Aspex Gallery, The Vulcan, PO1 3BF
Monday 01 October 2018 – Wednesday 31 July 2019
Image: Asten Holmes-Elliott and Breakout Youth, YOU BELONG HERE (2017–18), neon.
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 Asten Holmes-Elliott.
Hello, who are you and what do you do?
Hello, my name is Asten. My dad named me after the ancient river that the Normans crossed to invade in 1066 which is comically now just a bog. I was originally trained in cinematography, now a transdisciplinary artist currently working a lot with participatory art projects examining ideas of identity, otherness and belonging.
Where are you based?
I am now based in Southampton after moving down from Glasgow and have been here for about 2 years.
What is the best thing about the area you live/work in?
I hadn’t been here before we moved down and so was still working on commissions in Glasgow for about a year (worst commute ever). However, luckily for me Southampton is a very exciting, welcoming city and I hadn’t been here that long before doors started opening and opportunities came along. I have a great studio with a space arts in the Arches, I love the artist community there, and 'a space' always have a steady stream of opportunities, support, mentoring and events coming through. And my studio is warm, which was high on the list after my studio in Glasgow.
What does ‘success’ mean to you?
I was having this conversation with a friend recently, talking about how arts bodies gauge ‘success’. It’s difficult to define and we came to the conclusion that it could be if something is meaningful to you or a community, it’s successful. Personally success of my pieces is if I’ve managed to and worked hard enough to make sure it’s accessible. Of course success is usually gauged by money, and even though it might not be the most important thing to them when artists are making things, it is important to make sure we pay artists.
Do you earn a living from making art?
Until recently, I have always worked freelance, usually using film commissions as my main form of income, with exhibitions and art/participatory workshop commissions to supplement. I’m a pretty wriggley person, falling in and out of love with film often and so had to be versatile with my skills, projects and ideas to make an income. For the past year now though I have been working as exhibitions assistant at the Solent Showcase Gallery.
What makes a good artwork?
Of course there are many answers, but I believe good artwork is if it is made honestly rather than hiding behind the smoke and mirrors of the elite art world.
What have you been up to recently?
I have recently completed a project called YOU BELONG HERE with Tate Artist Rooms through John Hansard Gallery. It was a collaborative participatory art endeavour taking inspiration from John Hansard Gallery exhibitions A Good Neighbour, from the Istanbul Biennial (2017) and ARTIST ROOMS: Gerhard Richter (2018), where participants from Breakout Youth explored themes of identity, community and belonging with a specific focus on how it feels to experience the future as a young LGBTQI+ person. A physical outcome from the project was a neon sign that is now in the John Hansard Gallery foyer.
In terms of curation, our current exhibition at Solent Showcase Gallery is exploring Afrofuturism, which has been amazing to work on. And film wise, I recently had a film up for nomination at the Iris Prize, featuring LGBTQ+ people who are 50+ talking about their experiences.
What have you got coming up?
I'm part of the amazingness that is SQIFF (Scottish Queer International Film Festival), which will be running its fourth year coming up 5th – 9th December. There are a couple films in the pipeline, hopefully one that will involve playing with 8mm film. I’d love to continue my artistic relationship with Breakout Youth, we’re hoping to develop the YOU BELONG HERE project into its next phase: the LGBT Future Month. I always leave sessions with the young LGBTQI+ people at Breakout Youth with my faith in the future restored.
Asten is an artist and filmmaker whose work examines ideas of identity, otherness and belonging. They use a variety of mediums including illustration, painting, photography and filmmaking to research, archive and historicise fringe communities and resist their erasure and exclusion. Asten uses unconventional gallery space to encourage accessibility and approachability whilst amplifying visibility and community cohesion. Many exhibitions are interactive, where both artist and audience become performer and subject.
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