Sian Oliver

University: Norwich University of the Arts

Graduation: 2016

Genre: Still Life

Artist Statement: Sian Oliver is a still life photographer whose work features elements of minimalism and graphic design. Inspired by the ideologies of Piet Mondrian and the non-objective art movement, her work explored the limitations of working with the basic elements of shape and colour. Her approach to photography allows her to experiment with a variety of compositions and forms, exploring the relationship between subject and shadow, in the hope of creating a playfulness within her imagery. 

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What are some standout moments from your time at university? There are so many standout moments from uni, in my second year was when I really fell in love with the studio and still life photography. In my third year I got to photograph London Fashion week, as well as completely run free with my ideas and final project. I felt like my final year of Uni was really my "making" and I really found a style I love.

Which photographic genre do you consider your work to fall into? I think my work falls under the still life genre but is definitely a minimalistic abstract style. 

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What themes do you find yourself exploring? I found myself exploring how far I can push the "minimalism" could I simply have a picture that was a single shadow? It was using very basic colours and shapes to explore this. It became "play time" in the studio.

Tell us exactly how you went about making this work. The work started with me printing my own backgrounds and then using a single light source. I ended up having a collection of acrylic and marbles that I took in with me and just began experimenting with different placements. Eventually I started to use a variety of light sources to try and achieve the sharpest shadow possible. Towards the end of the project my background ended up being plain white with my subject matter. I think my set became as simple as the work!

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Who or what influenced you when making this work? There was a lot of factors that helped influence my work. I found myself looking at fashion, architecture and at one point ceramics. It was encouraged at university to look at a variety of sources and that became incredibly handy through those stages where I had no idea where to take the project next.

What encouraged you to convey your ideas in the way that you have? Before university I remember being told "what if" and to continue asking that question when producing work. What if I print my own backgrounds, what if I change the aperture slightly? etc. I think it was that continuous question that lead me to produce the work I did. I remember receiving feedback from my peers saying this is great keep going! That was encouraging in itself and I really started to trust my instincts and keep producing work.

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Did any particular photographers influence your work? There are probably too many to name off at the moment but I fell in love with Carl Kleiners work mid way through my second year and he was a big influence in my final project. I ended up writing a big portion of my dissertation on his work! 

How did you display this work at your degree show? Have you got any tips? For both my university degree shows I ended up showing 3 images in square format. I printed them quite simply and mounted them onto foam board. I felt that a simple layout was the best option for my work as it's not overly complicated. Once again thinking "less is more". The advice I will always give to students looking at doing their degree show is to fundraise early and plan as early as possible. 

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Your work can be interpreted in many ways. How do you think it fits into the photography world today? I've always seen my type of working fitting into the commercial still life world. Some photographers I follow use similar props alongside products in their campaigns which is re-assuring. 

What have you done since finishing university? Are you still making work? Since university I've applied for many photography based jobs and sadly I didn't get anywhere. Producing work became difficult alongside working full time. At the moment I'm working full time and recently have been promoted and so I'm not producing as much work as I'd like too. However there are many ideas in the pipeline that I need to get on paper. In the mean time I've been doing odd photoshoots at a local hair salon, producing videos for a new promotion that they're releasing a head of a re-launch. I'm hoping that this will open some doors further down the line.