Exploring Boundaries: Arte Globale in conversation with the artist Georgia Clemson

Oct 22, 2022 5:53PM

Using negative spaces and shapes taken from a human body, abstracted into an archipelago of forms, Georgia Clemson has created an abstract map of the emotional world from experimental photographic techniques and collage. The visual ‘cartography’ is accompanied by an audio guide, narrated by an unnamed ‘explorer’. We join the explorer as they navigate a new world that they have discovered and named ‘Another’, hoping to claim it as their own. Through their voice, we encounter the flora, climate and terrain, and join them as they toe the line between respectful guest and unwanted interloper. ARTE GLOBALE is thrilled to host the artist Georgia Clemson talking about her latest work.

Your latest body of work The Crook of the Elbow and other islands is, in our opinion, as wonderful and poetic as cutting edge and powerful. How did you come across exploring this concept and why?

Thank you. For about five years my work has been about therapeutic concepts and relating these to the photographic image, in particular the frame as a boundary. I have always been aware that I wanted to explore the meaning of the word boundary with its different layers, how it can refer to a limit, a border. During the pandemic I did some training in Radical Self-Care, a practice which is similar to mindfulness and acknowledges the concept of care as something that expands outwards to others and to the environment. At the beginning of each online meeting, we would be asked to describe our ‘weather’. This didn’t mean what the weather was literally like outside the window, but our own personal weather e.g. changeable, calm, drab. This was a revelation for me as I was now thinking of my emotional self as a zone with its own climate, and I thought about how I would describe its terrain, or topography. This was when I began to experiment with representing this space visually as a map, and over time it changed and morphed into the work as it is now.

I think that using this type of georgraphical language to describe our emotions and how we are feeling can be helpful for some people who find it harder to express themselves. For me it is like a healthy euphemism that doesn’t trivialize or shame us, but uses words that are easier to say.

Common Ground Exhibition

You talk about the layered meaning of the word boundary and draw a parallel between the limits of geographical territory, the skin as the body’s border and the invisible boundaries that we draw to protect our emotional selves. Yet your aesthetical suggests a sense of colourful hope, how do you see people and artists protect their emotional selves in today's world of social media?

I don’t consider boundaries to be a negative or a positive thing, as I believe they are necessary for living a healthy life. I know that boundaries can be experienced negatively, particularly when I expand the word’s meaning to include geographical borders. While our bodies are our own and not for others to encroach on, the same cannot be said for the earth which is shared by everyone. The control of borders is a contentious topic of course, but I personally believe in freedom of movement and sharing of resources, particularly when it comes to helping those who wish to move from danger to safety. This is even more obvious and relevant at the moment as all eyes are on Ukraine, and in relation to other recent and ongoing conflicts that have caused war, terror and displacement.

Your question is about artists and social media. I think that many of us face a dilemma here. Social media is a great tool for increasing the audience for your work and connecting with other creatives, but it sometimes feels that it’s compulsory for artists to be consistently posting and sharing their work. I often don’t want to share my work-in-progress with such a large number of people before it is ready to become a part of my public body of work. There is also the element of competitiveness and toxic positivity that social media invites, not just for artists but for everyone. Everybody is posting their successes and their high points, and if we are having a hard time, the phone scrolling can give us the impression that we are suffering alone. Having boundaries for myself around how much I will share has been really important for my wellbeing.

The Crook of the Elbow, Exhibition view

Are you going to publish an expansion of The Crook of the Elbow and other islands, in terms of textual material?

The audio really tells the story of the visual work, and so I am keen for this to continue living after the exhibition. I currently have no plans to publish the transcript but I am working on a film that will incorporate the story, so that the artwork and sound can be experienced at the same time by anyone around the world, even if they cannot see my work in person.

In terms of writing in general, I am currently researching and writing in collaboration with others, and I hope that this may develop into new work.

You have a unique way of making art, what is your process of actually constructing the pieces?

For these artworks my process began with my own body, creating shapes and photographing myself. I then extracted the negative spaces that were made, for example between arms or between the neck and the shoulder. These shapes had an organic feeling to them but were ambiguous, it was very different from creating a simple picture of a body. The shapes that I had made became the basis of the 'map' style collages that the work ended up as.

The physical material that I used was made through my darkroom process. I do a lot of colour darkroom printing, especially using the photogram technique. Instead of printing with a negative, I make colour filters out of plastics and gels. This allows me to create intense colour colour blocks. These prints, once cut to shape, were mounted on colour Perspex.

Do you think there is a special relationship between the psychological boundaries and the specific body parts you have chosen to depict?

I believe that the works as a collection speak to the relationship between psychological boundaries and the physical body, as much as they are also about geographical areas. The skin is the edge of the body, it is the physical border that protects our internal organs from the environment, bacteria and other variables. For me, the skin makes visible the barrier between our external world and the internal, emotional world that I also wanted to explore in the work.

Georgia Clemson, the artist

Thank you, Georgia. Arte Globale has recently launched a solo show and a Viewing Room featuring Georgia Clemson's work. To stay updated with Georgia's work, please follow her on Arte Globale Artsy and Instagram.