Anna Woodward is an artist and curator making an name for herself in the art world with an incredible eye for emerging talent and strong dedication to giving her fellow artists a voice and a platform to futher the conversations around contemporary art and build the arts community. With her Instagram and podcast, The Artists Contemporary, Anna promotes emerging artists work through interviews, exhibition promotion, studio visits and takeovers.
As an artist, Anna has exhibited widely across the UK, most recently at the Freelands Painting Prize 2020.
Anna speaks with Cassandra Bowes, Founder of Bowes-Parris, about her experience of co-curating After Hours, her experience of pulling together such a huge project in such a short amount of time, and her curatorial process
InterviewHi Anna, can you introduce yourself for those who don't know you?I am a London based artist and curator who has recently graduated from City and Guilds of London Art School. Art has always been a really big part of my life growing up, I was always really interested in painting. However I got into curating whilst studying my BA. In first and second year, you work on your interim show with your fellow students, this really gave me an insight into what is involved tin putting on an exhibition. In my second year I then set up and ran a small gallery space aimed at supporting emerging artists, who were able to exhibit their work in an affordable way. I really enjoyed working with lots of different people and I feel curating pushes my own artistic practice through working with lots of different people to look at my work from a curators perspective.I set up The Artists Contemporary in January 2020 whilst still studying. I wanted to create a page where I could emerging artists through promotion of their exhibitions. It started as just a London-based project as that is where I am based, but it has expanded since then, and I think lockdown really initiated this growth. Now the page has multiple dimensions, featuring artists profiles, exhibitions, takeovers and The Artists Contemporary Podcast. Running The Artists Contemporary has allowed me to meet so many amazing and talented people from artists and curators to galleries and writers. I feel that it has really broadened my own art community through helping me connect and work with lots of different people. I love being really busy and I think that's why I enjoy so much running The Artists Contemporary alongside my own artistic practice. The core of the platform will always be to support the contemporary arts and feel very much a part of the contemporary art community.You recently launched theThe Artist's Contemporary Podcast which has featured guests such as Ocki from Blue Shop Cottage and artists Manon Steyeart and Marcus Nelson. Does the podcast bring an extra dimension to the Instagram?I think Instagram is an amazing platform and has really transformed the arts through giving so much power to emerging artists and curators, however I think it is very important to not base everything on instagram. I had the idea to create a podcast to go alongside the Instagram very early on. I had started written interviews where I would record them on my phone and then transcribe them. When I listened to them, I found that they, in themselves, were podcasts. However lockdown very much delayed the starting of the podcast as I wanted to do them in person.I feel that the podcast connects me as an artist and curator with The Artists Contemporary and gives the platform a personality, and stops it from becoming a faceless account. I really enjoy making the podcast and having these wonderful conversations about the arts, artist's practices, and what they are up to at the moment. I have some really great people lined up for the podcast and I cant wait for everyone to be able to listen to the podcast and learn more about what they do within the arts.
I loved curating After House, the tight turnaround meant we had to be super organised. I also feel that because we get on so well and have a good working relationship we trust each other's decisions, which in a time pressured planning situation really helps. I found it so exciting to have such a large space to curate an exhibition and saw it as an amazing opportunity to have in London, where sometimes it is hard to find spaces where you can work with large scale installation artists.The Artist Contemporary Instagram really helps my curation process. Most of the artists I put forward for the exhibition I found through The Artists Contemporary and it felt so wonderful to be able to give people I had previously worked with virtually a physical exhibition, and also to be able to see their work in person. The Artists Contemporary has really become an archive of artists' work who I love. For me, the Instagram page has become an important resource to be able to find artists for an exhibition. A number of the artists in the exhibition I had previously spoken to on social media so it made it easier to approach people as I already had a dialogue with them.It was also so great to not have too many limits in space and size which meant we could work with installation artists such as Elisha Cox, Sophie Giller and Chris Cawkwell. It was a new experience for me to curate an exhibition that was so sculptural and installation basedWhat was it like curating an exhibition for such a big space? Was it daunting?I think because we had so little time to get everything in the space there wasn't time to find the project daunting, I think if it would have been a longer planning periode the scale of the project would have definitely become a reality. I really loved working in such a big space and I think it has been really important to have so much space on a project of this scale to allow each artist's work to have its own space to breathe whilst also interacting with others. I really enjoy the way the viewer can walk all the way around all of the floor based work and really interact with it, which you don't always have the space to do in London exhibitions.What is your favourite part of the curating process?I love the essential excitement of the project and brain storming of artists, such as who is involved and whose work would work well together. This is a really great part as it is the first time the exhibition comes to life in your mind and I think for me the project really starts then. The admin side, like most people, is my least favorite but it's all worth it when you're in the exhibition, surrounded by so many contemporary works of art. I also really enjoy the decision-making process of curating and engaging with artwork when deciding how and where to place works in an exhibition.When you're selecting an artist for an exhibition, what are you looking for?Such a big question! I think it is very project dependent but generally work that is developed and something a little different and with After Hours I really wanted to work with artists I had not exhibited before. As I mentioned earlier I find a lot of artists through Instagram and I think it really helps when you can find good images of artists work and if possible access to their website with an up-to-date artist statement as due to Covid, so much current curation is happening without even seeing the art work physically.How do you think being an artist yourself affects your curating process?
I think it really supports my curating process as I have insight into both the artist and the curator's perspective. I think being an artist and curator supports both my practices through always talking to lots of people about art and each influencing my critical thinking about my own work and exhibitions and projects I am working on. I am someone who loves to be busy and working on lots of different projects and I am so fortunate that the projects I work on alongside my own artistic practice are in curating and involved in the contemporary arts.How important is it to put on events (either live or virtual) to engage audiences with an exhibition?I feel putting on the exhibition is just one part of the job as a curator. You need to create events live and virtual to support and promote the artists work and exhibition. I think in a world where so much is online, you as a curator really need to engage with the visitors who physically come to the exhibition but also with the online audience. This is something that I feel Covid has really developed in the arts and means that so many more people have access to exhibitions through the shift in virtual events running alongside exhibitions.
What projects are next for you?I am currently in the planning process with Cassandra in curating a series of duo exhibitions in another space within the Debenhams department store called The Store Room Gallery. I have been so fortunate with this Bowes Parris Gallery project to be able to co-curate a large scale exhibition with over twenty artists but to also curate a series of more intimate exhibitions.I also have The Artists Contemporary website launching in November with The Artists Contemporary Atelier launching in December which is an online gallery that exhibits one artist per month, the first artist exhibiting is Luke Silva. I can't wait for everyone to see the beautiful works by Luke.Who are the people most inspiring you in the art world right now?
There are soooo many, I think I will list 5:Collective Ending - an art collective based in DeptfordProcrastinarting - Josephine May Bailey, a London based curator and arts writer who creates really engaging instagram based written interviews which are very accessibleRithika Pandey - I am in love with her paintings, they are so full of energy and characterHannah Lim - her installation work is so beautiful and I am so happy to have her exhibited in After Hours and I can't wait to interview her on The Artists Contemporary Podcast post lockdown with Hugo HarrisAnd of course Cassandra Bowes - I can't believe how hard you work and how many amazing opportunities you are creating for emerging contemporary artists whilst also having a full time job.Thank you, Anna!
You can find Anna on Instagram Here