AS PART OF THE EM18 GRADUATE PROJECT, WHERE RECENT GRADUATES ARE OFFERED A RESIDENCY IN OUR PROJECT SPACE FOR THE MONTH, WE’RE INTERVIEWING THE ARTISTS ABOUT THEIR PRACTICE AND THEIR VIEWS ON ART AS A WHOLE. OUR SEVENTH INTERVIEW IS WITH ANNE STANSFIELD.
For those who don’t know who you are, can you tell us a little about yourself, and your practice as an artist?
I am a person with a long and varied career outside of the art world but I have had a consistent practical and vicarious interest in art. Before starting my BA in Fine Art at the University of Bolton I would have called myself a watercolour painter — with a side-line in other creative activities; but now, conceptual artist might be a better description.
My current practice involves making artefacts for specific locations or contexts. I have a particular concern with the subtle or overt effect that institutions or their processes have on people — I think of it as a form of institutional critique where I poke around to see what squirms. I start by immersing myself in the situation, then identify and investigate any interesting topics or juxtapositions that reveal themselves. Recent projects have resulted in varied works; some of a somewhat subversive or controversial intent and others that provide an empathetic or fun outcome. Mediums chosen are those appropriate to the environment or subject matter or could be objects found on site. My artworks range from sculptural forms; film; ceramics; laser cut work; to traditional 2D artwork (print, photography, painting); or rarely, performance. Examples include: a gold glazed porcelain bauble weighing the same as a female heart; a light-box portrait of a volunteer worker; a crate of interactive beer goggles; a pub activity book; a film subverting institutional branding policies (accompanied by spoof mascot merchandise).
Having come out of university, have you noticed any differences between working as a student artist, and creating your work for a wider, public market?
I think my emphasis has always been on producing good work that resonates with the viewer, whether that be my fellow students, the tutors or the art going public. I haven’t noticed any significant difference in my thought processes for this residency but now that I’ve been posed the question, it makes me think that maybe I should. Certainly, the anxiety to generate an idea then make something interesting is the same. I suppose that at this stage, it is possible for me to ruin my professional reputation at the first hurdle — oh no! more stress!
I am certain this is not the case! When did you first involve yourself with the art scene? Was this due to your educational experiences, or were you inspired from other parts of your life?
Visiting art galleries and various exhibitions was the limit of my involvement in the art scene before going to university. But while at the University of Bolton I was invited to join an art collective near my home town — which I really valued. I’m not a member of any art group now; there seems to be a shortage of such opportunities in Lincoln. My ambition is to fill that gap by establishing an artist studio with work spaces and gallery, and for it to be a place for discussion of individual projects, somewhere to receive support and get critical feedback; and maybe offer a reading group.
My time at university was enjoyable, inspirational and illuminating; but paradoxically, I find myself in a position where I am now aware of how much I don’t know. Completing a fine art degree is barely the beginning — I’m reminded of steamy bus journeys on rainy days where a ‘huff’ and a rub on the window only reveals reflections and refractions. However, my belief has been consistent — that art should be a response to our shared world in a way that probes, challenges and/or inspires positive change.
During this residency, what are your plans? How are you using this time at Surface?
The first few days will be spent observing and researching in and around the gallery; then I’ll start playing with emerging ideas, while continuing to read and refer back to various texts and theories as the work progresses.
I hope to establish a rapport with the other artists and get to know the theories they’re interested in and the methodologies they use; it’s exciting to see the development of other people’s artwork and be able to discuss it with them and ask questions.
I’m also looking forward to visiting other galleries and exhibitions while I’m in Nottingham —there are a lot of great things to see.
Where else have you exhibited, and other than the EM18 Show on 2nd November, do you have any future exhibitions?
My experience of exhibiting outside of university is limited. My most recent work was exhibited at the end of August this year in Sausages and Mince, which was a group show held at the end of Two Queens Studio summer school in Leicester — I showed two pieces: a film of puppets that spoofed the Studio’s two co-directors; and a digital photograph of the Studio’s chairs in a ‘dead pan’/topological format. Prior to that my exhibition history dates back to 2014: Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Art, London where I entered an oil painting on the subject of mediation; Bury Collective Book Project, John Rylands Library, Manchester, where artist’s books were displayed; Portraits Exhibition, The Met Theatre Gallery, Bury with a surveillance series of digital photographs, and a gum Arabic print.
All my other exhibitions have been associated with university modules; and my next exhibition will be at the end of a residency at the Art House, Wakefield.
As a final question I’ve asked everyone I’ve interviewed, what do you think is the future of the arts? And if you had infinite resources, what kind of work would you make in that future?
I believe that access to the arts should continue to be free, because of its cultural and developmental importance. But, because of incremental reductions in government funding and the uncertainty surrounding exiting the European Union (regarding connections with European art and its artists, and access to European funding), I am pessimistic about the art’s current organisational structures. I am not pessimistic however, about art itself; artists have always been able to make art, and the more difficult the circumstances the more creative and poignant the work.
If I had infinite resources I would open ‘state of the art’, accessible and supportive (of artists at any stage in their careers) artist’s studios. It would be fully resourced with modern equipment; employ staff e.g. administrator, cleaner, technicians and subject specialists, who would organise reading groups, group crits and 1:1s; it would contain several gallery spaces, offices, sleeping accommodation e.g. for visiting speakers, and have a well-stocked library. And of course, kitchen, common room, showers and laundry. In my studio space, I would paint for enjoyment and make objects for any site responsive work I was engaged in… I have endless flights of fancy about State of the Art Studios…
Thank you very much Anne! You can see their work at the opening PENUMBRA!