Aspex Gallery, The Vulcan, PO1 3BF
Monday 01 October 2018 – Wednesday 31 July 2019
Image: Naomi Hart, They grew to recognise the change in the sound of their footprints as they moved over crevasses (2018). 60cm x 60cm, mixed media on canvas.
Our Artist of the Month feature aims to promote artists' work and raise issues in a quick, informal way. October's Artist of the Month is Naomi Hart.
Hello, what do you do?
My name is Naomi Hart. I'm a visual artist, making work around journeys, time and elements, particularly about human interaction with the environment. I love working with scientists, trying to bridge the divide between art and science, and I'm an affiliate of an organisation called Ice Alive, which aims to do just that.
Where are you based?
I'm based in Exeter and I've been here about 10 years now, which is longer than I've lived anywhere! I'm a bit of a nomad, so I usually get itchy feet after a few years and need new adventures.
Where do you work?
I work anywhere and everywhere. A studio has become a bit of a luxury, though I have had some amazing workspaces over the years, including an Edwardian former Sunday School building which I ran as a studio, community workshop space and occasional jazz and folk club. I also work while travelling, in which case my studio is the sketchbook in front of me and the landscape around me. I try to stay adaptable, and my work reflects that, using the scale and materials that I have available to me.
I still love sketchbooks and travel journals and I have recorded voyages from Cornwall to the remote High Arctic in a wooden sailing boat, a journey 'From Ganges to Ganges via the Ganges' through India, Bangladesh, Canada and France and several expeditions to outback Australia.
I paint, but when I get the chance I also create large-scale installation pieces, such as 'All About Migration'.
What’s the best thing about the area you live/work in?
Proximity to the sea and to Dartmoor.
What does 'success' mean to you?
Like my moods, this changes on a daily basis. Sometimes it's enough just to feel I'm making work that some people like, other days I feel ambitious and start planning an installation in Tate Modern. I struggle to be satisfied with what I've achieved, which is good in one way, and horribly destructive in others, so I'm learning to listen to friends, who are very patient and incredibly supportive.
Do you earn a living from making art? If not, or only partially, what else do you do?
I've had a 'portfolio' career, so I've always done lots of things – teaching, furniture restoration, working in retail. Last year was the first year I have fully earned a living from art, but being freelance is precarious, as everyone knows, so I know not to rest on my laurels.
What makes a good artwork?
Things that make you see the world differently. Sometimes it hits you on first impact, sometimes it's the ones you don't 'get' but that stay with you and you think about for years afterwards. In terms of my own work, it seems to be the ones where you are slightly not in control – you make a mark, or a shape, and suddenly there's an inaudible, invisible shift that happens, and the work takes on a life of its own.
What have you been up to recently?
I was Leverhulme artist in residence for 2017/18, working with the ice scientists in the Geography Department of the University of Sheffield and on research with them in Svalbard in the High Arctic. I exhibited the resulting work 'ice report' at the Royal Geographical Society in London and gave a talk about the residency.
Last year I also created a massive, temporary, outdoor sculpture for Princesshay in Exeter, commissioned by The Crown Estate. 'Swift' was made from hundreds of milk bottles salvaged from the cafes and restaurants of Princesshay and from copper wire from various sources including the recycling centre. It celebrated the swifts that visit us during the summer and every year fly back to Africa, coincidentally to the very area where a large proportion of the world's copper is mined. It aimed to highlight the beauty and the extraordinary lives of swifts as well as issues of resources, conservation, waste, recycling and migration.
I've also just been part of Plymouth Art Weekender with a project called #PlymouthFutures. I've hidden 101 postcards of Plymouth around the city, which have been altered to imagine how our changing climate might affect sea levels. It continues as part of The Atlantic Project until 21st October. Let me know if you find one.
What have you got coming up?
I'm delighted to be showing 'ice report' with art.earth at Dartington in November. I'll be opening the exhibition on 2nd November with a First Friday talk about the residency and the inspiration for the work.
Naomi studied hot glass and sculpture at the University of Sunderland's National Glass Centre and continues to explore multidisciplinary art using drawing, writing, paint, photography, sculpture and installation to investigate the world. Her interests lie in journeys and human interaction with the world and she is particularly interested in bridging the divide between art and science. In 2015 she was expedition artist aboard s/v Ezra, a 44' wooden Scillonian Pilot Cutter, on a journey from Cornwall to East Greenland in the remote High Arctic and in 2017/18 she was Leverhulme artist in residence, working with the ice scientists at the University of Sheffield and on research with them in Svalbard. She has work in the permanent collections of The National Museums of Scotland, Exeter Cathedral and in private collections globally. She is based in Exeter.
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