Interview | Elizabeth Eade at HIX ART

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'I know you are but what am I', neon, 2019. Photo - Laylah Garner

Eric Block


Elizabeth Eade at HIX ART

 

HIX ART is currently presenting I know you are but what am I, the first major solo exhibition by acclaimed British artist Elizabeth Eade. In this new series of installations, Eade playfully and powerfully continues her exploration of a range of social and political issues.

In 2018, Eade won the celebrated HIX Award, judged by the likes of Tracey Emin and Gavin Turk, with her piece Die Liste — a ten-metre-long handwritten list documenting the deaths of 33,305 refugees who died trying to claim asylum in Europe. 

Since winning the HIX Award, Eade has completed her MA in Fine Art at the University of Brighton and exhibited her work in numerous group shows, while working towards this inaugural solo exhibition. The current exhibition includes a number of diverse installations: some serious, some frivolous. Two such installations embody this oscillatory approach.

People who’ve pissed me off is a kinetic installation, which sporadically produces the names of people who, as the title suggests, have disgruntled or aggravated the artist. Thousands of names are featured, including the Kardashians, Piers Morgan, almost all of her friends, and Pol Pot. Meanwhile, an altogether more serious note is struck by Net Realisable Value (NRV). The artist was compelled to produce this piece in response to the deaths of 26 teenage girls who, it is believed were being trafficked from Nigeria into the sex industry. All were found drowned off the coast of Italy in 2017.

I spoke with Eade about the exhibition and her artist’s practice.

‘from alpha to omega’, mixed media installation, 2019. Photo – Lesley Burdett

How did you become involved in creating art?

I couldn’t help it. As a child I was compelled to make work, however I didn’t go to art school until I was 31. There was a real relief in becoming skilled in what I was doing. It is a constant challenge to get work in front of people and I feel really fortunate to have been able to show my work in some very exciting places. 

Can you say more about your new exhibition, I know you are but what am I?

I have just finished setting it up, so I can now say that I am really excited! The show is a little snapshot of my brain right now. I have included a couple of humorous pieces, alongside some pieces that I felt compelled to make as witness to events or ideas. Typically for me, the mediums are varied – made from neon, metal, paper, clay and salt to name a few. Oh, and some 24K gold rat bones.

You are often described as a ‘political’ artist. Do you agree with this assertion?

There is an argument that all art is political – that the very act of making art is in itself a political act. I make art about what I see and how I feel about it. They say “May you live in exciting times,” and I feel that politically we live in times that are far too exciting – this is reflected in much of my work.

‘grail’, found object engraved with 24 carat gold leaf, 2019. Photo – Lesley Burdett

How would you describe your artistic practice?

When I make work, I pose myself a question and then work out which way is best to answer it. I believe that everything is a possible material and that they are all up for grabs. I make philosophical dioramas, sculptures that hold a conversation. I like to make things physically, but I also use technologies to produce my work. I want my work to be relevant to the moment – artistically, I fear nostalgia.

What is a typical day (or night) in the studio like for you?

There is no typical day. My family will tell you that, when a piece is in full production, it is very difficult to stop me working. I love the variety of what I do. For example, I am currently making wifi-chargeable motors, researching the properties of saline solution and designing glass to be hand blown – all for one piece. I usually have several projects on the go, and my day will be a mix of research, planning and making.

Could you share with us some further details regarding your piece people who piss me off (2019)?

I loved making this! There is something frivolous about it, but it features a real list. It is personal and about how my brain works. In the extremes, it features: friends whose only ‘crime’ was not to pick up the phone when I wanted them to; the Kardashians, who make me wince; and various dictators. There is a reason why everyone’s name is on that list – and those reasons make up ‘me’. It is almost a reverse portrait. The names are constantly being produced and updated, bursting out of a cabinet, as though it cannot be contained. I love the fact that it makes people laugh.

‘people who’ve pissed me off’, mixed media installation, 2019. Photo – Lesley Burdett
Photo – Lesley Burdett

What do you hope audiences will take from your work?

I want people to take different things from different pieces. Sometimes I want the viewer to take away an understanding of scale – for instance in NRV, which is about the human cost of the refugee crisis, I made figures and laid them out next to one another. Twenty-six seems like a very big number in this context and the piece is upsetting. Other pieces are intended to amuse. They all have a core intention, of wishing to start an internal conversation.

‘Net Realisable Value (N.R.V)’, media various including copper corrupted with seawater, 2019. Photo – Lesley Burdett
Photo – Lesley Burdett

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                          Elizabeth Eade’s I know you are but what am I is on show at HIX ART, 32 Rivington Street, EC2A 3LX, until 15 March. More information can be found here.

For more information on Elizabeth’s artwork, visit her website: elizabetheade.com


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