“There’s no such thing as a mistake,” artist Non tells us as we discuss her practice. Working as an emerging artist based in Cardiff, Non experiments with the art of textiles in a variety of ways and techniques, allowing her the freedom to create in conjunction with the energy she experiences. Her latest exhibition, This Could Be a Dream, establishes her singular perspective and encourages spectators to engage with her pieces, welcoming them into her world, one that exists in the liminal space between dream and reality, occasionally fusing the two.
Non offers us a thorough and compelling insight into the ever-expanding mind of an exciting up-and-coming artist and her creative process. She talks to us all about her relationship with her creations, the importance of negative space and the goings-on of The Wholefood Studio, an art collective of which she is part. Once you see the world through her eyes it won’t ever appear the same again!
Could you please start by introducing yourself and what you do to our readers?
Hi, I am a textile artist living in Cardiff. My work focuses on tactility, playfulness, and expression. I am also part of an art collective of recent CSAD graduates who work under the name: The Wholefood Studio. I love cats and spend my free time networking with the neighbourhood cats in Cardiff.
Your current work is done through the medium of tufting and textile. What drew you to these practices and what makes them the best medium for you to convey your ideas and explorations?
I view tufting as painting with yarn and tend to freehand most of my work as if composing a painting of chaos. I have always been enamoured with texture and the tactile temptation of art. Therefore, tufting naturally feels like the perfect medium that provides me the motivation to create. It can go from being a slow, laborious, delicate process from winding wool manually and working directly with my hands or with a small punch needle tool, to being fast, mechanical, and somewhat aggressive when using a tufting gun. These contrasts allow me to direct energy into the work and build a variety of textural outcomes.
Creating immersive spaces within art is something I have been drawn to. The idea of audience engagement and interaction against the perceived boundaries of a gallery setting provokes my imagination. I strive to create an experience akin to escapism. Desiring the audience to begin existing within a new landscape and encouraging them to engage physically as well as emotionally with my work. Luring the viewer into a textural dreamland is my aspiration.
Your website advises that your current practice explores the idea that “a queer existence is comprised of unavoidable failures.” How do you understand the concept of failure, and how do you think it shapes your artistic practice?
There’s a real provocation behind the importance of failure. In terms of shaping my artistic practice, I tend to channel my struggles and discomfort into my artwork as a cathartic outlet and, in that sense, it becomes a grasp on all the failures I have conceived which ultimately leads me to produce these pieces. I find there is something beautiful in crafting a positive from a negative.
I came across the concept of queer failure while studying and really resonated with the humour of continuous failure as a queer person where, in essence, the failure to conform precedes you. Thriving off this foundation of failure and all that follows is now the mission for both my practice and life.
Given that much of your work is inspired by introspection and personal experiences, what is your relationship with your art like? Do you feel removed from what you create, as many suggest artists should be, or inevitably deeply entwined with it?
I often find myself withdrawing somewhat from my art once it’s on display. This is probably due to my own vulnerability. However, when work becomes exposed to external interpretation, I feel it naturally begins to encounter a life of its own. In contrast to the conceptual and developmental stages, when the process is immersive for me and my connection to the work is absolute. The creative stage is all-consuming and exhibiting gives the work its freedom.
Could you talk us through your creative process, from influence to conception to realisation?
My creative process usually involves a great deal of thinking, some reading, listening to music and experiencing other art until one day it all comes out and I throw myself into creating. There’s no such thing as a mistake. Whatever happens, happens. I find creating to be a playful and raw experience, freeing myself from restrictions and fostering a childlike curiosity. Shayna Klee said: “Make a bad painting, make a bad song, just make a bad thing, eventually by making a lot of bad things you'll get to something good”.
Often ideas come to me in the studio when listening to music that empowers or inspires me, or ideas come to me when I’m in a relaxed state as I’m falling asleep. Subconsciously I’m always thinking about my art practice. The moments when my mind is vulnerable, between dreams and reality, flashes of inspiration or ideas can pop into my head that aren’t clouded by overthought. The album The Gods We Can Touch by Aurora inspired the conception of my current show. I found myself completely immersed in the music and its correlation to the messaging I was focused on expressing whilst in the studio.
Your exhibition This Could Be a Dream is running at Swansea’s Mission Gallery until 29th July! You have said that, in the exhibition, “a splice from an imagined world seeps into our reality”. How did this exhibition come about and how has the process of exhibiting been for you?
