Interview with an artist - Roanna Wells

Roanna Wells’ exhibition, ‘Tracing Process’ will open tomorrow, 6th June here in our gallery at Persistence Works. This is the first of a series of six exhibitions 'Ways of Making' planned for the space over the coming two years, and marks the beginning of a very exciting time for us. Our Ways of Making exhibitions form part of Making Ways, a new programme supported by Sheffield Culture Consortium through Arts Council England to showcase, celebrate and develop the exceptional contemporary visual art produced in the city. The space is already transformed into a live working space for the artist, who will be present for the duration of the show and working on a new piece. Visitors are invited to come in and see the work unfold, and to make their own marks on the wall as a slowly building visual record.

We caught up with Roanna who is very busy setting up her workspace, but not too busy to answer a few questions for us:

Can you describe your work to someone who may not be familiar with it?

My practice is an intuitive expression of quiet order, subtle structure and collected detail, which is offset by a curiosity into the spontaneity and inevitable accidental marks or residues of nature, human interaction and the handmade process. I am interested in the concept of how a greater depth of knowledge, understanding, impact, or respect can be learnt from the act of repetition or the study of multiples, whether through a purely process led and abstracted aesthetic, or as an exploration into social, emotional or personal issues.

What is your background as an artist?

I studied Ba (Hons) Embroidery at Manchester School of Art, which was a combination of design and practical making skills with a strong focus on conceptual fine art thinking. It was the graphic visual effect of hand embroidery that really captured my interest to begin with, and now this love of detail, repetition and time consuming techniques has moved into different materials which allow me to explore a wider subject matter and scale of work.

What has been your inspiration for the current exhibition?

I’m currently really interested in how my personality is reflected through my particular way of making marks, most often very careful and controlled. I’m also curious to see how the idea of personal expression or a visual language varies from person to person and how this would show as physical marks when invited to use my methods. I want to gather a series of personalities, interspersed within my own marks, through allowing visitors of all ages the opportunity to add their personal voice to a collaborative piece.

Your work seems to be characterised by a strong sense of order. How will you feel about inviting other people to add their marks to your piece?

This will definitely be as much an experiment for me in relinquishing control, as it will be a creative experience for those who take part! I’m really looking forward to seeing how it will evolve, and I’m hoping it will be a two way process between myself and the public, where we can all learn something.

Do you feel Sheffield is a good place to be an artist? Do you think the city has influenced your work?

Sheffield has been a fantastic place to start my career as an artist. I feel a great sense of space in the city, not only physically but also in that there are plenty of opportunities to experiment with new ideas and get involved with the expanding creative community. I wouldn’t say that my work and inspirations are specifically linked to physical locations, but the atmosphere needed to create and discover potential is definitely enhanced in a place like this.

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