Name: Sarah Taylor Silverwood
Location: Birmingham, UK
Brief artists statement:
I make drawings and text-based works about cities, looking at the relationship between humans and architecture. I draw from a range of influences including the idea of the ‘flaneur’, comic books and writings about modernity. It’s interdisciplinary – I think it fits somewhere between research, fine art, photography and architecture. The drawings pictured were the sketches for a comic book but I’m showing them in an exhibition of drawings this year. They’re about the histories of spaces.
How did you become an artist? Did you always dream of a life in the art-world?
I began life dreaming of drawing for the Beano. Drawing has been a total obsession my whole life. I’ve always wanted to make my own work, but also enjoy working in the arts business in an organisational role, so I’ve worked in the arts/cultural sector since 2002 in both practical and administrative roles.
I currently work as a PA for K4 Architects in Birmingham’s Eastside, including marketing and doing various design projects. This really complements my work and its links to architecture – at the moment I’m helping plan the Love Architecture festival in Birmingham. Alongside this I’m working hard on my own practice, and have an exhibition of works on paper at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in September 2012. I’m also working on two book illustration projects, teaching comic book workshops this summer and trying to co-curate an exhibition. Times are busy!
How has your education helped your career?
I did a degree in English which fed my love of urban literature and art theory, and then an MA in Fine Art, which was a year of pure bliss – drawing and more drawing, and some reading and writing. However, I didn’t go through the conventional art school route, so I think education just helped me to formalise it, and showed me the huge range of careers in the art world. My best friend’s mum, Lesley Moran, was an art teacher and a big inspiration. She gave me my first art book (Miro) and sketchbooks every birthday.
In terms of professional roles, during my MA I did modules in Curatorial Practice and Cultural Planning, which led on to me joining the board of directors at arts education agency Bright Space.
Do you work as an artist full-time? Describe your typical day. Do you have a routine?
I spend about one or two full days a week on my own work. I usually send a lot of emails to people I’m developing exhibitions or workshops with, drink coffee, and if I’m lucky spend about 5 hours drawing or writing. I’m hoping to write a paper for a journal too so this afternoon I’m going to plan that, but it involves Batman so it could become an afternoon of reading comics.
Which historical and contemporary artists do you refer to most often? How are you influenced by their work?
I read a lot of theory around cities: Bachelard, Baudelaire, Benjamin, and also comic books like Batman and Watchmen, which are full of interesting characters who feed on cities. I also like Cindy Sherman, Imogen Cunningham, Rachel Whiteread, Michael Landy and Bernt and Hilla Becher.
What are the other influences on your work?
The big city is my biggest influence. After living in the Forest of Dean my whole life, standing on top of the Empire State Building aged 15 was my big turning point.
Also my mum is a photographer and my dad is a writer and their dedication to their work is inspiring.
What was the last exhibition you visited?
I saw the Stuart Whipps exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham… it’s great.
What is your favourite art gallery?
Archives and heritage have always informed my work, so the V&A is perfect. Also I love Eastside Projects in Birmingham.
What are your experiences of the ‘art-world’ and the business of art?
I think it takes a lot of criticism but there are some incredible things going on in art education, gallery shows and outreach work – and they are working twice as hard because of economic difficulties. People are giving their all in this industry.
Do you have any tips or advice you wish you had known earlier in your career?
May the force be with you.
Do you have a quotation that you keep coming back to and that keep you going? Have you a motto that gets you through?
Georg Simmel in ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’ (1902-3) ‘the deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence… one nowhere feels as lonely and lost as in the metropolitan crowd. He has to exaggerate this personal element in order to remain audible even to himself’.
Do you or would you use assistants to make your work?
My cat walks on my drawings a lot and I quite like them a bit scruffy.
Do you use social networks? if so, how and which ones do you find most useful?
I’m getting to love Twitter and those hashtags, especially for finding out what’s going on in the world right now.
Which artist should we all look up immediately? What art magazines, blogs or sites should art lovers be looking at?
I read Art Review, Frieze, a-n and Art Monthly. Also I read the RIBA Journal and The Architects’ Journal at work. And I get still get the Beano sometimes, and Batman comics.
Finish this limerick: There once was an artist from…
… the Forest of Dean, it’s a bit weird there mind.