Q&A : Holly Rowan Hesson, Bankley Open Call Winner 2014

Bubbling under detail Holly Rowan Hesson

Holly Rowan Hesson is an artist based in Manchester and Leeds. Since completing a practice-based MA in Contemporary Fine Art with Distinction in 2013, she has been initiating her own site specific projects and exhibitions as well as exhibiting across the North. She was selected by our Open Call 2014 panel as first prize winner for her photographic installation Spark.

Holly’s work explores process-led image-making that creates dialogues with material, sites and residual memories. Her work most often starts with a camera and ends in installation. Responding intuitively to her surroundings, she is compelled to alter what she sees, transforming solidity and the real into something more abstract, transient and ephemeral.

Riot detail Holly Rowan Hesson

Lucy Harvey: I wondered if you could tell us some more about your winning piece, Spark, and the processes behind the work?

Holly Rowan Hesson: Spark was originally made for a group show exploring abstraction held this summer (Society of Island Universes – http://hollyrowanhesson.co.uk/society-u-installation) and represents a departure from the work I was making in the year preceding that. I’d been working in an intense way, giving myself short timeframes, typically just a week, to make, produce, curate and show work in a site specific way, where all the work was made in and of the site where it was to be shown.

With Spark I wanted to challenge myself to make something that worked with the site it was shown in and with the other artist’s work, but actually could have a life beyond that particular exhibition as a work in its own right. I allowed myself to go back to thinking about abstraction in a purer way, in terms of colour and form, going through my catalogue of abstract photographs and experimenting further with materials I’ve been working with for a while for their particular properties that tie in with my core concerns, acetate and glass.

Bloom Holly Rowan Hesson

LH: What drew you first to photography as a medium and how has your relationship with it changed since undertaking your MA in 2013?

HRH: I was given a DSLR camera as a birthday gift in 2010 when I was in the middle of my year long foundation course and as soon as I started experimenting with making abstract images I was hooked. I’m really not a classic photographer though – my technical expertise if you’d like your photograph in focus and lit well is highly limited! Throughout my MA abstract photographs were my main outputs but my solo MA final show completely changed that overnight. At the end of April 2013 I gave myself ten days on site in a huge concrete shell of a building to start from scratch with no work and make an exhibition and it was a revelation – what I produced developed my work in an entirely new direction.

Now increasingly I use abstract image making with my camera as the first step in responding intuitively to my surroundings to start dialogues with material, sites and residual memories. I’m interested in transforming solidity and the real into something more abstract, transient and ephemeral and the images I produce with a camera often undergo multiple physical processes using different materials and more often than not end up as installations of sculptural objects.


LH: We know you’ve already got some ideas for your solo exhibition with us next year but we wondered if you could give us an insight into what you plan to develop for the show?

HRH: With an amazing six months to plan and make work in the studio for the solo exhibition as oppose to my now standard seven to ten days on site, anything could happen! I’m always keen to experiment and my first thoughts are that I’d like to use my prize money to investigate working with materials and with scale that I just haven’t had the funds to explore before. So I’m planning exciting trips to builder’s merchants and specialist fabricators. Beyond that you’ll just have to watch this space I guess!



WRAP PARTY – Sunday 26th October
It’s your last chance to catch the Open Call this Saturday and Sunday, 12-4pm. Holly and second prize winner Matt Davies will be joining us to discuss their work this Sunday at our Wrap Party in the gallery from 2-4pm, see our Facebook events page for more information.

We will also be launching out first ever Bankley Residency in our new Project Space on the third floor and our bar will be open, with kind sponsorship from the Levenshulme Pub Company. The Wrap Party + Bankley Residency launch is part of Levenshulme Festival 2014.

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