Artist of the Month: April 2013, Neill Sheasby
Neill Sheasby, fitted knitting / warm white tube, 2013
In April's Artist of the Month, Ruth interviews Neill Sheasby about his appreciation of the ordinary, his time as a studio user at North Tyneside Art Studio and getting back into making work after a career break.
Ruth Wilbur: Tell us about living and working in North Shields
Neill Sheasby: It’s cold, at the moment, anyway. I must be getting old because two weeks ago I decided that I’m fed up with winter now, I want spring to come. My studio isn’t heated and is (sort of) open-plan, so I have to move around a lot or huddle up next to a heater to keep warm. North Shields is by the mouth of the River Tyne and I started swimming in the North Sea last year and that’s cold too.
RW: You work a lot with found materials, what is it about an object that catches your eye?
NS: The world already seems full of things and I worry about adding more to it. I’d rather look at and appreciate what’s already there – the mundane stuff we overlook and throw away. I once found a small fluorescent fitting and tube in a skip – the type that goes under a kitchen wall unit. I took it to my studio and neither the tube nor the fitting worked. Some years earlier I had been French knitting, but couldn’t find a purpose for it. Eventually I realised I should knit a cosy for the tube. The combination of the knitted, tubular cover and the discarded, redundant light tube seemed physically and conceptually perfect. fitting knitting / warm white tube (see above) is probably my favourite piece of work at the moment.
RW: What inspires you?
NS: The simplest things inspire me – a colour, a shape, something moving, something lowly, a kind or poetic action, humour, absurdity... I like the work of Martin Creed, Ceal Floyer, Roman Signer, Jessica Stockholder and Pierre Bonnard.
Neill Sheasby, Cardboard Tube, 2012
RW: You had a career break between 2005 - 2011. Was it easy to get back into contemporary art after a career break?
NS: For the last 12 months I’ve enjoyed making new work which complements the earlier pieces and I now feel ready to show this work. Last year I met regularly for a short time with two other artists. We helped and encouraged each other to apply for one thing each that would develop our practice. I joined Axisweb. It’s taken me several years to accept that I am an artist, this is what I do and it’s ok to do it. Having the break has helped me to know this and has given me more determination to show the work.
RW: You've been quite open about the fact that you experienced a period of anxiety and depression, did you receive any support during this time?
North Tyneside Art Studio
NS: Yes, I was a studio user at North Tyneside Art Studio (NTAS) between 2008 and 2010 following a difficult time at work. NTAS is a charity that supports adults who experience mental health problems. Through participation in creative activities, the studio aims to help restore self-esteem in those whose confidence has been severely eroded. NTAS is open to people with all levels of ability, from the complete beginner to those with a lot of experience and knowledge of art. They provided me with a small studio space and materials to use as I wanted. Eventually I began making simple, bold paintings and sculptures of (mainly) small garden birds. I exhibited them through the art studio and elsewhere and sold nearly all of them. I also became friends with other studio users and staff and this helped to rebuild confidence too. I left NTAS in 2010 and have since been working as an artist, among other things, from my own studio / workshop.
RW: Do you have any advice for people in a similar position?
NS: I don’t think I’d give advice to anyone, I just know that I appreciated people who accepted me as I was and who were willing to be with me, without trying to change me, or make me ‘better’. One of the hardest things to experience was the sense of loneliness and isolation, being listened to and accepted was a powerful thing.
RW: What's the last exhibition that had an impact on you and why?
NS: The exhibition that’s probably had the most impact on my work was a Film & Video Umbrella touring show at the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle called 'Magnetic North'. There were several videos / films being shown, but one stood out for me. It was an early Interlude by Danish-born, Glasgow based artist Anne Bjerge Hansen. The video was a short, single-shot film of some apples being thrown into a shallow glass bowl. It was simple, ordinary, physical, humorous and beautiful. I was really struggling with my own work at the time and it helped me realise the kind of work I wanted to make.
Interview by Ruth Wilbur, April 2013
About Neil Sheasby
Neill Sheasby is based in North Shields, he playfully explores the visual and conceptual qualities of familiar, everyday objects such as carrier bags, butter tubs and bottle tops, often, with humorous and poetic results.
Neill has exhibited work in a number of venues across the North East including Waygood and Globe Gallery.