As the Amid exhibition approaches, we asked Shaeron Caton-Rose a few questions to find out more about her background, her creative process and what inspires her as an artist.
– How did you get involved with art? Can you tell me something about your training and your influences?
I have always loved drawing. As a child and into my teens it was my world where I could be me and explore my imagination. So when I was trying to decide what I would like to do after school, it was simple – I applied to Art College. I studied my first degree in Printmaking at Sheffield Poly and then an MA much later at Humberside University. Since my MA I have explored a much wider way of making art and now combine installation with print, bookmaking and textiles. I love folk art, domestic women’s’ craft, and contemporary sculptors and installation artists such as Amish Kapoor, Cornelia Parker, Ai Wei Wei, Jaume Plensa, Bill Viola, Rebecca Horn, Caroline Broadhead.
– Can you tell us about your creative process? Where do you derive your inspiration from?
The influences I have mentioned are a large part of my inspiration, I am also continually inspired by nature, by spirituality and faith, and by semantics – I really like words and meanings. My work is driven by a concern for the human condition in relation to belief and hope. I am interested in the stories behind our experience of the realities we live in.
– What is your state of mind when you are creating art?
I have a conversation with the work. My husband reckons I make a piece and then decide what it’s about! But it’s not as simple as that. I have an idea, I start making the artwork and the process is changed by the idea, then the process changes the idea or informs it so it’s a give and take situation. My work takes a long time to come to fruition usually, I often have an idea and only finally exhibit the finished work over 4 years later, if not more. The monastery work in this show is unusual in that it had a quick turn around for me – 6 weeks. However, a lot of the work I made there was partly a product of previous thinking. The longer I make art the more I realise that nothing is wasted – an image or thought I have had maybe 10 years ago suddenly fits with a current project. It’s all connected.
– I see you had an installation at Kirkstall Abbey a few years ago, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yes, I really enjoyed this commission, it was a perfect marriage of my working practice and the themes I am interested in, and a public space with deep significance. South Square Gallery in Thornton were keen to develop off site projects and had been in conversation with the staff at Kirkstall about inviting an artist to create site specific work which reflected the history of the place. I proposed two projects and in the end the show was a marriage of these different ideas. I was particularly pleased with the letter piece in the chapterhouse, made from mirrored lettering which said ‘work and prayer and’ in a continuous circle. Work and Prayer was the rule of life for the monks, and I thought it was an interesting balance, neither being any more important than the other. Mind you, the local lads had fun trying to make rude words with the letters on an evening!! Other pieces reflected the idea of journeying and pilgrimage, I was particularly interested to find out that the main road to Leeds used to go right through the abbey church! I involved visitors to the abbey by inviting them to tie prayer ribbons to the trees and I held an evening candlelit labyrinth walk in the cloisters square. I liked the idea that Kirkstall is the only abbey in Yorkshire which is free to visit and so available to everyone, it meant art was accessible to all. I’m a big believer in working with those who don’t usually feel comfortable about going into an art gallery or looking at art, and often work out in the community for this reason.
– What is your favourite piece you have produced so far and what makes it strike such a chord with you?
This is difficult! But I guess of my most recent artworks I would say the one which gave me the wow factor when it was installed was Tears of the Angels. This was shown as part of Leeds Light Night in 2015. The piece consisted of 77 handmade bowls each with the chemical symbols for rain or acid rain embossed on them. The difference between the two was indistinguishable from a distance, which is how climate change often is – invisible but real. The bowls were shown with crystal ‘rain drops’ and a video piece with rainclouds and petrol on water imagery. I collaborated with Christian Aid so that the event was also an awareness raising event and people were invited to lobby their MPs ahead of the UN Paris Climate Change Summit. I think the work was very successful as an art piece, many people spent a long time sitting with it and obviously being moved by the experience. But I was also really pleased that I was able to build in some political action about an issue I really care about. I held a silent auction to sell the bowls and half the money raised from this was donated to the Christian Aid climate change campaign.
– And finally, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given as an artist?
Take myself seriously!! It’s hard to believe in yourself when you’re working alone. Many people view art making as a hobby but it’s so much more than that to me, it’s a vocation – something I feel I have to do to be me.
The Amid exhibition is open to the public from 16-19 January (12-6pm) at Left Bank Leeds.
This enlightening exhibition considers the relationship between our modern lives and the need to take time amidst our rushing to catch small glimpses of glory.
It consists of a series of prints of observational drawings of small unnoticed details of nature, portraits of praying hands, a pilgrimage around a small island, whilst installation pieces include garments, leaves, ladders, boxes and nests.
You don’t need to book to attend the main exhibition, just turn up between the specified times.
Fully immerse yourself in the experience with an optional guided meditation and retreat on 15 January (Booking required). Full details can be found on our Facebook event page.