The David Troostwyk / Matt’s Gallery Studio Award which is awarded to a Camberwell College of Arts BA Sculpture undergraduate, is the most significant student graduate prize for sculpture in Britain. This is the prize’s inaugural year at the Camberwell and will provide recent graduate Hannah Skinner with a year’s rent-free studio, mentoring from Robin Klassnik OBE (Director of Matt’s Gallery) and Camberwell Lecturer Leah Capaldi, 100 hours of workshop access at Camberwell College of Arts and a public exhibition in Camberwell Space Gallery.
The award is named after David Troostwyk (b.1926, d.2009) a leading British conceptual artist who taught at Camberwell between 1964 and 1989. Read on to find out more about Hannah, her inspirations and how she intends to use this prestigious prize.
Hi Hannah, thank you taking part! Could you tell us a little bit about your background and how it is relevant to your practise.
My practice is strongly based around queerness, my own sexuality informing my interest in queering objects and theories. My dissertation ‘Night Time Queers: The role of the independent club night in the context of a LGBTQA+ safe space.’ This was the first time I had the opportunity to do in depth research about queer culture, history and the critical theories that deconstruct gender.
This research informed my practice and helped me to make connections between issues that affect the LGBTQA+ community and how they can be re-evaluated in art through process and material; for example, how a queer family can be recreated as a group of lively objects that may not look the same but share a strong kinship. In the future, I want to create work centring queer content aimed at LGBTQA+ people, because a lot of modern LGBTQA+ content lets queer people down by conforming to homonormative tropes that pander to heterosexual audiences.
What does your work aim to say?
Queer theorist Nikki Sullivan stated, “In short, the aim… is to queer – to make strange, to frustrate, to counteract, to delegitimise, to camp – heteronormative knowledge and institutions, and the subjectivities and socialites that are (in)formed by them and that (in)form them.” The term ‘to make strange’ is what I based my making and thinking process around in the run up to my degree show. I will find a material, process and fashion trend and distort them as individuals by merging them together.
I started looking at high fashion houses and fashion magazines to discover that designers can jumble assortments of clothing items together, making them continually look desirable and practical. I find a real humour in this which I try to emulate in my own work. I include pop cultural clothing references such as thigh high boots and assless chaps that circulate through generations and trends, then opposing them by adding humour to the designs through looking at cartoon aliens, cowboys and The Village People. I wanted to mimic the fashion industry by taking looks and queering them using air, noise and pastel tones.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
I conducted a live project, ‘Clean Sheets’, which was the basis for my dissertation. Both the project and dissertation explored queer safe spaces, the event being my field research. I think queer safe spaces need to be a priority in both the LGBTQA+ community and mainstream society so that atrocity’s like the Pulse, Orland Florida shooting in 2016 can be deterred. I think it’s important to support local venues and club nights that are running inclusive events aimed at LGBTQA+ people because ‘A harrowing report from the University College London Urban Laboratory shows than while London boasted 127 LGBT+ venues in 2006, that figure has now dramatically fallen to just 53 in 2017 – marking a loss of 58%.’**Queer clubs are spaces where the LGBTQA+ community can celebrate their identities in a place of shared understanding. However, if these places aren’t safe they leave an already vulnerable minority exposed to homophobia and hate crimes.
Who are your biggest influences?
Recently Anthea Hamilton did a lecture at Camberwell and when talking about her inflatable collection at Poplar Baths in 2012 she said she needed work that she could bring in a suitcase and then fill a room with. I think this relates to female empowerment. Women are conditioned to be small, but empower ourselves to unapologetically fill space, be noticed and stand tall.
I think that Victoria Sin explores issues of gender and sexuality in a way that is boldly hyper-feminine and as a fem women I find it very empowering so see someone embrace femininity in their artwork. I like the way they confront so many gender issues in the video work without explicitly mentioning or outlining them.
I also really like the work of Bea Bonafini because I think it explores the intersect between textiles, design and fine art to create beautiful outcomes. I really enjoy when textiles are celebrated in a fine art context and I want to work with them more in my own practice.
How will this opportunity help you develop your career?
The David Troostwyk studio award is an amazing opportunity and I feel very privileged to have been awarded this because it allows me to adapt the space around my making process. The distinction between home and studio is very important to me because it allows me to control and curate work in a space, then have time away from the work so I can think critically about it. Over the next year, I want to use the studio to experiment with textiles, performance and video work.
As part of the prize I will have an exhibition at the new Camberwell Gallery at Camberwell College of Arts in November 2019. I have no clear idea as to what I will present yet but I am very excited to be able to experiment with performance running up to the show. I have no formal dance or performance training so I want to invest time in working with performers to allow playful movement to inform my next project.
Check back in 2019 to read more about Hannah as she prepares for her exhibition at the College’s Camberwell Space.
Read more about BA (Hons) Sculpture at Camberwell.