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Artist Interview: Geneva Sills, ‘Against Time’

by Becki Crossley, May 4, 2018

Artist Interview: Geneva Sills, 'Against Time'

Geneva Sills is one of four artists featured in group exhibition ‘Against Time’, which runs until Monday 7 May at Civic Room. Becki Crossley spoke to her about the show and the development of her practice.

Geneva Sills, from 'Against Time' Geneva Sills, from ‘Against Time’

Curated by Paula Lopez Zambrano and Sarah Strang, ‘Against Time’ explores the anachronistic condition of contemporary art. The location of this exhibition at Civic Room is no accident; dating back to 1895, the former British Linen Bank is a fitting venue for this exploration of “the contingent modes by which art gives meaning to the past, imagines the future and creates chronological disconnections”.

As a silver gelatin printer, Sills’ practice attempts to bridge the gap between photography and painting through gesture. Sills sees these gestures as autobiographic markers that can exist either between prints or on the print surface itself. In ‘Against Time’, Sills’ prints explore the flattening of the photographic picture plane along with hand colouring. Her gestural interventions and shifts in scale combine with this flattening to achieve levels of intimacy within the exhibition.

Geneva Sills, from 'Against Time' Geneva Sills, from ‘Against Time’

Becki: You were on residency at Banff Centre for the Arts prior to the festival. How did this influence the work for the GI show?

Geneva: Banff was five weeks of uninterrupted, fully supported time to produce. I have never had this, at least not since my Masters at the Glasgow School of Art. If I’m honest though, back then I wasn’t entirely ready to take advantage of it.

Banff was a post-production residency for me. So, the biggest influence on the work came from having no roadblocks throughout. The facilities and technicians there are amazing. My fellow artists in residence were excellent sounding boards as well. I wasn’t influenced by the scenery in the slightest (Banff is beautiful). I happily spent all my time in the dark.

B: ‘Against Time’ is site-specific exhibition. What elements of Civic Room informed the development of your work?

G: My work was not made with Civic Room in mind in any large way. Paula’s curation, which revolved around contingency and anachronism, provided a framework that promoted relationships between not only the selected works but also the works and the space itself. Civic Room is an old linen bank, making the relationship to fabric in my work somewhat relevant. However, I think the success of this show lies in the relationships that were formed through this notion of contingency; Paula’s interest in our practices and interest in the space formed the show as it is today. This is very in line with what she writes about in her PhD at Goldsmiths. It was a collaboration, which I think proved to be very healthy and freeing.

B: You’re originally from Chicago. How would you rate the UK, and Glasgow in particular, as a place to develop and show your practice?

G: This is a hard question to answer, because I have only been an emerging artist in Glasgow. I went back to Chicago for two years after I earned my MFA at the GSA and found it to be surprisingly closed off to “outsiders”, and I was an outsider there at the time. I haven’t properly lived in Chicago since I was 18. My understanding is that Glasgow has a very active and engaged art community while also being inexpensive. This is a good recipe.

Geneva Sills, from 'Against Time' Geneva Sills, from ‘Against Time’

B: You had your first solo exhibition, ‘Cones & Eggs’, at the CCA in 2016. How did this compare to your previous group shows?

G: ‘Cones & Eggs’ was different in that it was an entirely autonomous period of production. I scaled down and simplified it all. A big part of this was because I was stranded in Chicago at the time in Visa limbo. I wasn’t even able to make it back for the show, my friends managed the exhibition on my behalf. I was alone in the production with only my own conceptual framework in mind.

Despite my immigration woes, I actually feel now that I needed this at that point in time. The result was a body of work that is at the same time highly considered and fortuitous, which I think is an important balance to have.

B: This is your second time exhibiting at GI. For artists thinking of making work for Glasgow 2020, how would your summarise your experience?

G: Glasgow International is a good platform. 2016 provided me with good contacts which lead to a string of exhibitions and residencies, culminating in this GI 2018 exhibition. It has certainly been a benefit to me. I will have to wait and see what will come after this edition.

B: How should we expect to see your work develop in 2018?

G: I am really excited about where I am going with my work. In Banff I began this process of hand colouring my prints. It is another layer of intimacy that I am able to apply in the printing process. I transitioned back to silver gelatin printing precisely because of this intimacy, and the photo oils are an extension of that. I have some ideas for my next series, which will relate to the ‘Against Time’ prints in a nice way. I’ve already put some feelers out for spaces to work in. So, if anyone reading this knows of a space with nice floors specifically, message me!

More about ‘Against Time’