To celebrate the open call for the RBSA’s biennial Photography Prize exhibition, we speak to two artists with photography at the heart of their practice. We find out how the pandemic changed their artistic practice and what they are working on now.
You can enter the upcoming RBSA Photography Prize exhibition until 16 June 2021.
Olivia Swinscoe is a Birmingham-based photographer whose work explores the relationship between people and places. Olivia is interested in how people live and sustain themselves.
West Midlands based Jodie Wingham combines printmaking with non-traditional methods of display to create artworks that playfully distort images, where images are turned into sculptural forms.
Both Olivia and Jodie are RBSA Next Wave Associates, selected for the programme in 2018 and 2020 respectively.
Photography is central to my practice. I use photography to capture the life that I see in the world around me, to record my own sensations, and to create photomontages. Through photography, I am able to explore relationships between living things and their environments, and to indicate connections between inner and outer worlds.
Olivia Swinscoe, Bridge and Tunnel
The need to shield for over a year meant that both my life and my practice changed considerably. A documentary project that I had been working on had to stop and planned trips were cancelled. In the void that this left, I started making images of the area in which I live and its animal inhabitants, as well as a series of self-portraits that explore the figure within an enclosed space.
I felt very fortunate to be offered a ground-floor solo show in the RBSA Gallery in early 2020. To receive that level of recognition meant a lot to me. I now know that I am capable of making work of the required calibre, and that there is a place for such work within a gallery context.
See more of Olivia Swinscoe’s work:
I always start with a photograph. The image may be one I take myself that forms works such as Unbuttoned or Cusp or I may start with found imagery which was the case with The Fold Series or my ongoing work Untitled (Intimacy).
For me, a photograph provides an image to work with and manipulate through my chosen processes, usually printmaking and taking this into a sculptural form. The photographic medium is central to my making, I use it to cross into other disciplines but it is always there working behind the scenes to inform a piece of work.
The photograph dictates where I take it, this could be to print on metal, cut or fold it or cast it within plaster which brings the image to life giving it a physical quality which can be experienced by a viewer.
During the pandemic, we all had to adapt and find new ways of working. With this comes both frustration and exciting new possibilities. I couldn’t use models to photograph so using myself and those I’m close to as sitters, the work became much more personal. I hope that this closeness is felt by an audience when they see the work too.
Unable to access certain equipment and facilities, I had to consider what is achievable on my own or by outsourcing to industry. This saw the development of prints on paper using more traditional processes with a contemporary twist.
Showing my work at the RBSA Gallery has allowed for a wider audience to see and engage with my work both physically and virtually. I gained invaluable feedback and insight into my work that has informed future pieces. It has been most enjoyable meeting other artists based in the West Midlands and being involved in a diverse body of shows that I can enter as Next Wave Associate.
My current work returns to what can be considered traditional printmaking as I am printing on paper, something I have never explored in the past. I have been developing my own way to turn the photographic image into a Mokulito print, also known as wood lithography. Using a plywood plate to print on and ink up as you would a traditional Lithography stone, you can produce prints that contain a beautiful wood grain. There are also subtle washes that are associated with the Lithographic printing technique.
My Mokulito prints take advantage of the grain present in the wood, I choose imagery that connects to the lines and hands. I’m interested in how we communicate with others through our body language and whether this language is readable or open to interpretation or misinterpretation. For my solo exhibition at the RBSA Gallery in August, I hope to include between 3 and 5 works from this series.
See more of Jodie Wingham’s work:
The RBSA Photography Prize exhibition is open to all UK and International artists creating work in the photographic medium.
Launched in 2015, this exhibition celebrates artists at all stages of their career, representing a spectrum of ,photographic practice.
Deadline: 16 June 2021, 4pm
The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) is an artist-led charity which supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of exhibitions, events and workshops.
The RBSA runs an exhibition venue, the RBSA Gallery, in Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter, a short walk from the city centre.
We are open 10.30am – 5pm on Tuesday – Saturday.
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