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Wooden stoves and copper pots

Anna Presilia talks about her work and transformation with fellow MA student, Cheri Allcock.


Anna Presilia is an artist currently moving into her second year of the European MA Fine Art: Art, Society, Nature in collaboration between The Margate School and the École Supérieure d’Art et Design Le Havre-Rouen (ESADHaR). Anna and Cheri sit down in the library space at The Margate School to have a chat about her work and her life here on the Kent coast.


C: Hi Anna!

A: Hi Cheri.


C: We’re here to talk about your work and your time at The Margate School. Let’s perhaps make a go at this in some kind of chronological order and then we’ll see how we go!


A: (Giggles) Okay.


C: So, first things first, what were you up to before you started here at The Margate School?


A: So before I started the course I was living in London, and I was working in a theatre and I had just finished a short course -a very short online course – in art theory. I wanted to move out of London because I was just fed up with the city and feeling like I didn’t have any energy to work on my art. I was looking at places that were still close and that had an art community and so I found Margate. I looked at what was going on here, found the Masters and decided to move, it just happened!


C: Wow! So you said you didn’t have too much energy to work on your personal projects back then, were you working on anything? Or trying to?


A: Yes actually I was working on a project. When I finished my BA in London (Anna graduated from a BA in photography at Camberwell school of Art) I was feeling a bit lost, so I started the short course to try to understand what kind of work I was making. And, just before I moved here I was working on an installation I had in mind, it was related to a garden, an idea I’d had during lockdown, it was a mixed media installation with video projections and sculpture. But I gave up on it, I’d wanted to put up this installation in a community garden, just me, by myself (laughs) and I didn’t really know what I was doing.


C: Okay! But that reminds me, (and I had wanted to begin there!) You and Esme are in fact setting up an exhibition in The Margate School community garden! Could you tell us a little bit about that?


A: Yes, so, the idea for this exhibition came from the course (European MA Fine Art: Art, Society, Nature) because we are supposed to take part in an internship. At first I thought I wanted to do something in a gallery, but then I thought perhaps this could be an opportunity to push myself to do something different rather than a straight forward intern role. I’d been looking for a reason to make new work and to collaborate, and Esme (also moving into the second year of the MA) was thinking along the same lines, so I asked her if she wanted to take part!


C: And the concept of the exhibition?


A: At first, it was going to be in the downstairs gallery space of the school but then we thought of the garden as a less formal place to have an exhibition, so that was the idea! The main focus of the exhibition is to make work with natural or found materials. Then we decided to invite some other artists; from the MA; and from outside the school, people I’d met in Margate who I thought works could really fit in the garden. Esme too invited a couple more. The only guideline we had was the use of materials and the environment of the garden.


C: Nice! Is there a relationship between that installation and what you are going to make? Are you going to make something for this or are you just curating?


A: Yes, you know I only realised yesterday that one year ago I was working on that installation for the garden! I’m going to make something as well. I may use something from the older project that I never really finished.


C: You were talking about London, coming to Margate, meeting people to participate in an exhibition. Did Margate meet your expectations to find an artistic community?


A: Yes, it did, it definitely did. And also, it’s so much easier to meet people and keep in touch with people here and there is a sense of community in the town I feel.


C: Anything else you like about the town in particular?


A: Well, the sea!


C: Ha, yes, exactly!


A: Being by the sea, and I like being in a small place, even though I actually live in Ramsgate. I like being a bit closer to nature too.


C: And do you think that being here at the school has affected the work that you're making?


A: Mmmm, yeah, I think having started the Master’s with the sculpture module has changed my work almost completely. Because before I was mainly doing video work. I think having a bigger studio has helped me to develop more sculptural work, which too is related a lot to not being in the city.



C: Nice! Is there a relationship between that installation and what you are going to make? Are you going to make something for this or are you just curating?


A: Yes, you know I only realised yesterday that one year ago I was working on that installation for the garden! I’m going to make something as well. I may use something from the older project that I never really finished.


C: You were talking about London, coming to Margate, meeting people to participate in an exhibition. Did Margate meet your expectations to find an artistic community?


A: Yes, it did, it definitely did. And also, it’s so much easier to meet people and keep in touch with people here and there is a sense of community in the town I feel.


C: Anything else you like about the town in particular?


A: Well, the sea!


C: Ha, yes, exactly!


A: Being by the sea, and I like being in a small place, even though I actually live in Ramsgate. I like being a bit closer to nature too.


C: And do you think that being here at the school has affected the work that you're making?


A: Mmmm, yeah, I think having started the Master’s with the sculpture module has changed my work almost completely. Because before I was mainly doing video work. I think having a bigger studio has helped me to develop more sculptural work, which too is related a lot to not being in the city.


C: Did you have a studio in London?


A: I did yes, a desk space mainly.


A: So, I’ve been able to experiment more because of the sculpture module, I got to interact with different materials and for me, the course in general gives you the freedom to do whatever you want. I feel (at least for me) it’s not focused on making commercial work which has helped me create work which is more in line with who I am. I’m more interested in making work to explore materials and I even use materials that deteriorate or don’t last.


C: So then why did you want to set up an exhibition space, if not to sell?


A: I think it was to collaborate with other artists and to work with the garden. I think working in a new space and for a specific exhibition or event opens up possibilities to think differently. Also! The focus of the exhibition is going to be to make work that changes. It’s going to be open for two weekends and the aim is to see how the work changes throughout the week so, for example how will the materials change outdoors?


