Petition launched to help local artist

A petition has been launched to prevent local street artist Michael McVeigh from losing his “patch” in which he sells prints of his paintings.

The artist, who sells his prints on Saturdays behind Marks & Spencer on Rose Street, claims selling art is is his only source of income. However, Edinburgh City Council believe that nearby construction and vehicle movement in the area conflict with the street trader. They concluded that McVeigh’s display will cause “a severe risk to public safety”

The petition, available on change.org, has currently been signed by 315 people, with organiser Daniel Smith urging more to sign. One overseas supporter wrote:

“I live in Canada and have a few of his prints. I’m complimented on them all the time. I’ve given them as gifts. Scotland should be proud of this fellow. He’s a treasure.”

McVeigh, whose art has been displayed in galleries throughout Edinburgh and Glasgow, has been selling his art on Rose Street for over 20 years. The artist will find out the fate of his trading license next month, when the city council decide whether or not to revoke his permit.

For more on art in Edinburgh, try these articles:

Another Country exhibition: a topical subject meets remarkable artwork

Queer Artists Exhibition

Artist Zac Hughson on gender norms, working in retail and haircuts

 

 

 

Art or Vandalism?

Graffiti adorns dull corners of Edinburgh, bringing colour to brick walls, doors and alleyways. EN4 News photographer Maria Gran explored some well-known graffiti spots in the city in an attempt to find out if this is all accessible art, or simply distasteful markings.

The adventure begins in the Innocent railway tunnel in Newington, now a cycle and footpath frequently used by the population.

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Credit: Maria Gran

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“Let’s Do Something Wrong” Credit: Maria Gran

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“Before toast was invented, did people still smell toast when having a stroke?” Credit: Maria Gran

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Credit: Maria Gran

Maria also checked out Edinburgh’s Cowgate, an area frequented by party-goers and students, as well as lots of graffiti artists

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Credit: Maria Gran

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Credit: Maria Gran

The final spot is Marine Parade Graffiti Wall in Newhaven. This wall features 330 metres of legal graffiti from artists both from Scotland and overseas.

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Credit: Maria Gran

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A portrait of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Credit: Maria Gran

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Credit: Maria Gran

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Credit: Maria Gran

 

Painting outside the lines

If pieces of art go against the social norm, do they make us see the world in a new light?

There are few things in the world that allow us to express ourselves the way that the arts do. Art has an uncanny ability to make us feel empowered, accepted and less alone.

Arguably, the best thing about art is that it has the ability to inspire us. It makes us feel something and can help us turn feeling into action. It can drive us, motivate us, spur us on to act.

Mavericks in Literature

Tracy Chevalier‘s collection of short stories is entitled Reader, I Married Him – inspired by the most famous line in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. The conclusion to the collection reflects on one of history’s first stories to defy social expectations.

Set in 1847, the heroine Jane Eyre is an impoverished orphan with no other family who, by the end of the novel, becomes a governess, the underdog who rises from the dirt. In the 19th century women had little power to determine their own future, so you would expect the line to go “Reader, he married me,” or even “We got married.” But this story sees Jane making the choice to spend her life with Rochester and be the driving force of her own life.

To celebrate and remind people of that self-determination and going against social norms, Chevalier created a collection of short stories from this generation that have the same effect of encouraging people to strive for change (To buy the book, click here).

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Tracy Chevalier’s collection of short stories Reader, I Married Him (Credit: The Borough Press)

Illustrated Rebellion

In modern times, new platforms are supporting artists going against society’s expectations. Kidmograph, also known as Gustavo Torres, is an Argentinian video artist, illustrator, and art director who tackles social issues through his art.

He makes Matrix-style GIFs and music videos that sit between both the digital world and reality whilst denying to commit to either. It reflects on modern day society and how people live their lives in part in the ‘real’ world whilst the other half is stuck in the virtual one.

Musical insurgents

Actions speak louder than words, but sometimes lyrics speak even louder. The politically charged anti-Trump anthem Land of the Free by The Killers touches on a variety of important issues currently happening the US.

