At the culmination of her 6 month Graduate Residency, Natasha Brzezicki presents an accumulation of works over her residency, each of which responds to notions of translation - both between the human physical and human psycological and the human and natural worlds. Field Notes
questions how we relate to nature on a personal level by placing human, emotional self in relation to the earth. Much of the work responds directly to my new surroundings here in Stoke- on-Trent, taking into account both the physical environment and my own thoughts, experiences and mindsets and the exhibition documents how these become intertwined as one. Through interdisciplinary practices, I documenting on a scientific level: collecting data, objects and readings from the land; whilst recording personal feeling in response to time, space and place.
Walking, collecting, thinking, making, naming, ordering, presenting experience as ≥ emotionality.
examines the notion of locating yourself externally whilst simultaneously locating yourself internally. It documents the act of finding a sanctuary within nature when faced with unfamiliar surroundings; the act of situating the physical body close to the earth and tying sentimentality to physical states. Do these practices alter perception of internal emotion or the external environment? Both, neither?
There are words to describe,
words to document,
words to remember,
words to forget,
words to serve,
words to make into metaphors.
Words to make you feel,
words to guide,
words to help you realise that the alphabet only exists to get these thoughts out of your head and into the ether (onto paper).
Words for yourself, words for others,
words for history, words for future.
Words to live by, words to divide,
words yet to be discovered.
There are words that connect us to the earth,
words that pin us to the stratosphere.
Words that portray more emotively than evolutionary evidences the sapient history we were borne of.
Words that liken us to mountains, to the sea bed, to trees, to wind, to the stars in the sky (each one of us mirrors our own constellation).
There are words to support what science cannot, words to gather to form branches from bones and nests from homes.
But where there are words there are questions:
If I move a mountain have I changed myself or the land?
They say no man is an island, but what if the two became one? The s not marking a plural, but a join between I and the land.
The Cartography of Nature & Place: Natasha Brzezicki, Field Notes, AirSpace Graduate Residency Interview
Conducted by Selina Oakes
“Walking, collecting, thinking, making, naming, ordering, presenting experience as ≥ emotionality” are the key components in Natasha Brzezicki's practice. They're the actions that the recent Coventry University graduate has transferred from her home-city and continued to develop in Stoke-on-Trent. Her upcoming exhibition, Field Notes, marks the end of a six month residency at AirSpace Gallery and is an excellent chance to engage with the artist's personal responses to her new environment. A series of scientific, geographical and musical translations of Brzezicki's encounters with the local, natural world are transported into the gallery in a bid to decipher man-made notions of place. In her studio, Brzezicki, surrounded by rock and water samples, chats about her time in the city and her search for a natural sense of place.
: You graduated from Coventry University in 2017. What drew you to apply for the AirSpace Graduate Residency in Stoke-on-Trent?
: AirSpace Gallery had been on my radar for a little while: Anna Francis (AirSpace Director) came to do a Visiting Artist lecture in my second year at Coventry University, and she spoke about the Gallery, her practice and the community. I was draw to her practice, but also her comments on AirSpace. So, it was at the back of my mind throughout my degree: I looked into the organisation, found out about the Graduate Residency, applied and had my interview. I hadn't been to Stoke-on-Trent before.
: How have you found the experience of moving to the city and continuing with your practice in a new environment?
: It was difficult at first: you're taken out of the university structure and placed into a new environment, where you're totally independent. There's no predetermined routine and no-one saying that you have to be in the studio or making something – it's all down to you. In addition, doing the residency in a new place adds another level to it. I dealt with the transition by placing the experience of moving here directly into my practice. It's worked really well for me, and for my art practice, to weave it all together.
: Has your practice enabled you to explore and engage with the area more?
: Yes, the very first thing that I did on the residency was some walks around each of the six towns. Without that project, I might not have visited them all. That particular project provided me with an instant familiarity with the city.
: Can you talk about how your research interests and material processes have changed and/or stayed the same over the last six months?
: I put myself into my work more now. It's an element that has come from my residency projects, but also from the fact that no-one expects you to make work to meet curriculum criteria. I choose what I want to put into my practice, rather than presenting a huge development process to secure a mark.
I've also changed how I look at process, and the materials that I'm using. Following my own evaluation of the interim show in November, I found that, while I was referencing nature, I was using man-made objects. Over the last few months, I've tried to put more of the natural object into my work. I'm maybe more true to the material.
