Anna Walsh | Issue Ten Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

I am based in London, where I was born. My mum was English and my dad is Irish. They met at Portsmouth College of Art as my mum was studying sculpture there and my dad, who was a carpenter, lived nearby. We moved to the West Midlands when I was 10 to be near my auntie who lived on a farm, but I moved back to London to study my MA in Book Arts at Camberwell College in 2000, following my BA in Fine Art at Cardiff, and I have been in South East London ever since.

As my mum was an artist, and her mother before that, I was always encouraged in my art on my mother's side at least – my dad thought I should be a vet! While at Camberwell I met Chris my partner, who was studying printmaking, and together with 2 other friends, we started the art and design collective Garudio Studiage in Peckham, where we were based. This began as we were sharing a studio together and we started working on various projects as a collective. We began to realise we could make multiples of objects to sell, as the renewed interest in handmade products was just beginning, and soon we had our own online shop and a distributor to sell our products, as a way of earning some money from our creations.

These mostly consisting of illustrated tea towels and other screen printed items, often depicting our wry sense of humour and love of London. They have been sold in places such as The British Library, Museum of London, Selfridges, to mention a few. Our ethos is very much about being true to ourselves and not making things just because they will sell. In fact often it’s the opposite, so I doubt we will ever be rich from it! Alongside this I also practice as an individual artist, making prints, drawings, paintings to exhibit and sell, where I explore my love of nature, animals and wildlife. My mum died just after I finished my BA, and much of my work is probably a homage to her, as she loved nature and was a keen campaigner for the environment and wildlife.

What are the main themes in your artwork

Animals and nature. I recently came across the term anthrozoology, which seems to sum it up - the study of human and animal interactions. I am interested in how humans view animals and use them to navigate the world, either through imagination or real life interactions. I have always had an interest in the environment, nature and society. I studied sociology and environmental biology alongside art for A level, and was told this was quite unusual, as artistic people were more likely to study English or History with art. In fact I did better in these A levels than art! I have always been quite wilful and go against what is expected! As climate change, biodiversity etc becomes more and more headline news, this seems more relevant than ever.

What art do you most identify with? any specific influences or research areas?

Natural history illustrations always get my attention. I am a bit of an amateur natural historian, and read quite a lot of natural history books. As well as the animals they study, I find the social aspect interesting too, why certain animals are studied, how they came about to be studied, why some animals are under threat and some flourish, and how we as humans treat them. Why do we persecute successful animals like the fox, yet put other animals like a panda on a pedestal? Recent studies have shown that male species dominate natural history collections, and I have also been reading about how natural history collections have their origins in colonialism, and of course biodiversity and the environment, so it is touching on current issues as well. Contemporary artists I like include Mark Dion and Walton Ford, but I also love George Stubbs, Michael Angelo and the Italian renaissance period in general. I’m a bit aware there are no female artists on that list, although I admire many, including my mother and grandmother who struggled to have their voices heard in a male dominated world.

What is your working process?

I read alot and visit many exhibitions, museums and other places - sometimes ideas just come to me when I see something or read something that connects with ideas I have on the back burner waiting to be developed. Once I have an idea I research images, take photos, draw from life to inform the drawings I make. Most of my recent work is made up of ‘collaged’ images that I have drawn and added text, which I do using Photoshop and Illustrator. The final piece is either digitally printed on high quality paper or screen printed. We have an A2 printer in our studio and Chris, my partner and co founder of Garudio Studiage, has screen printing equipment in our studio, so we can do most things in house, which is great and means we have full control over what we produce!

Is there something you couldn't live without in your studio? what is your most essential tool?

I was thinking of saying my MacBook, but thinking about it, most things I do begin with a pencil or biro, and these drawings are scanned in to be manipulated in digital media. So I would probably say a pencil (and paper!), as I couldn’t do the work I do without one! (although I have just started experimenting with iPad Procreate and an apple pencil, so we’ll see where that leads). I lived for many years without a computer but never without a pencil!

How do you navigate the art world?

Around the outskirts, dipping in when something relevant comes my way. Working as a collective helps, pooling skills and ideas, especially if you don’t enjoy the limelight yourself, like me.

What do you feel the role of artists and photographers is in society?

To bring attention to things other people don’t notice. It never ceases to amaze me how much people don’t notice in the world around them, especially now with people plugged into smart phones etc. It may be the detail in an object or animal or a social injustice. The breadth of topics is unending, but having something bought to your attention by an artist could change your viewpoint or at least make you aware there are other viewpoints to be considered.

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?

I have just heard that some of my work has been accepted into the London Bridge Hotel open exhibition for artists based in Southwark, the theme this year is Urban Nature. It will be on at The London Bridge Hotel from end of January until May.

Last year I produced a screen print exclusively for Woolwich Contemporary Print Fair for their editions portfolio. This, along with other prints from the editions will be going on tour, but I don’t know the details yet. There are a couple of other things in the pipeline but they are at early stages so I can’t mention them yet. Garudio Studiage is an ongoing project, so look out for our products online and in shops!


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