My name is Amy Ash. I am a Canadian who moved to London on a whim and decided to start calling the city home. I am a multi-disciplinary artist. My practice moves between installation and other forms of making, curatorial projects, and teaching/learning. I consider each of these elements an equally integral discipline within my practice. For a long time, I found it hard managing the different facets of my work and would actively segregate them, which I think it is something especially common for artists who are also teachers. For some audiences I was a teacher or a curator and, for others, an artist. I found it difficult to respect my teaching and learning work as inclusive in my practice and kept it on the sideline. Within the last few years everything has started to melt into one practice, which makes everything much more rewarding.
What are you working on now?
I just launched a new website which was a much bigger undertaking than I’d realised. Now that it is finished, I’m working on a few things at once... I’m preparing for an exhibition at St Thomas University, in Canada. The work is a result of my participation in the thematic residency, Truth Lies and Lore, at the Banff Centre for the Arts. The project, called Pot of Gold, uses found mementos to look at unquantifiable value and the artefact as a fiction while unpicking some of the regional intricacies and idiosyncrasies from Atlantic Canada. Alongside the exhibition, which will be in late summer, there will be a small publication, so I am work-shopping ideas for that as well.
I am also looking forward to a summer residency in Wales. My wife (who is a primary school teacher) and I will be travelling to Wales to work on a model for an experimental learning programme. We will be working with local children to create a town museum, curated entirely by them, according to what they deem relevant.
Lastly, I am right now in the midst of a learning/curatorial project called Youth Uncovered, which supports a group of young people from three south London secondary schools to curate an exhibition of professional contemporary artwork. Youth Uncovered asks the question, what does it mean to be a young person today? The group joined forces in June of 2015, placing an international call for submissions and making their selections from an outstanding number of proposals. Since then, they have been working diligently both learning from and leading the professional artists in their research and understanding of what it means to be a young person today. We were recently awarded support by Arts Council England and are looking forward to the opening and Q&A on 23rd April 2-5pm at Gerald Moore Gallery—save the date! For more information, see http://curatingyouth.tumblr.com.
How would you describe your style in a few words?
I’m not sure about my style... I think of my work as quiet, contemplative and fluid. I am interested in the iconography of memory, but I’m not sure that’s my style. I hope to create spaces/instances which allow individuals to make their own meaning without shepherding them towards a specific understanding of the world.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It is the perfect book for me right now—it is set between Canada and Japan (both places in which I’ve lived and which continue to occupy a certain part of my heart). The book questions our linear understanding of time and also plays with the relationship between memory and attachment/nostalgia, drawing attention to the connection between our lived experience and our perception of events. All this wrapped up in a very digestible narrative.
Name your top three creative blogs:
I like the Jealous Curator (who doesn’t?) but, to be completely honest, I don’t really follow many blogs...
I do make good use of these online resources:
This is a juried art community, which allows artists and arts workers to network and share ideas. There is an annual fee, but I think it is worth it. They put out a newsletter, run a blog and also send emails with opportunities that are tailored to individuals. It also allows non-community members to search through artist profiles and see what people are up to. There is a strong community of artist-teachers.
Great for local listings—perfect for matching relevant exhibitions to students’ interests, which are nearby and also realistic for them to attend.
An incredible resource--There is so much to read and so many opportunities here.
Fantastic articles, as well as a great window into all that is happening in arts education (and CPD) on an international scale.
I also follow along online to see what learning programmes are happening at places like Walker Arts Centre, Ikon Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery and more.
How does your creative process work?
My process is fairly intuitive and also varied, but it usually follows this pattern...
I start with an idea, experience, object, memory or question and branch out from there with research, collecting information and related objects, stories, hearsay. I am a huge fan of a sprawling mind-map and of post-its, highlighters and lists to get me started. I try to look into the poetics, metaphors, etymology and history of the catalyst. I always go way beyond what I think I will need in terms of research and support material, as sometimes there are serendipitous connections just on the periphery of the idea. Once I’ve done this, I reconfigure the elements—rewriting the ‘narrative’ to different ends. Sometimes the narrative is a lesson plan and sometimes it is a drawing or an installation. Doing the research and making the connections is best as a slow process, which I prefer not to rush. Sometimes, of course, I have to put these steps on fast forward to make deadlines, but I still follow a similar approach. I am working on being better at accepting the moments when I have to rush—it doesn’t come naturally.
Where do you enjoy searching for creative inspiration?
I like to get away from my laptop screen. I love listening to people. Autonomy and voice are very important in my work. I can often be found recovering abandoned/forgotten objects and stories, which I use to allow others to explore their own voice. I go to talks (artist talks, book talks etc) as often as I can and find it incredibly inspiring to hear people speak about what they love.
I also find great inspiration in all the usual places--books, museums, galleries and current affairs.
What tools/materials could you not live without?
Pencils—I like a hard mechanical pencil and a selection of softer, fatter ones.
St. Armand papers—it is from Montreal and I bring back loads of it every time I visit Canada
Acrylic gel medium-- preferably by Golden if/when I can afford it!
A Japanese Kuretake brush pen.