I’m an utterly untrained dabbler, and I’ve been drawing ever since I burst forth from an NHS bed into England.Read More
Street art can shake and defamiliarize the environments we live in; like refreshing totems that break up routine and challenge the status quo.Read More
I’m a self-taught artist from the city of Nottingham, trying to stamp my mark on the world using political art as my weapon.Read More
Human beings will continue creating art regardless of funding and cuts to the arts. Making art is a human need.Read More
I feel like even today a painted portrait can give you so much more than a picture. It can bring light to your inner soul.Read More
We are evolution understanding itself better and better every day.Read More
The future of art is just disagreeing with whatever came directly before.Read More
I had a real struggle naming this week’s blog. I had planned to call it “Conceptual Portraiture” but then I realised not all the artworks I wanted to talk about are necessarily Conceptual. Still, there is something that made me put these artworks together, even if I struggle to articulate it. The link is obvious really; I’m saying they’re portraits but, like, where are the people? The portraits I’ve looked at in the rest of the blog series have all been images of people. But do portraits have to be representational likenesses of a person? Are there other ways to represent a person? These are some of the questions raised and explored in the works of Eleanor Antin, Robert Rauschenberg and Arman.
Traditionally, the face and body have been central to portraiture, we’ve seen and discussed this again, and again, and again. But why? For centuries it was believed that your outer appearance reflected your inner self. An ugly exterior reflected an evil interior. This idea is everywhere in fairy tales (think ugly evil witches and beautiful princesses). But we know now that it’s rubbish. Our natural outer appearance is not related to our character, personality, skills and interests, the things that make us who we are (although it can be altered to represent these things, through clothing, make up and body modification). As our way of thinking about ourselves has evolved so has the way we represent ourselves. This is the idea, or concept, that Antin, Rauschenberg and Arman are all thinking about.
Through, Blood of a Poet Box, 1965-1968 Antin explores ideas about biological uniqueness, creative talent and the similarities and differences between people. Antin filled a specimen box with 100 samples of blood from 100 poets she knew. The unique blood samples of each of the poets all appear the same when laid out in Antin’s box, you cannot differentiate one poet from another without reading the labels on the sample. As Jayne Wark remarks, Blood of a Poet Box reveals that “biology is neither identity nor destiny”. Every blood sample is different and yet also, visually, the same. Although blood may be unique, blood alone does not make us who we are.
Robert Rauschenberg also explores the idea of biological uniqueness in his Self-Portrait (For the New Yorker Profile), 1964. Rauschenberg was asked to send a self-portrait to accompany a New Yorker segment on him, instead he sent off his thumbprint. Although the fingerprint is unique to Rauschenberg, we cannot visually recognize it as a representation of him.
Both Antin and Rauschenberg are exploring the idea of biological uniqueness. What they both demonstrate, is that our identities must be more than biological elements. And if this is true and our biologically unique attributes do not differentiate us from others, then what does make us individuals? And how can this be expressed in a portrait?
Antin explores this in her series, “Portraits of Eight New York Women”, 1970. These portraits are made up of objects and text which Antin presents as representations of women she knew. These pieces are difficult to decode, as we do not personally know the subjects like Antin. Still, there’s no denying that the representation of Yvonne Rainer is completely different from that of Carolee Schneemann, so Antin must’ve been onto something. From these pieces we get a sense of the women’s individual personalities and interests.
Arman also tried representing people through objects. His Portrait-robot d’Iris, 1960, is a portrait of the gallery owner Iris Clert, which represents her through her possessions. It’s like looking through someone’s bedroom, decoding who someone is through what they own. If Antin and Rauschenberg revealed that identities were not related to nature, then Arman suggests they have a lot more to do with nurture. Or, in other words, we have the power to build ourselves through possessions. Today, we can even construct our identities online through social media.
