Selected by the British Council for one of the highly-prized Biennale Fellowships, Griffiths spent the summer based in the British Pavilion showcasing the work of UK artists at the internationally renowned contemporary art exhibition, which has taken place in the northern Italian city every two years since 1895.
“I spent some of the time engaging with the public and talking to them about the work of Cathy Wilkes whose work was featured in the British Pavilion,” says Griffiths. “The rest of the time I was conducting my own independent research. It was really interesting to spend so much time with one artist’s work and it was very inspiring.”
Ironically the theme of last year’s Biennale was ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’. The times have become even more ‘interesting’ since then. This year has been a little different. Like everyone else, Griffiths has been in lockdown since March. A full-time lecturer in Fine Art at Bradford College, she is also a practising sculptor and is in her third year of studying for a PhD at Coventry University. She combines all these aspects of her life in her work.
“A lot of my work explores autobiographical aspects of myself,” she says. “It is opening up different ideas about who I am as a mother, teacher and artist. I think with a lot of artists there are underlying themes that never really change, they just expand through personal experience.”
Most of her work begins with domestic objects such as kitchen utensils. It began when she was studying for her MA a few years ago. “I was just playing around with a clothes peg one day and I pulled it apart and started to draw it. From that moment I decided to focus on household items and utensils and how they and we relate to each other.
“People are familiar with domestic items so it is a way of drawing in my audience. I want to make my concepts and ideas accessible to everyone. Many of my works are quite small and you can handle them, so there is also an intimacy about them and there is some humour in making the ordinary into the extraordinary. While these pieces contain autobiographical elements, I don’t want to reveal too much of myself because I want people to relate to the work in their own way.”
Having studied at Sculpture at Wimbledon School of Art in the 1980s, Griffiths worked in prisons and the mental health sector prior to taking up her post at Bradford College ten years ago. “Being at the College has made me more engaged with my own work and I have really enjoyed sharing my practice with the students,” she says. “If I wasn’t making work myself, I wouldn’t be able to communicate that to the students. I am continuously learning and bringing that to them.”
Her lockdown experience, she says, has been mostly quite productive. “You feel like you have got more time and that has been one of the most beneficial aspects. I have been able to keep my creative processes going. I live alone and inhabit my own space as an artist – every room of my house is like a studio. But I miss going to galleries and exhibitions and interaction with other people, especially my students. I am looking forward to getting back in to college.”
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