Chloe Evans || October 10th
Back in July I met with Stephanie Rushton at Tsp. in the Cultural Quarter as she was starting her residency. We discussed ideas that she was exploring and recently met again to see how they had developed now that the exhibition is up for all to view.
“The work for this show comes from my environmental portraiture work, the work that I have been commissioned to create by magazines and advertising agencies for the last 25 years. At the beginning of the residency I was unsure of the form that the project would take as at that stage I hadn’t yet spent any time with the museum archive. Once I had done that the ideas began to formulate in 2 different directions. Firstly I wanted to create a body of environmental portraits of contemporary creative women in Stoke, looking specifically at the genres and mediums that they were engaging with and also their physical working environments. What were they making/doing and where? How have things changed for women now that there is greater gender equality in the workplace? The backstory to this is the lack of industry in the potteries. The photographs are a focus and the beginning of a discourse around these issues”.
Stephanie will also be producing a second body of work that has a January deadline. “The second body of work was looking at Potteries working women more generally and responding to the idea that much of the work traditionally done by women in general is overlooked, like housework and childcare etc.; and alongside that, the museum's photographic archive, which has some fascinating imagery by local photographers from the last century. This has created a slideshow type juxtaposition of 20th and 21st century imagery of working women, one image from the archive followed by my contemporary response. All the images are in black and white, which disorientates slightly so sometimes it's hard to work out the past from the present.”
Residencies have become quite a prominent process locally and I was interested to see what Stephanie thinks of the matter, with so many different opinions and ideas I wanted to know first-hand what it has been like for her. “Residencies I believe can be varied but fundamentally a residency usually offers an artist a physical space (a studio), a set period of time, funding and a deadline from which to create a body of work. For me the residency offered a chance to say no to all the other obligations on my time, providing a justification for the creative work which can sometimes get side-lined by seemingly more important demands.”
When meeting with Stephanie we discussed that she would be meeting with women to photograph them, she explained that she ‘looked at a variety of female artists in the area but decided to select practitioners whose work looked contextually more ambiguous, rather than conceptual artists whose work is more difficult to depict’ and added that they were taken at the sites in which the artists normally worked. Stephanie’s work is exceedingly empowering, the women that she has photographed are strong mentally and physically, all within different areas of work and the arts. Each image is so individual, and the environment seems to almost match the artist in and out and the second part of her project will be long waited.