Roshana Rubin-Mayhew is an artist/designer/photographer based in London. Here, she details her journey from photography to design to art.
My first experience on a photography job was in 2002 on a mountain in Switzerland. I spent 3 days as a second photographer, documenting my Dad’s durational performance and drinking litres of beer at a festival called La Bâtie. I was using my first ‘proper’ camera, a Canon AE1, which I still use now. Starting with analog gave me a good grounding in focus and not getting too snap-happy. I was 15 at the time and studying at Chetham’s School of Music, where I spent more time in the art studio than the practice room.
So, a year later I decided to leave and focus on my art, skipping ahead a year onto the Foundation Art course at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2004. At the time I was working across photography, painting and sculpture…whatever medium best got the concept across. During my foundation I veered into performance practice and installation work and in 2005 I was given a Method Lab commission from greenroom, Manchester. Off the back of this, I decided not to continue onto a degree but instead to go to Berlin to make this piece of work. I spent the next two years making performance and photography work through commissions, whilst also supporting myself through signing on and running creative workshops.
By 2007, I had become increasingly interested in social change and enrolled onto a graphic design course to expand my practice; I saw design as a toolkit approach to be able to practically support ethically driven organisations. I continued to take photographs but wasn’t exhibiting. Instead, I set myself up as a freelance designer and photographer, designing everything from websites to book covers and photographing performances, events and workshops.
It wasn’t until 2010 that I looked back at the photographs I had been taking privately, unpicking them for threads of themes and concepts. This led me to exploring the idea of the self from which I made three bodies of work: Beyond Their Shells 2010, The Breath Collection 2011 and The Sleep Collection 2012. I began exhibiting fairly regularly in solo and group shows as well as festivals, but it became increasingly difficult to balance commercial work and my own practice. Time was an issue and to survive as a freelancer I had fallen into being a bit of a jack-of-all-trades.
To clarify my practice, I began a part-time MA at London College of Communication in the January of this year, one of the best decisions I have ever made. My practice is being vigorously questioned and is in an exciting state of flux. I have been concurrently creating a funded national touring exhibition called ‘What Is Left?’ with Ellie Harrison, which has been challenging but it is a joy to be supporting myself through simply making artwork.
I have also formed GJRL, a collective with three other people from my course. We do art and parties, running club nights to self fund our artwork. After ten years of working as an artist, I feel like I am slowly starting to strike the balance between commercial and personal work. For me it is about getting to a point of least compromise…and that comes from an increased understanding of what exactly my practice is and what I want it to be.
2 – 4 October | A_SPACE
GJRL present SAVANNAH
Part of Art Licks Weekend
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