Above Image – one of Ashton’s creatures made using tights. Image Source.
The Transmission lecture today was by London Artist, Edwina Ashton who presented her vast array of works and interest. Ashton is interested in the idea “to become an animal” which is very clear in her practice ranging from animation and installation to performance and drawings.
First she presented some objects she described as creatures that were all made out of old tights, explaining that they don’t stand up very well and are quite hopeless. It was strange how these charming creatures have human characteristics that made you empathise with them.
Ashton then began to discuss her drawing work, explaining that she draws directly onto gallery walls, envelopes and anything to hand as she doesn’t like having to make many decisions, which I can relate to as I think sometimes the best work can come from not over thinking and sometimes I much prefer my so called ‘doodles’ to my continual thoughts about drawing.
Ashton explained her love of Beatrix Potter and the idea that book illustrations are art, which I think is obvious, they are incredibly skilled drawings that have the ability to tell a story in one image so I agree that they are art. Upon learning Ashton’s admiration of Potter it became very clear that it was a massive influence in her work. She loved how Potter used animals to show human characteristics, showing images of the story of Samuel Whiskers, next to a door and Tom Kitten in the blue waistcoat, she explained them as very visceral how they deal with different material, in particular the dough and the string.
It is a strange contradiction how Ashton makes her animals creatures to feel helpless yet Beatrix Potter presents her animals as very capable, yet both appear very human like. A piece that really captured this was ‘cat receptionist’ where humans were dressed as cat like creatures and they ran a first aid station, this was an installation piece that involved the audience, where the cats tried to aid the viewers and put them in massive cat baskets. This was extremely human and to me felt like when you help someone although you are hopeless yourself; you still have the human instinct and need to try.
Ashton presented so much work that I loved but the last piece of work that I am going to discuss is a short film titled, ‘A Warm hand of History’, 2007, where a creature (Wooden/twig) was on a windowsill trying to catch a fly that was next to it, it was incredibly charming and I liked how it wasn’t narrated, it left you to create a narrative and left the creature to create its own characteristics, truly amazing.
I really adored Ashton’s lecture and her works, she had an incredible ability to create empathy from the charming yet pathetic creatures she makes, and they showed the failings of human existence which is a really important topic to portray. Her lecture finished in a Q & A, where she was questioned; why do you love beginnings and unfinished products, she answered, “The idea of leaving potential is important, I like everything to be open and not know where it’s going”.
I feel I can learn from this, as personally I feel I have to finish every piece of work but this concept works so well for Ashton its worth thinking about.
Edwina Ashton – http://www.animateprojects.org/films/by_artist/a/e_ashton