Artworks created by our students...
Flesh and 3 Lines
I’ve always been drawn to the nude body in a 'matter of fact' way. It still surprises me that in a life drawing class I look at the model in such a non-judgemental, accepting way. Societal expectations and criticisms all go out the window.
At first, I stuck to line drawing as it reflected this simplicity of approach. But recently, I’ve felt a growing desire to add colour and life to these images, to paint not just the form, but to distinguish the lumps and bumps and soft, cushiony folds. I do this not in a way to criticise or even examine but almost in admiration of the versatility of bodies and their own unique beauty. Breasts are uneven, sometimes round and sometimes triangular, nipples vary in size, tummies sometimes have rolls and sometimes don’t, thighs touch, some people have hairy armpits, not all bottoms look like Kim Kardashian’s – but it doesn’t matter. The images always come out celebrating that person’s unique and beautiful form.
It is through this practice that my image of myself as changed in my mind. Of course, I still notice my own imperfections – they’re there, plain to see, and I’m not exactly Zeuxis’s Helen of Troy (ancient photoshop at its best). However, I no longer view them with dislike. Over the past year, it has been heartwarming to hear that my art has given those who view it this same sense of body confidence, that my models actually enjoy being drawn as they find the experience and the end result freeing. I hope I can continue creating this feeling both in myself and others.
Detaching from the City
I made these charcoal drawings over the course of my first term at The Courtauld. Attending life drawings classes in my first term was a really important and necessary experience for me to help me feel settled and at home in London. Coming from an insular and quiet town, I found the capital and its people to sometimes feel overwhelming and chaotic. To sit and draw for a couple of hours in silence acted as a form of meditation and I would leave the sessions relaxed and grateful.
I was frustrated to hear that The Courtauld Art Society can only run one life drawing class per term, due to the lack of funding for our student union. I believe there should be far more free life drawing lessons run by The Courtauld to help students deal with the hectic city lifestyle as well as offering them as vital opportunity to meet students from other seminar, lecture, and year groups.
Ghosts of her Rag Sons
Himarni Brownsword, Ghosts of Her Rag Sons, 2018
Back in 2018, I was asked by North Staffordshire based art organisation B-Arts to complete a project entitled ‘What is Now?’ in Burslem, one of the six towns that make up my hometown, Stoke-on-Trent. It also houses one of the country's emptiest high streets. As part of the project, six artists, including myself, and producers were asked to reimagine the high street in Burslem and to create and install artworks in the town’s empty shops. The resulting project came to be ‘Ghosts of her Rag Sons’, an installation created in order to explore Burslem’s rich heritage.
The shop I exhibited my work in had previously been a pet shop, among other things. However, what was most significant about it was that it was also attached to a passageway that used to lead towards Burslem’s historic market. Burslem was once known as the ‘mother town’ of Stoke; it’s where Josiah Wedgwood was born and housed many of the important pottery factories that the city is most famous for. However, I feel that this past is not something that is reflected in the town’s current state. Thus, when I was asked to envision what the high street in Burslem could be, I decided to create an installation that explored the town’s history through some of its most famous (and infamous) figures.
The characters I created were made of wood, wire, straw and raw clay. Each of the figures was handmade and pieced together in situ. There were 12 in total, some representing soldiers, poets, artists and others representing unsung local legends. The central figure, who came to be the ‘mother’ of Burslem, was Molly Leigh, a woman accused of being a witch in the 18th century, but who was, in fact, a wealthy woman with independence and a charitable nature who many were suspicious of. The shop I displayed in didn’t have any electricity or running water making it extremely difficult to work with the raw materials. This often meant producer Martin Gooding, who helped curate the installation, and I would have to work in pitch-black or fetch water from the KFC across the road covered in clay and freezing despite the summer weather. Regardless, the response the project received made it all worth it in the end; I was really pleased to find that many who visited my exhibition began to engage more with the history of the area as well as imagine what Burslem could look like in the future.
Recreating the "plein air experience"
I was mostly interested in the dynamic and painterly aspects of impressionist brushwork, and I wanted to experiment with short thick strokes and bright colours. Watercolour was perfect for the translation and personal interpretation of texture, made possible through the juxtaposition of wet and dry techniques. In addition, the immediacy of watercolour and the rapidity of its execution was a way for me to reconstitute the plein air experience.