: What has the graduate residency at AirSpace Gallery provided you with and what will you take away with you?
: It's given me a lot of support. It's nice to have people around you – whether it's those who work at the gallery, the studio artists, or Amy Lou-Matthews, the fellow graduate resident. They're people who have confidence in you; sometimes more confidence than you have in yourself. The belief that someone else has in my work or me as a person is what I hope to take away from the residency.
Also, I've been able to have meetings and conversations with other artists about my work. Rebecca Chesney, my residency mentor, is helping me with my upcoming show: we've had conversations, a critique on my practice and my plans, and she's returning to support the curatorial side of my exhibition. These are relationships that I wouldn't have existed without the residency – instead, I'd probably be in a studio, on my own.
: Field Notes is the title of your upcoming show: its a phrase which references the scientific and geographical analysis of the land. How does your artistic practice intertwine with elements of science and geography, and perhaps music?
: It began with my interest in how scientific components and processes are documented. I'm also drawn by museum and archival display. Through this, an interest in writing, numbers and graphs emerged – and I asked myself, why can't these elements be used to document art, and place?
The music side of things stems from trying to translate sound into something that is human – notes and language are a human and visual documentation of sound. This notion sits alongside the role of science, which can translate or extend the purpose and place of an object, beyond what it was before.
: You're at the centre of your findings, both physically and psychologically. In which ways do these factors shape the meaning of a place?
: A place isn't really a place until you call it one. There's a well-known human trait of needing to name things, which in turn makes it become something different to you. One of my main points of enquiry is sentimental value: either added to an object or a place. I'm interested in the overlap or the differences between the physical thing and what you've attached to that place or object. I take items out of context – where they are just a 'thing' – and reveal their psychological worth.
: Are there any other factors which play a role in defining place?
: Time. I've been thinking a lot about the impact of time on our definitions of place. Currently, I live in Stoke-on-Trent, but if I move and return at a later date, my experience of the city would be different. A sense of what 'home' is has crept into my practice; why do I not feel or feel at home; is it my home because I live on my own? Home is a place, but it's also a 'thing' that you carry with you and attach to various scenarios.
SO: What can audiences expect to see in Field Notes?
: It's a multidisciplinary exhibition. I've tried to go with processes which are true to the idea. There'll be some video and sound works and lots of collected objects. Recently, I've been working with textiles. The ideas contained within the exhibition, and the sentiments felt by the audience, are more important than what is seen.
: Nature plays a huge role in your practice. Why is nature important, and how will this transfer into the gallery space?
: That's what I was struggling with in my interim show. I'm going down a different avenue: trying to document the times when I have been in nature, collected items and remodeled them. For example, I made textile patchs coloured with residue dyes from objects collected while I was walking in nature. Each patch represents a place, but also – as a collective patchwork – they reference a quilt and the notion of a 'comfort-blanket'. Here, my interest in language brings in themes of feeling safe, feeling at home etc. I've tried to create these sentiments for myself by performing solitary activities such as walking and thinking. I'm bringing nature in: I hope people will find a home in nature, especially within a city-centre gallery.
: Having moved to Stoke-on-Trent exclusively for the residency, what advice can you other future candidates in similar situations?
: Try to be more prepared. I didn't think it would take me a month to find somewhere to live, which meant commuting from Coventry at the beginning of the residency. Stoke-on-Trent is a great place, and it's been helpful living only 15 minutes walk from the gallery. It meant that I've never felt disconnected from AirSpace and the residency.
Another point would be to immerse yourself into the practice. That's why you're here. I found it helpful to weave together my work and my experience: to make it about this experience. The studios are a good environment: the artists here are available for chats and we all meet once a month. Also, I've been lucky to have the support of fellow graduate resident Amy.
: What's next for you? Will you stay in the city or continue your practice elsewhere?
: I'm undecided at the moment of where I want to be. I will continue with my practice – something that I wasn't too sure about a few months ago. I'm at a high point now, getting all my work ready for the exhibition – it feels really good. Definitely continue with my practice and, wherever I am, have a studio. It separates my work from my home-life, and gives me somewhere for making. That said, if I were to travel abroad, my practice is something that can relate to different places. A studio would still be useful to collect items and pair them down into art.