Winner of the first Procreate Project Mother Art Prize, Mary Martins, has just finished her residency at the Mother House studio in Dagenham as part of her awards.

Here is an insight on what she has been working on and what are her plans for the future.

How has the Mother Art Prize helped your practice develop during the last few months?

Since receiving the Mother Art Prize last October, there has been a progressive yet significant shift in the perspective of my practice and artistic identity. The mentoring session from Sylvie Gormezano was extremely useful, with discussions surrounding creating work in the context of motherhood and expanding on my work within film and animation. Her advice really helped to untangle some creative blocks that I initially had about the direction that my work was taking.

‘The Divide’ was made at a very pivotal period on my creative journey, a stage where I really wanted to experiment with more abstract animation techniques and intertwine a clear narrative in relation to my own experiences of motherhood. I am extremely grateful for the positive responses I have received and to those it may have inspired.

It was also wonderful to see my work exhibited at the Left Overs exhibition and in a new environment as animators usually display their work at film festivals. What has really transpired, is that ‘The Divide’ can now be seen as a method of challenging the parameters of documentary practice through animation.

Shortly after making ‘The Divide’ I started to work on a new project which focuses on autobiographical memory in relation to identity and culture, and specifically my own cultural heritage. The place where our childhood memories go, is the theme that my new animated short will explore. For this animation, I’m working with rare archive footage of Nigeria in the 1970s to really draw out the richness of my heritage. I have the support of two other animators, which I believe will move by work away from the realm of moving image and experimental.

I used the time at the Mother House Studio to complete the research and development stage for this project. I have created a blog where the public can comment on this theme and share their earliest childhood memory. Similarly to my own, others have reported that their earliest childhood memory was a significant event involving a parent or carer.

I am now at the pre-production stage; where I will create a story board and animatic with the view to start the production stage in June.

My ideas are still evolving, my craft is developing, but animation is very technical, so it requires a great deal of dedication and practice. I am very excited to see the results of this new direction.

More about the Childhood Memories project

Our earliest childhood memories, often episodic, are one of our most intimate experiences. Scientists believe that these can start from as little as 3 years old. After the age of 5 these memories become elusive. There is a mechanism behind the cognitive process that retrieves these abandoned memories or temporary cases of amnesia. A journey back to where it all began can often be painful, beautiful or enlightening or perhaps a combination of all three. There is a very faint line between our repressed memories and those that we may never remember. According to Freud, infantile amnesia ‘veils our earliest youth from us and makes us strangers to it’. Restoring these memories brings a purpose – We can use this as a way of learning more about our family background and about ourselves as an individual.
Cultural differences may offer an explanation as to why some memories are more vivid in our mind than others and why others remember more from their childhood. Certain experiences in our adulthood often trigger the re-possession of the earliest childhood memory. We sometimes need to attach to the initial relationship we once had with the world.

My earliest childhood memory is when I accompanied my mother to Lagos, Nigeria in 1987. I was 4 years old. I was too young to remain in London with my Father and my two older sisters.

Read more about Mary Martins last project here