Arman was asked to make the portrait of Iris Clert for a group exhibition which also featured Robert Rauschenberg. Rauschenberg actually forgot to make his portrait, so he hastily sent off a telegram saying: “This is a Portrait of Iris Clert if I Say So”. This telegram is a fantastic example of Conceptual Art (and how artists can get away with anything if they’re famous). The telegram makes us consider the authority we give artists. Rauschenberg says the telegram is a portrait of Iris Clert and he’s an artist, so it must be. This reminds me of Titian’s Portrait of Isabella d’Este which looked nothing like her. Titian is an artist, so when he says this is a portrait of Isabella d’Este we believe him, even if he’s painted her 30 years younger than she actually was. I think Rauschenberg is poking fun at this sort of thing and seeing how much he can get away with (quite a lot apparently).
Rauschenberg’s telegram also reveals a key problem still being explored today: can an object ever truly stand in for a person? Can art materials ever create a satisfying portrait? Is oil on canvas really any closer to a person than a telegram?
Rauschenberg, Antin and Arman explored what portraiture was in the 20th century. But what, I hear you ask, is portraiture today? If you want to find out make sure you visit our exhibition Reflection. To find out more about the artists featured in the exhibition, have a read through Nathan T. Dean's interviews with the artists, so far he's spoken to David Hopkins, Sonja Benskin Mesher, and Milad Karamooz. I'll leave you with one final thought, can an interview be a portrait?
Opening Night 13th April 2018, 6-9pm.
14th April – 28 April 2018
Bowdoin College Museum of Art. “This Is a Portrait If I Say So: Identity in American Art, 1912 to Today.” http://www.bowdoin.edu/art-museum/exhibitions/2016/this-is-a-portrait-if-i-say-so.shtml
Wark, Jayne. “Conceptual Art and Feminism: Martha Rosler, Adrian Piper, Eleanor Antin, and Martha Wilson.” Woman’s Art Journal 22, No. 1 (Spring – Summer 2001): 44-50.
We shouldn’t let nobody prison our mind.Read More
“I pickle it
as granny bottled the bitter pears”Read More
The world of professional British portrait painting can be a bit airless – a stuffy room. Good to open some windows and doors.Read More
A few weeks ago, I made the distinction between selfies and self-portraiture, but I didn’t touch on self-portraiture itself. When I look at a self-portrait the first question that pops into my head is “why did the artist paint themselves?”. Paint is expensive, both then and now, so why do artists choose to paint themselves over more commercially popular subjects. There’s no one answer to this; the function of a self-portrait varies from artist to artist. Artists might make a self-portrait in order to practice, using themselves as models as they are to hand. They might make them as gifts to give to their patrons. There’s many other reasons, aside from the practical why an artist might depict themselves, but I’ll leave that for you to consider.
Self-portraits are an important genre in the study of art history, as they show us how artists chose to present themselves. By looking at self-portraits made during different time periods we can see how the role of an artist changes in different societies. I find looking at the self-portraits of female Renaissance artists particularly interesting, as like Isabella d’Este from a few weeks ago; these women had to find a way to fashion themselves as virtuous women despite doing what was considered a man’s job.
Sofonisba Anguissola toes the line fantastically. Anguissola chose to include a painting of the Virgin Mary and Jesus in her self-portrait, a clear allusion to her piety and also a demonstration of her skill as a painter. She paints herself in action, asserting herself as a serious painter. Anguissola balances out these elements of self-promotion (definitely a masculine quality during the Renaissance) by dressing herself extremely modestly. She wears a black dress with no ornamentation and her hair is simply plaited into a bun. Compare this to the portraits of Isabella d’Este, painted around 20 years earlier, and you can see that Anguissola has presented herself far more modestly (modesty being a valued quality in women during the Renaissance).
In comparison with Anguissola, Artemisia Gentileschi is more risqué in her self-depiction. I said earlier that Anguissola painted herself in action, but this is really nothing compared to Gentileschi, who paints herself stretching over the canvas with sleeves rolled up and dishevelled hair. Gentileschi’s self-portrait feels candid, like she has been caught mid-painting, while Anguissola’s feels posed and self-aware. Gentileschi titling the painting: Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting is a bold statement; Gentileschi is claiming to embody painting. Gentileschi’s clothing is far more ornate than Anguissola’s; perhaps this is a symbol of her success, showing off the wealth she has accumulated through selling paintings.
