Ideas Test sat down with exhibiting artist Rosie Melville to discuss her exhibition, Fragility and Tension, which is on display at No.34 until February 28.
Ideas Test: Has creating the work for this exhibition inspired you to create any future work?
Rosie Melville: Yeah, I think it has really because I did quite a few experiments leading up to this, in slip casting and trying different things in crochet and different yarn. This is like the tip of the iceberg. Whenever I make work, I make loads of different things and I want to try everything, then I just pick one aspect of that and develop it. But then there’s always about ten other projects – seeds of projects left behind afterwards.
Ideas Test: What do you hope people will take from visiting your exhibition at No.34?
Rosie Melville: I really want them to take their own thing away from seeing the work. I want them to interpret it for themselves. Although I’ve made the work thinking about the things that influenced me and that means something to me, I expect it to mean different things to everybody who looks at it and that’s why I like creating work that visually looks like this sort of thing. It has a bit of a hidden meaning and people interpret it in so many different ways, that’s what I really like. You know when you get feedback from people who say ‘Oh, it looks a bit like this’ or ‘it reminds me of this and that’ and so that always surprises me. I always find that so interesting because obviously I’m just thinking my own point of view from it.
Ideas Test: Do you find that combining themes and disciplines (natural history/mental health, objects/display, fragility/tension etc) enables you to develop new narratives in your work and how does this process emerge?
Rosie Melville: It emerges quite organically. It finds its own way. I keep a sketchbook and I keep in there any little drawings of ideas that pop into my head and pictures of other people’s work or anything like that inspires me. And any themes as well, I make lots of notes in there about different themes that I want to explore. I like combining different aspects of things, with meaning and materials because materials have meaning for me as well. Like the crochet is a very domestic background isn’t it, but I’m using it in a fine art environment and so bringing that sort of old school craft into a fine art context is quite interesting for me. Because it emerges sort of organically, just a natural process for me as I’m working, really I get the materials together and I get my sketchbook together and I see what happens and see what comes out of it. Usually something will emerge and it always seems to be these recurring themes that influence what I’m doing, so the mental health aspect always comes into it. I’m quite a big advocate for mental health awareness. I mean, I’ve worked with people with mental health problems in the past and been through it myself, so it always come back into my work alongside the aesthetic side of natural history collections and that sort of soothing aspect of repetition. The crochet’s really repetitive and making the work out of multiples of one or two objects, it’s quite a repetitive soothing thing to do so I enjoy that kind of making.
Ideas Test: Is facilitating a wider dialogue on a given subject (eg mental health) ever a factor for you when devising a body of work?
Rosie Melville: Yeah, it is actually. I always thought it was in the background and just sort of emerged but I am thinking the more work I make, the more intention there is there. And the more focused I’ve become over the last few years with what my work is about and what I’m passionate about. I do want people to talk more about mental health, definitely, and health and disabilities in general, to raise awareness of illnesses that you can’t see. It’s so important to raise awareness because within the group of people I know, we’re all very, very aware and very engaged with the subject. I think we really need to start talking about more things and being more open for the wider population and I think if I can do that in my way with my work then I’m really happy about that.
Ideas Test: What are the benefits you’ve seen in encouraging the community to get involved with art?
Rosie Melville: A lot of benefits, definitely. I think it’s so important that people get engaged with art, it really is, and I think up until recent times art has been very exclusive. I really believe that art is for everybody and I think access to the arts needs to be hugely improved. I mean there’s so many groups around Sittingbourne and Medway doing so much but I think it needs to be wider. It needs to be country-wide really. To see the physical change in people through a series of workshops is wonderful. I mean obviously it’s very satisfying for me, it’s good job satisfaction, but at the same time it’s for them, it makes a such a massive difference to people’s lives. I think it’s just so important because people need to feel valued and they need to feel like they have something of value to give, as well, and so many people don’t. I think that’s such a shame that I’ll do everything I can to bring that out of people. It can be a bit tough sometimes but I think it’s so important getting people engaged with art and workshops, I think it’s brilliant. I’ve known people who have been really agoraphobic who make themselves go out to these workshops and then slowly, slowly it’s like ‘oh yeah, I did something else in the week as well’. It’s just that little drip, drip, it’s really important I think – it’s fantastic.