The second bridge of the song opens with the powerful line “but if you’re the wrong colour skin (I’m standing, crying), you grow up looking over both your shoulders,” referring to the ongoing race issue in America, and reflecting on topics discussed in last year’s Blackkklansman by filmmaker Spike Lee, who created the music video and is an outspoken critic of President Trump.

The song refers to Trump’s plans to build a wall segregating North America and Mexico, and addresses gun violence and school shootings:

“So how many daughters, tell me, how many sons do we have to have to put in the ground before we just break down and face it: we got a problem with guns?”

Another Country exhibition: a topical subject meets remarkable artwork

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The installation by Toby Peterson at Another Country. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

 

“You come in and it’s quite confrontational. It blocks off a large part of the gallery and on a very literal physical level acts as a barrier,” says artist and curator Euan Gray. “But it’s permeable, he left spaces – as if no borders or barrier is impossible to get through.”

Euan is describing the luminescent orange, capacious fence that is powerfully situated as the exhibition’s centrepiece. The towering instalment is startling yet not distressing. The artist behind it, Toby Paterson, has purposely used ‘safety’ orange. This particular shade of orange stimulates images of life jackets and rescue boats – much like those an immigrant may encounter on their journey.

Contemporary immigration to Scotland, integration and identity are the topics that this exhibition, Another Country, explores through the work of 11 artists. Euan has collaboratively curated the exhibition alongside Alberta Whittle, which is currently displayed at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre.

Each piece in the exhibition is thought-provoking and visually arresting without having to resort to shockingly pervasive imagery. The artists – all of who are either living in Scotland or were born here – address a period of cultural movement or geographical and political unrest through various mediums.

“We’re trying to look at migration from as many different angles as possible,” says Euan. And this is undoubtedly apparent.

Julie Roberts offers a historical reflection of migration with her stained glass like oil painting series on the migration of 10,000 Jewish children in 1938, known as the Kindertransport. Euan refers to it as a ‘positive forced migration’ as the operation rescued the children from the clutches of the Nazis and allowed them to start a new life. Julie perfectly captures the sense of tentative excitement and a new beginning.

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Julie Robert’s oil paintings. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

More up to date, The Brexit Beast is a reaction piece by Andrew Gilbert especially made for this exhibition. The Scottish artist’s grotesquely caricatured Loch Ness monster-like creature sits on the banks overlooking a sea of boats overturned and flailing people drowning. At the enormous monster’s claws, there is a swarm of soldiers, a burning Grenfell Tower and traffic lights. A spiked, menacing medieval morning star weapon and a defiant, waving Union Jack makes up the Brexit beast’s two-pronged tail. Observing the sketch provokes a wry smile before a sense of foreboding reality sets in.

“I’m not wanting to change anybody’s views,” says Euan. “If they just think about migration, then we’ve achieved something. I think it’s important that people just consider both sides of the argument.”

“I just think it’s a very, very important topic that’s only going to get more significant and more heated in the future because of all the tensions that are in the world at the moment.”

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Inside the Another Country exhibition. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

The exhibition took three years of planning after the idea was sparked from Euan visiting Canada and the USA. While there, realised that over 25 million people claim Scottish heritage yet the Scots cultural identity remains prominent. Another Country has previously toured a university in Minnesota and galleries in England.

During these years Euan worked on his own magnum opus for the exhibition. His standout piece is the most interactive of the exhibition, which boasts an extensive variety of art forms including sculpture, photography and film.

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Artist Euan Gray beside his work. (Photo Credit: Rachel Lee)

Although his roots are in painting, he challenged himself to design a functioning pinball machine called ‘The Immigration Game’. The picture etched on the retro machine’s backboard is of a life-jacketed immigrant clutching a young boy in his arms, reminiscent of the images commonly splashed across the front pages of newspapers. The nod to the media is deliberate.

“The game is made to be played for three minutes, which is the average time people spend reading the news.” Euan explained, “I saw the parallel between the entertainment side of playing the game and the media’s involvement with migration from the side of trying to get ratings.”