What I find fascinating about both images is that Anguissola and Gentileschi both chose to depict themselves as artists. They see their profession as key to their identities, more important than their more culturally accepted roles as wives and mothers. Their paintings are self-mythologising: Anguissola and Gentileschi are building their identities as artists through their self-portraits, even if these identities were not accepted as reality at the time. Would other male peers accept Gentileschi as the embodiment of painting? Perhaps not, but by painting herself as the allegory of painting Gentileschi tells us how she views herself and how she wants to be viewed by others.
So, next time you look at a self-portrait, really consider what the artist is trying to tell you about themselves, what identity they are trying to fashion and what myth they are promoting.
Yes, you read correctly, this is a blog about selfies. I promise it is worth reading and I will not try and convince you that every selfie is a work of art. Instead, I am suggesting that a work of art could be created in the form of a selfie.
Art or Visual Culture?
To me, selfies fall into the category of visual culture, as opposed to fine art. Visual culture is a term which is difficult to define as it describes so many different things. I would describe visual culture simply as culture which is visible, it is all around us in advertising, films, television, and the media. Or, in other words, it’s cultures method of representing itself through a visual medium. Art is also an example of visual culture, but not every type of visual culture is art. I would say that every selfie is an example of visual culture, but it is the intention of the selfie taker which can elevate it into art.
Selfies have a bad reputation; selfie takers are often labelled as vain, narcissistic individuals, and selfies are considered frivolous. But is this fair? Selfies are all about self-fashioning, or the construction of identity through images, and this is a concept that goes way back. Isabella d’Este from last week was a pro at self-fashioning, and almost every portrait ever painted has some degree of image consciousness related to it. However, these historic portraits are not viewed with the same disdain as contemporary selfies.
I think some of the negative feeling towards selfies stems from a lack of respect for the demographic of selfie takers, mainly teenagers and young people, more often than not girls and women. The rise of the front camera has allowed people who, in art, have historically occupied the passive role of model to reclaim control over their image. Personally, I think this is fantastic, now anyone with a smartphone has the power to construct their own image.
In some ways, an Instagram account could be a very good portrait of a person and not just through selfies. Posts of places, food and other people give an indication of how we want to be perceived. However, as with most portraits, Instagram is idealised; it is a heavily curated representation of reality.
So, traditional oil on canvas portraits and selfies have more in common than you might think. They are both mediums through which a person can fashion their identity and take charge of their image, and they both involve a degree of idealisation.
Representation and Communication
It is easy to see selfies as a natural progression from self-portraiture, but after reading How to Talk about Art History’s blog on self-portraits and selfies I was persuaded that selfies are actually “their own genre and their own medium” with only a few similarities to self-portraiture. One of the characteristics which differentiates selfies from self-portraits, is a selfie’s ability to function as a form of communication as well as representation. Think of Snapchat and Instagram, on these apps we send or upload images of ourselves for our friends to see and comment on. This functionality as a means of communication further convinces me that selfies are a form of visual culture, but can selfies ever be art?
Selfies in/as Art
Selfies can and have been the subject of art, for example Petra Collins uses selfie culture as subject matter in her series Selfie. In her words she is: “examining selfie culture in teenage girlhood and the power for young women to create, curate, and distribute their own imagery.” Selfies can also be taken by artists, Cindy Sherman’s Instagram is a great example. Sherman does not see her selfie taking as artistic practice, saying: “I don’t think it at all competes with my serious work. They’re just fun, like a little distraction”. But I believe that in the hands of the right artist, selfies could be an exciting medium for exploring portraiture.
I see this sort of work as a kind of Contemporary Pop Art. Pop artists took inspiration from popular culture, either in subject matter or materiality, and elevated pop culture to high art status. Selfies are a form of current pop culture; Collins has already started using selfie taking as subject matter, therefore it makes sense that the medium of selfie taking could also inspire interesting fine art practice.
So, not every selfie is art but if taken by an artist with a specific artistic intention I see no reason that a selfie cannot be elevated to the status of art.
