Associate Q&As with Katie Hellon
I have lived in Oxfordshire since 2008. I went to California College of Art in Oakland where I did a BA in graphic design and worked in San Francisco until returning to the UK and learning the practise of mosaic making. I then worked in London as a mosaicist on large private and public commissions and created my own work for exhibitions. After a long period of other responsibilities, I joined the Ovada WAS course in 2014 and stayed for 2 more years. It was a great time of learning, experimentation and discovery and where I started to develop my practise.
It has taken me some time to settle into my practice, to know what it is I am doing or trying to say. What I do know, is, I have to make the work I make and it always has a connection with growth and transformation. I am an experimental multi disciplinary artist. There are strong elements of drawing in what I make, whether it ends up as performance, installation, video, sculpture or print and I often use strict rules, chance and audience participation.
Through generating an energy and rhythm of sound and movement, I start to loose and find myself repeatedly in a meditative, in-between state. It is during the process of the making where I find ‘the not knowing what will happen next’, exciting. I work in a performative way: often the process is the work.
My practice also encompasses extensive journal writing and more recently, storytelling.
What am you currently working on?
I am making some drawings that combine dice throwing and line drawing and I have been playing with spontaneous printing. I am also preparing for a three-month residential storytelling course starting in September.
Where do you work – do you have a studio?
I have had a studio at Wilcote Arts since its inception in 2015. It started with 5 artists and now has grown to 13 studios, nestled in the countryside overlooking Topples Wood. I often walk the 3 miles from my home to the studios and that walking, dreaming, thinking time is helpful in showing me the possibilities available that day. I also have a small studio at home that I have used during lockdown. I look forward soon to welcoming back visitors to Wilcote Arts exhibitions and gatherings.
What are your other commitments?
My only commitment is my practise.
How does your Associate membership benefit me?
There have been a few Associate events including talks and exhibitions that I have been involved with and I am a long time lifedrawing participant, but I haven’t taken great advantage of my membership recently. The opportunity to be an Associate featured Artist is a great way for any Associate to bring clarity and focus to their practise and to be introduced to other Ovada Associates.
What am you hoping to achieve in the next year?
I’m unsure of where I am heading and that fills me with excitement. I know that when I keep the possibilities open, I am giving myself the greatest chance to grow into something more. I find that what I need to do next falls into place at the time it does: I don’t make plans for the future because I tend to find what I need in the moment. It will be interesting to see how the storytelling course affects my visual art practise.
Tell us a little bit about the work of an artist or arts organisation/collective that you find inspiring?
When I look at the many artists I admire, Robert Rauschenberg is up there. He was a multidisciplinary artist, an incredible innovator, experimenter and a trailblazer of his time. When he set up his philanthropic endeavour ROCI (Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange), its aim was to foster dialogue around human rights and freedom of speech through the creative process. He was generous, prodigious and talented and someone I would of liked to meet!
Describe the last time you felt inspired
In 2019 I went to New Mexico for 10 days. Part of the experience was a vision quest where I spent four days and nights in the desert on my own, with only water as nourishment. The experience was so pivotal. It still continues to unfold and reveal more to me today in ways I find difficult to explain.
What is your opinion of the current art scene in Oxford?
I am not particularly involved in the art scene in Oxford and maybe that would be different if I lived in the city. I visit the usual suspects – MAO, the Ashmolean and Pitt Rivers Museum. I think Oxford is lucky to have Ovada, such a unique and alternative space for learning and showing.
How do you feel the arts benefit society?
Whether art is seen in the public realm, in private galleries/shops, in the home or in our towns and countryside, art has the opportunity to stimulate the imagination, promote health, ‘move’ the senses and open the mind to new or different ideas of ‘being’ in the world whether you are a viewer or an artist. I feel exactly the same about other forms of art; they hugely benefit society in the same way.
‘In Conversation’ between Katie Hellon and previous Associate Feature Artist, Imogen Rigden.