Artist of the Month: February 2012, Alison Stolwood
This month Ruth catches up with photographer Alison Stolwood to discuss making the transition from education, capturing a moment in time and being selected for the Catlin 2012 Guide.
Ruth Wilbur: When and why did you first take up photography?
Alison Stolwood: I started working with photography on my Art Foundation, where I was introduced to processes and artists working in the medium. There are lots of aspects of photography that appeal to me, but time in particular is a key element to my practice.
A photograph can capture a moment which can later be considered and reflected upon. The photographic image also has the capacity to capture enormous amounts of data in a split second. This ability to convey information that is beyond our momentary understanding of what we see, or can recall, is fascinating. I am interested in depicting something out in the world, and photography allows me a very direct connection to that. A photograph is, in a sense, part of my research. I want to use it to show me something that I didn’t see or something that I couldn’t take in at anyone moment.
Alison Stolwood, Left: Painted Lady with Sedum and Sponge, 2010 Right: Painted Lady with Sedum and Fruit, 2010
RW: Who influences you/your work and why?
AS: The depiction of landscape and habitats was my main focus throughout my studies, I spent a lot of time considering how Romantic painters like Turner and Caspar David Friedrich dealt with space, colour and landscape. This led on to further studies into how notions of the infinite and a contemporary 'sublime' could be accessed through art. Recently I’ve been looking at early natural history artists such as Maria Sibylla Merian, who illustrated the life cycles of insects.
RW: You have been selected for the 2012 Catlin Art Prize. What does this mean?
It's difficult to make the step from a being a student to making your own way in the world. Being selected for the Catlin Art Prize feels like a very positive part of my transition into a practice outside of education. It's also helped with raising my profile.
RW: What advice would you give students graduating this year?
AS: I‘ve found keeping in touch with others from my course has really helped me. Finding a studio space is also really important. Until recently, I worked from home and did not consider a studio space a necessity. However, I moved into a studio in Brighton and it's been great to have a place where I can physically go to make work, and keep connected with other artists everyday.
My other tip would be to enter competitions. Even if you don’t get selected the process helps you get your portfolio organised and seen by galleries, curators and other artists.
RW: If you could change one thing what would it be?
AS: Greater support for making work, through commissions or project grants for individuals. This seems a little thin on the ground so it would be something I would like to see change. More generally, much of my work is based on questioning our understanding of habitats and landscapes, and I feel there needs to be a consideration of the surroundings we inhabit.
RW: What’s next?
AS: I have the animation work on show at the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, Preston, from 28th January 2012 and some work printed in February’s edition of the British Journal of Photography. I am also in the middle of making some new work at the Butterfly World Project, Hertfordshire. I am developing the butterfly images I have already made, working with still and moving images.
Interview by Ruth Wilbur, February 2012
About Alison Stolwood
Alison Stolwood makes work with photography, moving image and animation and completed a BA in Photography from Falmouth Collage of Art in 2005 and an MA in Photography from the University of Brighton in 2011.