Inspired by the UKIP poster used in the run-up to Brexit, the motherboard of the machine is a sea filled with the boats full of immigrants.

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The pinball machine’s promotional poster, a painting by Euan. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

“So it was called the Immigration Game as it’s obviously a very ironic title because it’s not a game for the people trying to cross Europe in boats. We’ll play this game, we walk off and forget about it.”

A visitor is unlikely to forget this exhibition, however. Euan says the aim of the exhibition was to open a political dialogue with the audience by being playfully interactive and inclusive, which it certainly has achieved.

You can visit the free exhibition at the City Art Centre before it comes to a close on Sunday the March 17th, a mere 11 days before the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union.

There is a workshop Saturday the February 9th, titled The Legacy of Colonialism that is led by the Another Country team. The workshop will run 10 am – 4 pm at the gallery.

Find out more about the gallery, exhibition and workshop here.

Queer Artists’ Exhibition

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The Queer Arts Collective Exhibition launched this Tuesday. Queer artists have contributed through several different mediums to celebrate the Queerness of art and lives.

In light of LGBT History month, the newly founded Queer Arts Collective and the LGBT+ Liberation Officer at the student association of the University of Edinburgh have come together for this month-long celebration of queer culture.

Natasha Ion, the LGBT+ Liberation Officer, and Fiona Grey, Co-founder of the Queer Arts Collective, put together an opening night party for their exhibition, that aims not only to promote queer art but also to establish a queer arts collective, as they are looking for further engagement in Queer arts exhibitions and performances.

“This exhibition is really to establish ourselves as a collective, so it’s about promoting queer art and artists,” Natasha says.

“We feel like the event fit well into LGBT History Month. What I think is really nice about this is that it’s a really positive exhibition, and really all about celebrating queer life and queer arts, focusing on that side of the LGBT+ community.”

Almost 20 artists contributed pieces to the exhibition and all the artists that contributed were or were assumed to be queer.

“We didn’t make it explicit saying that you absolutely had to be queer to exhibit to us, but it’s done with the assumption that queer artists submit pieces.”

Fiona Grey explains how the exhibition was without any overhead budget, and that it was a group effort of people coming together more than anything.

“It’s more like a thing where I brought some nails and some blue-tack, and I already had a hammer, and the ECA provided us with a white wall to hang things up on,” Fiona explains.

All the white wall pieces will be up for viewing in ECA until February 15th.

On opening night, the show included spoken word, music, performance art and animation. The organisers are ‘chuffed’ with the results and number of contributions to the exhibition.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of artists contribute and we’re really happy to have the event tonight because we only have a certain amount of wall space,” Natasha continues.

“Having the event means we can also include music, spoken word, performance art and animation, whereas all the other contributions have to be flat.”

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UncoverED: Exhibition showcases global alumni in Edinburgh

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Some of the student researchers who helped with the project. (Photo credit: Daisy Smith)

Students from the University of Edinburgh are shining a light on former graduates whose stories have been untold… until now.

For over 150 years students from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the Americas have come to Scotland’s capital to study, however many have done so unrecognised for their work and achievements.

From William Fergusson, the first known black student at the University of Edinburgh to Kadambini Ganguly, one of the earliest female physicians from South Asia, the university has played a part in educating many world-leading figures.

The exhibition also features an array of doctors, writers, scientists, artists and more.

A group of student researchers, led by PhD candidates Henry Mitchell and Tom Cunningham, started the project last September and have spent hours reading through old student newspapers, reading biographies and talking to families of the alumni to create a database of successful former students.

Henry Mitchell who led the project said:

“Edinburgh has got this really long and diverse history which hasn’t really been looked at and it has got world thinkers who came to Edinburgh who haven’t been recognised.

“These are people who are famous and are recognised elsewhere, and a lot are in history books but haven’t been recognised in Edinburgh’s history.

“We  went through the archives of the Student which is this really old newspaper. So that starts in 1886 and goes up to the 1980’s. So we read 100 years of the student newspaper in a week.  It’s been really good collaborative research.”

