A multidisciplinary artist, Rachel Sedman works across the mediums of photographic processes, sound recording and performance. Her practice explores our perceptions of sound within environments and how that can be expressed in a visual context.
Sedman recently completed her MA from Leeds Arts University, and as she wraps up her two weeks show at the RK Burt Gallery in London, she is headed towards her winter 2018 exhibition "Sounds of Winter" in York. In this interview she explains the process of developing body-mind connection to the environment through movement, sound and visual.
You work both in audio and visual, is one usually the interpretation of the other, or do they both feed into each other?
It’s very project dependent but for some time I’ve been exploring if sound can have a visual representation, not as in a specific sound wave form but in terms of how we perceive sound. I’ve been interested in areas such as synesthesia where sound is experienced in different ways, such as colour or bodily feelings and sensations. So sometimes I use sound alone as the main medium and in others I combine visual imagery with sound in a more immersive visual/sound context.
I’ve been working with sound for the last two years, being predominantly a visual artist previously and i love working with sound in an installation way. It is such an emotive engaging medium to work with, lightweight and ephemeral yet powerful and resonant. A recent project I worked on,Traces was a collaborative piece with two dance artists in which we created a drawing performative piece using salt as a physical medium and sound as a narrative. It was a more embodied way of exploring the marks made visually by the response to sound through movement.
You recently completed your MA at Leeds University, can you share how was the experience and how is the transformation from school to the art world?
It was a very positive experience going back into academia for the Masters course. I chose to return to this format to provide greater context for my practice and to cross collaborate with other artists in other disciplines. The resources are excellent and research areas and staff are engaging and relevant. The transition felt seamless in some ways as we were motivated to work on professional projects during the MA and so continuing as a practicing artist and working on a commission immediately after completing the course was a natural step to take.
Your are influenced by Japanese philosophy and aesthetics, how does that come across in your work?
My work particularly over the last two years has evolved into a more meditative reflection on the present time in life and it’s imperfectness. For a long time, I've leaned towards Japanese aesthetics as a way of resolving a piece of work by letting it form in a minimal way and in a state of being perhaps not fully complete, or having stopped in a particular time. In essence like the practice of Ensō, the drawing of circles as a symbol of both balance, completeness and irregularity.
During the past year I’ve written myself a manifesto of practice in which I set certain perimeters to work within. For instance, in sound editing, I would set no more than 4 tracks in a sound piece and restrain from using more than 4 sound effects. Or in a visual way, I would restrict the colour palette, or work to a short time period then leave whatever existed at that time. It was born partly out of necessity of being a parent as well as having a creative practice, yet I discovered it was ultimately more freeing. So particularly as the use of sound was a new form for me to work with, I felt the imperfections of using relatively low tech recording equipment and minimal editing processes was a way of harnessing some of the philosophy of aesthetics found in Japanese everyday life.
Are you currently working on a project or have any others coming up in the near future?
I’ve just completed a project for The National Trust at one of their properties in York called Beningbrough Hall. I had exhibited one short sound piece with them in 2017 as part of a larger sculpture exhibition.
The work was well received and the first time they had exhibited a sound work as part of their programme and I was lucky enough to have been invited back to produce work for their winter exhibition in 2018, Sounds of Winter: Whispering Spaces. It is a series of six site specific sounds installations which run through the grounds of the house, through the American Garden woodland area and six external rooms and glasshouses of the property.
I’ve also just finished a group show at the RK Burt Gallery in London, a collaborative exhibition of works on paper, In Conversation, which successfully ran for two weeks.
Currently I’m working towards a project based on an encounter with a particular architectural space in London which will be finalised in 2019.
This introduction and interview was curated by Shally Zucker for Artqol