Emily Snell lives and works in Bristol and is both a visual artist and art psychotherapist. She creates sculptural forms in silicone which reference the body and explore themes of femininity and touch. In her work, Emily seeks to let the materials speak for themselves and evoke emotion in the viewer. She is exploring ambiguity, seeking the spaces in-between and investigating the place where an artwork ends and her body begins.
Spending three weeks as artist in residence at The Garage gave me the opportunity to respond to the architecture of a space and make new work on a larger scale. My aim was to try out new ideas and be playful.
I was initially daunted by the empty white space and had mixed feelings of excitement, expectation, fear and anticipation. I had a few works in mind, but mostly I wanted to focus on the making process and respond intuitively to the space and its architectural features without being burdened too much by the need for a fixed outcome. I began by filling the room with large sheets of silicone, lengths of cord, plastic tarp and metal fixings spread onto the floor. I tried out different configurations and ways of hanging, juxtaposing the softer more fluid silicone materials with the harder industrial metal. Highlighting the contrast between the two materials brought a sense of tension between the body-like material and its environment – an idea I explored further in several of the resulting sculptures.
Spending consecutive days at The Garage helped me to focus intensely on developing my practice without other distractions. Inviting others to view my work throughout the residency and in the final weekend not only helped me to resolve my ideas to a point that felt more final yet still playful, but also gave an opportunity for insight into how others experience my work. This as an important aspect of my practice, as I aim to communicate with and generate emotional states in others through the materials that I use. Being an art therapist means that I am constantly channelling my emotions in an open-ended way through my work and others observing my work is a way of being seen.
Reflections/observations gained through completing the residency:
- The silicone sheet material worked best when manipulated only lightly e.g. draped, suspended or creased. The material is read in different ways depending on the context, sometimes appearing like leather or fabric.
- The metal fixings and beam clamps introduced a sense of tension and this sometimes felt clinical and uncomfortable.
- There was an absence of text and titles which was intentional. I was keen for viewers to explore the work in the present and in a spontaneous and childlike way. I wanted people to experience the work as sometimes teasing, seductive, subtle or joyful. Viewers told me they were also interested in learning more about my making process and it would be an interesting idea to include more documentation of this.
- The context of the work is me and this is something I want to explore further. What is the connection between the materials and myself? How do I capture the materials in space? Are they fixed or fluid? How does my body interact with the materials? And how do I want others to experience these intimate moments?
As artist in residence at The Garage for three weeks, I was able to gain a distance from and reflect on my practice in a new context away from my studio. I found this immensely valuable and it has inspired me to further explore the links I want to make between myself, the work and those who view it.