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In Conversation with; Kelly Wu

Restarting our interview series this time on paper. We spoke with Kelly Wu, a current student, about her working methods and, aspirations within her practice and experiences of feeling homesick having studied at CSM in London and at the Paris college of art. She reflects on her experiences of using craft processes and how she can weave feminism into her work both physically and conceptually. Talking heavily about her interest in liminal spaces and ideas of taking up space as a women in the arts. I asked Kelly a few introductory questions before diving into the nitty gritty of her work.

Read more about Kelly and her work below, I hope you enjoy the way she speaks about her process and research as much as I did!

Holly - Tell me about yourself? ( where you grew up, studied and what interests you) Kelly - I'm 19 and I grew up in Essex, but my family are Chinese! I studied my foundation year at Central Saint Martins and am now doing my bachelor's at Paris College of Art. My art is mainly sculptural, but I also like performance art, painting, and printmaking. Holly - What are your main focuses in your practice? (concepts, research) Kelly - Since I am still a student, much of my work revolves around the briefs that they give us at university. That being said, I do work on personal projects and there are definitely themes that I enjoy more than others. I am interested in liminal spaces, like the space you enter when you dream at night, and also in feminism and identity politics. Holly - What materials and processes inspire you? ( this doesn’t just have to the material and processes you use, it can be whatever you find inspiration in) Kelly - I just learnt how to crochet last month, and so have really been enjoying working with wool for the first time in my life. I also adore plaster and ceramics, and using found objects in my work. Holly - How does this inspiration feed into your working? Kelly - Since a lot of my work is sculptural, I find it much easier to work with physical forms that have a mass and take up space. I enjoy making installations that have lots of different materials in them, as I think that sometimes unlikely objects can speak to each other quite well. Holly - What value does research hold in your practice and how important to do you find it to be in the process of making. ( research can eb anything from experimentation to reading, I’m interested in everything up until the final product and what those processes mean in your making)

Kelly - I am a big believer in passive research, that is the idea that you're always subconsciously taking in information from things you read, see, and experience, and that you input much of what you've absorbed into your art by complete accident. I think that often I have a one-track mind, and struggle to 'research' in a classic way. I would like to think that the media I take in makes its way into my art somehow!

Holly - Do you feel there is a connection between your interests in feminism and identity politics and crochet? Often these types of process can be considered ‘women’s crafts’, is that something that was conscious in your making?

Kelly -There is definitely a connection between my identity politics and textile arts such as crochet! There is a general dismissal of textiles within the art world, and they are often seen as 'hobby arts,' or as less valuable than the other disciplines of fine art. I am doing a performance soon in an exhibition curated by Shayna Klee, which will explore the feminine, the vulnerable and the importance of 'feminine' arts.

Holly - Taking up space feels so important to me as a sculptor also, being big and loud or even overpowering gives my work a sense of strength too. I often find it is something to do with feminism, or at least my experience as a women, trying to re-affirm my space in the world. Do you think, as someone interested in passive research, that this is a result of your lived experience and interests in identity politics?

Kelly - I feel that I am constantly acting in a more assertive way than I am naturally, as I find it easier to navigate a world with men in it in this way. If I start out assertive, domineering, loud and overpowering, nobody even has a chance to speak over me. I feel that this way of living also repels men who don't respect my bigness and loudness, which generally improves my quality of life. I love to sculpt with these ideals; I like to make work and to take up space.

Holly - Your work appears to be an exploration of space and materiality; do you consider the relationships of those unlikely objects before making or are those connections made during the process?

Kelly - I am not someone who creates with a lot of intentions: I usually just gather materials that both interest me and relate to the project I am working on, and see how their textures and shapes can interact with each other. It is all definitely done during the process!

Holly - You’ve spoken about dreams and liminal space, your work could be seen as dream-like and exploration of the unconscious as it embodies something familiar yet unearthly, if that makes sense? How much of your own dreams and imagination feed into the work?

Kelly - Last year during my foundation year at Central Saint Martins, my final project was about dreams, titled 'When the Lights Go Out.' I recorded my own dream in a journal for 65 days, and then made 65 sculptures from these. It was actually a really gruelling process, as my dreams became more elaborate and memorable as time went on, and as I wrote more and more. This meant that my body was regularly waking itself up in the middle of the night to 'preserve' a good dream before it disappeared. I accidentally trained myself into waking up every time I had an interesting dream.

Holly - As you are still studying can you talk about your aims for your degree, I know much of university life can be looking ahead and planning. Do you have any work you are thinking about making or the process of making that you’d like to share or discuss? Any ideas you’re thinking about right now or interests?

Kelly - I would like to really specialise in sculpture and reconnect with ceramics. I haven't worked with clay for over a year now as I haven't had access to a kiln. The year has just started so I do not have any particularly individual or unique ambitions yet, I am mostly working on getting through the set projects! I am making a lot of work about Hampstead Heath, as this is where I used to live, and I'm feeling a little homesick being in Paris!

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