EM:16 Connie Liebschner

Reams of Connie's black fabric hang down from our skylight, it takes the middle of the room and the rest of the work exists around it but also as part of it. Where the fabric falls here, you notice how it frames itself around a desk and draws you to the notepad left on it, where it climbs up to the ceiling you notice how lovely the light falls through the arch. We sat down to discuss drawing attention to what's actually around you and enjoying the smaller moments.

Have you felt much of a difference creating for a ‘graduate show’ as opposed to creating as a student

There’s a difference between setting your own goals comparative to the goals set on a degree course; it’s nice to have that freedom to be able to do something without necessarily having to tick boxes or jump through hoops so you can justify what you’re doing. It’s nice not having to stop the flow of continuous creativity to stop and document those moments. You can be really in the flow of doing something and it’s really working and you’re inputting something you’ve read but you don’t have to stop and go ‘right i’m going to evaluate why this happened’; even though you do that naturally in your own head. Liberating is the way I’m looking at it but it’s also slightly daunting because you don’t have that cushion of being an undergraduate. You’re establishing yourself as an artist and thinking well this is one of the first pieces to come out after [graduation] so there is some pressure but more from a personal point of view.

What does Pulse mean to you, how do you connect with it?

I think Pulse symbolises something alive and there was also a jokey irony like we’re all still alive, we’ve survived and we’re still wanting to do this. Because financially it’s difficult and there’s a lot of things that say why on earth would you do that kind of thing, despite doing a degree in it, so i think it’s nice to… There’s sort of that thing that we’re still desperately trying to pursue that avenue. We’re still alive, we still love it and there’s that kind of side of it.

But also, in my own practice, I like to do stuff that’s with the here and now and where I am at that moment; it’s about the light-space interaction but it’s temporary and it’s a personal moment and that only happens when you’re alive in that moment. I think Pulse is relevant to everyone’s practice in some way, but that’s my personal take on it.

That personal moment you mentioned - is that something you want your audience to feel, some personal moment with your work?

I think it’s a reflective moment, there’s a personal association for me; a lot of my work is based on observing the everyday and taking a moment to think, yeah actually, that’s really beautiful, that’s really aesthetically pleasing. You look at something in a slightly different way and I think that’s really nice to stop and be reflective on this process. Sitting in this space, it’s been an inspiring space for me because it is interesting architecturally but also being amongst new, creative people. I’m trying to use the space as part of the work and it’s specific, what I’m feeling at that moment. I’m thinking, right i’m going to observe this, I've not really done stuff like this before. It’s really interesting because I'm personally interacting with the space - drawing people’s attention to different parts of the space, maybe slightly differently than how they’ve seen it before. In answer to your question, I guess that’s what I’m trying to get across.

How did you get into using light and space as a medium?

Throughout my degree, I really spent my time documenting the everyday and so, I use a lot of stuff within my own house and this idea of moving and every time you’re remaking a space and after a few months it becomes like home.. Exploring that, I used several different mediums, I was painting, I was photographing, I was printing and all the time the house became like this installation piece. It was quite funny because we’d have group crits and people wouldn’t necessarily know about my work beforehand and they’d say ‘oh is this a set design, have you set this up?’ None of it was ever set up it was all just things I was observing as time went on but because people don’t stop and look at the everyday you assume it’s some beautiful show home type thing where the light’s coming across and everything’s really perfect and it’s not. It’s just you’re in that moment and you go ‘I want to photograph that’ or ‘I want to paint that really quickly’. I think a lot of the time artists are searching to find out what they’re interested in but actually it’s all around them all the time.

There’s a little extracting formula for it as well - like what do all these images have in common because often it’s very visual. There’s often lots of similarities between the images so you’re thinking is it a tonal thing? Is it the light? Is it an angle that keeps repeating or the window? What is the formula to that moment? Because everyone relates to that same moment. I remember somebody saying to me, it’s really strange because you’re putting this out there and then everyone else is relating to it so then this solitary becomes a group thing.

I know we’ve touched on how you want to draw people to what they don’t really notice but how will you use the space - what do you want people to get from it?

We were discussing this with Diana Ali, [in the group critique] and I was saying I’m really inspired by this space up here and how’s this going to translate downstairs because it’s a very different space. I think the idea is I’m going to respond to it quite spontaneously not too far beforehand because I think then it becomes a bit forced.

The interesting thing about the space downstairs is it’s an exhibition space so there’s remnants of that everywhere - there’s hooks and hanging points you can see, the nails in the ceiling where people have hung stuff before and I think that’s kind of interesting because you can draw attention to the history of that space by attaching and reusing those kinds of fastenings or whatever and I’ll play on that. I want it to be about the space not just about what I’m putting into it so that will kind of dictate where the fabric will go - where it will be hung from. it’s kind of exciting but also a bit scary because i’m usually very much, i know exactly what i’m going to do and i’m coming out this from a very different - much more spontaneous angle.

It must be quite difficult though because you’ve got a lot of fabrics set up here - in the space - and it will need to move down to a new space.

