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Foundation: Hannah Billett

Hannah Billett, Temporality and Structure, 2018
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Published date
30 April 2018

Our Foundation Diploma in Art and Design is divided into four curriculum areas: 3-Dimensional Design and Architecture; Fashion and Textiles; Fine Art and Graphic Communication Design. Each of these areas is divided into pathways. Hannah Billett is a student on the 3D pathway in Fine Art. She tells us about her final project and wider practice, as we finalise preparations for the Foundation Show 2018 which opens this week.

Can you tell us about your final project for the Foundation show?

The final self-directed project is based around an independently written proposal, and in Fine Art we were encouraged to build upon work we’ve created this year. I wanted to explore the relationship between temporality and physicality, looking at themes of balance, strength and fragility. I began my project, Temporality and Structure, by examining quite fragile materials that structures can be made from, such as sand, sugar, flour, wax and glass.

Hannah Billett, Temporality and Structure (Detail), 2018

During the project I visited Portland in Dorset, where I encountered mechanical remnants of the quarrying industry. These were worn and rusted and sometimes fused together, forming sculptural compositions that no longer had functionality, and to me seemed very temporal in the way they delicately supported each other. I was interested in how temporality might be revealed in more industrial materials, and so my final work is an exploration of this – through a seemingly precarious composition of sturdier components such as wood, rope, metal, brick and glass, juxtaposed with sand and wax, which are more ephemeral. I wanted the composition to evoke a sense of anticipation and subvert the materials’ preconceived strength or original purpose, in an effort to question what can be defined as temporal and whether this is dependent on context or situation.

Tell us a bit about your wider practice and your interests – what disciplines you tend to work in?

At the moment, I mainly work in sculpture and installation, but I have also experimented with video, and I’m quite interested in developing this and starting to explore how I might combine the two mediums as I go onto BA. I think my most successful work has developed from personal experiences. I enjoy travelling and visiting different places and this has definitely influenced me – most recently in this latest project, and previously when I created a work based on the landscapes I saw on an ice climbing trip in Norway. The Foundation course at Central Saint Martins has helped me begin to establish what I am most interested in exploring through my work; I tend to look at quite similar themes from different perspectives, and I am interested in how physical forms and compositions can correlate to, and perhaps be a way of explaining, more conceptual ideas. Having a personal connection with what I am thinking about or what I make has become important because it gives me a better idea of how I envision the audience engaging with my work, either physically or conceptually. I am particularly interested in how a piece of work might provoke tangential conversations or ideas.

Hannah Billett, Temporality and Structure (Detail), 2018

How do you think your work has progressed over the year at Central Saint Martins? Are there any particular resources or processes you have taken to?

I started the Foundation as a Diagnostic student because I wanted the opportunity to experience the various curriculum areas I could enter into. Each curriculum area offers a different way of thinking and this helped to loosen me up in the first term. Although I was initially also interested in Product Design, the diagnostic process confirmed the fact that I was most interested in Fine Art and so I felt confident of my direction when I eventually entered the 3D Fine Art pathway.

I’ve made use of the workshops and technicians at Archway; they have been great at helping me achieve what I set out to do, and how I might alter an idea if I have been a bit unrealistic. I’ve definitely gained practical skills and have also become more confident with hand tools. I’ve used the wood workshop frequently as well as casting and metal, which are resources I didn’t have access to during my A-Levels. I think spending most of my time in a very hands-on, busy, creative environment like the workshops and studios, has made my approach to making more sophisticated and has helped me to establish my particular interest in working three-dimensionally.

Hannah Billett with her work Temporality and Structure, Lethaby Gallery, 2018. Photo: David Poultney

Have there been any particular briefs or projects that you really enjoyed working on?

The great thing about the Fine Art project briefs is that they are so open to interpretation. I created a really important and personal piece of work, based on one of the briefs, that was a response to losing my auntie to cancer earlier this year. I used this as an opportunity to reflect on how I was feeling at the time, which was something that was often difficult to verbalise.

I also really enjoyed the Waterlow Art Park project in January that all Foundation Fine Art students took part in. We had the opportunity to exhibit a piece of work either in the grounds of Waterlow Park, Lauderdale House, or in LUX. A lot of people hadn’t had the opportunity to display their work so publicly before, and I think that’s why this was particularly exciting. I created a piece of work titled Looksee, which encouraged people to think about the difference between looking and seeing, and to engage with the environment of the park and its history, through interaction with the sculpture’s cross-sections and fragments of mirror. The piece ended up being placed in front of Lauderdale House, and it worked well as a bridge between the architecture of the house and the nature surrounding it.

What are your plans for after Foundation?

In September I will be studying BA Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts. I’m hoping to develop some of the ways of thinking and practical skills I’ve learnt this year on Foundation and will take the opportunity to experiment with other media too. Over this year I have been commuting to London from Kent, so I’m really looking forward to being able to study and live in London full-time and experience everything I haven’t seen and done yet. In the future I would like to try and establish my own practice, or perhaps get into design and construction for theatre and film, or even teaching. At the moment I am open-minded and interested in seeing where my degree takes me because I know that I will be gaining lots of transferable skills.