If you want to know about a city, you ask its inhabitants and those who work in it. We’ve gone one step further however. We’ve asked the talented Southwark-based artists who are exhibiting at our current exhibition – London Bridge Hotel OPEN 3: Urban Nature, to explain how London and in particular, the Borough of Southwark, continually inspires them and their artistic endeavours and how visitors might tap into this important city of culture.
Joanna gives us the lowdown on Southwark and how her work is intertwined with the borough.
How does living or working in Southwark inspire your artworks?
My piece in the show “Peckham Was My Destiny” is directly inspired by living in Southwark. I first moved to Nunhead, SE15, in 2002, after meeting and falling in love with my now ex husband. Before that I had lived in many different places, including Surrey, the Midlands, West London and North London.
On moving here I was very aware of London’s “North South divide” and I wasn’t sure if I would like living south of the river. But I settled in very quickly, made connections with the thriving artistic community, and felt immediately at home. So it really did feel like Peckham was my destiny. The sculpture in the show is based on an oil painting I made that was inspired by the shops and people in and around Rye Lane. It’s called “Peckham Was My Destination, Peckham Was My Destiny”. I am very proud of the fact that both my daughters were born at home in Nunhead, in 2005 and 2007, and I’m grateful that was made possible with the assistance of the amazing Brierley midwives, who were based here.
What attraction or aspect of Southwark would you recommend to a visiting tourist?
The main things that strike me about the local area around Nunhead and Peckham are firstly, the easy access to beautiful green spaces. Little pockets of parks – some huge, some small, dotted all over the place. It’s very easy to feel quite hemmed in by the city, yet around Southwark one is always only a few streets away from an oasis of green beautiful calm open space. When I moved here I was also entranced by the warmth of the artistic community, making friends with wonderful local artists like Frog Morris, Sarah Sparkes and Jacquie Utley, who were very pro active in organising events and exhibitions, and very encouraging of me and my work. I’m amazed by the resilience of these artists, who continue to make and share their work through think and thin, and in times of adversity and austerity. It really says something about the generosity and warmth of local people, and the artistic network in general in this area. And of course so many wonderful galleries and cultural spaces – too many to mention!
Does the long history of the Borough have any legacy bearing on your work, given South of the River was always the haunt of the artistic community?
There is always something fantastic and interesting going on in South East London. The place is filled with artists! From the Nunhead Art Trail organised by Caroline Wright and her team every year, to open studios, art courses at SALS, and live art and performance events at festivals run by Camberwell Arts, the creative scene is thriving, inclusive and very welcoming. I find it exciting that William Blake saw his vision of Angels on Peckham Rye, and amazing artists like Tom Phillips and Christopher Le Brun have made the borough their home.
How important, as an artist, is it to be in the capital?
I truly couldn’t live anywhere else. I sometimes wonder what it would be like to move far into the countryside, or to another country, but here there is just so much inspiration around every corner, and so much innovation. It feels like the arts are valued very highly, and of course so many amazing galleries, theatres and cinemas to visit too.
Do exhibitions such as London Bridge Hotel OPEN 3: Urban Nature help to publicize your work/help your artistic CV?
It’s really important to feel valued and supported, because making art can sometimes be a difficult and lonely process. Working alone in the studio is essential, but it can also be quite isolating. So to be involved in exhibitions like this helps hugely; not just for the CV in terms of recognition, but also as a way of socialising and making new friends. Plus, it’s great to see one’s work in the brochure, or a local magazine! My work often has a strong political message, and it’s heartening to know that people can engage with that through seeing the work in a show.
What do you love most about what artworks you produce?
I absolutely thrive on the process of making the work, getting lost in the creative flow. I think it’s essential to my spiritual wellbeing. I also love communicating, and putting messages into art, as well as filling the world with colour!
Joanna’s sculpture, Peckham was my Destiny is a mixed media piece measuring 25 cm x 16 cm x 18 cm and is priced at £350.
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