Artworks created by our students...
Too many hours watching Contagion, later, I felt like the only human left alive.
I over-dramatized my life into an inaccurate, epic tech-noir with peripheral Blade Runner vibes.
Poor, poor me. Stuck in my vacuous ‘shoebox’ of a student room.
On the Strand.
It was around the first Thursday. Half-pre-empting the self-loathing and sick that present me would have to endure, a process that tends to self-recycle, I wrote a few words about my artworks. Quarantine was so invasive and isolating and uncertain. I did enjoy feeling sorry for myself. The positives far outweighed the negatives and I knew it, really. A disgusting and shameful yet, I hope, a very human privilege. A necessary step through polarised marks that drive the waves of our lives. Hard to realise at that moment but from the point of entrance, that dense encasement can be seen for what it is. Admittedly, it is easy to criticise from a new and improved context.
‘Charge sight from a direct into an alternating current’. This is what came to my head, for no reason, as a way of salving this state through making my artworks. With many objects of misunderstanding, for me, physics is filed under ‘incomplete- dunno’. So again, for no sensible reason, circuit symbols came to mind whilst making sense of the people and world around me. Appropriating the imagery of this hazy memory, I superimposed it onto MONUMENT. It is an incorporeal, non-monument, monument to this. Short direct curves plant on or dive into the surface. A stagnated sculpture or an iceberg hiding a body below the surface- an oscillation that remerges into its twinned arch. What is the concrete floor? Quite literally it’s a grey area. I think it’s an ever-ambiguous, ever-painful to accept, objectification of human fallibility and frustration- not certain.
Sorry, future me.
Untitled (Mirfield Moors)
I took this photo of my mum pretty early on into lockdown. I came back to my native town of Huddersfield just before it started, and I’ve been up here ever since. With the conversations going on around race and the pandemic, I’m feeling stressed, scared, angry, fed up and sick of it. I think as a Black person right now it’s important to take some time out from the constant pain of this constant conversation, before the conversation burns you out and eats you alive. The conversation can only do so much. It’s exciting to see real change happen before my eyes, but I fear what will happen when its no longer en vogue and I’m still just standing here. These are strange, exciting and tragic times, I’m plugged into the never-ending discourse 24/7. But sometimes I just have to sit down and close my eyes, feel the grass and try again tomorrow.
Inhabiting New Worlds
To be born and to grow up in a country where 11.3 million people can’t read nor write really makes you think. Perhaps it makes you think of the world they could be missing by not being able to do so. And perhaps it makes you think of the world you miss daily by assuming yours might be richer because of written literature. And don't forget the exercise of writing, which intimately, is nothing besides one talking to oneself. Being able to touch someone with inanimate words, which then are made alive when someone reads them, is truly unbelievable. Imagine then being able to touch those 11.3 million that read and write in gestures and languages beyond reach. They do not suppress their sensibility and can reach the sun, feel the nature, and caress the clouds when water is needed. These moments, when I attempt to communicate in these languages, are the moments when I feel most alive.
I was named after one of the strongest plants in the Amazon Rainforest. Sowing these plants is not only my way of communicating with the imagery of my memories, but it is also my way of rejecting conventional means of communication which falsely make us assume that reading and writing words is the only way of inhabiting new worlds.
It’s a banal story.
The first time getting flowers for myself. The flower market hurt, the flowers hurt. The scent, the rustling sound of petals and leaves, the clusters of fresh colours – as if spring would not befall with time but burst out from buds and branches.
I stuffed flowers into my tote bag. There are depressing times when my body’s filled with tears that’d overflow at any moment. This was one of them. The comic contrast between the devastating me and the thriving flowers. This is why I never liked them, with their easy joyfulness and innocent cruelty.
They took over my room the moment they settled down. I couldn’t take that tender lightness that I couldn’t share. Such refusal of doubts and depths. It only took two bouquets of flowers to conjure up a jungle that suffocates.
Two months later, those flowers long dead, I’ve had my share of serendipity. Something so beautiful and full of love. I start to use ‘we’ instead of the solitary ‘I.’
We rescued a pot of flowers. They were supposed to be a token of love but ended up in broken shards and arguments.
We drove them back to our place. The warming light was so intense and infused colours into their reflections.
Days later, the ripped stems grew back. The flowers stood with lifted heads. The same warming sunlight gave them a painterly texture in a random photo I took of them. I’m grateful. I hope the floral survivors are a sign – the bondage between their givers and the supposed receiver might be mended like the stem. At least a little bit.
It’s a banal story of a lucky one that received enough love to take that joy and beauty. At a less than beautiful time when she feels the urge to share her gratefulness.
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.