Colman, David. “Me, Myself and iPhone.” The New York Times, June 30, 2010. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/fashion/01ONLINE.html
Farago, Jason. “Cindy Sherman Takes Selfies (as Only She Could) on Instragram.” The New York Times, August, 6, 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/06/arts/design/cindy-sherman-instagram.html
Mullooly, Shanae. “The Self-Portrait to the Selfie.” Shanae Mullooly, June 6, 2017. https://blogshanaemullooly.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/the-self-portrait-to-the-selfie/
Murray, Derek Conrad. “Notes to self: the visual culture of selfies in the age of social media.” Consumption Markets & Culture 18, no. 6: 490-516. https://doi.org/10.1080/10253866.2015.1052967
Oredsson, Ellen. “Are Self Portraits and Selfies the Same Thing?” How to Talk About Art History, September 19, 2016. http://www.howtotalkaboutarthistory.com/reader-questions/self-portraits-selfies/
Russeth, Andrew. “Facetime with Cindy Sherman: The Artist on Her “Selfie” Project for W, and What’s Behind Her Celebrated Instagram.” W Magazine, November 6, 2017. https://www.wmagazine.com/story/cindy-sherman-instagram-selfie
When someone says portraiture what’s the first thing you think of? For me it’s paintings of aristocratic people from the Renaissance period. These paintings may seem a million miles away from contemporary portraiture. But, actually as we’ll see in next week’s blog, self-fashioning (which is widespread in Renaissance portraiture) is still occurring today perhaps more than ever via social media. Read on and decide for yourself if its possible to relate with these images today.
We’re going to look at the portraits painted of one important, and lesser known, Renaissance figure: Isabella d’Este (1474-1539), the Marchesa of Mantua, who was a key female patron of the arts during the Renaissance period. Despite being a woman Isabella received an excellent education in classical subjects such as Latin, Greek, and Ancient History. She was also skilled at singing, dancing, and playing the lute. She was married to Francesco II Gonzaga, who was often away battling, leaving Isabella to rule Mantua as regent.
As a female ruler Isabella had to find new ways to protect and promote Mantua, a small Italian state. For Isabella art acted as diplomatic currency, by attracting artists to Mantua with the promise of patronage she increased its importance as a cultural hub. Isabella commissioned artists and craftsmen to make all sorts of objects for her; many of them were displayed in her grotto and some were given to people as gifts, such as the medals made by Gian Cristoforo Romano.
For Renaissance rulers a portrait was about more than likeness; it projected a carefully curated image of themselves which would aid them in their official duties. This type of image creation is called self-fashioning and we’ll explore it more next week when we consider selfies and online presence. For a male Renaissance leader, such as Isabella’s father Ercole d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, this meant appearing strong, intelligent, and militarily skilled, as these were the characteristics expected of a male leader during the Renaissance. As a woman, Isabella was expected to project different virtues than her father. Her portraits attempt to strike a balance between depicting her as a virtuous woman and a capable leader.
Isabella commissioned many portraits of herself by artists who are well known today, including Leonardo da Vinci who produced a sketch of her; she has been thought to be one of the candidates for the identity of the Mona Lisa, 1503. Titian painted Isabella twice, the first painting was lost but we know what it looks like as Rubens made a copy of it. Isabella commissioned Titian to paint her when she was middle-aged, but she did not sit for this portrait, instead Titian painted it from a written description. Isabella disliked this portrait because it didn’t flatter her, and she looked old. She requested another painting from Titian, this time sending him a portrait painted of her as a young woman for him to work from.
Idealisation and beauty
Isabella desired for her portrait to be idealised because youth and beauty were expected of Renaissance women. During the Renaissance, and for many years before and after, it was believed that your outward appearance reflected your internal virtues (or lack of). We’ll consider the effect of this belief more in the blog about idealisation.
Looking at the second portrait in comparison to the first you can get an idea of Renaissance beauty standards. Isabella has very pale skin which was fashionable, as a tan implied you worked outside and were therefore of lower class. Pale, almost translucent skin also implied the woman had nothing to hide. Isabella’s clothes are very fashionable; she wears ermine fur which is an expensive fabric and only worn by aristocrats. The plunging neckline of her dress and elaborate headpiece are both trends she started; Isabella is the Renaissance equivalent of an it-girl. As you can tell from this description, beauty was connected to money and status.
Is it a successful portrait?
