Shelagh Brown is an artist who combines an interest in the history of art and contemporary art practice to challenge viewers to think in different ways about the ordinary events and experiences of our lives and to evoke a physical or emotional response.
What drives your passion? When did you know that art is what you wanted to do?
Always been passionate about art, drawing and making things from an early age, but growing up I was encouraged towards a more academic route and managed at least to stay with what interested me most by studying History of Art. I returned as a mature student to study Contemporary Art Practice – they seem to me now like two opposite ends of the art spectrum, and were completely different experiences! I’m so glad I got a chance to return to what excites and challenges me and I still keep an interest in both perspectives.
How did you get where you are now in your career?
Sheer perseverance and refusing to give up on my dreams!
What do you make and what are the ideas behind what you make?
When I returned to Art School I’m not sure what I thought I would be doing at the end of 4 years, but what I am now doing was not even on my horizon!
I work with found objects, various materials and processes, and my own autobiographical experience, to create conceptual, sculptural, installations that play with colour, form and space, and challenge both me and the audience to look at things from a different perspective. I love to tell a story that illuminates some aspect of universal human experience. I also love playing with words and phrases that can have several different meanings, (especially in the titles of pieces), bringing humour and playfulness into the often complex mix!
I’m beginning to think in terms of performance and bring elements of that into my work. Goodness knows where that comes from – I was such a shy, reserved, retiring child, and still view myself as fairly introvert, but I guess that’s changing!
What inspires you?
All of human life! The resilience and ingenuity of people constantly amaze me. The world seems a very scary place right now but we carry on living, surviving and creating solutions to daily problems. I am inspired of course by people who flourish and have success in their later years, the writer Mary Wesley wrote her first bestseller The Camomile Lawn in her 70s, Dame Judi Dench made her first foray into film in her 60s, and my friend took up running in her 60s and regularly runs 50 miles over the Scottish hills in a day. It really is never too late! Needless to say, artists working in their later years continue to inspire me; Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bougeois, Frances Walker, Barbara Rae and many more.
Where do you work? What is your average working day?
I work in a small shared studio at The Anatomy Rooms, a developing centre in Aberdeen for artists from all areas of the arts. The studios currently house film makers, visual artists, dancers, musicians, textile artists, community art groups and collectives. It’s an exciting environment. Every day is different.
I am currently developing ideas that combine my experience of the religious imagery of crucifixions in the art of the Renaissance, and my recent acquisition of a hand-made jumper stretcher that resembles a disembodied gesture of wide open arms. I am investigating visual and performance outcomes that reflect the shapes of the cross and outstretched arms, and reference the use of arms in the world as weapons of destruction, and the human function of arms in our relationships with each other.
For Bonkers Contemporary in October, I will create an intimate space for reflection and discussion on these themes over a drink in the Open Arms.
In what way does being Scottish/being in Scotland influence your work?
My own life and experience of living in Aberdeen and Edinburgh obviously have an influence but I would say I see things from a much more global and universal perspective.
Bonkers Contemporary 2017 opens on 5 October at The Biscuit Factory in Edinburgh. http://www.bonkerscontemporary.co.uk