C: You said that the sculpture module really changed the way you work. Were there any other modules that had an effect or that you really enjoyed or didn’t so much?


A: I really enjoyed the drawing module as well, I think because we tried out different techniques that I hadn’t tried before, drawing with charcoal and with putty rubbers. I actually started drawing more after that, as before I’d just used drawing to do sketches, before an installation, and now I think drawing has become part of my process. I think I draw to make drawings and not only sketches. There’s a sort of feedback, I draw, I sculpt, I draw.


C: Do you think having set out through the modules has worked for you? (The modules on the MA course on the first year consist of 8 each of weeks Sculpture- Video-Drawing and photography)


A: Yes and no. Sometimes you can get just something out of it that becomes part of your practice, and

that’s enough. But sometimes you don’t want to push your work through that frame.


C: I remember we all had a little bit of that feeling with the book project, but in the end you said you were happy with what you made?


A: Yes, that’s true! I mean I’m happy about what I learned, to make a sort of zine and I think that’ll be helpful to me now, for example making a catalog for this exhibition. I’m not sure, sometimes I have to be forced to do something in order to learn it!


C: Yeah I got you, I’m grateful that I can now pretty much use InDesign and After Effects even though there was resistance at the time!


C: So, on to your work, obviously since I’m here, and I know what it is, the common things that come up are, delicacy, intricacy, family, domesticity and so much more. I know you don’t like to over explain your work, but do you want to say anything about what you attempt to do with your work?


A: So, first of all I think what’s important to me is to experiment with materials, I just really want to see how materials work together and how, let’s say, everyday materials can become part of an artwork and how they can work with more regular ‘art materials’ as well.


C: And also, disposable materials…


A: Yes, disposable materials and natural materials.


A: Maybe the fact that I use materials that don’t last is also about transformation, things changing

constantly, I think maybe I want to make work that doesn’t feel static but always changes.


C: Do you have any idea why transformation is important?


A: I think works of art should reflect life, so as we change and everything changes, I think the works should do the same. They shouldn’t be fixed in time and never change.


C: Do you think home, or where you’re coming from, is relevant to your practice ?


A: Yes, it’s actually quite important!


C: Okay! So do you speak about home in your work directly? Why is it important? Whatever you want to say about it really…


A: When I make work I do work a lot through my memories and those are from my home in Italy. When I make work I think I try to connect to the feeling of being at home, and, I think, especially since I moved to Ramsgate, I really started wondering about that, because maybe I never felt that in London (a sense of home). I’ve been researching that feeling, and so the current body of work, if I can call it that, is really connected to trying to understand that feeling of home. There’s also food!


C: Oh yes I was coming to that!


A: Yes, my work is very much in relation to food or memories of it, making food at home, eating at

home, that’s a big part of Italian culture but also I think a lot about my mum and my relationship to her, she always showed me love through food and through preparing food, so I think that became part of my work as well.




C: Do you think the natural environment or the landscape/ the actual place you were in has any connection to your work?


A: Yes, some of the materials I chose are actually based on thoughts of things related to where I was, I use wood and branches and since I used to live in the mountains, it was full of trees and here there aren’t so many. I’m always surprised when I go back to Italy to see so many! And, living in the mountains and using a wood stove, would mean that I was always surrounded by chopped wood which my dad would chop during the winter.


C: And I suppose it’s not just seeing it, but also smelling it, touching it…


A: Yes. Same with copper, it's not related to the landscape but I use copper wire and that comes from copper pots used for cooking that were always around my house. I’ve started using clay now, terracotta, which is something quite common in the area I grew up in.


A: I was thinking about when recently I photographed my work, I used a fan to create air and movement, so that there was movement in the work, and I think growing up surrounded by nature and seeing the trees moving all the time by the wind influenced that… I’ve been thinking a lot about making work about mountains but I haven’t gotten to it yet! It’s something I really miss, seeing the mountains.



C: I’m glad I asked that question! There’s so much there.


C: Is there anything theoretical that’s come up from the course that’s influenced you, specifically from the Art History and Philosophy module?


A: Can I talk about Artists first?


C: Yes of course, that was my next question!


A: Okay, I’ve been quite inspired by Italian artists mainly, especially from the Arte Povera Movement. I don’t know if it’s by chance but two of the artists I was very inspired by were from the same region as me. One is Giseppe Penone and the other is Marisa Merz, they were part of this movement (Arte Povera) that was happening in Italy in the sixties and seventies. The movement was against capitalist society at the time and their work also articulated this thing that I’m most interested in, the fact that their works would change over time, they were not fixed in time and often they were ‘collaborations’ with natural forces, (electricity or electromagnetic fields for instance). I’ve also been influenced by Heidi Bucher and her use of latex. She painted latex on the inside of her house and then peeled it off the walls and would have a sort of cast or blueprint of her house.

I also enjoyed Karen Barad’s queer performativity which talks about the fact that there is no division between nature and culture, it inspired me in combining natural and synthetic materials/ objects.


C: What will your be Memoire be about? (the Memoire is the final disertation)


A; It’s surely going to be about feminist materialities.


C: And no plans to move back to London?


A: No plan!


C: Did you swim today atall?


A: No I’m going to go later


A: What about you?


C: I’m going to go later too, when the tides back out


C: Thanks Anna


A: Thanks Cheri, that was nice!





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