With tongue in cheek, I call myself a contemporary folk artist. Folk is a slippery and divisive term with some uncomfortable associations, however we only need look at the UK Brexit vote and rise of populism worldwide to see how customs and traditions continue to inform our sense of self and other, often with agonistic consequences. And yet traditions are not inherently malignant: they are also heartfelt vehicles of human sociability whose infinite adaptations and calls to action help us punctuate and make sense of time and place. My practice is driven by the conviction that now more than ever, we need to pay attention to the things people make, do and think for themselves— and it is this kind of folk, and this kind of art that informs my work.
Some of my projects interrogate the problematic relationships between folk, nationalism and colonialism. Others deal with the under-representation of women, LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities in the existing canon of English folk arts and the need for new, more inclusive traditions for our divided society. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the relationships between human and plant populations and the interspecies traditions of care required for living together on a dying planet. A lot of my past work has involved performance and craft, but I’ve also begun to integrate my studio practice as a painter. Recent / current commissions include Plough Witches for Meadow Arts, Chasing the Harestail for Jersey Heritage and Apotropaia for Leeds Piano Trail.
I’m currently heading the Social Art Library for Axis, a project to build the first artist-led archive and resource bank for and about socially engaged practice. I spent the last decade in the academic hinterlands, exploring the intersections of social art and ethnography making and in 2019 published my first book, 21st Century Folk Art: Social art and/as research. In addition to a bunch of articles and book chapters, I’ve also co-authored two reports, Beyond the Gallery (2015) and From Network to Meshwork (2020) with Amanda Ravetz, edit Social Works? Open journal and am a co-founder of Social Art Publications, the publishing wing of the artist-led group Social Art Network.
I have a PhD from Manchester School of Art but I don’t like to brag about it.
Do get in touch if you're interested in working together...