RAYA MITCHELL works in a breadth of disciplines, notably exploring a blend of photography, painting and printmaking. Her recent work has featured complex layered prints using the skilled method of collagraphy and collage, her intricate style gives a sense of ghostly fragmentation and an ebb of longing. We discuss how she formulated the initial idea for Paradise and what is to be expected.
How did you come to bring about your idea for the exhibition?
Initially I gathered source material by taking my own photographs with a disposable camera. With the theme paradise in mind I wanted to capture ordinary, everyday moments that while being elevated above the mundane are far from the conventional notions we have of paradise. My thoughts to begin with were that it is these moments that are little windows into paradise. A painter that has sparked my interest recently is Christopher Orr. His artistic process begins by sourcing photographs from old Kodachrome slides and National Geographic magazines. The imagery is often combined with painterly marks and moody tones, creating subtle atmospheric scenes. Orr explains that the purpose of this process is to take the subject out of its original and dull setting and give it a completely new meaning, by putting it into a different context. Using a similar approach for acquiring source material my ideas began to change and develop. There is an obvious visual relationship between the found Kodachrome images and the images in newspapers and magazines. More often than not both sources appear to be trying to capture or chase the idea of paradise; or rather the idea of paradise is being sold to us through advertisements and the media. My work aims to question whether we have a 'predefined perception of paradise' and it is this concept which I plan to explore.
Do you feel that the use of archival source material or indeed another artist’s work as a source has the same validity as creating your own being that in today’s society almost all ideas are a recycled, repurposed version or response of/to a previous?
Personally, I think that the concepts behind the work determine whether personal or found material is more or less valid as a source. It’s extremely important to consider which sources you use when developing and refining your work; as different sources help to visually communicate different ideas. One of the most important pieces of advice I’ve been given by a tutor is that no idea is completely original. Prior to this I was always worried that my ideas were too similar to my peers or professional, practicing artists I had read about. You have to process what you learn from others, experiment with ideas and mediums and then try to successfully communicate your idea to an audience.
Have there been any concerns for the exhibition being that you are a collective of artists/designers in the early stages of your career and of a young age group?
As this is our first time organizing an exhibition we are still learning a lot however, in some ways I suppose this makes it more exciting. At the moment we aren't held back by predefined ideas of what the exhibition should be like and so, it really is one big experiment. I think it’s best to just enjoy the experience and not get too caught up about everything being absolutely perfect.
You were recently awarded funding from Young Scot and Creative Scotland’s ‘Time to shine’ fund. Can you tell me more about the fund, and how it will help the project?
The fund aims to support young, aspiring students who work in a creative field. We were very lucky to be granted a substantial amount. A share of the funding will go towards the expense of promoting the event. Thereafter, the funding is to be divided between all nine students who are participating in the exhibition; each individual has the opportunity to spend the money on what they need for their own project. As the funding will give us access to more materials and whatever else we may need; we will have more freedom and our creativity won’t be restricted by financial factors.
It is fantastic to see support for smaller arts projects from large organizations; in relation to your everyday projects do you feel stunted by financial constraints when producing work?
No, I would say that finding ways of being creative on a financial budget often leads you down a path to something more unique, being more experimental with everyday objects and materials, and trying to get the very best out of what you have to work with.
And finally, what are your hopes and dreams for the future? Being that you will embark on a degree with GSA in painting and printmaking come September.
The thought of taking up an artistic occupation is romantic and obviously every art student hopes to have a very successful career however, it’s a hard field to find your way in and it’s extremely competitive. In an interview I recently watched online, Marina Abramovich speaks of how a great artist must be to ready accept failure and not many people want to do this. Quoting her directly: ‘The real artist…always changes their territories… (Being) ready to fail, that makes a great artist.’ She further explains that ‘when you become routine that is the end of everything.’ I hope to be an artist who partakes in changing the artistic conversation, one who is always progressing and never becomes satisfied with and fixated on one idea or medium.
Learn more about Raya Mitchell by following the link to her page and visiting her social media outlets. You can also continue to keep up to date with the exhibition by following our instagram @paradise_exhibition and the blog
Article by Emma Hislop