This exhibition expands upon a world that I create and explore within my practice, adding new characters and divulging in new themes of growth and nurture. It’s very rewarding to be able to look at the culmination of months of hard work and seeing these ideas realised. Mission Gallery originally approached me to show some work in their maker space and then following this, offered me a solo show – which was an incredibly surreal moment. This exhibition has been a considerable test as an emerging artist. It’s been so exciting to have the freedom to create without restrictions and working with such a beautiful space helped motivate the art. The Mission Gallery team have been the kindest most supportive people to work with, helping me achieve my vision to its full.
Given the 3-D and immersive nature of your work, could you talk a bit about how you construct your installations and your use of physical space?
I am appreciating more the importance of negative space and allowing room to breathe with my work. Occasionally I am tempted to create a maximalist curated exhibition, however, I love the delicacy empty space can bring to my work, providing room for the imagination to expand. I leave it up to the viewer, a sort of balance of trust upon their curious nature. You will always be surprised by what people can get up to in a gallery and the confidence or reservations they could have, so I love toying with this unknown – how work will be perceived and engaged with. This fragility of push and pull inspires my use of physical space.
I don’t like to direct the viewer too much, rather subtly suggest that there may be an exception to the rules. This can be done by orchestrating ways to enable the audience to get involved – from creating a runner for stairs that you have no excuse but to walk up to see what is awaiting at the top, or using hanging elements to surround the viewer as they explore the installation to aid their immersion.
Your exhibits, such as fan-favourite Fail Snail, are interactive and “for the audience to manipulate and engage with therefore becoming a part of an illusory realm.” Do the exhibition’s visitors themselves play a role in your installations, perhaps, unknowingly?
Absolutely, I am so intrigued by a continued known or unknown performance. It never sleeps, always observing or observed. An endless loop.
Taking this interactivity a step further, there have also been opportunities for visitors of the exhibition to watch you work live within the exhibition itself! How was it having an audience whilst you work, or do you normally create with others?
In my studio I share a space with an art collective of five artists, so I’m used to creating around others. I find it helps to nurture a creatively enriching space, through being able to bounce ideas off people straight away who are also in a creative headspace.
Working in a public space, however, was quite different and I was definitely aware of my surroundings, but it was lovely to chat with people and hear their thoughts as I worked! Tufting tends to draw attention as people are intrigued by the process, so it’s fun to demonstrate this art form that I’m passionate about and introduce people to something they may have not seen before. I want everyone to have a go!
You are also part of the Cardiff artist collective The Wholefood Studio! How did the creation of The Wholefood Studio come about and what are its aims?
The Wholefood Studio was a happy accident. A group of us, after leaving Uni, were looking for studio spaces in Cardiff and ended up taking over an old wholefood shop space. It felt like the ideal location to turn into a pop-up gallery, so we started putting on events and exhibitions alongside using it as our studio. Our focus was on supporting emerging artists and art students because we could relate to how overwhelming this period can be, having experienced this ourselves. We did this by offering out open calls to universities and putting on relaxed drink and draw evenings aiming to build community and support.
Eventually we had to vacate the space, which had always been a temporary agreement, and at this time we were lucky to be offered an associate space in the BayArt studios which is where we have been the past four months. It has been such a surreal progression and we are loving the new location, the beautiful building, and the honour of becoming a part of its rich history.
What exciting things are coming up with The Wholefood Studio for us to look forward to?
We have an upcoming group show in August this year at BayArt Gallery where we will be showing what we have been working on within our practices in the new studio. Putting together a show is always an enriching and exciting time of anticipation, nothing feels better than the culmination of everyone’s hard work. It will be running from the 4th – 28th of August open Wednesday to Saturday in Cardiff Bay.
Finally, what have you got in store for us this year?
The Wholefood Studio Collective aims to try and reincorporate supporting emerging artists into our new studio situation and promoting further the original concept which we are in the process of forming, so keep a lookout on our Instagram for any open calls etc. Alongside this I am developing my practice, letting my imagination move freely to see which bizarre places it will lead me to next.
Non Metalamagazine 1.jpg
Non Metalamagazine 2.jpg
Non Metalamagazine 3.jpg
Non Metalamagazine 4.jpg
Non Metalamagazine 6.jpg
Non Metalamagazine 5.jpg
Non Metalamagazine 7.jpg
Non Metalamagazine 8.jpg