Seraphina Neville

UniversityFalmouth University

Graduation: 2015

Genre: Still Life

Websitewww.seraphinaneville.com

Artist Statement: Since graduating from Falmouth, I relocated to London and now work full-time as a photographer. I have been working on a new project, Sculptural Conversation, for several months and hope to have it completed by the end of this year.

Images from the series Sculptural Conversation

Images from the series Sculptural Conversation

What are some standout moments from your time at university? University was an incredible place to meet like-minded people and become immersed in an environment where you were encouraged to experiment and develop your own relationship with photography.

There were some really innovative exhibitions by other students, which facilitated some exciting conversation and collaboration across years and courses. An example of this was a pop-up exhibition by my friend Joseph Ball (www.josefball.com). The visitor was given the role of curator, selecting an edit of his photographs on newsprint and then choosing an order for the images to follow. Joe then bound each edition into an individual zine.

We were also very fortunate to have an amazing program of visiting lecturers, with the opportunity to sign up for portfolio reviews and group critiques.

 
From the series Construct

From the series Construct

 

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? If they had to be defined by a “traditional” genre, my photographs would probably fall into the category of still life. But my relationship with the materials I photograph is so intrinsic; it brings a dimension to my work that also makes it about performance and process.

I would therefore like to think of each image as more of a construct­– using the camera as a tool to document a structure or arrangement that only exists for the photograph.

What themes do you find yourself exploring? The materiality and fragility of objects is something that often recurs in my work. Using photography, I can transform something ephemeral into something that can last much longer than it ever could in the real world. 

My images are never ‘found’ or spontaneous as such, they are always erected purely for the photograph and usually cease to exist beyond the image. This again brings an element of performance into my practice, although I have never purposely documented my process as part of the work.

Can you talk us through the newspaper you made for Construct? What was your reasoning for completing this work in this way? Construct was really about craftsmanship and slowing down the process of producing clothing. The rise of fast fashion has meant clothes have such a short life cycle and are not made to last. I chose to adopt the format of a newspaper, something that is also treated as disposable and mass-produced with little expense.

Presenting the work in this way made people react to the newspaper medium differently. The newspaper became an artwork in itself.

Construct newspaper image

Construct newspaper image

There’s a stark contrast between the images in Construct. What were your reasons for juxtaposing portraits with still life style images? The project began after I attended a lecture by Dr.Eugenie Shinkle, titled ‘Fashion Photography & the Slow Time of Wear’. With reference to Barthes book, ‘The Fashion System’, Dr. Shinkle introduced the idea that

Fashion has been said to articulate three basic signifiers: clothing, models and location. It has also been defined on the basis of it’s context - which until relatively recently has been commercial. Recent fashion photography highlights flaws in both of these frameworks. Some now doesn’t feature garments or bodies at all.

I wanted to depict the process that led me to creating finished garments and to photograph them on a model, but to abandon the framework that Barthes deemed essential to defining an image as a fashion photograph. Presenting abstract details of the garments alongside portraits of my model, I hoped to question the very definition of a fashion photograph as well as challenging our relationship with fashion itself.

 
From the series Construct

From the series Construct

 

Sculptural Conversation has a very calm and tranquil aesthetic; the colours and textures draw me in. What is this work about to you? I’m so glad you reacted in this way, because I wanted the work to be accessible and to draw people in through my aesthetic choices.

For me, Sculptural Conversation is about establishing a conversation between unrelated objects. The foam blocks (which are often used by art handlers to act as a support between a piece of work and the floor) also introduce the idea of the objects being treated as sculptures.

What are your future plans for this body of work? Once I have a coherent series, it is my primary intention for the work to be shown in a gallery environment. This would give me the gift of space and enable me to push beyond the flat surface of a print. I think it would be interesting to show the photographs as three-dimensional objects and/or to collaborate with a sculptor. 

 
From the series Sculptural Conversation

From the series Sculptural Conversation

 

How did you find new objects to photograph for Sculptural Conversation? What qualities do objects need to encourage you to look at them further? Walking around London, there is an abundance of material just left on pavements and thrown out onto the streets. I find most of my subject matter this way. I don’t go searching with a prescribed set of criteria; there is usually something about the form or texture that draws me in.

You mentioned that your images “are always erected purely for the photograph and usually cease to exist beyond the image.” How do you know when what you’ve created is complete and you’re ready to press the shutter and make the image? Are the sets you create ever complete? I step back from the work regularly during the process of making. Once I have reached a point where the forms, colours and textures work together, I start photographing. I think the works are always complete to me at the moment of photographing, but I don’t think there is any definitive way to ever call them complete.

 
From the series Construct

From the series Construct

 

 Where do you typically make your work? Do your surroundings ever influence your outcome? My flat doubles up as my studio most of the time. This began because of the financial pressure that comes with trying to hire a studio as a graduate in London. Although I would have a bit more control working in a photographic studio, I find I work in a more raw and spontaneous way in my own space. I don’t have the same time constraints I would if I hired a studio, meaning I don’t have to plan exactly how I will be using each minute and therefore giving myself more freedom to experiment.

 
From the series Sculptural Conversation

From the series Sculptural Conversation

 

Combine these two bodies of work together, what have they taught you as an individual? Through working on both Construct and Sculptural Conversations, I have realised that it is OK to work intuitively and to be guided by my materials. I often question my relationship with photography and I think that the only way for me to resolve this is to find new ways of using it.

I strongly believe that it is very limiting for artists to be pigeon holed as specialising in one particular area and that sometimes, an idea may be better executed through an alternative medium, such as sculpture, dance, music etc.

I’ve discovered that it’s healthy to branch out and explore other means of expression. It can be really exciting when you then combine this with photography to create something totally new.  

Who is your favourite photographer? Viviane Sassen; for many reasons. Her ability to compose forms to look so sculptural and her attention to colour, both really fascinate me.

However, I take more inspiration from painters, sculptors and installation artists than I do from photographers. At the moment, Donald Judd, Roni Horn and Karla Black are my biggest influences.