Digital Art School: Abigail Reynolds

Seasalt is teaming up with charity partner Hospital Rooms to bring you a series of artist-led tutorials. First up, Abigail Reynolds.


THE WORKSHOP

Transparent colours and shapes

Abigail Reynolds’ workshop will explore how to create collages of imaginary spaces using found images of landscapes. Abigail often works with book pages, taking photos straight out of books and manipulating them to reframe how we understand space.

You will need:

  • A4 paper
  • A4-sized images of landscapes or interior spaces. These could be photocopies from books, or torn from a magazine. We have put together a PDF you can print off to get you started.
  • Scissors (alternatively you can tear the sheets)
  • Glue stick or acrylic paint

Fancy joining in with others for this workshop? You can #createalong with Abigail on the 8th of Octobersign up.

THE ARTIST

 

An artist with a clear connection to the Cornish Modernists who inspired this season’s collection, Abigail lives in St Just, Cornwall, and works out of the iconic Porthmeor studios in St Ives. Her interest in books and libraries feeds into her intricate, three-dimensional collages and sculptural assemblages which are often composed of vintage photographs from atlases, tourist guides and encyclopedias, spliced together to create fresh perspectives on the British landscape. Her recent work uses coloured glass to create architectural layers through which images and text can be read.

With an impressive biography that includes studying at Oxford and Goldsmith Universities, research trips along the ancient Silk Road, lecturing for the Fine Art program at Chelsea, teaching in the sculptural department at the Ruskin school of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, and various published works, prizes and accolades to her name, Abigail has a passion for supporting the arts in Cornwall. We are hugely proud that she is kicking off our Digital Art School partnership with Hospital Rooms.

Can you tell us a bit about your artistic practice?

I work across most media – sculpture, collage, print, performance, moving image. Artists are uniquely free to explore ideas and feelings in any way they like, and I take full advantage. Just now I am working on a sculpture and an event in a small library for The British Art Show 9 which opens in Wolverhampton in March. I’m really excited about the works, which both think about commonality in diversity and belonging to a group without the pressure to confirm or agree.

Tell us about your online workshop and what people can expect…

I often work with book pages, taking photos straight out of books and using them as an imaginative space. Really, I do this very simply by folding and tearing – to allow parts of the photograph and the way I feel about it to change. That’s what I do in the workshop. It’s very simple, but has depths.

How does Cornwall impact, influence or find its way into your work?

In so many ways. I miss it when I am away, even for a few days. My studio looks out to sea. It’s very calming. I can go for a swim to refresh my mind when things get a bit crowded in. It’s useful to be on the margin and look at society from a bit of a remove.

This season our designers were inspired by the Cornish Modernists – has the work of these pioneers of the twentieth century laid any foundations for you, or does your work take any lead from these artists?

The work of these artists, especially Hepworth, influencers me all the time. I came to live in Penwith when I wanted to leave London, mostly because I came to Hepworth’s studio when I was a teenager, and the possibility that a woman could create a world for herself here stayed with me. I use a lot of modernist visual tropes in my work, just pointing them toward more contemporary thoughts and situations. Recently I have become more aware of Hepworth’s surgery drawings, because I am thinking about touch and hands in care. They are so rich as a vein of thought and you could never exhaust them, just as you can never exhaust the landscape of the Zennor road which I travel every day to the studio from St Just.

Can you tell us a little about your connection to Seasalt?

It’s really far sighted that Seasalt are supporting artists in the far south west, and the vision of Hospital Rooms. The legacy of art being made here on the margin but with deep international connections should continue.

Why did you decide to get involved with Hospital Rooms and Digital Art School?

The techniques and references and thoughts of contemporary art are often really not understood. Art isn’t taught well at school. I just like opportunities to demystify it and share some of the ways I go about things. A long time ago I was the sculpture tutor on a reality TV show called ‘Celebrity Art School’. I did it for the same reasons, though that was probably not such a great idea!

Which part of the project are you most excited about?

I really like the diversity of the artists involved, all of whom are really exceptional. Everybody is doing what they feel most at home with and sharing in a generous way.

What positive connections do you see between art and mental health?

Art prompts you to think about other people, other places and situations, to get out of your own head, to empathise. All that is really good. I don’t dig into my inner turmoil to make art – I use art as a way to reach outside of myself, to be part of the world. I think art can really reach across and make different suggestions and point things out – but not in a prescriptive way.

Making art or looking at it can make me feel very alert and energised, very in the present moment. That’s so important – it’s the heart of living well. As an artist I feel very free to do and be whatever I think I should best do, and to listen and share, to be part of a conversation. I know that I need it for my own mental health!

How do you feel about hosting a workshop online?

Just now everything is online – which has A LOT of drawbacks, but for this application it’s perfect. I can welcome people into my studio who otherwise couldn’t come in (and it’s very hard to get to anyway being so far west!).

How have you found these Covid times?

I’d like to think that positive change will come out of it, but when the government opens pubs before schools I think it’s a bad sign. I am just floating through it doing what I can to point to what I value. That’s all I can do.

Who should get involved with Digital Art School?

Anyone who has curiosity and enjoys a challenge.