Jane Hindley, Chair of Firstsite Collectors’ Group said:
“This year a record number of artists applied, with works and submissions of an extremely high standard. After two selection meetings, we were delighted to award over £6,000, to be shared among fifteen successful applicants. The Collector’s Group is very much looking forward to seeing their work develop over the years to come.”
Jane added: “The Bursary Awards lie at the heart of the Collectors’ Group, who are all passionate local supporters of Firstsite exhibitions and their vital community programme. The Awards can make a real difference to the artists, both individually and collectively, allowing a change in direction through purchasing equipment, and enabling opportunities for studio and research time, and collaboration. Ingenuity, research, humour and especially collaboration with different communities featured in the applications this year, with artists working across a wide range of areas from film and augmented reality to weaving and painting.”
Southend-based Elsa James is a British African-Caribbean conceptual artist and activist, whose work focuses on the overlapping discourses of race, gender, diaspora, and belonging. She says:
Photo by Tessa Hallmann (2019)
“I have identified three areas in my practice that I want to expand and develop – working with Sound, Movement, and the Voice. The Firstsite Collectors’ Group Bursary Award will enable me to shift my practice to the next level, discover new ways to explore absences throughout history, develop a unique conceptual approach to moving image making and sound, plus subvert and propose new ways of inviting future audiences to look at Britain’s darkest chapters.”
Having just completed an MA in Glass at the University of Sunderland / National Glass Centre, Hassina Khan is keen to build on her work there and further develop her practice with a series of works that focus on the word ‘enough’.
Hold and be held, Hassina Khan 2022, photo by Eric Orme Place Photography
“It is a word of great power – it can be both negative and positive; it can be used a stick to beat ourselves and others with, or it can be affirmatory; and it can be a complete sentence in one,” Hassina explains. “I want to experiment with making bowl-shaped vessels suffused with the word ‘enough’. The notion of working with vessels has been inspired by the work of two artists: Edmund De Waal’s work ‘some winter pots’ (2020), a group of vessels which were made as single works and not as parts of installations, which he described as ‘vessels to touch and hold, to pass on’. And glass artist Neil Wilkin who described the bowl as ‘the most pleasing of forms’ and declared ‘the bowl is a perfect canvas’. The Firstsite Collectors’ Group Bursary Award would enable me to experiment with form and colour, and ultimately, make this work.”
Rain Howard intends to put the investment from the Firstsite Collector’s Group Bursary towards an ongoing exploration based on boxing and bodybuilding as “non-binary expressions, and challenging ideas of how bodies are meant to perform and look.”
Rain Howard. Pop Pop Pop Pop! 2019. Photo Credit Stephen White. Polystyrene, Jesmonite, Rubber, Pigments. Dimensions of full installation 3m x 2m x 3m
Based on the idea that bodybuilding gyms are “exclusively male arenas, a space for performative displays of hypermasculinity, and a platform that reinforces patriarchal ideals,” Rain explains that they now intend to “investigate how bodies, not socially coded as male, experience and perform within the patriarchal space of the gym. Boxing gyms are the epitome of such spaces,” adding: “Boxing as a practice is centred on a series of repetitive movements. The repetition here is read as performative, as the movements – though similar – are never the same. Bodies that fall outside of the accepted masculine ideals could therefore potentially use these exercises to renegotiate gendered ideals. In relationship to my own body, I will document how such practices are codified with and upon my non-binary body and to what extent it can be read as fluid, in flux, and capable of change.”
As the argument about trans athletes in sport continues to be a source of much debate, Howard’s research could be vital: “The Bursary funding will enable me to gather data on individual and collective experiences of performative exercise practice and to assess the wider impact of exercise practise on trans bodies. I would like to be able to pay them to participate in organised research group discussions and interviews, as people from often marginalised communities are often financially disadvantaged. I also believe that the field of non-binary gender expressions is vastly under researched, and non-binary artists vastly underrepresented. In this sense the work and research are urgent, and without this award both will not be realised.”
Sally Shaw MBE, Director of Firstsite says:
The Firstsite Collectors’ Group Bursary Awards scheme is an important element in Firstsite’s mission to ensure art and creativity are valued for their integral role in shaping a healthier and happier society. We are so grateful to the Collectors’ Group for leading these awards every year with passion and dedication; the support provided through this scheme helps our creative community continue to go from strength to strength – which is evident by the high calibre of applications received this year.
The ambition and commitment shown by all applicants is truly inspiring and it was fantastic to recognise the winners at the ceremony last night and celebrate the huge amount of talent now thriving in the region. The variety of projects which will be supported reflects the diverse range of artists, creative activities, and perspectives emanating from East Anglia. These winning artists, who are various stages of their careers are creatively exploring personal viewpoints, hidden histories and narratives, developing new skills and connecting to other creative professionals to really push their work forward. It will be incredibly exciting to see how these artists develop and help us all to bring new ideas, perspectives and solutions to contemporary issues facing us today”