Interview with MiAL Artist – Camilla Brueton
What first drew you to study at UAL for MA after twelve years being out in the art world?
I’d always wanted to do postgrad study, but struggled with the what, where, and how? I was torn between doing a straight Fine Art MA (which is my background) or an MA in Architectural History, which is more my subject matter, yet more academic and less practice based. Finding the MA Drawing course at Wimbledon, with an interdisciplinary approach appealed to me. It has allowed me to explore the architectural history and notions of place that I am interested in through drawing and theory, whilst engaging in conversation about the work with others from within the art world, but also outside of it. I also struggled with the ‘how’ of doing postgrad study. I was lucky to receive a Rector’s Scholarship for half of my course fees. Without this, I’m not sure if I would have been able to take up my place on the course.
Your work so effectively explores the notions of non-places, or those we pass through without really thinking, how do you hope to readdress our perceptions of these environments?
People often see ‘non-place’ as a negative descriptive term. I don’t share this view. I’m naturally drawn to places which seem to fall within this category, places that people often pass through without taking much notice of them. For some reason I seem to like to linger. I hope my work communicates something of my interest and optimistic outlook, and may encourage people to occasionally look up from their mobile phones to see the amazing cityscapes that surround them as they traverse the city. Iain Sinclair quotes JD Ballard in his book London Orbital: ‘Rather than fearing alienation… people should embrace it. It may be the doorway to something more interesting.’ I feel that way about places which could be considered ‘non-places’.
Works such as the ‘Elevated Road’ series draw on the language of technical drawing and plans, could you tell us more about this?
I had made work over a number of years which toyed with the language of maps and plans, playing with notions of how information can be collected and re-communicated. I have also used archives and archival material extensively. My drawings of elevated roads use the language of plans- drawings which are made before structures are built, to reflect back on structures that form part of our urban environment today. I am using drawing as a reflective tool, making reference to the ideas and ideology which drove the creation of the urban motorways and elevated roadways, by utilising the language which helped made them a reality.
Could you tell us a little about the Clapham Junction project you have been working on?
Clapham Junction is Europe’s busiest interchange station. Over 20 million people annually use it as a conduit to their journey – a place to change trains. For more passengers than any other station, it is neither a start nor end point. It is not a destination but somewhere that facilitates their passage to somewhere else. Clapham Junction has been a regular/ irregular part of my life since moving to South West London in 1997. It’s not a glamorous London terminal station with an impressive arch- it’s a messy functional/ dysfunctional sprawl of 17 platforms. The recent introduction of new platform canopies, butting up against the old Victorian architecture drew me in, but I quickly became more interested about the place itself- how is it authored? And what is the experience of being there? This led to a series of photographs, small drawings/ collages, which got scaled up into large wall drawings and installations, offering the viewer multiple, interconnecting vanishing points, and communicating something of the experience of place like Clapham Junction and train travel, where things come into and out of focus in the general cacophony. I also wrote a paper titled ‘In search of hope and optimism at Clapham Junction station’ weaving together critical and creative writing, and a series of photographs.
And finally, you have spoken about using your practice to explore your aspirations for the potential of urbanisation, do you have a favourite city or one you think is moving towards getting it right?
Can a city ever really get it right? Something I love about cities is that they are always a work in progress, and it’s the collective behaviour of the people who use it, that shape it (sometimes despite/ in spite of the best efforts of planners). At a screening of ‘The Human Scale’ by Danish architect Jan Gehl, he spoke of his frustration at the slow progress London has made towards becoming a more pedestrian and cycle friendly city, in the 10 years since he wrote a report for Ken. I actually think, that for London, we’re making massive progress. London is an impressive/ frustrating mix of new and old infrastructure and architecture. I was in a cab the other week with a Polish driver, who cursed Chapel Market for having a market – “‘This city isn’t built for cars”. It might not be built for cars, but it’s also not really built for pedestrians and cyclists. London cyclists will always have an element of trying to get from A to B as fast as possible. For London, the notion of ‘dutch cycling’ will require a shift in culture, not just infrastructure. Are we ready for that? I’m not sure….