Aspex Gallery, The Vulcan, PO1 3BF
Monday 01 October 2018 – Wednesday 31 July 2019
Image: Emily Joy, Reimagining Pluto, 11 tonnes of earth, wood.
Our Artist of the Month feature aims to promote artists' work and raise issues in a quick, informal way. July's Artist of the Month is Emily Joy.
Hello, who are you and what do you do?
I’m an installation artist making work around themes of memory, imagination, language philosophy and ideas of the self and the other. A lot of my work is participatory, with the public invited to co-create or take authorship of parts of the work. I use rammed earth, projection, casting, drawing and film.
Alongside my practice I teach two ceramic sculpture courses at a local college and run day workshops and masterclasses for adults. I also teach pottery to home-educated children. I’m interested in autonomous, democratic learning, and am half of creative partnership Periscope alongside artist Alison Cockcroft. We provide immersive public creative events which are for all ages and abilities and we also invite speakers and researchers to contribute through a talks programme. My teaching, research and work as Periscope feeds into my own participatory work which looks at authorship, hierarchies, shared view points and multiple narratives.
Where are you based?
I’m based in Stroud, Gloucestershire. I live on the outskirts of town, a short walk from my studio. I grew up in the area, moved away to study at 18 and then moved back just over 11 years ago.
Where do you work?
I have a studio at Stroud Valleys Artspace (SVA), working in the sculpture studio with four other artists. I’ve been based there since moving back to Stroud, so I feel very settled and part of the community of artists at SVA and in the town. My studio is part of an open-plan room which comes with benefits and challenges! Over the years the five of us have learnt to respect each other’s space and time, and each of our practices has been influenced by the others. It’s been interesting to see the flow of ideas, material inspiration and form transfer from person to person.
I generally have two long days a week in the studio, in between teaching and being with my son. However, teaching term-time frees up stretches of time in which to work more intensely. I’m more of a night-owl than an early bird, so generally spend the first part of the day doing admin and warming my brain up! After lunch and into the evening I tend to find more energy to make work; drawing or making mock-ups for larger work, depending on what I’m researching at the time. My studio space is small, and the large sculptural pieces I make are not transportable, so I tend to create work within galleries or project spaces then take them down. My double-height studio walls are covered in hanging objects; mostly furniture, wood and framework that has been used in previous sculptures and installations.
What’s the best thing about the area you live and work in?
Stroud is a great place to live if you are an artist, musician, creative… there is a lot going on and a strong supportive creative community. Being based at SVA means that there are a lot of ideas and motivation on-tap, but also a lot of (positive) distraction from the music events and artists chatting in the courtyard! Having briefly had a studio on my own in the past, I know that I find it difficult to stay focused and motivated without other artists around me. Being an artist – especially one who does not make commercial work – is increasingly hard. With funding being cut and artists fees not having risen in years, it's really valuable to have a community around you to share the ups and downs, to reassure you when things are tough and give you advice if you’re feeling lost.
What does 'success' mean to you?
I’ve experienced a sense of success is many different ways. Success comes every day when I look at my son, and when I realized that I had survived the first very difficult years of his life! It’s coming to terms with the idea that maybe the ‘small’ successes are actually the big successes. That communicating with others, sharing experiences and feelings through my work is what feeds me and drives me on, that peer-recognition is one of the most valuable things in terms of developing work. I suppose that having sustained my practice for the last 15 years is itself a success!
Do you earn a living from making art?
No, I try not to. I work part time as a college lecturer and workshop/event facilitator, freeing up time and space to make the work I want and need to make.
What makes a good artwork?
If another artist’s work excites me, moves me or intrigues me then I think it is successful. This means that the work has bridged the gap between the maker and me, between the other and my self. This is the basis of making work: communicating. Similarly, if a piece of my work excites or moves someone else, then I feel it is in some way successful.
However contrary to this, sometimes I make work that is conceptually challenging or complex, so that it can make the viewer feel blocked or unable to interact. Observing responses to my work is part of the process of making; even a lack of interaction can be a useful clue, showing me a little more about human nature.
What have you been up to recently?
At the moment I am artist in residence at Loughborough University alongside four other artists. We are coming to the end of a nine-month placement through the AA2A scheme, which has allowed access to the arts facilities. As part of this, and alongside student feedback, I’ve created two new participatory pieces developing ideas of stopping or activating masses of material, using wheel and mountain imagery.
I’m also involved in the John Muir exhibition in Dunbar at North Light Arts, showing a piece made up of text, drawing and film, which explores a small object through three different ways of looking and describing. This piece was made during a month-long residency in Finland last Spring, at an ecological research and artist residency centre called Mustarinda. During this time, I worked surrounded by metres of snow and hundreds of miles of dark forest. This experience continues to inform my work thematically and visually.
What have you got coming up?
I’m starting preparations for a long-duration Periscope event to be held in two creative space in Stroud, in October. This event will also feature a symposium with speakers including Dougald Hine (Dark Mountain, Home), Jane Sillis (Engage) and Sophie Christophy (democratic learning), and a storytelling event with Hedgespoken travelling theatre group.
I’m also dreaming up a research trip through the Swiss Alps, retracing a journey made by a member of my family in the early 70s. This will include contact with researchers and institutions along the way, linking with research into the impact of climate change on glaciers and the pioneer mosses and lichen that grow on exposed rocks in glacial retreat sites. I’m currently researching rock glaciers, unstoppable movement and unrooted plants; areas that seem superficially disparate but have underlying links that are becoming clearer. I’m hoping to consolidate a lot of my writing from the last few years, to record conversations with other researchers and practitioners along the journey, and to come back with both a body of work and the seeds of new research. One thing always leads onto something else.
Emily Joy (UK, 1982) has a Fine Art MA from UWIC, Cardiff. She has shown in solo and group exhibitions in the UK, Germany and Finland. Emily was awarded the 2009 Darbyshire Award and has been shortlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize. Recent residencies include: Mustarinda, Finland; The Mothership, Dorset; Galerie Im Palais, Germany; The Art and Culture Symposium, Germany. Projects and commissions include: ‘Navigable Waters’, The Canals and Rivers Trust; ‘Art and anthropology’ with Dr Elizabeth Hodson (K.F.I. project); ‘Gifts for Mother Mnemosyne’ events programme, ‘The Wanderer’s Studio’ and ‘Reimagining Pluto’ collaborative events (A.C.E. Funded).
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