Artist Anna Berry, whose work we’ve exhibited twice this year, just received a Research and Development award from Unlimited, the arts commissioning programme Shape co-delivers with Artsadmin. We caught up with her for a five minute Q&A exploring her artistic journey in recent years, the inspiration behind her work, and much more…

Marcus Gordon: Congratulations on your recent Unlimited R&D award for your piece ‘Breathing Sculptures’! Tell us a bit about what your recent art involvements & what you’ve been up to. 

Anna Berry: At the moment I have an ‘Unlimit Art’ fellowship at a residency called ‘ArtOmi’ in upstate New York. I’m here with 30 other international artists. It’s tough because it’s very intensive, but really enriching. I recently showed a piece at the Milton Keynes Gallery called ‘Atomize’, involving a 3 metre squared (ish) cloud of postcards with holes cut out and drops beneath, exploring ideas of narrative and dimensions.  

 crushed eggshells scattered on the floor forming a circular shape

Some may be familiar with your latest installation piece ‘Dole Scum ll’ (above), shown this year at our Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary (ARMB) Shortlist 8 showcase at Tate Modern, and our ARMB Shortlist 9 exhibition at Artlink Hull. How did that come about - what inspired you to use scrunched up paper and egg shells to form such a precise, detailed piece? 

Well it was quite a personal piece for me depicting what it’s like to live on benefits because of disability, and that sense that your life is on this visceral knife-edge. The papers are the DWP benefits papers, which are boats in the centre of the piece, and become just scrunched up paper towards the edge of the piece. 

As an experienced disabled artist, how do you see Shape creating a space for your artistic growth, exploration & opportunities in the world of disability arts and the wider arts sector?

I’m still pretty new to fine art in the great scheme of things. I’ve found the help of Shape absolutely invaluable for me in terms of creating opportunities - both for me to show, and also just facilitating my practice, in order that I can be visible to the wider arts sector. 

Part of your practice focuses on the notion that “cognition shapes reality” – how has this idea influenced you as an individual?

It probably seems like quite an esoteric, philosophical concern to most people, but for me, growing up and existing inside a brain that works differently to other people, it’s a very experiential and quite an emotional thing. Most of my art riffs around this idea, touching on the relationship between perception and reality, narrative, and ideas from physics about the other dimensions that surround us, but that we’re locked out of because our cognitive processes ‘seal’ us in 3+1 dimensions. 

Many admire your use of everyday objects in works like ‘Breathing Room’ (above) to create a stimulating experience for audiences. How important is it to you to create art that connects with people in such a dynamic way?

I really like to make my work quite experiential. I feel like I’ve been successful if I can marry the concept I want to explore with the right aesthetic to manifest it, and both of those aspects are very important to me. I’m working on a kinetic piece again at the moment on residency - it’s something I keep coming back to. 

In addition to your Breathing Sculptures’ Unlimited R&D, what can we expect from you in the next year? Do you have any upcoming exhibitions, workshops or projects that you are a part of?

I have a forthcoming project hopefully working with the homeless community, which will culminate in an installation and event. People will tell their stories whilst ripping holes in architectural plans for houses - working title something like ‘Best Laid Plans…’ I will create an installation from the ripped plans. 

Great! Thank you very much Anna - good luck with the rest of your international residency and we look forward to seeing how your work – and the R&D - develop…!

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Applications are currently open for the 2018 Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary - click here for further info.

Banner image: ‘Dole Scum ll’ at the ARMB Shortlist 9 exhibition at Artlink Hull; image c. Jerome Whittingham.

Body image (top): ‘Dole Scum ll’ at Shape’s Tate Exchange programme ‘Ways of Seeing Art’; image c. Andy Barker

Body image (bottom): ‘Breathing Room’; image c. Anna Berry