Hannah Whitfield & Zoe Carlon Q & A
HANNAH WHITFIELD AND ZOE CARLON
Hi Hannah and Zoë! Firstly do you mind briefly introducing yourselves and your individual practices?
Hannah - Roaming alone and quietly observing my surroundings is my usual preliminary working style, often returning home with pockets and fists heavy with detritus. I am interested in the blurring of contradictions. Notably, culture/nature, public/private, staged/reality, and decoration/function. I have spent recent years learning various traditional building techniques, which I now use to inform more tactile, sculptural work. I am also currently studying for a Masters in Landscape Architecture which continues to have a symbiotic relationship within my practice.
Zoë - Paintings draw on spaces that are both public and private. I am interested in spatial conditions that create a sense of solitude and the peripheries of transitory space. Recently I have been developing paintings on aluminium, working with a subtle colour palette and ambiguous, cropped compositions. For this exhibition I have made the works in situ, responding directly to the environment.
This is the first time you’ve worked collaboratively; how did you meet and what drew you to apply together for this Artwalk commission?
We grew up on the same street, but rekindled our friendship once we both moved back to Wakefield after graduating. We have been in constant conversation over the last few years about our similar interests and practices and we thought that the Artwalk commission would be a great opportunity to test out collaborating together.
You’re both from Wakefield and for this commission, have created paintings and sculptures in response to the city. What does Wakefield mean to you and how do you hope the people of the city respond to your work?
Wakefield is home basically! There is a huge sense of familiarity and feeling of belonging. When we originally began talking about this project, we were thinking about how our experiences of exploring cities and environments we don't know differs from Wakefield - a city we both thought we knew inside out! We started thinking about this in 2019, before we knew what was around the corner! I guess it has renewed relevance in context to the various lockdowns, when all anyone could do was go for a walk in their locality and reconnect with where they live in many ways.
Making the time to wander without any preconceived destination has felt really refreshing. There's that saying that over-familiarity breeds contempt. This has illustrated to us that most of the time it's how you look at things, how you choose to experience your environment. I hope people enjoy the works we have made, and our take on the city and its peripheries.
Do you have a favourite memory from previous Artwalks?
The Artwalk is always a fab evening that enlivens the city. Rather than a specific memory, I think the loveliest thing about it is how it gets everybody out and you can catch up with people, alongside all the venues across the city that get involved! We are really looking forward to hosting a real life event on the 28th and seeing the city open up that little bit more! And the debrief in Harry’s Bar over a pint of mosaic!
Hannah, you use a variety of materials within your sculptures, do you have a favourite material or process of working?
I have worked on some large scale builds using cob (a mix of sand, straw and clay) in the past and loved how tactile it is. You really use your whole body and you can mix it with your feet too, which is fun. Recently though, including for this project, I am using a technique where you polish lime plaster. It is labour intensive, but quite therapeutic and the results are rewarding.
Zoë, previously in your paintings you’ve been interested in creating a sense of solitude. Do you think the pandemic has heightened this?
It is interesting to look at my work now within the context of the pandemic. Significantly in relation to public space taking on a whole new meaning, and the heightened sense of isolation many of us have experienced.
I have been thinking through these concerns prior to the context of the last year and within my work I don’t see solitude, or spaces that encourage a sense of aloneness, as necessarily negative. I'm more interested in how these spaces can be held onto, experienced, and what the conditions of them are within a world that promotes constant connectivity and oversharing.
The pandemic has been challenging for everyone, as artists what difficulties did you face and how did you overcome these?
Zoë: The pandemic has led to a constant sense of uncertainty and insecurity which impacts how you think about and prioritise things. I was lucky to be furloughed from my job for 4 months or so, and when the Art House had to close, I was able to move my studio home. Having all that time to devote to my practice felt like a blessing and a curse to be honest!! I felt a massive pressure to ‘make the most of it’ and start producing masterpieces. Once I got back to just making for enjoyment it seemed to get better.
Hannah: I was often just not in the mood to even think about making work, despite having all this new found free time (I was also lucky enough to be on furlough). I also began to convince myself that making sculptures was futile and self indulgent when there was so much else going on in the world. What helped was being reminded by friends that it is ok to make nothing, and that it is definitely ok to make just for pleasure. Work doesn’t always need to serve a purpose.
What do you think needs to change in the arts and culture sector to make it more accessible to all?
Big question, not sure we can cover this in a few sentences!! We would probably need a book!
Finally, if you could host a dinner party with a group of artists (dead or alive) who would you invite and what would be on the menu?
Hannah: Jeremy Deller, Leonora Carrington and Mierle Laderman Ukeles would spark some interesting conversation I reckon. I’ve been making a lot of hot water crust pies throughout the lockdowns, so probably an elaborately decorated pie, with mushy peas and mint sauce.
Thanks for chatting with us and we can’t wait to see your exhibition Parts at The Ridings Centre for ArtWalk
Zoë Carlon & Hannah Whitfield 'Parts' Find out more here>