The Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize Judging Panel is a selection of highly respected and renowned individuals in the art world, who cover a wide range of viewpoints and varied tastes for all movements, mediums and types of fine art.
In the latest of a series of interviews, we ask guest judge Melanie Lenz the questions many artists have asked us as well as some that will help us get to know her better and some insight into her role at the V&A as curator.
If you have any new questions, feel free to comment below...
Q1: Tell us about your pathway into the Arts?
My first real insight into the arts sector was in the early 2000s when I lived and worked in rural Japan. Whilst there I volunteered at an arts and cultural heritage site that ran an artist residency programme. I then decided to return to the UK and completed an MA in Museum Studies. Since then I’ve worked at several national museums and art galleries across the country in a variety of roles including education, exhibition management and curatorial. Many of the projects I’ve worked on have entailed collaborating with creative technologists.
Q2: What are your values within the arts – why do what you do and what do you wish to champion and develop within the art world?
I value creativity, experimentation, craftmanship and intellectual rigour.
I love the variety of my work. I’m privileged to work with a national collection, and I am responsible for researching and developing the V&A’s digital art holdings. The arts sector is changing but many institutions lack the expertise to fully embrace, whether that be collecting or displaying, art that uses creative technologies. My role is to champion these artistic practices. I’m also a champion of diversity and I encourage people from a multitude of backgrounds to consider an arts career.
Q3: Tell us what you have been working on most recently?
I’m currently working on an exhibition I co-curated called Change and Control: Art in the Age of Computers. The show was on display at the V&A in 2018 and is currently touring the UK. It is presently at FirstSite gallery in Colchester where the rehang has been devised by an algorithm. I’m also working on a book about colour and I’ve just finished filming a piece for a documentary about the V&A’s digital art collection.
Q4: Where does your interest in digital art stem from?
In 2006 I worked in a gallery in Nottingham where I participated in talks exploring the impact of a new public commission by Rafael Lorenzo Hemmer, an established electronic artist who develops interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. I was really interested in the different logistical challenges of mounting a large-scale interactive piece and it led me to explore the dynamic new ways in which artists work with digital technologies.
Q5: What artists or projects have really caught your eye in recent months?
Lately I’ve been working closely with the London based artist Fabio Lattanzi Antinori. He uses a multitude of mediums including print, sculpture and interactive installation to create socio-political artwork. Often utilizing raw data to create layers of symbols and meanings, his work explores the language and control of corporate systems and its effects on individual belief systems. Fabio’s work is part of the V&A’s collection and we’ve been thinking about the best way to conserve it.
I’m also a juror for the Lumen Art Prize and I recently presented an award to Sougwen Chung for her artwork Drawing Operations, a performance centred on a drawing collaboration between human and machine. Sougwen’s multidisciplinary practice pushes the boundaries between tradition and innovation and I think her critical practice is compelling.
Q6: As the judge on our new media award what are you looking forward to seeing in entrant’s applications?
I’m really looking forward to seeing a wide variety of imaginative work. I’m interested in seeing skilful works that have strong concepts and that utilise new media in meaningful and creative ways.
Q7: If there is one piece of advice you would give those thinking of submitting work to the new media award what would it be?
Sometimes artists struggle with labels to define their practice so I would stress that new media is an inclusive term. Outstanding work always shines through so I would encourage anyone thinking about submitting work to this award to go for it!
Oaktree & Tiger Team
Art experts giving advice to emerging artists to build their careers and find success. Organisers of the Ashurst Emerging Artist Prize 2020, artist agent and art consultants.