Having left Sandwell & Dudley train station for Coventry, I arrive rather promptly at 9.50am to meet artist Shiam Wilcox. I know it’s her because she’s holding a rather large pinhole camera, (I’d suggested a flower.) Commuters steal a quick glance as they rush to waiting trains. There’s the usual pleasantries and we head off, following the blue line along Coventry’s pavements towards the town centre.
We duck into a local cafe, order up hot drinks and settle in for the morning. As the conversation unfolds we realise we have a lot in common! Two children apiece, a passion for photography, the use of text within our artwork and a penchant for archives.
Shiam originally trained as a sculptor and left this behind to develop her passion for pinhole photography. Her latest work now showing at Rugby Art Gallery, explores the seminal play ‘Under Milk Wood’ written by Dylan Thomas. The play, written for radio, invites its audience to listen to the dreams and innermost thoughts of the inhabitants of an imaginary small Welsh village, Llareggub (which is ‘bugger all’ spelt backwards). It uses odd characters, absurdist text and the stories within a story.
“The alliteration within the text along with the imagery it conjures up appealed to me. I wanted to illustrate what was going on in that book. It explores the passing of time over one day and examines the characters’ dreams. I wanted to make a visual thing, and pinhole captures what you cannot see, it gives you an insight into something that isn’t there or isn’t present to the naked eye. Each picture took me about 6 weeks to do.”
‘Does your sculpture training creep into your present practice’, I ask? “Oh yes, I create real miniature sets and layer other work on top to create the effect. I realise that sometimes images don’t work the way you want them to though, so you have to be open to the medium. You can’t control it as much as you want to, pinhole ends up controlling you! It ends up being a compromise between you and the camera. The camera takes the picture as much as you take the picture. I really like that!
Shiam is already thinking of her next project and will be experimenting with a new camera to look at portraiture. “I’m still trying to iron out the creases with it, but I love stories, layer upon layer, and playing around with paper and making things. Maybe I’ll create something 3D and freestanding”.
It seems an appropriate time to end our conversation. Where has the time gone! We’ve been lost in our own imaginary art world for the last two hours. But it’s been a very stimulating and enjoyable meeting. We walk out of the cafe, take our leave of each other and I head off again following the blue line, across Coventry’s pavements and towards the train station.
Through The Pinhole an exhibition by Shiam Wilcox is currently showing at Rugby Art Gallery until Saturday 17 February 2012.