John Kinross Scholar in 2010
How did the experience affect you as an individual?
I received the John Kinross Florence scholarship in 2010. The three months I spent in this inspiring and giving city a decade ago instilled in me the desire to explore, to learn more about the city, to better understand the events that shaped its culture and history. I continued to visit Florence in the years after the scholarship. The initial sketches and studies I had created whilst there evolved, and by 2012 I had started to study one of the city’s most defining events: the great flood of 1966. Investigating this subject has shaped the artist I am today, and taught me a lot about myself, too.
What was the impact on your practice?
During the time spent pursuing this project, the resulting artworks have been exhibited on several occasions – the most notable of these was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the flood, in 2016. I’ve reached out to Florentines, and to those with a connection to the city. I’ve invited people who lived through the flood to speak at an event I organised with the British Institute in Florence, and invited authors to write about the flood for a project called ‘Perimetri Perduti’ (perimeters lost). The authors include Patricia Emison, Candia McWilliam, David Hewson, and the late Giles Waterfield.
Producing this body of work has greatly impacted the trajectory of my career, and the ways in which I approach my exhibitions and presentations. This project taught me about collaboration and audience participation. The history of the 1966 flood binds those with a connection to Florence, and for those who lived through it, its memory is just as alive today as when it happened. Those people are keen to share their experiences, and this resulted in richer output.
What would you say the long-term impact has been on yourself and you work?
By first exploring a historic environmental event, I’ve gone on to tie the story of the flood to environmental events we’re experiencing in the present day. We ought to read the great flood as a cautionary tale for our time of climate crisis. Our Earth’s cultural landmarks are no less susceptible to forces of nature than anywhere else. The work I make today still makes reference to the city and to the flood. In 2021 I will exhibit during the Venice Biennale. The topic of the Biennale show will be environmental change and sea-rise – a subject that entered my practice as a result of my Florence work – exploring how extreme climatic events impact all of our lives.