Catching feelings with Georgia Clemson

Jun 7, 2020 5:14PM

New British Young Artist Georgia Clemson talks with ARTE GLOBALE about photography, art and the concept of ‘holding’.

When did you start photographing and why?

Photography has only been a part of my practice for around five years and I would never call myself a photographer because I think that would be a misleading description.

The reason that image-making gained a greater significance in my process was practical – a lack of space. I had recently finished my first degree at Central Saint Martins and I was able to rent a studio on my own in New Cross, South East London. Obviously as I was just starting out I could only afford a small space, very unlike the large studios I had worked in at art school. I found that photography gave me an opportunity to capture unlimited images and bring those inspirations back to the studio to work with as a kind of source material.

My second stint at university birthed an obsession with the analogue process and I discovered great potential in reducing the ‘photograph’ as an object to its basic ingredients – light, shadow, colour and the frame. I truly love pushing the boundary of what a photograph can be by using experimental methods in the darkroom. The work I am currently making now rarely includes a ‘traditional’ photographic image.

When you moved to London, were you excited? Did London change your point of view about your artistic practice?

I made London my home almost a decade ago and so my entire artistic practice has developed during my time here, so yes you could say London changed my point of view. I was very excited to move to London as any young person is when they make their first steps alone in the world. It is a tough place but also a great place to experience art and meet creative people. I feel really lucky to live here in Hackney and the difficult circumstances of lockdown have strengthened the sense of community.

Who or what influenced you?

My experiences in therapy have been the biggest influence on my work, because it has taught me so much about what we all need and want from our interactions with each other, be they romantic or friendly. In my sessions we discussed the concept of ‘holding’. In the therapeutic relationship this is applied in an emotional way by making that relationship boundaried and secure. It creates a space where a person can express their most vulnerable thoughts and fears. Since then I have wanted to find ways to apply this concept to other people, and to images, the idea of one body as a container for another.

I love Matisse, and the drawings of Picasso and Jean Cocteau. My favourite artist of the moment changes a lot, but I always return to these three to inspire me. In terms of my contemporaries, there are so many I admire that I won’t even start to list them, or I’ll never stop. I am not sure how much they influence my work directly, but they motivate me to keep making things that I find beautiful.

Your works express a delicate yet groundbreaking narrative about people, relationships and art. Do you look at pop-culture references for starting points in your work? Or what else?

The starting points in my work come often from forms and shapes created by my own body, since my aim is to express the potential of the body as a container for love, memory and sensation, and as a holder for another. Communicating this through images feels completely natural, as photographs have these same possibilities to hold your feeling and evoke a memory. The skin, just like photographic paper is a sensitive and volatile surface, the smallest touch can be the most impactful. I think my making process is a physical working through of what each human can offer another, their bare essentials.

As for pop culture references, I don’t usually use them as a starting point but you only have to look at social media to see an abundance of memes and posts warning of ‘catching feelings’ and being ghosted by dates. I think for many, getting emotionally hurt is too big a risk to take, so romantic intimacy grows a sort of melancholia around it. Recently I enjoyed the novels of Sally Rooney, and I think her books express this condition rather well. The state of simultaneously craving connection and finding it intolerable has been the starting point for my work for the last three years.

What are you working on at the moment? How is the global pandemic affecting you?

Like so many artists, the pandemic has deeply affected the way I work and the ideas that inform what I make. When the virus started to spread, I was working on a new series in the darkroom that I was very energised about and had perfected a new technique that I felt I had not seen anywhere else. I was due to exhibit some of the first works to come out of this series in mid-March. When the lockdown started this exhibition had to be cancelled. At first I felt very disappointed but soon things came into perspective and I felt glad just to have my health when so many others did not.

Being at home presented challenges at first due to the fact that I cannot access the facilities I would normally use to make work, primarily the darkroom, but also digitally-aided machinery. Luckily, I had access to my archive of darkroom prints, including all the test prints and strips that I had ever made. I don’t know why I kept all of these things at the time but now I feel I must have kept them for a reason, as I have been able to revisit ideas that I thought I had permanently left behind, and find a new resonance within them. I have mainly been creating collages that incorporate found material in my home, my C-Prints, drawings and paintings. At its heart my work is about human connection and I worked through this in a very meaningful way as I revisited my collection of prints made in happier times. Most of the photographs were of people and places I had visited on my travels, and these are things we are all longing for. Deconstructing this material to explore colour, shape, texture and composition was like a meditation on the capacity of photographs to hold memory and emotions. All of my work is personal but the works I have made in lockdown are especially dear to me.

In conversation with artist Georgia Clemson and Arte Globale CEO MT Sacchi, World division.

The photographic works by Georgia Clemson are on show on ARTSY with the gallery in the exhibition:

GEORGIA CLEMSON, To Capture a cloud, Contemporary Photography

June 11, 2020 - July 16, 2020

Georgia Clemson’s body of work is part of the exhibition at ARTE GLOBALE booth during PHOTO LA June 2020

Georgia in her London studio