the other of a dialectical axis; between the ones who born in a territory and the ones who migrated; migrants from the global south and migrants from the global north; rich and poor; and many other denominations regarding non/relevance, non/access. And the above, at least in my case, has created a feeling of urgency and a bigger commitment to my practice.

3- What are you currently working on? 

I am currently working on the project for my residency in Lisbon, in a very mixed neighbourhood named “Mouraria”. The project is still on process, but it is a visual research that has at its core the question of how to create a space of belonging through art practice? The project attempts within the interaction and collaboration of the community around Carpintarias de São Lázaro, address ideas of belonging, nationalism and politics of identity and exclusion throughout the development of artworks.

This project emerges from an interdisciplinary attempt to intersect research in the field of Human Geography and politics with Fine Art practice, in order to understand and explore how dynamics of exclusion can be negotiated through art.

I am developing a research project to explore how migration, through shaping biographies and stories, model the construction of our collective identity, for the ones who migrate but also for the ones who receive us as migrants. I am tracking the traces of identity that different individuals leave while inhabiting. How traditional lifestyles, routines, imaginary, customizes and permeates the physical space. How the space is transformed throughout migration by embracing the foreign. Migration became a milestone in our own history, but also shape how our cities look like and are built, by the superposition of interactions, by the touch and the encounter of different cultures.

I am also participating on an exhibition about migration, fleeing and prejudice, called “Spuren und masken der flucht” at Landesgalerie Niederösterreich in Krems, Austria.

4- Where can we find you? 

You can find further information of my work and projects on my website: www.camilalobos.com or my Instagram account: camilalobosd.

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Elena Cecchinato, 2020

This is the next instalment in our lockdown digital exhibitions. We interviewed Elena Cecchinato as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. She has provided us with a window into her current practice and inspiration.

1- Who are you? Introduce yourself

I am Elena Cecchinato, I am an Italian Artist based in the Uk. I am a multidisciplinary artist, I always start from drawing and then expand to ceramic, painting, collage, automatic writing, installations, video and sound. So when I find a material that speaks to me and makes me ask questions I instinctively want to work with that material and try to find all its possibilities as a way to find some temporary formal solutions which inevitably leads to even more questions At Uni I studied development studies and Korean and later took a course in art and calligraphy at Korio University in Seoul, South Korea. It was only after I took a Ma degree in history of art of Africa and Asia that I decided to become a professional artist. 

2- What is your artistic practice?- What drove you to work as you are now? How has this been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

For me art is a way to find unity in the fragmentation of life. 

 I see my art practice as a place of transcendence, where the different elements can surpass the border that separates them. I like to push the boundaries’ between craft, art and design, between painting and music, or writing and drawing. 

For example I did a lot of work on the relationship between writing and drawing, or between the verbal and the visual We can read images and we can also paint visions with words, yet writing and drawing are fundamentally not the same, that would be pure duplication. So I have been asking myself how do they differ? What are they not? And where do they cross their ‘Otherness’?

This year I have been working on a collaborative project I started two years ago during an artists’ residency in Lisbon [by the River Tejo]  where I had the chance to collaborate with artists Marta Angelozzi and Céline Tschachtli.

The project is called River of change and it is very much an artists residency which focuses on the process itself as opposed to the end product or the final work. Our common denominator was the abysmal from the i-ching symbol of water and change but we all developed our own individual processes while exchanging our individual skills.

This April we were due to meet in London and work by the river Thames and of course because of the pandemic we had to quickly adapt our modus operandi: [we decided to carry on with this residency at distance, I was working in Yorkshire, Marta Angelozzi was in Lisbon and Céline Tschachtli was in Switzerland] 

We would meet every day via whatsapp or zoom and we would set out what we would work on for the day, then we would meet again in the evening and we would present to each other what we would have done and we would give feedbacks to each other and also collaborate or well collaboratively contribute to an on-line platform for mind mapping.

Another way we connected with our practices was to give each other exercises and instructions, we used metaphors like changing of tides, symbols of eternal loop or the eternal cycle and we used these metaphors to deal with the rapid changes that the pandemic was bringing about. 

 I was developing a series of videos and real time performances where I used the elements of automatic writing and water in response to the notion of impermanence and transitory aspects of life.

 Every day I would write for one hour straight with water on a black piece of paper against the sun: As the heat made the water evaporate and the words disappeared every time I rewrote them, the importance of destruction in the process of creation became clearer.  

While each word evaporated and disappeared it also left a soft mark that later revealed itself on the paper – at first invisible to the eye- and yet it stroke me like a memory of the matter and the action that took place. Within this exercise there is an element of frustration as every mark disappeared deleting each affirmation but also of liberation as there were no traces left supposedly- it was like a meditation where I was in the flow, I was writing but no interpretation was involved.

Working at distance made us realise that separation is merely an illusion and that even if confined in a place, our bodies and our minds were free. We could connect with each other on a higher frequency that is beyond space and this was making us feeling safe.

3- What are you currently working on? (Virtual exhibitions, creative movements, collaborative projects, maintaining production of work) 

I am working on some water painting, as in painting on water a bit like marbling, a technique I had started two years ago as a way of exploring abstraction. Up until then my work had been figurative and it took me quite some time to let go of figures and symbols and just be in touch with the emotion it self, then I decided to take abstraction all the way and I’m now collaborating with the music composer Timothy Ellis and we are using sound waves to make the water and the paint move to create quite phenomenally disruptive yet quite harmonic designs. So I prepare a size of water, which is based on top of a speaker connected to a synthesiser. I then paint on top of the water and Tim makes a sound composition [reminiscent of water] which ends with very low bass frequencies which then moves the water and the paint. Once the vibrations calm down I use a sheet of paper to capture and record the painting. 

