Early in 2018 I was thrilled to be granted support from the A-N Professional Bursary programme. It came at an incredibly opportune time in my practice and, as I draw to a close in my activities, I’m excited to tell whoever might be reading this about my experiences and reflect on the last 6 months.
When I received the grant, I was at a debilitating point where I was trying to hold down 5 jobs and 2 major projects, including an exhibition in South Korea. I had graduated from my Masters at the RCA in 2016 and, whilst there had been a huge amount of activity, precious little of that had revolved around my studio practice; the pressures of trying to afford London living and be creative had left me, quite frankly, knackered!
Although there had been a pause in making, this frenetic activity had afforded me a lot of thinking and reflection time (especially during 14 hour+ international flights). This also coincided with a number of personal changes – namely the death of my last remaining grandparents. My work has always been heavily process based, with a clay as a central material, but the work had begun to stretch beyond the autonomous object, towards a tentative exploration of audience-reactive making and ‘scenes’. There was a re-centring occurring, away from the material, and instead focusing on the root cause of my obsessions with the making environment itself.
The death of my grandparents, and with them the end of that generation of my family, made me realise that my experiences as a child, learning craft skills from grandparents, aunts, mother, father, formed the foundation of my interest in objects and craft as a form of communication. For me, making has always been a tool to tie me to earlier generations, whether direct or indirect: my grandmother taught me to sew, my great aunt was an artist herself and shared her studio with me when I left my BA (though complained that I made too much mess). I feel greatly privileged to have had these intimate relationships that were forged through skill and making and it was only with the passing of my last grandmother that I began to look more directly at this and other familial influences on my current work.
Which brings me to Tanya Moiseiwitsch, my grandfather’s cousin and famous theatre set designer. Knowledge of her had drawn me into work as a prop maker as a way of supporting my early art practice. It was only when the familial landscape started blurring that I was drawn back to Tanya and understood that she is another example of how making within my family has influenced my directions as an artist.
It was with this moment of clarity and potential that I applied to AN Bursary; to research Tanya and theatre set design and use her work and methods as a muse to draw out a new visual and physical language, and connect my experiences of knitting on the floor of my grandmother’s sitting room with my own creative experiences and expressions in the studio.
Scroll to the bottom and work upwards for a chronological account of my research.
Image: Tanya Moiseiwitsch