Practice in Place - Georgia Gendall
Georgia Gendall shares her experience of what it’s like to live and work as an artist on the Roseland in Cornwall.
Tell us about you & your practice:
I am a queer artist, facilitator, gardener, baker, community cook and shepherd, I am also a guitarist in a satirical yet serious punk band, Shagrat; we formed 15 years ago in the lunch hall at school and now we seem to have landed ourselves a regular slot at Glastonbury. I currently live on the Roseland (Cornwall) and commute by van or bike to my studio which is in a static caravan on a sheep farm. The many hats I wear means that my practice takes many forms; ranging from ludicrously impractical human powered contraptions and snappy ‘epic fail’ videos; to curious ceramics; improvised performance; printmaking and poster works; cross species collaborations; cyclical sculptures; enduring sound pieces; and public collaborative events.
My work uses humour and familiar everyday materials as tools to reveal the interconnected relationship between rural places, people and ecology. Works are often site responsive and use autobiographical queer experience to challenge the dominant hetero and gender normative narrative found in rural culture and the broader socio-political landscape.
I also run Allotment Club; an artist-led social project space on my allotment in Penryn. I took over the overgrown space in 2017 with the plan to turn it into an artists studio for myself. It took a long time to get it back from the brink of wilderness, I dug beds, built a fence, planted trees, built a shed (and painted it the same colour as a worm), and hosted art events. I saw the space as an artwork in itself but never quite made it to using it as my studio. In 2020 I started a flexible artists residency on the allotment which ran for two years and this year I have managed to get an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant and FEAST funding to run paid artists residencies, events and workshops from the allotment.
I also host ‘Falmouth Worm Charming Championships’; an annual community Worm Charming day which is about to enter its 3rd year running (also thanks to the ACE funding). This event is a moment for me where everything I am trying to say is said for me; people being silly and forming a relationship with the world under our feet!! This year will be bigger and better than ever before - we have trophies for category winners made by internationally renowned artists, workshops, food, music … I am currently liaising with someone about a candy floss machine!…
What are the great art spaces and organisations you love to visit?
Cornwall and the SW has so many great art spaces and organisations. I like DIY spaces of which Auction House In Redruth ( an artist led project space in Redruth, Cornwall. It offers a creative space for contemporary artists to experiment and test ideas, AH has since developed into a platform for public exhibitions, performance, screenings and residencies.) comes up tops for me - Liam Jolly who runs it is so generous and there is always something good going on there. My other regular haunts are Grays Wharf, Penryn (who are an artist studio complex and exhibition space); CAST, Helston (I used to have a studio here; they have a state of the art screening space and host talks and film screenings, food nights and art events); Newlyn Art Gallery and Exchange (an exhibition and residency space) and Fish Factory, Penryn (an artists led project and music space and studio complex).
Cornwall also has some great organisations that challenge the norms of how we interact and view contemporary art - Field Notes projects are always exciting and refreshing, as are Rame Projects.
Living in Cornwall you also get quite used to travelling to see art and I sometimes cross the Tamar to see shows at Exeter Phoenix; Spike Island, Bristol and Karst in Plymouth. That being said, art spaces are definitely in the minority when it comes to places I visit to find inspiration in Cornwall - instead/as well as I like to visit local museums, charity shops, historical landmarks, swim in the sea, go out walking…
What resources or facilities are there that you (can) access?
Cultivator (although its ending soon due to funding changes) has been brilliant for me and a lot of artists in Cornwall. They provide free workshops and funding for artists to invest in equipment, mentoring and skills. I was lucky enough to receive a creative investment grant from them in 2022 which provided me with a mentor, some equipment and to attend a week long carpentry course. FEAST has also been great and provides funding for specific projects, equipment and support.
There are lots of places to go to access facilities depending on your needs and lots of people to call upon for help if you need to borrow some equipment. The thing with Cornwall is that trying to transport art is a bit of a nightmare and countless things I have made have broken or been ruined while bumping down a country lane. To counteract this I decided to try to gather everything I needed in one place. I am proud to have had a huge amount of luck on ebay and facebook marketplace to have acquired all the resources I use regularly such as a printing press and a kiln.
Cheerlead for your peers! - Who would you like to shout loudly about?
That’s hard. There are lots of people doing amazing things; Flo Brooks, Sovay Berriman, Phoebe Barnicoat, Jane Darke, Naomi Frears, Ben Sanderson, Liam Jolly, Conway and Young, Amy Lawrence, Huhtamaki Wab, Dean Knight, Melanie Stidolph, Simon Bayliss… The list goes on.
Where do you make your work?
I have a studio in a static caravan on the sheep farm that I work at. I pulled out the bedrooms, clad the walls, put a wood burner in and now it is perfect. I am lucky to be surrounded by the animals, machinery and landscape that inspires me. Having a studio here allows me to have a base that I can come back to while also having a nomadic practice and since moving in here I have been able to be more considered and site responsive in a way that feels rooted in this place. I am now walking a lot more, collecting materials and interacting with what is around me more than I could/felt allowed to when I occupied a ‘traditional’ studio space.
What opportunities are there for artists in your area?
There are many opportunities to show work in Cornwall - there are lots of smaller or DIY galleries and cohorts of people putting on group shows and opportunities in these galleries to show solo work. In general Cornwall is a place where you have to be proactive and make stuff happen for yourself, be seen or provide opportunities for yourself. When I first moved back to Cornwall from London in 2016 I started an online collaborative platform called Forced Collaboration.I hadn't yet tapped into the artist community down here so Forced Collaboration became a tool for meeting artists in Cornwall whilst keeping a conversation flowing between myself and artists outside of Cornwall. Over the years Forced Collaboration grew and grew (reaching an unruly peak during covid) but for me it has served its purpose - to meet people and make things happen.
I recommend keeping up to date with mailing lists or local organisations such as CAST, Cultivator, VASW etc who will direct you to what's going on and what you can get involved with.
What or who helps you maintain your practice?
I am very used to juggling a million different things to maintain my practice - normally things I can pick up when I need them and drop them when I get busy, however, slowly the balance is shifting more towards maintaining my practice with my practice. I am lucky enough to be a recipient of the Henry Moore Foundation Artists Award 2022 which will go towards supporting my studio practice and Arts Council project grant with FEAST funding to run my project Allotment Club and Falmouth Worm Charming Championships this year which will be the focus of this year.
What else would you love VASW's audiences to know about where you live and work as an artist?
I love the Cornish art scene - It is spacious, supportive and has a deep sense of humour that I've yet to experience elsewhere. It is kind yet merciless, it is grounded in place yet globally conscious. It is a nourishing place to make work and I feel very lucky to be part of the creative landscape of Cornwall.