Taking part in our ‘In the Beginning’ interview series where we chat with new Chelsea students, MA Fine Art Angela Edwards describes how perseverance and an unconvential past led her to apply for the course.
Describe you experience at Chelsea so far in 3 words.
Challenging, open, creative.
Why did you choose to study at Chelsea?
I applied for Chelsea after a chance meeting with former MA course leader Brian Chalkley at a private view. Introduced by a mutual friend and got talking to Brian about how I had been obsessively making art for ten years but found it hard to find a gallery or artist network. I told Brian about my multimedia work and he recommended I apply for the MA despite the fact that I had no academic qualifications.
When I was a teenager I was involved in homelessness and heroin and crack addiction, in my early twenties I cleaned up and just made Art. I had ten essays published in philosophical journals and secured arts council funding for my performance work through my own hard work and persistence. This was hard to do alone though and I really did want some academic grounding or input in order for my work to develop.
Getting accepted on MA Fine Art at Chelsea with an unconditional offer has really helped me grow and progress as a artist in a productive environment doing what I love best, making art. I was also awarded the Stanley Picker scholarship which I am very grateful for as it made it possible for me to start my studies at Chelsea.
For me ending up at Chelsea was a strange random act of fate that just happened!
Tell us about your research / practice focus.
My research and practice focus is on painting, sculpture, performance, needlework and installation art. I do not belong to one type of practice, all my work fits together in a cohesive story or body of work. Conceptually my practice is connected by the themes of esoterism, transgression, mortality, cabala, Jewish mysticism, feminism, sacred sex work, shamanism, ritual and nature.
What has surprised you most about your experience at Chelsea so far?
When I first came to Chelsea I first noticed the red wall of alumni names listing people such as Anish Kapoor. I remember sitting waiting for my interview looking at that wall with all these great artists who have exhibited in Tate or wherever. I was thinking ‘what am I doing here’ but when you are here you realise how open the whole environment is at Chelsea and that it is not elitist.
Chelsea isn’t at all snobby and everyone is really supportive and down to earth, from the foundry staff to the head theory lecturers. We now have high profile art writer Patrica Ellis as course leader, with visiting tutorials from people like Adrian Searle and they are all totally grounded, honest and approachable, despite having high profiles in the art world.
What project (s) have you worked on so far in your first term?
I have been working on several projects but most of them are not complete as they are towards larger scale work. At the moment I am working on some large ceramic shrine pieces and a metal tomb sculpture using poisonous plants associated with witchcraft / shamanism tying into the ritual nature and feminist angle within my work.
What skills have you learned so far in the workshop?
I have been working with fired clay for the first time which is great. Amy, one of the technicians in the foundry has been invaluable with advice and help on how to construct the work. I’ve also cast bronze for the first time and worked with metal work. Again people like Frank and Nicole the technicians are really helpful in guiding you on how to work with these new materials. Chelsea has great workshops and all the technicians are lovely I spend most days in there making ceramics or working in metal sculpture. Then in the evening I use my time in the studio to paint.
What is it like studying in London?
I have lived in London over ten years but studying at UAL is great, my favourite places to visit are the galleries such as White Cube, Lisson Gallery, Sadie Coles and Hauser & Wirth who all show great artists for free. I also like to go to pop up galleries or smaller edgier spaces like Arcadia Missa in Peckham. I enjoy public talks by artists or going to the Tate, Serpentine, Saatchi Gallery or RA. I love walking in Hyde Park and visiting vintage stores on Portobello Road. My other favourite places are the British museum, Wellcome Collection, Crossbones graveyard were Jack the Rippers victims are buried or Brompton graveyard. I feel London has so much history and even though you are in the city you are never far from nature or quiet places of beauty or contemplation.
Is there any advice you would give to prospective students thinking of applying to your course?
Don’t be worried about not being good enough, if you have a body of art work and believe in your practice passionately, have self belief, just go for it and apply. Somebody has to get on the MA course and it might as well be you! You have nothing to lose only everything to gain by developing your work and being in such a supportive environment.
Find out more about the MA Fine Art course
See more work on Angela Edwards’ website