Practice in Place - Amanda Lynch
Amanda Lynch shares her experience as an artist living and working in Somerset
Tell us about you and your practice:
I am a visual artist, researcher and curator, my special interests are within the Disability Arts Movement and in being an advocate for those who face barriers due to disability. I grew up on the outskirts of London, moved to Leicester for seven years, and then moved to Somerset six years ago.
I studied in Leicester at De Montfort University for my BA Fine Arts Degree and loved it so much that I stayed on to gain my Master’s in the Arts. I trained in sculpture, using heavy large materials such as cement and plaster, before moving into working with assemblage and collage. My practice is now research and activist-focused.
My work has always examined things that make us feel uncomfortable, such as wealth within Western culture, Art History, women’s representation and disability. I’m interested in what isn’t spoken about and why. I think my work with the Disability Arts Movement has come from this starting point and the knowledge that when it comes to disability, there are so many things that are not spoken of. Although I tackle important and serious issues in my work, I have always tried to bring humour into my practice - I really feel that if you can make someone laugh, you have opened the door to a conversation.
A lot of my work now includes conversations, researching and diving into things that make others tick. I’m curious by nature so research has come quite naturally to me. Working within archives and libraries has been a great way to delve into research history, this has allowed for more reading of various texts, from biography and academic writing, to news cuttings and everything in between.
My visual arts practice has slowed down, mainly due to my health, but also due to the questions I’m asking about how to create a work of quality and bring my ideas into reality when I face barriers to achieving this. I enjoy the process of asking these types of questions (which do sometimes feel like a battle between myself and the work) and working through them.
Currently, the materials I use range from assemblage, found objects, collages, rubber stamps, monoprints and photography; with my ideas directing material choices. I enjoy trying new methods and have dabbled in a lot of different ways of working. I always work to expand my knowledge and try new things; the process is extremely important, it’s how I get there that matters.
Another creative outlet for me is Mail Art, sending artwork through the postal system. It’s a way to connect with people across the globe and see what is happening within the arts in other cultures and countries. It is also a far more accessible segment of the artworld; both in terms of my ability to physically participate and make work that fits the scale/requirements of Mail Art, and the openness of Mail Art for everyone to take part. There are some fascinating artists who solely work within the Mail Art network, and I am intrigued by the many approaches artists take. There are also artists who have practices that are linked to activism, politics and advocacy, which influence my work .
What are the great art spaces and organisations you love to visit?
Because of my current health, I mainly work from home - my physical access to the outside world is extremely limited. Art spaces with good online access and social media outlets are hugely important and I feel like there has been positive development.
The spaces I have visited in person are Hauser & Wirth Somerset in Bruton, a large contemporary gallery which is local to me. They also have a brilliant online space, including 3D tours if you are unable to visit in person. Shatwell Farm is a really interesting space and setting, especially good for those who are interested in architecture. I’m also following Create #8 in Shepton Mallet, a new pop-up space providing workshops and exhibitions. David Simon Contemporary in Castle Cary and Bo Lee and Workman in Bruton are also contemporary galleries showing an array of artists. A new small gallery Georgia Stoneman has opened on the high street on Castle Cary, if you didn’t know it was there you could walk right past it, I really like these hidden gem spaces. I love unusual spaces such as Shepton Mallet Prison, which has pop-up exhibitions. Wells Cathedral holds the Wells Contemporary Open, and Exeter Cathedral has different exhibitions throughout the year. Close Ltd in Taunton has regular exhibitions - unusual as it’s on someone’s residential property. Barn Studios in North Somerset is a great space showing interesting artists.
I visit many galleries and exhibitions online, my favourite online space is Studio Kind in Devon, an artist-run space that you can really feel connected to online, with brilliant tours and talks available.
I also love OSR Projects in West Coker, Yeovil. Arnolfini in Bristol offers some great on-site and online opportunities, talks and exhibitions.
Cheerlead for your peers! - Who would you like to shout loudly about?
We should all get the pom poms out for our peers! it is hard to keep to a short list here, but the people who are doing incredible things throughout the South West and beyond are Sharon and Jason Gale (QbA), Gillian Taylor, Christopher Samuel, Rachel Gadsden, Angela Charles, Chrissie Hunt, Susie Honnor, Janec Van Veen, and Leila Galloway.