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The exhibition will run from February 1, until June at the University of Edinburgh. (Photo credit: Daisy Smith)

There are two phases of the exhibition. The first, and current, features students from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, and will run until mid-April. The second phase will showcase students from the period between 1800 and 1940, which will run from mid-April until June.

During the research, the team found out more than just the careers of these people but also the lives they lived while in Edinburgh and the experiences they had. They found out what nights out were like, where they lived, what student fees they paid and more.

During the project, the team also found that many of the students did not complete their full degree due to a variety of factors.

Hannah McGurk, a second year German and English student, was part of the research team. She said:

“We found people who are really, really famous in their home countries  that the university just doesn’t really recognise.

“For me, Edinburgh is not a very diverse place and the university does not have a very diverse curriculum. I study English and we were doing all white male writers so for me this is really a way for me to connect with some of those histories.

“It’s an important exhibition because so many students and staff at the university are just unaware of the history, as well as people who just live in the city.

“People of colour have always been a part of the story of Edinburgh, and they still are. This is a really important way to uncover those histories and talk about it and have those conversations.”

Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Scotland’s first black professor, is featured in the exhibition. Born in Jamaica in 1940, he moved to London with his mother at the age of 14 as part of the Windrush generation. He did his PhD in Grain Science and Technology in Edinburgh in 1964.

Natasha Ruwona, an Intermedia student, was part of the team of researchers and wrote the biography of Sir Palmer. She said:

“I was so excited to be part of the project because it was branded as an imperial and colonial project and I am quite interested in the relationship between Scotland and black people.

“I think they are important to be told, because for people of colour like myself, it’s important to see people went to this university so long ago and compare their experience to ours now and how things have changed.”

The project aims to encourage the University of Edinburgh’s community to reflect on its imperial past and how it played a part in the university’s global status.

The free exhibition opens today, and will run until June at the Chrystal Macmillan Building at the University of Edinburgh.

Artist Zac Hughson on gender norms, working in retail and haircuts

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Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

Displacement. It means something different to everyone. It connotes a different feeling. But it is something we have all felt, experienced, fought against or thrived within at one point in our lives.

Displacement is the theme for Edinburgh College of Art’s newest Canvas exhibition. The theme allows artists to explore the limitations they face within their creative fields and themselves as artists and individuals. Not only does the exhibition allow artists to showcase their personally explorative works, it invites varied art forms and artists to merge and inspire discussions. The Canvas collective hope to do more than inspire discussions. The Canvas collective hope to do more than inspire, but rather challenge the artist and the viewer.

ECA’s Firehouse Building opened its doors for the exhibition’s launch night on Thursday 31st January. The mood of the room was serene and thoughtful. Under dimmed lighting, a huge installations stood out in a darkened corner. A hilly mound of structured wool topped grey masses of concrete – one ball and one cube. The piece was untitled, and the artist behind the work – Zac Hughson – admitted he has never named any of his work. Ever. Although, he did give the two pieces of concrete various pet names.

Zac is a third year Sculpture student at ECA. He’s engaging, open and eloquent. The more you speak with Zac, the more the apparent how perfect the use of concrete is. He believes it’s a misunderstood material. It begins as something to be freely shaped but it doesn’t have to remain in any set form.

Zac spoke to EN4News on the opening night of the exhibition.

The stem of a lot things I’ve been doing comes from recently getting my haircut. That sounds so banal and minor but it made such a weird, unexpected difference in my life.

When I got my haircut people would speak to me in a different way. I work in retail so I noticed the way people address me behind a till is very different now. Male customers tended not to speak to me that much but now that I’ve had my haircut I get asked so many sports questions. The way people will address me or assume how I’ll speak with them now is quite strange because I’m still the same person. I think when there’s something that isn’t masculine or feminine and instead something that is crossing and merging those boundaries is when people sort of freak out a bit.

I’m documenting the shift in relationships between masculinity and femininity and their place in the world. We can start investigating our own things in third year and it’s resulted in me going against the norm. Experiencing things, experiencing change and then pushing that onto objects, spaces and contexts.