4- What is next? – How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progression?

I am developing the writing with water on black paper against the sun but I am adding drawing, I want to mix writing and drawing in a sort of coherent way. I am organizing an exhibition of my paint and sound recordings on paper with Padova (Italy) and Oxford (Uk) city councils, as the two are twin cities of culture. I am from Padova and Timothy is from Oxford. 

5- Where can we find you? Extra projects you are working on, social media, website, exhibitions you will be in, etc.

I have contributed some stills from the River of Change videos of the performances that I did during lockdown to an online art exhibition that is currently on, this exhibition is called Coantivirus. There is my website where one can see some of my work and then there is Museum Spirituality where one can purchase some of ceramics I make and I am on Instagram like everyone else

www.elenacecchinato.net

https://www.museumspirituality.net

https://www.liquidsonicabstraction.net/

@elenacecchinato

http://www.coantivirus.com/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=show&catid=16&id=262

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Susan Francis, 2020

As a continuation in the Interview Series, we interviewed Susan as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. She has provided us with a window into her current practice and how she has repositioned with lockdown restrictions.

  1. Who are you? Introduce yourself

Susan Francis – artist, curator, writer. Belfast born, living in Wiltshire

2. What is your artistic practice? 

Multimedia, largely object, installation and film, but could also be drawing, painting, performance even. Really the medium is dictated by the particular piece, subject matter, or space I am working towards, I’m not keen on categories.  On the whole though it tends to move back and forward between installation and film focusing on the complex and fragmented landscape of our digital and analogue selves, where the metaphysical and the profound is often enmeshed with the mundane and the everyday. Humour plays a role, or rather poignant irony, and the playfully surreal also features in my work.

 I am also part way through a master’s degree in theology, imagination and culture, funded through an award from Sarum St Michael’s Trust, and this research is feeding into new investigations into material interpretations of the future and the eternal. Playful assemblage is an important and creative process whether that be in film, where footage of momentary acts are overlaid and mashed together to create new narrative, or in installation, where low tech and everyday materials, fragments of objects and memory are disassembled and reassembled to create new realities. I am interested in our ludicrous frailties and our irrepressible faith that we can rise above them.

3a. What drove you to work as you are now

Stupidity probably, because I think some galleries prefer consistency and a clear signature style or medium and this has never interested me, but to be truthful its curiosity that drives me, a restless desire to make sense of our experience in this world. 

3b. How has this been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?

Everything impacts the art I make, I hold it very close to myself, but that’s not necessarily evident when I’m in the process of making it, understanding might come later. Lockdown has been an odd mix of unexpected studio time, a welcome stepping off of the treadmill in regard to the frantic demands of a large family and busy arts organisation. But this has been laced through with an underlying tension, worries of children far away, the threat of social breakdown, and the question of my own mortality as someone in a high-risk category. It is an unsavoury and unprecedented mix.

I think there has been a retreat into a more analogue making process, although digital is also involved in the video elements I am working with, a focus on ordering, balance and harmony. I am currently working from a 1970’s flower arranging book, which is strangely surreal, futuristic and yet modernist in its approach to object, colour and form. This idea of creating a harmonious, considered scene, an assemblage, or diorama, seems an innocent way to control at a time when we have so little control.  I am also working on a video piece involving a number of elements including makeup videos – the hundred layers of foundation challenge – another bizarre and slightly unsettling work. As a child of the seventies, children’s TV and imagery was often tinged with the surreal. Drawing inspiration from that, and from the games my children would play which often resulted in strange finds of dismembered toy parts under the sofa, or a pair of tiny Barbie legs in the dogs bed, the work is an acknowledgement that everyday life is peppered with the unsettling or the unsafe, despite our attempts to control and produce order.  

3c. What are you currently working on? (virtual exhibitions, creative movements, collaborative projects, maintaining production of work). 

In addition to a bit of writing for a couple of publications this year, which I am doing more of, I am working towards DoubleThink, an exhibition at APT gallery  in London scheduled for May next year with Prudence Maltby, Henny Burnett, Alex Hanna, David Carruthers and David Dixon. A show I had planned with the late Rebecca Fairman at Arthouse1, who sadly passed away just as the pandemic was emerging, I have let go of at the moment as I just can’t envisage it anywhere but Rebecca’s beautiful space and with her careful and insightful support. I’m not keen to make too many plans right now in general.

4. What is next? – How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progression

It has undoubtedly influenced my work, not only in subject matter, as everything filters through in art, but having those initial couple of months in the studio at the start of lockdown has given my practice a huge boost and looking back, I have no idea how I would have coped with developing work for an exhibition without that sustained thinking time. It is vital to find the thread of direction and I think I was probably drowning in over commitment at the time that Covid, ( sadly for many and I’m deeply aware of the contrasting experience of us all), pulled the plug on everything.

5- Where can we find you? Extra projects you are working on, social media, website, exhibitions you will be in, etc.

My website is susanfrancis.com

You can also find me at @susanefrancis on Instagram, twitter, and Facebook. 

Right now an upcoming exhibition, four young people to support, a Masters degree and a part time position as curator of an NPO is quite enough to cope with. But saying that, I can never resist a new project.