Isabella was a key figure in the Renaissance, a keen collector of antiquities, a patron of the arts and a clever and diplomatically skilled female regent. How much of this is reflected in this portrait? Titian’s second portrait presents Isabella as a young, externally beautiful, internally virtuous, and rich aristocratic woman. But is it really a good portrait? If we judge in terms of likeness then is it unsuccessful, as it’s not what she looks like at all. Joyce de Vries has stated that the goal of the patronage of Renaissance females and male aristocrats was to: “appear great in the present and to build a legacy that would reflect their achievements for posterity.” If we measure success in terms of how well the artist achieves the patrons wishes, then Titian was definitely successful in depicting Isabella as young, rich, and beautiful, no doubt how she wanted to be remembered.
De Vries, Joyce. Caterina Sforza and the Art of Appearances: Gender, Art and Culture in Early Modern Italy. Surrey: Ashgate, 2010.
Geddes Helen, Patrick M. de Winter, Gordon Marshall Beamish, Clifford M. Brown, Charles Hope and Janet Southorn. “Este family(i).” Grove Art Online. Last Updated October 2, 2012.
This is the first of a series of blogs exploring the history of portraiture in the run up to the opening of Reflection, our portraiture open show. A total history of portraiture would be a pretty gargantuan task for one lowly History of Art undergrad, instead this an exploration into some key themes and ideas related to portraiture.
In the call for submissions we have asked artists to explore ‘What is portraiture today?’; as a historically minded individual, I am asking (and, hopefully partially answering) ‘What has portraiture been? and why?’. I hope these blogs will pique your interest, and if you’re an artist, give you some inspiration for your submissions to Reflection.
Let me introduce you to the themes I’ll be exploring in the weeks to come. Next week we’ll be going back to what most people think of when they think portrait: good old oil on canvas paintings. I’ll be looking at portraits of Isabella d’Este and using them to introduce some key ideas about portraiture which are still being explored by artists today. From here we’ll jump into the 21st century and consider how selfies are a natural evolution in the history of portraiture. Then we’ll go back to the Renaissance, hop around a few centuries, looking at artists self-portraits and the difficulties of self-representation. From there, there’s a bit of a thematic change, looking at idealisation in portraiture and ideas about internal virtue and external beauty. From idealisation we move to brutal realism, considering the changing relationship between artist and sitter. Then, we lose faces and figuration altogether and go to the weird and wonderful world of conceptual portraiture. Finally, in the week before Reflection opens, I’ll be looking at how some of the ideas discussed are represented in the artworks from the exhibition.
There’ll be themes that keep popping up: likeness (or lack of), personality, characterisation, beauty, status, self-fashioning, narcissism, identity, subject and artist. There are questions I’ll keep asking: What is the aim of a portrait? Is a portrait just capturing someone’s likeness or does it go a little deeper? Why do we still make portraits? Does external appearance have anything to do with who we are? And many, many more.
I hope you’ll enjoy this blog series and it’ll move you to reflect on portraiture.
Woodall, Joanna. Portraiture: Facing the subject. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1997.
Campbell, Lorne. “Portraiture.” Grove Art Online. Last updated May 26, 2010.
What does this exhibtion signify to you?
Leftovers signifies to me an ending of my final collection of work that I have achieved over the last 5to6 years starting from my college work, my university work, and my personal work. It's nice to see it all come together!
What do you like about your work?
I've never really liked my work that I have always produced.. never felt confident that it was good enough.. Could say I've never been satisfied I guess.
I like the fact that my work has developed into pieces that would be ideally for the home environment as a decorative piece or a functional piece, something that is just useful to have but a little edgy.
What do you hope people who come to see your art will learn or feel?
That it captures there attention immediately soon as they step into the gallery, but also makes them feel good around it.
Where do you see your self heading in the future?
I think the future is exciting for me as I am no longer going to be creating within the art field but hope to be using the skills and the creative fleek into something new and something a little different.
What does this exhibition signify to you?
For me, as well as the chance to test some new pieces, the exhibition is a way of showing what the Surface volunteers get up to outside of the gallery. Unusual as it might sound, not everyone's artwork or creativity is shared that often between us, so I think it's lovely to perhaps see another side to everyone.
What is your creative process/routine like?