I’m always changing it, that’s the thing about it. I’ve been using these chairs [to position it] and I like the idea people can then sit in the chairs. Originally I wanted it to be really clean and I was going to drill bits into the floor so I could do fastening very discreetly. Because I’m experimenting, I don’t want to do anything that will risk the fabric for the time being so I’ve just been attaching them to the objects that have been up here but actually the chairs work really well - if you go sit in the chairs you get a completely different angle from each one and it pulls you into certain points in the ceiling which I think is really interesting so maybe i’ll end up using chairs in the space.

Diana advised us to go with it and literally a few hours before opening just set it up and i was like oh god, i’m not sure about that but i get what she means, it’s a very spontaneous approach to something that could become very artificial. Like a bit pre-planned and rigid and what works about it right now is that it does feel fluid. I don’t mind if people move the chairs, it moves the dynamics of the space and that’s the fun - I can just take it down. Each time I take it down and put it back up it’s turned out completely differently.

Why did you apply for the residency?

I think it’s very difficult at the beginning to create by yourself with no input - it’s almost like you get so much freedom it’s overwhelming. The first few weeks after my degree I was really into the flow of it and I was really excited about what I was able to do; I started printing again and started doing things and really enjoyed the making aspect. I applied for the residency because I thought actually it gives me an opportunity to be experimental but within this sphere where you’ve still got other people's input - all these new artists, and everyone at Surface, that I’ve never met before and that’s really helpful because everybody has come from a slightly different perspective - so that’s an interesting dynamic for the group. We’re all very different in the subject matter, I was hoping that would be the case because it gives you a completely different input so i think the residency is really helpful because it’s that transition point.

So you’re enjoying sharing the space with other people?

I like the feedback because what you like doing, you can get very stuck in a certain route and you keep doing the same thing over and over again. You don’t have anyone to say oh what do you think of this - it’s really nice to have a new set of people to say should I make it interactive? Do you like these photographs ? It’s even really nice to have someone say I don’t think that’s working. People don’t often say they don’t like things - it allows you to question yourself a bit more.

Written by Lucinda Martin for Surface Gallery

Images by Gavin 'Urban Shutterbug' Conwill



EM15: East Midlands Graduate Project

Interview with Hannah and Craig

M:  Have you started making yet?

C: I’ve made a few new heads. I want to get a few ready before I start doing the process on them. If I get them all together, then it doesn’t take long when I start adding the papier maché and painting them. Like a production line. And I’ve been drawing things up to see what the final thing is going to look like.

M: How has it been, moving in?

C: It’s been nice to get back in somewhere again. Leaving uni and not having a space to work in. Even when you’re not working, you can be sitting around and think, I can do something now.

H: I’ve not had this sort of brain-space for a while and I’ve just done five pages in my notebook already.I want to just go. It’s been up there, waiting. And now I’m doing a little test. So I’m getting stuck in.

M: Have you worked with fabric/material before?

H: Yes. Briefly at the end of my degree show I was using felt. Now I’m thinking about other soft materials that can be used. They sort of mould and morph. I can give them a structure but they are still always going to change. I’m experimenting. I’m thinking of filling them with lentils. I’m vegetarian, so I’ve got loads of them.

C: You could use chickpeas.

H: Aren’t they a bit squishy?

C: No, the dried ones, not the ones in a tin.

H: Haha! Did you know that the liquid in tinned chickpeas can be whipped to make vegan meringues. Just add sugar …

H: I feel at home here. It feels good.

EM15: East Midlands Graduate Project

3rd August - The First Day

I am sat in Mary’s Kitchen, waiting for my lunch. It is the perfect environment. There are no distractions of beauty. No easy, well-designed surroundings to lull us into lethargy. This is a functional, working person’s café, and its character allows us to function. Here we can write, think, create. All the necessaries are taken care of with nothing decorative to get in the way.

There are some nice cafés in town. Hip places to eat hip food and to be seen there being hip. Mary’s however is a place to duck out of the social traffic, to be alone with one’s thoughts and some good, hearty food. Here we can sit alongside bus drivers and roofers, and their readiness to work, their very presence in uniform and hi-vis, drives us to work. Or at least, think about it.

The first batch of artists have begun to move in, bringing in boxes and bags brimming with artistic paraphernalia. There are four here so far, half of the contingent. A hammock is being installed and there is talk of sleeping in the gallery. A good sign of engagement perhaps? Alison is taking notes, surrounded by books and ink pots. She looks up as I look at her, then we both gaze back at our pages and scribble away. She seems to be documenting me as much as I her.

Ben seems to have a clear idea of what he wants to do. He is amassing a collection of ironmongery and machines. A socket set lies open and ready to be used, a translucent oversuit hangs on the wall. Mike lays in his hammock, laptop open. His digital output allows him a more relaxed working posture. An impromptu desk made from tool-filled boxes sits in the corner with Billy, crouching over his cutting mat.

It is interesting to note the different working practices of artists. Obviously some of the methods are dictated by the medium, such as Mike’s. But there are ways of approaching one’s method that come down to an individual choice. Alison works with prints, and soon she will put examples of her work on the walls. But for now she sits, busy taking notes, not an image in sight. Her approach seems careful and considered.

The Project Space is still being prepared. Jez and Holly shuttle items down the stairs, clearing the room of its previous role. The artists prepare, making their notes, equipping their stations, bedding themselves in for the month of production. And I too ready myself to document and capture this process as it unfolds.