Rosemary Cronin: Postgraduate experiences

Rosemary Cronin was one of the recipients of the 2016 Life Boat Residency. In this interview she talks about her experience at and post college.

The LIFE BOAT residency is funded by Arts Temps and the Postgraduate Community at UAL and supported by ACAVA

Q: Can you talk to us a little bit about your practice and the ideas and themes that motivate it.

My work is research driven, and centres around female figures from history and pop culture, as well as psychoanalysis. My methodology is self-defined as ‘Anarchivism’, inspired by The Anarchitecture Group’s approach to architecture and the systems within contemporary culture. For me there are methods within my work that lean towards destruction, critique and protest that stems from an innate frustration with patriarchy; so there is often a destructive aesthetic to the work that helps articulate that frustration for me.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about how you came to be working as an artist?

As a child I suffered from a couple of traumatic experiences that led me to finding salvation in art. At 17 I joined the Raw Canvas programme at Tate Modern, curating workshops and events for other young people. At Tate I was exposed to a community of creative thinkers that inspired me to apply for art school. Now after several years of being an artist I know that it’s a state of mind and a commitment that I couldn’t not follow.

Q:Can you say a little about what made you decide to do an MA?

In between my degrees I have worked on Learning Programmes at Museums and Galleries such as Tate, National Portrait Gallery and South London Gallery, working with young people and children to empower them to be creative. Thanks to my MA at Chelsea and Lifeboat I now feel that I have the best of both worlds, working with young people, young creatives and communities; as well as being able to carry on my own creative practice. I studied at Chelsea for my BA and had collaborated/worked with the Subjectivity and Feminisms Research Group at Chelsea; a group of tutors, staff and students who work together to create events, symposiums and performative dinners around feminist critique. Nowhere else offered a similar community, so for me Chelsea felt like coming home in that respect, and feeling supported within feminist communities situated in the college.

Q: What other responsibilities were you juggling at the same time as you were doing your MA. Work. Caring or family commitments or similar?

I was working a lot! I was really fortuitous to be offered freelance work opportunities, but I had to juggle tutorials, lectures and exhibition installs alongside teaching during the week, at nights and often at weekends. I really love teaching so for me it wasn’t a chore, but just required being mega organised and into multi-tasking.

Q:How did the expectations of the course meet with the realities of it?

The course was mega intense. Having come from a comparatively leisurely 3 year BA and a few years of juggling part-time work and freelance work, a year’s solid focus on my creative practice felt admittedly pretty selfish at first, and it took me a while to transition into the headspace of my creativity. Something I wasn’t expecting was the really great friendships that emerged through the year; prior to starting the course I thought that I would meet some artists to maybe collaborate with, which I definitely did, but with some really tight knit friendships too.

Q:Did you have any experience sustaining a practice before the course, did the course do anything else to manage your expectations of what it was like living and working as an artist?

When I graduated from my BA, I was intent on being a full time artist, but life doesn’t always work out how you wish! I realised that I’m somebody who thrives on working with others, and has to have an element of work that runs alongside my practice. For me working with young people and empowering them whilst also having my creative practice is the perfect combination. Once I got over that and embraced my love for working with others, it made my life as an artist a lot easier.

Q:What do you feel the most important thing you got from your MA was?

The time to reconnect with my creativity was precious. It helped move me away from the treadmill of life, and instead put me on the rollercoaster of an artist life! Moving back into a research headspace, being able to make work in a foundry and talk about art pretty much 24/7 was bliss. It was a necessary and pivotal moment in my life that helped move forward my careers and passions.

Q: Since starting the LIFE BOAT residency can you talk a little bit about the different money, work  and other commitments you’ve been juggling in relation to your time in the studio?

Again life has a way of knocking you sideways and putting you in unexpected directions. I’m a great believer in fate, but 2016 was pretty turbulent for all sorts of reasons. But I have now found a job that allows me to work with academics, uses my event/workshop skills and keeps me in touch with creative communities; and a new home that is a 10 minute walk from the Lifeboat studio! After recovering from a health scare I also have a renewed energy for work/life balance and really value being able to walk to my studio and make creative work in a great environment.

Q: Aside from the more structured parts of the programme, how has the day to day contact with your fellow residency artists played out? Do your respective schedules mean you’re in the studio together at the same time much? Have you had much input / feedback into each other’s work?

They’re all a great bunch, but we are like ships in the night! I’ve really enjoyed some of the discussions that Verity Slade and I have had though, we both have similar interests but totally different outputs, and I’m really into her stuff at the moment.

Q: Has there been much interaction with the rest of studio’s community?

ACAVA’s Limehouse studios are pretty big, but very quiet! There are a lot of serious painters, who with my background from the National Portrait Gallery, I really admire. We took part in Open Studios and managed to meet quite a few of the artists, and that was a really great experience.

Q: One of the focuses of the residency is an interdisciplinary approach to practice. Is this something you’ve seen or felt in your wider travels in the art world?

Yes! During my MA at Chelsea I worked with the artist Anthea Hamilton, and that was a really great experience of working with somebody who has a great way of bringing all kinds of ideas and influences into the work, and letting the material/medium and research work together in harmony. Being interdisciplinary allows me to be open to everything and not stuck to one string of a bow. Working with film and performance has been particularly freeing for me.

Q:  Do you anticipate sustaining a studio based practice after the end of the residency?
I’ve been working a lot with film and writing, I think perhaps subconsciously anticipating that I may not have a big beautiful space for much longer! Having a ‘Room of One’s Own’ is a beautiful notion to escape to and make within but I’ve some people making in their studios for years intensely, and not moving the work outside the studio. The brilliant artist and friend of mine Pamela Golden once told me that being an artist isn’t defined by a studio, and it’s a life journey rather than a career that happens overnight and has to be time pressured.

Q: Are there any issues that are particularly impacting your practice and life at the moment that you think is having an impact on other practitioners too?

Well of course there’s the inevitable time and money issues that affect everyone across London. I’ve been particularly aware of how Brexit will affect EU funding and opportunities, and I’ve already felt quite melancholic about that. But I’m a positive person so in the last six months have visited Spain, Stockholm, Iceland and Helsinki in an effort to make the most of Europe, specifically for a next body of work coming up around psychoanalysis and fire. 2016 was turbulent for me and for the rest of the world, Zizek called it ‘a terrible political earthquake’; geographically speaking an earthquake is massive release of energy, and as someone who uses destruction within their creative process, it would be fraught of me to be oblivious to the potential of a new world post-destruction. The Women’s March, WEP and Meet-ups ‘resist’ network, has proven that people are coming together now more than ever to critique and move forward their views. For me personally, I believe that we need to look outside of London now more than ever, and look beyond the bubble.

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