Hull artist Anna Bean (Bluebeany, Hu5 Collective, Hull Truck, Adelphi #30, Danza! Ferens etc) kindly used my own words, to introduce the talk about her creative practice. I’ll do the same and include a link to the footage filmed at the monthly event. Listen to Anna Bean at Nourishment #2.
‘Like stepping through pages of dark faerie tales, trying on different heads for size. Imagery just as likely to be re-inventing a musician’s creative identity, as adorning gallery walls in ornate frames; her work is part dreamlike Dali; part magic realism of Dahl; part homage to horror and all Bean.
The line between this world and the one which Anna’s creations inhabit is gossamer thin. Often using friends and family members in her lavish scenes, the images simultaneously invite and unnerve the viewer.
Attention to detail, to time and period, lend the images authenticity, lavish costume, make-up and masks appeal to the extrovert and the introspect equally: perfectly easy to hide behind a mask.
Anna’s chimeric world has escaped the confines of the frame of late, to dance and move on the stage, in contemporary shows and festival settings.
The garish sheen of Gothic horror/fantasy is unmistakably Anna Bean with a storyteller’s hand she creates scenes that play on the irresistible power and infinite possibilities of transformation. You can be anything in here anything, anything at all.
For centuries anthropomorphism has been captivating the minds of children and adults alike ever since the wolf leaped out of bed wearing grandma’s nightdress and cap and gobbled the little girl up…
I went along willing to endure, for the sake of being there and to support Anna, whose work as I have already said, is borne out of a fantasy world, a world in which I am much more comfortable.
Sarah began very much in the same way I did, probably the same way a lot of people do, by going to stuff: meeting people; talking to people and going to stuff and then, going to more stuff. That is the best advice I can give anyone who wants to get involved in the arts.
The first pieces that piqued my interest were her taxidermy pieces, they combined her interest in the natural world and man-made texts, constructed narratives – the wasps collected in France, that hover over a decaying religious text is particularly memorable. I also enjoyed the rodent burying into the bottom of the book cover and the head appearing at the top. That was fun, like a book mouse.
Sarah had much to say on what being an artist means to her. One of the most powerful things that perhaps chimed with the creative minds in the audience is that an artist is still an artist, even if they are not at that moment in time producing work. A line I would then quote to a friend the following week, upon finding out, after five years of knowing her, that she used to paint.
Sarah also spoke about the validity of work, if the work has a meaning to you and you get something out of it then it is valid I guess. If someone else gets something out of it too then that is a bonus.
‘I felt like cutting out and sticking down,’ Sarah says about her transition from taxidermy pieces to collage work, likewise when she spent months having learned to knit, yarn bombing Manchester. Yarn bombing seems to have caught on here too, with a number of knitworthy projects of late – my favourite piece has to be the arms hugging the tree, bottom of Newland Avenue.
Sarah describes living tower block life, communities who live side by side in each other’s flats in concrete boxes. When built they were an advert for modernity, prosperity and success. Sarah saw them as a condensed way of living, the estates, where everything or everyone was there, just another block away.
Were they ever a success, the tower blocks? Today these concrete high rises are synonymous with crime and poor living. So Sarah’s boobies and buildings prints take the vain attempt of urban engineering and off set it with the real bodies of the real women in the retro glamour shots, an antidote to the photoshopped women, making a stand or statement against redevelopment. Thats what I got from it intellectually.
The very idea of a respectable artist (wait, respectable artist there’s a notion) breezing into purveyors of gentlemens’ magazines and asking to see the good stuff hidden at the back. It was the screen prints that got her noticed and got her an agent and a gallery supporting her work.
‘It is okay to say it didn’t work,’ she announces. Often it is the fear of failure that stops us from even starting and sometimes it is the fear of admitting failure, maybe ridicule and scorn from peers, that keeps us in denial so never moving forward, advancing, developing.
The final images from the presentation, give me a more rounded appreciation of Sarah’s work it is not merely boobies and buildings no, more rightly it is, boobies, buildings, ballet and bondage. Did I mention Sarah also does clog dancing?
A highly entertaining and most refreshing speaker without a trace of the convoluted art speak, but every ounce of knowledge, to back up her ideas and her work.