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Untitled by Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

I like to blur things, change them and play with things. I really like looking at and exploring binary – sometimes I go out with make up on and glitter and then some days I just like to look really plain. I think it’s fun express but then taking in response to that is eye opening to the way people work.

A reaction is better than no reaction. I like people to come up with their own meaning and take away from it what they can. I think it has got to a point of looking at relationships between things and then they can take away what sort of relationship between that is. I’m not forcing it, it’s not a very explicit piece, it’s personal in a respect but not so obvious.

Certain people take certain things away from it. It does have quite a masculine look to it and almost a caricature of a formal, bold masculine sculpture.

I’ve never been happy with how an art piece turns out in my life! I think as soon as I’ve produced something than I have a yearning to push it further or to change it.

I like engaging with material, I think that is the primal side of sculpture. I think it’s so much more alive than other forms of art. I feel much more connected to it. I feel like I can manipulate it more than other types of art and then it can live in a different space.

I’m actually really weird about where my work gets exhibited – I must be a picky artist type! But I’m really pleased with the curation of this space. I think my piece works in this space and I’m excited to have my work exhibited with other people and disciplines. It’s really different from what I’ve done so far.

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Zac Hughson. (Photo credit: Rachel Lee)

 

Museums over meditation for under 30s?

Visiting museum and gallery spaces seem to be a more popular way of dealing with stress and anxiety than mindfulness or mediation, according to a recent study conducted for a national arts charity. 

The report commissioned by the Art Fund at the end of last year showed 63% of people under the age of 30 would visit a museum or gallery as a way of relieving stress or anxiety, the same percentage that talking to a friend or family member received.

In response to the report, that found under 30s to be one of the most stressed generations, Art Fund have decided to increase the age for their under 26 national passes to under 30, allowing for a larger number of people to benefit from discounted exhibition entrance fees.

A spokesperson for Art Fund told EN4 News: “We give around seven million pounds a year at the moment, a lot of that which is facilitated through our national art passes.”

This change was launched earlier this week but is already said to be being “well received” they said.

They also said that the report as a whole showed “those who visit museums and galleries on a regular basis are more likely to have lower levels of stress and anxiety than those who have never visited one.”

The results found by the report, Art Fund believe, have further solidified the existing research around the benefits exposing oneself to arts and culture on a regular basis can have on a general wellbeing.

Museums and Galleries, with their cafes, bright open exhibition spaces, and interactive displays, are used for numerous activities that could lead to an increase feeling of wellness.

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National Portrait Gallery. Photo by Megan Merino

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Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow. Photo by Megan Merino

 

But it may not only be the act of going to these spaces that can be beneficial to mental health. Instillations around Scotland are tackling themes of mental wellness and self reflection to allow for an even more introspective cultural experience.

A current exhibit at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art aims to allow visitors to reflect on their feelings and state of mind through an interactive light instillation.

EN4 news spoke with curator of the HappyHere exhibition Màiri Lafferty.

Màiri Lafferty, Daskalopoulos Curator of Engagement at National Galleries of Scotland.

HappyHere uses an interactive board to allow visitors to answer seven questions that are then presented in the form of light and colour on a custom-built screen for an abstract visualisation of the thoughts and feelings associated with the responses.

The instillation is inside the Pig Rock Bothy, a small space in the grounds of the Modern Art Gallery.

Credits: There will be no Miracles Here- Nathan Coley       Everything Will Be Alright-Martin Creed 

Despite creating a space that facilitates self reflection, Màiri added that it was not the job of a curator to force emotions on the visitor, but instead to allow the space for a personal experience and interaction with art.

 

 

Another new Edinburgh based exhibition addressing the theme of wellbeing is Beings at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery opening on February 2.

We spoke to Richie Cummings, Outreach Officer at the National Galleries about the upcoming exhibition that will display the artwork of young people as a response to other pieces in the National Galleries’ collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview: Ayshia Taskin

Edinburgh artist wants to reduce food waste and global hunger – one corn puff at a time.

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Artist Ayshia Taskin (Photo Credit: Rachel Lee)

Meet Ayshia Taskin. She’s a mother, an artist, a wife, a student – and now, thanks to her recent project, an engineer.

