Artist of the Month 2016

December: Sarah Filmer

Image: Sarah Filmer, 700 Women.

Our Artist of the Month feature aims to promote artists' work and raise issues in a quick, informal way. December's Artist of the Month is Sarah Filmer.


Hello Sarah, what do you do?

This is such a tricky question – and one I tell my students they must have an answer to …

I think my answer has to be that I make work and I make opportunities for myself and others to make work. As a practitioner, I work with participation, knitting and video to create experiences or works around subjects that fire me up: feminist activism, human-animal interactions and death.

Where are you based?

I live and work in Southampton, where opportunities have, until recently, been thin on the ground, so I have had to be generative within my city: I co-founded unit11studios on finishing my art degree, and I devised, fundraised and am currently taking part in ght – a reincarnation an 8-artist project in God’s House Tower which will open in 2018 as an arts and heritage venue.

What’s the best thing about your work space?

What’s not to love about a 13th Century medieval building, empty apart from you and your artist friends and colleagues? We have full access to the space prior to the building works starting, so at the moment I am totally spoilt. It is a bit chilly these days, but in the summer it was a joyous, productive, exciting, enormous place to work, that enabled us to work together in an explorative way, as well as to hold events through which we investigated the public relationship with the building, its history and its future.

I also have a studio which is small and messy, which I share with Alys Scott-Hawkins, artist and animator. We have had opposite artistic work trajectories, yet we have a rich and rewarding co-mentoring programme in which we discuss our work and our challenges.

What does 'success' mean to you?

So many things: but I would prioritise ideas around ongoing challenge, and generating projects that solve a structural problem in a sustainable way, and/or create genuine public engagement.

On 29 October, I invited Southampton people to walk through God’s House Tower as a positive symbolic gesture of the feminist intent for the future of the space, and to metaphorically put back the ‘herstories’ of the women left out of the history of this medieval building. The event was called ‘700 Women’ (referring to 700 years of the building) and women recorded their stories, and men brought images and stories of women who had been significant in their lives. Over 600 people attended the day, so we didn’t quite get to 700, but the generosity and deep involvement of the participants – in the day, the activities, the process and the ideas – made it a success beyond my wildest expectation. The legacies of the day, in the form of writing, photographs, drawings and video feel so important and I am slightly overwhelmed by the responsibility to make the absolute best of them – if I can reflect the day and the people in a real way, that will be a success.

‘ght – a reincarnation’ has offered a framework for 8 Southampton artists to take risks, be productive, and develop their practice, to generate research, to be part of an ongoing group, and be paid for their time, effort and brilliance. I am very proud of that.

Do you earn a living from making art?

Not a living, no, and definitely not from making art. I earn a small amount from teaching on the Fine Art degree at Southampton Solent University (although this is becoming increasingly precarious). In my own practice I don’t really make anything that is saleable, so I have to find ways to be paid for my time in order for this to be an earning proposition. While this does present a challenge, I am managing to find ways to do that, not least through the (hard won) generous support of Arts Council England. I also do fun commissions for less cerebral, more decorative works where is get to make beautiful things for beautiful locations – I recently put some steel bird drawings in Mottisfont Abbey Winter garden. I also have a previous profession that I maintain, partly to keep the wolf from the door, and partly because it is a job that I love: I practice as a vet, one day a week.

What makes a good artwork?

For me, this is simple: a piece of work that stays in my heart, my head, or my loins long after I have experienced it. Make of that what you will!

What have you got coming up?

December is an oasis of calm after what has been a very intense year. I will take the opportunity for some much needed reflection on the work that I have done this year, writing reports for the Arts Council for 700 Women and 'ght – a reincarnation'. I need to think about presenting the outcomes from the 700 Women day, (ranging from a very quick zine, to a book, video, exhibition); Knit the Walls sessions; making the most of BAS8 while it is here in Southampton; and think about how we might develop a more perpetual associate artist programme at God’s House Tower…so many things to think about and do.



Sarah Filmer has been around a while, but took her first foray into the world of art with her BA (Hons) Fine Art degree at Southampton Solent University 2007-10. She lives and works in Southampton, teaches as an associate lecturer on the course that she did, and spends her time trying to make sense of the varied, exciting career that is ‘artist’. She has a studio in Tower House, with aspace Arts, and is working on ‘ght – a reincarnation’, a multi-artist project she devised.




What's On

The Artizan Garden Salon Open Show

7 Lucius Street

Friday 02 February 2018 – Sunday 23 December 2018

Portrait Art Sessions

The Old School, Newent Road, Highnam, Gloucester, GL2 8DG

Wednesday 25 April 2018 – Wednesday 19 December 2018

Workshops at The Guild at 51

The Guild at 51, 51 Clarence Street, Cheltenham, GL50 3JT

Thursday 03 May 2018 – Monday 31 December 2018

Visual Arts South West

Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.

Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network

Supported by: