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Artist Focus: Ella Barkhouse

Ella Barkhouse is a second-year Brighton student, studying Fine Art: Critical Practice course. Her work ranges across all sorts of media, from some more traditional writing, drawing and sculpting works, to installations, and dialectical works that may not take a physical form. 

Where do you find inspiration?

I find the idea of artistic ‘inspiration’ to be contentious if I’m honest. One of our tutors told us recently that it is a biblical word, and that its original use was to refer to God ‘inspiring’ the Virgin Mary with his child. I think that this image of the artist finding this source of divine inspiration, which compels them to create, is archaic and irrelevant these days. Finding the things that I make work about is much more dialectical, it’s a processual absorption from loads of sources. I’m interested in epistemology, how we systemise and structure our ‘knowledge’ and how these processes create certain paradigms around which our societies and cultures are constructed.

What crucial themes and messages do you explore in your artwork?

In my work, I have this theme of ‘playing’ science worlds which mostly resemble our own but jump off in one direction and become absurd. I think this comes from a feeling of dislocation, or from contending with a culture which prioritises the ideals of knowledge and truth yet is inherently misinterpreted or misinformed. The paradigms of data-knowledge have been increasingly incorporated into our society, such that it forms the basis of our social opinions, and I guess I’ve been exploring the inherent mutability of that which governs us.

What influence, if any, does modern society have on your work, especially as an art student?

I’m definitely, almost totally, influenced by modern society. My course is really about becoming aware of the context in which we are creating art, the context in which art exists, and how it is utilised and mobilised outside of the studio. Recently, my course mates and I have been talking a lot about being students of a neo-liberalised higher education system, how our financial investment subjectivises us as consumers of education, and what kind of behaviors this subjectivism produces.

How do you work alongside other art students?

We put on a collaborative show very recently, in which we rejected contemporary exhibition norms by exhibiting ourselves, our active workspace, attempting not to perform for the inevitable audience we were exposed to. We work together a lot, in the (relatively) stable communal space of the University. The Badger 19th February 2018 OF BRIGHTON I guess in this way our collaborative practice takes a kind of auto-ethnographical form at the moment; a ‘self’ centered examination to understand and establish the position from which we then interact with the world (arguably the ultimate function of education.)

Do you have future plans regarding your artwork?

In the far-far future, as in post-university (which still feels like far even though I’m halfway through now), I know that I’m probably not going to be a studio-based artist. I think that it’s way more interesting to work outside the assumed conditions of being an artist, which tend to amount to owning a studio and exhibiting work. I want my practice to emerge from other settings and interactions, to produce new relations of art and society, to intervene in reality! (Which it can’t do within the ‘neutral’ white confines of the gallery.)

Words: Louisa Hunt Artist Instagram: @ellabarkhouse

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