With her installation performance art piece, Paradise Corns, Ayshia hopes to prompt visitors into conversations about the impact food waste and modern day corporate consumerism has on world hunger. Paradise Corns – the name of the machine Ayshia built herself – churns out edible corn puffs which visitors of the exhibition are free to help themselves to.

When I first encounter Ayshia, she envelopes me in a friendly hug. In the interview below, Ayshia passionately discusses the personal connection Paradise Corns has to her and about her hopes of a world in the not-too distant future where food waste has drastically reduced and everyone is happy and healthy with a full belly.

I thought that was all my life was going to work in hospitality, I never thought I was going to be an artist. I’m the first in my family on both sides to go to university. I’m really lucky because my husband took the brunt financially, he told me to finish university and focus on my art. Luckily I got funding to go to Venice, there are some really supportive tutors at ECA. I always try and keep myself and my work down to earth. It gives me a good worth ethic.

I think what happens in your childhood really affects you when you grow up. When I was a kid in Cyprus, me, my brother and sister would see the British tourists with an abundance of food and enjoying their holiday. I think that sticks in my brain that I was born in Britain but only had a bit of couscous to eat. It is very surreal to look back on.

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“Paradise Corns” produces an abundance of corn puffs (Photo Credit: Ayshia Taskin)

When I look and see people still starving in 2018 when we shouldn’t be – we have all these factories and mechanisms to make things available to people – it’s very irritating in my mind the way the system works and they don’t necessarily want everyone to have an abundance of food or anything because it’s all about the capitalist system. I think we are at a point where we don’t need capitalism anymore. There’s enough food in the world but it’s not distributed properly.

I don’t like to see the waste. It’s unnecessary. In the West we are so disconnected from other countries who don’t have access to food at all. If everyone was just more aware of the rest of the world, and how people in the world are struggling to survive then things will change.

“Paradise Corns” is the amalgamation of performance, multi-sensory methods, i.e. olfactory senses, sight, smell, taste and auditory. Visual stimuli in the form of video and the literal production of food – auditory stimulation in the form of the sounds of the milling machine, extruder and videos. I created a set of films as part of the Paradise Corns project that are inspired by adverts from the 90s. They were very child-focused…bright colours…very appealing. ‘You can have this, when you want it’…but not really if you don’t have any money. It helped create a spoiled society and food waste.

I harbour a fascination of mass food production and consumerism. When I watch documentaries about starving people, food waste, countries unable to feed their people and my son asks, ‘well why don’t we just send food’. I always think ‘yeah we could, but that’s not going to sustain them’. People need to eat everyday so if I make a machine, you can make a machine too.

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Ayshia constructs her masterpiece (Photo Credit: Ayshia Taskin)

I didn’t study engineering but I built a machine. It shows that women can engineer things. I’m not an engineer – I’m not even good at basic mathematics – but when you have such a desire to make something or do something for a purpose you just have to go for it.

Women are held back from doing engineering jobs because they don’t have the belief they can do it because it’s so historically male dominated. I think we have to encourage girls from young age to be interested in engineering and building things. The logic brain is considered masculine and the creative side of the brain is considered the feminine, sensitive side. To this all starts at childhood, so I think it’s important for parents and teachers to give girls mechanical sets.

We should all try our best but it shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of individuals. The Council should provide more outdoor space to grow your own things – fruits, vegetables, corn – whatever! It’s more sustainable. I would love for anyone to be able to walk into a supermarket and buy whatever they want and to have an abundance of food, but it’s just not possible.

I set up a free-for-all pantry in the studio. I wouldn’t say it was me, I would just do it. I set myself a budget of five pounds a week to get as much as I can and then everyone can help themselves. People in the studio can add to it they want but not forced to, or don’t have to spend as much as a fiver.

With Paradise Corns, I’m creating the food waste and I want it to look shocking. The project has so many layers. I don’t want to tell people what to take away from it – they may want to just take a corn puff! But I hope the work inspires people to question how food is made and consumed so we can create a future where people do not starve.

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