It's essentially a lot of collecting/hoarding of any images that interest me, which eventually get sorted through and paired up with anything that might be thought provoking, or strange or even amusing.
What is your chosen media/medium?
I tend to work with collage because there's so much possibility. Because I usually leave them to be ambiguous, I find it's a bit more forgiving than painting (for example) because it can be done really quickly and sparsely.
What does this exhibition signify to you?
A culmination of a great year at Surface Gallery, where various creative minds come together to offer a new vision of work in a co-operative gallery.
How do you work, methodically or manically?
Neither. Generally it is instinctive.
What other work inspires you?
The main motivations behind my work derive from struggles for justice and peace throughout the world. In terms of other work, it has less to do with other artists. Justin Pearson’s ethos and work ethic continually inspires, as does DIY culture in general; the work of George Monbiot assists in addressing a vision for a new and better future; those who fight for animal rights and environmental rights especially during this age of mistrust and uncertainty; several street artists; the philosophies behind the Situationist International; my friends and especially my partner.
Is being an artist in Nottingham a good place to be?
Pretty hard to address this as I don’t consider myself to be an artist in the traditional sense. However Nottingham is a great place to live, one which has a history of rebellion and resistance. The changes that are occurring in the city are in the main positive, with the rise in independent places, however there is always the possibility of the ugly side of gentrification seeping in.
What is your creative process/routine like?
Research, read, repeat.
Where do you see your style heading in the future?
Who can predict the future? It’s about the present.
Where/how did you develop the idea for your piece(s)?
By talking, reading and looking.
What is your chosen media/medium?
Digital photomontage with glitch.
What subjects/themes do you explore with your work and how did that come about?
The obscenities of neo-liberalism, instances of injustice, the arms trade, the militarisation of society, the surveillance society, acts of resistance, the Anthropocene era, environmental damage, and the displacement of individuals both human and animal. The desire to un-ftw.
What do you hope people who come to see your art will learn or feel?
They can take whatever they want from it, it’s not my position to assume that a viewer will take something specific from it.
I’m Nottingham based artist, graduate from University of Derby.
I like to experiment with different techniques and materials such as drawing, painting, sculpture photography, moving image and often combine them together.
I take my inspiration from various streams, some from advertising, pop culture, the surrealist movement and personal experiences. My work is often if not directly political, then at least community driven.
My favourite artists: Krzysztof Wodiczko, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer and Rafael Lozano- Hemmer.
About the work for this exhibition:
Work titled: Sexy boy
Work consist 8
(10cm x 10cm)acrylic paintings on canvas.
The “Sexy boy” project is a product of a desire to create a balance in contemporary culture where lts predominantly female bodies that are exploited and subjected to constant objectivization.
The whole point of the work is to provoke discussion and hopefully encourage more artists to produce more images of male nudes, -there may occur accusations of hypocrisy, - but sometimes the only way is to fight fire is with fire.
What does this exhibition signify to you? What did you want to show?
Starting this I was really inflated and felt supported because the whole thing was a prize. So I wanted to use this confidence to fan the flames around the women I paint, get the drawing down and have fun with the colours and text. It signifies a shift from the work I was making when I won the prize about a year ago.
How does your work come about? - Do you think its influenced by your own interests or what is currently within society?
I'm not immune to either, both inspire me. I'm really into pop culture, radio, posters, stories etc. and I am wild for audiobooks, I’ve just heard 'The Left Hand of Darkness' by Ursula K. Le Guin, and I love pop lyrics, 'drive on her, I'm bored of you' by Katy B, sounds great.
‘Girls in Boots’ I immediately think of boss-ass women who know what they want and where they're headed- where did the title come from and what meaning does it attach to you?
I have another show coming soon called 'Puss in Boots' like a sexy Christmas party. So I thought of Girls in Boots after that, I love it's possible double meanings; army, night out and steel toe. And 'Above the Law' is from Lil Wayne - Mrs. Officer album, it's full of great puns.
I noticed the first time I got to look at your work, the real shapes you give these girls and women, they aren't waif-like and they really command their own space. Is this a deliberate move or something you've naturally done?
