My return into Art came directly from my pregnancy and although my current work is not necessarily related to motherhood it is of course a factor in all I do.

During the past year the themes of my work have largely been concerned with language and power. As a Sign Language Interpreter as well as Artist it is an area that I have worked within for over twelve years. Language, and how it is used, has the power to traverse generations, to be reused and retranslated. Language is used to influence and empower people, to disempower and discriminate. We use language to communicate on a personal and public level, to convey messages, to control groups of people, to advertise and to promote.

In my own Art practice I have used language, translation and communication systems (sign language, semaphore, blind translations, cup and string) to obscure and obstruct communication as well as to try and provoke it. Using a research base I respond to the information I find and develop work that engages with the topic or discussion about that topic. My practice is grounded in social research as well as in social engagement or public action.

8 Quotes – film 2015

A multi screen film piece of my BSL translations of 8 different quotes and tweets. Each quote supports violence against women in some way, four historical and four current. I filmed each translation in front of four well known buildings significant to the quotes being translated. St Pauls Cathedral, Houses of Parliament, Royal Courts of Justice and Royal Bethlam Hospital. This work provoked discussions of understanding and misunderstanding, of social assumptions and power, and of feminism in language. This piece was recently exhibited with FiLiA at their exhibition ‘Refuge’, and also at a BBC 100 Women Event.

Statements in Semaphore – filmed performance 2016

Shopping List – film 2016

These two pieces of work came out of a short residency i did with a group of Artists at the National Archives in Kew. We responded to documents from the Department of Health for a residency titles ‘In Our Minds’. My work responded to prison reports of suffragettes. Their ‘behaviour, nature, temperament and agreeability to forcefeeding’ was all noted in the reports. I responded to these reports of ‘history’ by taking repeated words used and signalling the same words out to the public entering the Archives building. I stood on the front balcony to do this and used Semaphore. Wanting to be both very visible but also to critique the invisible nature of the women themselves in the reports and in the history of women that continues. This film is currently on a touring panel exhibition through the UCA campuses and will end at the National Archives in Kew in March 2017.

Shopping List was a film I made also used the same terms, this time attached to a shopping trolley as i moved around a supermarket and chose items that I translated as being appropriate to the labels on the list.

5 Blog Posts – 2016 – ongoing blog

In May of 2016 I also completed a three week residency with bookRooms and Stefan Szchelkun, collaborating with a group of Artists to respond to his archive of The Working Press. Again I found myself drawn to the language used, this time about working class people and identity, including the language I use myself as a working class artist.

During the residency I began a blog, ‘An Alternative Fashion Blog. Sort of but not really’. I used this blog to share photos of myself wearing clothes that are either very cheap, bought second hand or given to me and the varied feelings this evoked in me. I also posted my thoughts about my own working class identity as I read through Stefan Szelkun’s books and The Working Press information. I used this blog initially to explore my thoughts on the subject but it has grown to be a place of online discussion and consideration of class and second hand clothing. This work was exhibited in September 2016 and also sits within the bookRooms publication that was made during the project, ‘Rise with your class, not from it’ 2016.

Conversations in A Bucket – 2016 – ongoing series

I wanted to expand on some earlier work I did with the child’s cup and string communication game. Socially and politically I wanted to ask whose voices are heard? Whose are missing? Using scale as well as material I wanted to test different ways of looking at this and use different locations to concentrate on the idea of giving or receiving permission to speak. What contexts give us permission to speak and freedom of self expression? In this series I am using buckets rather than cups I am testing public and private space, the idea of ‘permission to speak’ and filmed/ photographed performance in relation to engaging an audience and finding stories or voices.

Shoe Polish Spit and Glass 2016 – durational collaborative performance

A collaborative piece with Amy Dignam and Dyana Gravina. Filmed over six hours the three Artists took turns cleaning and dirtying the same piece of glass. Based on a previous work ‘Peas in A Bucket’ by Amy Dignam we wanted to explore the idea of repetition and relentless work within domesticity as mothers. The film of the work was filmed partly on mobile phones and the glass was held in a frame. The work for us suggests a viewing into the unseen work of mothers, whereas so much else around parents lives is shown on social media widely.

FiLiA Artist in Residence – Statements in Semaphore Project

This project will take two parts. Firstly, working with three other Artists, Leah thorn, Janet Pavone and Cate Field, I will be organising a series of workshops within three organisations that support Women. The groups of female participants will be asked to respond to images and texts that I give to them by creating their own work with the support of the other Artists.

Secondly, I will be responding myself to the images and texts, as well as to the workshops themselves and to the work with the participants. The work that we all produce will then be jointly exhibited in London at FiLiA 2017 and also locally to the organisations that I work with. I have begun this work by starting a photographic series called ‘Semaphore Alphabets. This series is a growing collection of images of women in the different semaphore poses, each referring to a letter of the alphabet. I have been using the series to display various words and phrases in public spaces.

more about Susan…

Susan has a BA (Hons) in Sociology from Durham University and is now in her final year of an MA in Fine Art at UCA Farnham (part-time). She has exhibited in various group exhibitions since 2015, including the NOA moving Image gallery 2015, and has been involved in several residencies over the past year including the Mother House London. Susan is also FiLiA Artist in Residence 2017, a project she successfully gained funding for from the Arts Council. Worked as a Sign Language Interpreter for the past twelve years gives her a great deal of knowledge around translation and her Interpreting focus is now mainly within the field of Music Performance Interpreting. Susan is originally from near Hull in East Yorkshire but now lives in Aldershot, Hampshire with her husband and two children.