Where do you make your work?
Anywhere I can. Pre-pandemic, I would often make my work in the spaces I was exhibiting in. I would find inspiration from car boot sales and charity shops, cheap and cheerful materials turned into assemblages and collages. Since my health has declined and I have to limit who and how many people I have contact with, I now work completely from home, a small desk covered in bits and bobs, works in progress and rubber stamps for Mail Art. The desk is in my bedroom, it has its limitations but it is surprising what you can do from home if you put your mind to it.
What opportunities are there for artists in your area?
I am a huge believer in creating your own opportunities, especially if you struggle with the conventional route to working as an artist. That said, there are lots of ways to connect with other artists and creatives in the South West.
Honing in on your own interests and passions is really important, and finding “your people” comes with that. I have found online avenues really beneficial in making those first steps, surprising that some of this is from social media, such as Instagram.
My advice is to sign up to newsletters local to you to keep in touch with local events. Regional and national pages such as VASW are brilliant for resources, links and opportunities. I also engage with CAMP, Spike Island, Devon Artists Network, Evolver Magazine, Black Swan Arts (Frome) and Somerset Art Works (all places in the South West) to stay connected to other artists and what is going on. If you are able to to join local events/clubs that you are interested in. If you can get hold of some literature that interests you, such as Raw Vison (Folk/outsider art), Art Review, Art Newspaper. Also daily newspapers with art features can be really informative on how art is being written about and what is being published.
For those who face barriers in the D/deaf/disabled community, brilliant places for opportunities and resources and ways to build community can be found at DASH (Disability Arts Shropshire), CEDA (Exeter), Disability Arts Online, Shape Arts (London), Outside In (National), Venture Arts (Manchester), Jennifer Gilbert Gallery, AIM (Art In Motion, Bristol). Sign up to newsletters and magazines, there are lots of online art events - a great place to meet people.
What or who helps you maintain your practice?
I thrive on having conversations with people, discussing an idea, thought or just something that has really rubbed you up the wrong way can be incredibly motivating.
Since the pandemic and very gradually, my practice has taken a shift from a visual arts practice to research as practice. It’s- a very strange shift, but also a fascinating one. My interests lie within the Disability Arts Movement, the injustices, barriers and challenges disabled people face keep me going with my research, which has taken the form of surveys, interviews and case studies. From the research, some visual making has happened but this is a lot slower than it used to be.
My close friends and family are incredibly important because my health is very unpredictable right now, they have kept me going, even on those very dark days. We all need support from time to time.
I am a member of the VASW steering group, my area of interest is looking into disability arts in the South West and how the community is represented. The steering group is a fantastic way to keep up to date with the region and to see what others are doing across the region. Being part of the steering group also opens up my insight into other important matters and the brilliant work that is going on to make change within the sector, and Sout West.
I am extremely fortunate to have received the British Art Network funding to produce a seminar exploring how the quality of art practice is judged between disabled and non-disabled persons. This will also form a case study which will be published with the British Art Network and presented to Tate. Alongside this, I have relaunched a survey on digital access with DASH (Disability Arts Shropshire) which will be a comparison work, forming a paper published with Liverpool Hope University and the International Journal of Arts and Education.
Reading, I absolutely love to read, anything from horror (Stephen King), and art history to biographies, such as Rue McClanahan (Golden Girls). Getting out into nature when I can, to walk and soak up the surroundings, is a great way to calm the mind. I have found that it’s the little things you can appreciate when times have been tough.
What else would you love VASW's audiences to know about where you live and work as an artist?
It’s surprising what you can do from home, believe in yourself. A tiny space can be a studio (I should know) and a desk space can be a portal to the other side of the world. Keep going even when it may be tough.
Somerset and the South West is a vast place, get out and explore the interests you have, you really never know what will come of them. In Somerset’s vastness, there are so many places, rural and urban, that are great for artists to experiment with. Soak up the resources that are available to you, especially things that are not directly connected to your practice. There will more than likely be a link somewhere.