Yeah they are still changing, they are becoming beefier (vegan tho), they are throwing bombs so can't be skinny. I don't think about it in words much, women are great, all shapes.
What do the subjects of your work represent to you? (What does ‘she’ represent to you?)
Sometimes she is my anger about stupid shit that happens to me. I really revel in the irony of some situations, the other day a guy saw my work and we were chatting, and after a bit he's like 'oh yeah I used to love drawing women too, ooh the female form, yeah I like drawing murdered women..' Argh!!
How do you work, methodically or manically?
I have recently started trying to shed the romance that can make me a lazy artist and become more disciplined. Like you get told at school, look at stuff you like (Including everything) sketch, think, develop. Everyday I'm writing a jobs list and make myself tidy up or other practical tasks if I'm waiting for things to dry. I feel like I have set a good standard for myself once this is over.
Best advice you have ever received?
My mum told me to try as hard as I can to avoid working full time for someone else, which she has helped me to achieve. I work freelance, mostly as a scenic painter for theatre, it's a brilliant job, I'd recommend it!
So far what has been your favourite part of this experience?
The residency, it's so valuable, you can really see something happening, you have a solid deadline and have to work it all out. This whole month I'm completely involved, it's pretty much all I'm thinking about.
What other work inspires you?
Artist Paula Rego and painter R. B Kitaj. As well as Little Thunder and Andrey Remnev.
Name something you love and why.
Well here's some things I've been loving this month; Kemet FM, Unison soft pastels, Follow me - Aly-us, curry at Desi Downtown, Katy B - On a mission (full album over and over again), Kym Sims song - Too Blind to See and having tones of space to make work in the Surface project space.
Why is being an artist in Nottingham a good place to be?
Nottingham’s identity is cool, it draws you in, makes you want to get involved. There is a good variety with the galleries, each one seems to have a different formula.
What are you up to next?!
I'm in a collective called Precious back in Leeds, we are organising our side of an exchange project in Amsterdam working with Billytown. And I want to find a print workshop in Leeds!
Zoe Spowage’s Above the Law ‘Girls in Boots’ Exhibition opens on Friday 29th Sept at 6pm and runs until Friday 14th Oct.
Interview by HEB
ARTIST:: GRACE BRISTO
1. Why did you choose photography as your medium?
For the first 4 years in education studying photography, I actually really hated the technical side of photography, I just couldn't get my head around it all but I loved what a photograph could tell you/not tell you. I tried art in GCSE and I just did not feel I was creative enough to create what I wanted too but it was different with photography (once I got the hang of the settings) and now I love it!
2. How do you choose the subject of your photograph?
I normally know the kind of look I want to photograph, so I'll just look for that. It's usually if someone/something captures my attention.
3. What is your creative process/routine like?
Usually I struggle to find ideas for the first few days, then I'll cry in frustration, then something will usually come to me in the shower or something. Then once I've got an idea, you can't stop me! I feel like i'm very conceptual with my ideas, I find it easier if things have a meaning behind them rather than taking images for the sake of taking images.
4. What is challenging about photography?
Getting yourself out there, getting known and having your own unique style. Anyone can take a good photograph these days, especially with our evergrowing technology. You're competing with everyone!
5. Where do you see your style heading in the future?
I'm not sure, I started of with digital black and white photography, and a few years later I'm really into my colour 35mm film. I would love to know where I end up, however I do know I am looking to start trying more editorial/fashion based images!
6.Tell me about "Unladylike"
'Unladylike' started when one time my mum told me to act more ladylike. I started to question what ladylike even meant. This was when feminism started to become very apparent on social media and I decided to look more into what was expected of women, not just now but also in the past. I found it extremely interesting so that fueled my motivation to make images. I wanted to subtly photograph things that i've experienced people be prejudice towards in the past, from body hair to posture.
7. What effect do you think "Unladylike" has on the viewer and what do you hope it will achieve?
I wanted to create a reaction, negative or positive, I don't mind as long as it got the viewer thinking. I'd ideally hope the viewer would question their own personal relationship on their expections with women, I also thought about doing the opposite and doing a male version. As I am well aware of the expections towards men, but maybe thats a project for the future.
Interview by Dominique Mitchell (Writer in Residence)