University of Bolton BA Fine Art graduating artist Bille Hatton speaks to Jessica Ramm.

Bille Hatton works across sculpture, photography, painting and poetry and is graduating from University of Bolton with a BA in Fine Art. Her degree show will be based around the subject of trauma and offers an open space for viewers to reflect on experiences of their own. She finds therapeutic value in the process of making and presenting her work; since being interviewed, Hatton has been accepted onto the Arts Health and Social Change MA at Manchester Metropolitan University.

How has your work changed in the time youve been doing your course?

I started at Bolton as a foundation student, so I’ve been there for four years now. I thought of myself as a photographer, so a lot of my work was based around me being behind the camera, whereas now I’m a 3-D artist. I went from photography to metalwork; it’s changed a lot.

I spend a lot of time welding and fabricating with metal. I don’t think I’ve ever been a painter but I’m exploring that as well. I had this idea in my head of what an artist was before I started university. University helped to develop my skills as well as my ideas, so I wasn’t just like ‘I can be a photographer or a painter,’ I was like ‘I can be a photographer or a poet’. I do a lot of poetry within my work.

Other people around me have influenced me. It’s been hard not working alongside people. [Along with] one of the girls from my course, Shana Khatir, we started up a podcast called ‘Dexterity Talk’, based around our experiences as developing artists. It’s been really good. That’s how we’ve been connecting –  we’ve been connecting differently.

Do you know what your degree show will involve?

We’re physically putting up our exhibition. Whether we have an opening night or whether people are allowed to go round it we’re not too sure yet. Basically I want to show what I’ve learnt over university. I’m doing a mixed-media installation with sculptures, paintings and a collection of poetry.

How will the poetry feature in the installation?

I’ve written a collection of poems, selected certain poems and made pieces of work from them as a reference. I’m not directly telling the viewers which poems match which artworks, so it’s up to them to interpret. It’s all based around trauma. I’ll take my own feelings or emotions, or things that have affected me – basically my own traumas – and I write about them. I’ll turn them into poems and then the feeling I get re-reading the poems or writing the poems, I’ll put into the artwork. I have a poem in mind, and how that poem makes me feel translates to what I’m making. So rather than thinking, ‘I’m going to paint the square on the wall,’ I just feel the poem and make how it’s feeling.

Can you say more about the idea of trauma and therapy in your work? 

When I speak about trauma I’m talking about trauma as a whole. I’ve just had some writing published about this, looking at how trauma affects us. It’s a release. I’m very into art therapy and how we create these releases. When you write something down it becomes real, it’s not just this feeling inside you. Art has that therapeutic value; it’s making the trauma real and sharing it with other people. What I especially like about the poems is that I write them and if someone else reads them, the way that they feel is a connection. My collection of poems is called ‘from birth till now’. It’s not on a specific trauma or on a specific time.

What do you want to achieve with your degree show?

I want to see how people connect, not just to my art but to the poems. And I want to see if people connect the specific piece with the specific poem. And potentially – if people have experienced the same things that I have – whether they would see the connection, or whether they would see something different. That’s what I’m going for.

How would you describe its significance or importance in your development as an artist?

What I’m making is significant for me because I’m tying up all my loose ends. All these things I’ve learnt at university and have been working on for so long are coming together into one. It’s showing people what you can do and being like ‘this is me’ in art form; ‘these are my emotions’. I feel it’s important that when I apply for my masters or go into the art world I’m like: ‘I did this exhibition and this is what it was’. I’m putting myself into the art. I’m definitely challenging myself and testing where I can go and what I can do, what I can achieve as well; I’m risk taking.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’ve applied to do a fine art MA at Manchester School of Art. I want to do a masters and then potentially go on to be a lecturer or some kind of teacher. For a while I did want to be an art therapist but I thought the best way to help people – especially to express themselves through art – is to get in there early, while they’re learning, and show that art is a good way to progress. As a career path as well as emotionally there’s a stigma around being an artist. If you can show people that there is a career in it and that if you’ve got the passion and the drive you can do something with it, you can change people’s lives or futures. There are times when you walk into a gallery and you’re so emotional it changes how you feel about something. I think people don’t realise they can do that. There are so many people who have the talent, but people say, ‘oh, it’s not a real career, it’s not a real job’. It’s driven out of them. There is power in art and it does effect change, it really does. I just think art is a really important part of our day, and of our lives.

Instagram @bls.hatton

Degree Show: University of Bolton Degree Show launches online 9 June 2021.

Interview by Jessica Ramm.

1. Bille Hatton, My best friend depression, 2021.
2. Bille Hatton, I’m a little stuck right now, but one day I will fly out of here