With the MA Summer Show opening this Thursday, we caught up with MA Drawing student Anna Biesuz on feminism, exploration of the body through art and philosophy, and her insightful advice to incoming students of Wimbledon College of Arts.
What was your background before starting MA Drawing?
Before attending Wimbledon College of Arts I lived in Trient, Italy, where I studied an undergraduate degree in Philosophy. During my studies I joined a feminist group where I volunteered in the organisation of different cultural events and arranged my first exhibition in 2015. The show, which was called ‘Lesboerotismo’ (‘Lesboerotism’) was part of a week-long event relating to the celebration of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. The aim of the exhibition was to give visibility to lesbian desires, in order to create a space to share an otherwise censored and misrepresented experience.
I had previously only drawn alone and wasn’t used to showing my works to others. Nevertheless, the experience of sharing my practice had a profound effect on me, quietening my insecurities and then leading me to apply for MA Drawing at Wimbledon. The vivid interest people showed to me made me realise the power visual art could have in engaging others into a dialogue about their experiences.
Therefore, I put aside my philosophical studies and, even though my practice is still deeply influenced by my humanitarian background, decided to focus on art as a language to embody my feelings about human existence. I soon discovered how art could actually be a much more immediate and passionate way of arousing and sharing discussions with other people, far away from the often exacerbating, analytical detachment that philosophical abstractions usually require.
How would you describe your practice?
My practice aims to explore the inner living we experience as a body, trying to make it visually communicable through different media such as drawing, photography, writing and printing. I believe the body represents the immediate and physical materialisation of our emotions to the outside, which is expressed through a bodily language made of gestures and movements. Therefore, each corporal phenomenon embodies something about our feelings and actually mirrors the contents of our intrinsic being.
I believe western society is somehow still uncomfortable with the idea of ‘having a body’. We are all used to employing our bodies to materialise our reasoning; we adorn it to suit our will and we necessarily involve it in all our daily deeds. However, we still neglect the significance of being a body, the consequences of our being incarnated as we still find hard to admit the powerlessness we have to cope with towards the tumultuous feelings hosted in our flesh. We may reasonably choose how to act, but we don’t have the absolute authority to abolish what we feel.
My practice also reflects on the ways in which our desire to share intimacy with another reveals the human drive to escaping the structural alienation I describe above.
Furthermore, my exploration of the body led to investigations into the differences between the simplistic and artificial representations our society views around sex, systematised within what I would describe as “everyday porn culture”, and the actual irreducible diversity and profundity we all go through within the experience of our bodies. I believe art has the power to cleanse our depersonalised, gendered bodies, in order to reconcile us to the free expression of our bodies by creating a subversive aesthetic.
What or who inspires / influences your work?
In terms of visual representation, I’ve always been deeply inspired by the works of different artists as Egon Schiele, Gustave Klimt and Alphonse Mucha. I am fascinated by their aesthetic and their ability to embody the movement and the carnality of bodies. I am also into Joan Simmel, Nan Goldin and Francis Bacon.
Moreover, because of my philosophical studies my practice has also been influenced by thinkers, for instance Friedrich Nietzsche, Georges Bataille, Audre Lorde and Judith Butler.
Do you use any of our workshops to produce your work?
During the course we were asked to attend a series of inductions into a range of workshops in order to learn new skills to deepen into our practices. You’re not expected to make use of all the workshops, but it is very stimulating to have the opportunity to experience something you may not be used to. The workshop I loved the most was the printing workshop, in fact after the induction I’ve visited the printing frequently throughout the year. It’s also amazing to have a photography studio to use for my photo shoots. These workshops gave me the space to improve my practice, by challenging my expressiveness through the employment of unknown media.
How has your work developed during your time on MA Drawing?
The course had a profound influence on me, since it was the first time I found myself submerged within a community of artists and it was great to have the chance to be surrounded by other creative people. First and foremost the course helped me expand my practice and experiment beyond my inner boundaries. This instilled fresh inspiration and passion within myself, changing my way of practicing and helping me develop my creativity. I feel my practice became more powerful since I started this academic year, even though I am aware I still need time to get where I wish to get as an artist.
What do you see as your greatest achievements during the course?
When I started the course in September 2016, it was not easy at first for me to fully let go into experimentation, because everything was unknown to me and I felt kind of puzzled. I tend to be a perfectionist, but I’ve learned how this can be counterproductive for the development of one’s practice, as it may not allow you to freely go through the possibilities of your creativity. However after a little time and thanks to the amazing support of my peers and tutors, I now feel more confident with my projects and can truthfully express my creativity.
I come from a country which is still implicitly judgmental towards personal morality. A place where, while it is undeniable that people have the freedom to be almost whatever they want to be, society itself still marginalises and censors those who refuse to perform their existences according to the conventional gendered social acceptability. It was challenging to organise my first show in Italy because of the deeply-rooted catholic ideology. Nevertheless, the unexpected enthusiasm and approval I have received since the beginning of my studies in London has enhanced my confidence and I have become more aware of the significance and value of my practice.
What made you want to study MA Drawing at Wimbledon?
Despite the fact that I had developed my drawing skills on my own, I’d never wished to attend any fine art academy while living in Italy as I’ve never felt attracted by the rigidity of the teaching there. Therefore, one of the main reasons why I chose MA Drawing at Wimbledon is because it gives a lot of freedom in terms of the content and the creation of your practice. Tutors support you whatever your practice is about because they acknowledge and respect your creative perspective.
What have you enjoyed most about MA Drawing?
The chance to get to know such incredibly talented and creative people. The works of all the other students are stunning and it has been very motivating and stimulating to see others growing in their art practices. The inclusive and friendly environment of the college, where everyone is embraced and encouraged to express their own personal aesthetic, is one of the most empowering aspect of the course. All students share their practices with one another, discuss ideas and support each other in different ways throughout the year. This enjoyable atmosphere helped me settle down and concentrate on my practice.
Currently I am working hard for the MA Degree Show. These are the final weeks before the show starts and everyone is very excited and focused on the preparation of their works. One of my works has been recently selected to be shown during the RSA Open Exhibition 2017, an annual show organized by the Royal Scottish Academy of Art and Architecture in Edinburgh.
After my graduation I am going to stay in London for a little while and I hope to find some opportunities to develop my career. In the meantime I’ll be applying for art awards, residences, and any other creative opportunities. I am open to take part in projects and collaborations.
Do you have any advice for anyone starting a course here at Wimbledon?
My advice for new students would be to try experiment with your practice as much as you can. During the course you will be surrounded by thrilling and maybe unknown workshops, where you have the chance to go further with your practice throughout the exploration of alternative ways of representing the subject of your works.
I know it can be scary to jump into something new, as you may feel uncomfortable with it, but the technicians and tutors are great at helping you in the development of your inner creativity. So don’t hold back and try to overcome your art boundaries. And never be afraid of sharing your practice with your peers and tutors, even if you may feel what you produced is somehow outrageous or problematic; it is still the reflection of your subjective sensibility and you have to support it and so will others.
See more work from MA Drawing at the MA Summer Show
Inspired? Find out more about MA Drawing