Meet Carla Cannon, our Artist of the Month, who talks to us about processing feelings and experiences through art, dreaming of a studio space, Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ and a new series of works inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins.
Why and when did you start making art?
I have always felt passionate about all things art, whilst at school I studied Fine Art at GCSE and A Level and when on to study for a degree in Fine Art Valuation at Southampton; unfortunately I missed home too much and decided to leave University life behind.
Over the last few years, I have struggled with anxiety and depression, experiencing long episodes. I have read and heard it said by many that art has become a form of therapy and for myself this is true. Through my work I have been able to process my feelings and experiences far more than I could have within a counselling session, I understand this form of therapy can be part of an essential healing process for others but for it felt more of a trigger.
Due to my continued struggles I decided to leave my career as a Teaching Assistant and Learning Mentor and to prioritise my wellbeing and to develop my art.
Where do you work?
I have a small area within the dining room where I work from. The dream would be to be able to find a small studio where I could take myself away – to not have to worry about splatters of paint on the carpet or on walls – an area where it would just encompass everything and anything that allows me to be creative.
How would you describe your work?
I used to describe my work as abstract especially my paintings which were created during my dark times. I once took part, as a wildcard, in Sky Landscape Artist of the year where curator, Kathleen Soriano, described my work and use of colour as similar to Derain which I feel she meant in relation to his fauvism period.
I feel I am continuing to experiment and explore with many different mediums that I can only describe it as ‘momentary’ at times I do feel I should find one particular kind of medium or style and take time to develop that. My head can become so busy with ideas that I fight with the idea of either choosing painting or embroidery and even now I know I have a yearning to try ceramics.
Do you follow a set process, or does it vary?
As said, I often have a busy head that is full of ideas and themes for pieces which I want and need to develop then create. Initially, these ideas maybe the need to explore a theme, an emotion, or even a moment in time that has been experienced by one person or group of people.
I have a sketch book that holds all my ideas, I must write these down in case I lose them from my mind or they then merge into some other thought and then I have lost the initial idea for a piece.
It is the choice of medium that I will use which varies albeit a painting in acrylics, oils or watercolour or embroidery.
My work in connection to my emotions is usually paint driven with use of a pallet knife where as my story telling will become an embroidery piece; I either need the physicality that paint provides or the cathartic meditative feel that textile work creates.
What inspires your work?
The here and now, my experiences and emotions, what may be happening in the world around me and history. I am an avid watcher of documentaries, historic or art focused, these bring about many ideas for pieces of work.
Do you have any creative role models?
There are many creatives I admire not only for their work but for their lives story and the journey experienced to reach the point in which they may find themselves within today; such as Amoako Boafo and Katherine Bradford to name just two. Of course, I love Frida Kahlo and for the longest time have always loved George Braque’s work since studying for my GCSE in Fine Art.
Being able to take part in the launch of the Midlands Hub for Outside In was very inspiring; to be able to connect on so many levels with like minded artists was incredible especially artists such as Gareth Bunting and Allen. I am a great admirer of the textile artwork created by Sabine Kaner also.
Are there particular themes that run through your work? If so, what are they?
If I had to chose it would be idea of emotion and how we experience emotion as well as the consequences that it can bring.
During the Covid pandemic I have been toying with the idea of how the theme of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins’ could have become more apparent and heightened within us all due to self-isolation. I am currently working on a large embroidery piece in which details each deadly sin in relation to this idea; I have yet to work out how all seven large pieces will be presented; I have completed Gluttony, Lust and Greed and am currently working on Pride.
What do you hope a viewer gets from your work?
Art is interpreted differently by an individual, we do not see art with the same eye, our lives experiences and emotions are unique to us so we all experience something different when viewing a piece of work, if my work creates an emotion, a question or a thought then I am happy.
What is your favourite work of art (by another artist)?
Without any doubt it must be ‘Guernica’, Pablo Picasso 1937. This piece is so poignant, powerful and remains relevant even today. This large oil painting is full of emotion and symbolism, such an emotive piece.
Is there an artwork you are most proud of/ favourite piece?
The artwork I am most proud of is ‘Many Faces of Stigmatisation; Which Expression do You Identify With?’ – an extremely long title but it needed to be so.
This piece was featured alongside many other artists work at an exhibition called ‘Stigma’ at Pop Brixton with Perspective Art Project. It is a large acrylic piece, 100cm x 80cm, on canvas and it denotes the many feelings I have experienced when I have openly discussed my feelings of anxiety and depression either with friends, family or in my work place.
A year or so later this piece become the foundation for my textile art piece which I titled ‘Forgiveness and Retribution’, I felt that the original feelings I had felt which were depicted onto the canvas within ‘Many Faces of Stigmatisation’ had began a process of healing and I wanted the softness of textile and embroidery to help recreate and denote these feelings, the process was certainly a cathartic one.
What has been the standout moment for you as an artist so far?
Without question my standout moment was having my piece, ‘Digbeth Dreams’, featured in the Outside In Exhibition ‘Environments’ at the ‘Piano Nobile Gallery’.
It was such an amazing opportunity and I felt so proud my piece had been selected yet the thought of Grayson Perry, whose work I admire and many documentaries I have watched, would see my work albeit that he might have glimpsed at it or took a longer glance – for me that was tremendous.
Unfortunately, I was quite poorly at the time of the exhibition was so unable to come along to the opening evening.
This month I have been well enough to go to see a piece of my work,’ Inner Isolating Scream’ at The Gap, Mosely within their exhibition, ‘Self, Isolating’. Unfortunately, due to my then poor mental health I have previously missed out on many opportunities.
What are your hopes for the future?
Wow, this is extremely hard! I do hope to find a style or a medium I feel happy and confident with in which I can further develop and that my pieces have their own successes.
I would love to be able to participate within an art residency – I do feel this would help me to decide on a given medium or style somewhat.
Obviously, a hope and a dream for the future would be that by the time I am in my much older years I may have had a solo exhibition yet I continue to feel honoured and privileged to be able to show pieces of my work within group exhibitions alongside so many gifted like-minded artists.
If you would like to be featured as Artist of the Month or to nominate a fellow artist, please get in touch with Matt at email@example.com