Across the past ten months, the £10,000 Arts Foundation Futures award Fellowship has transformed my career as a visual artist in myriad ways. From the effect that such a substantial and sudden injection of capital has had on my mental wellbeing, providing me for the first time since leaving home with a solid, financial safety net, to the sense of validation and boost in confidence that the accolade of becoming a fellow has afforded me. Immediately after winning the award, initial press opportunities and media appearances included; appearances on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row, NTS Radio’s Rough Version and BBC Spotlight (South-West), a long-form feature in the Financial Times’ Arts section, a double page spread in print in Elephant Magazine and most recently, being listed by Lubaina Himid as her “artist to watch” in Harper’s Bazaar’s November 2021 Bazaar Art supplement.
I was given the opportunity to undertake a site-specific commission at the Chelsea Sorting Office in South-West London. The brief for this project involved me being required to respond to the vast, dilapidated, historic space, full of uncanny geometry, colour and texture. I had planned a three-month production period in the space, with a view for my show – incorporating many elements from sculpture, to drawing to film – to run for around six weeks once complete. However, after being in the space for one week and with production under way, the curators informed me that their guardianship in the building had suddenly been revoked and that the site was to be demolished within a month. I was forced to adapt rapidly to this change in lead time, lifting forms and imagery from drawings and maquettes that I had produced during the lockdown period, consolidating them into one, large-scale sculpture. Fallen towers, pink hazy light and tartan cloth, cycles of human creation and destruction, muscle, tendon and skin were all reflected in what became a poignant work for many – towering over the viewer at 4m high in the space, the imprint of the now lost building held within stitched and soaked newsprint. I was so grateful to be able to dedicate three weeks of unadulterated time to this project, by virtue of the financial security of the prize money, without which, it certainly would not have been possible.
Shortly after my solo exhibition, A Tower to Say Goodbye at the Chelsea Sorting Office, I began a working relationship with a dealer called Alex Vardaxoglou, who owns a gallery in Holland Park under the same name. In July, Alex hosted a solo presentation of six of my drawings,
wherein I had my first ever sale of works to a renowned collector. Two pairs of drawings sold during my online presentation with Alex entitled, Tanoa Sasraku: Hands and Plaids. I discovered that when I received payment from these sales, I had a compulsion to transfer the
majority of the money into my savings account. This was the first occasion on which I had ever contributed a substantial amount of money to my savings. It dawned on me that having the money from the fellowship as a starting point had encouraged me to save further with my
subsequent earnings. I believe that winning the AFFA prize money has given me far more control over my spending and greater confidence in my ability to save effectively, as I have managed to save an additional £5000 this year.
By July 2021, I realised that I had not yet spent a substantial amount of the £10,000 prize on anything other than basic living and materials costs. With the knowledge that I would be commencing my studies on the postgraduate course at the Royal Academy Schools in October
2021, I decided that I wanted to utilise a sizeable amount of the money to temporarily change my environment and push my practice into unfamiliar territory. I used £1600 of the fellowship money to pay for myself and my partner to undertake a month-long artists’ residency on the Isle of Skye, hosted by Wasps Studios. The Admiral’s House Residency site was located in Portree, the capital of Skye, and my partner, Chiorstaidh and I shared a studio in an incredible location overlooking the Sound of Raasay, as we balanced our time between working in the
studio on new forms and process and exploring the island by car and on foot. Prior to my arrival in Skye, I had been engaging in talks with Spike Island Gallery in Bristol, wherein I happily accepted an offer to produce a solo show at the gallery, opening in May 2022 and thus, I went to Skye with the partial intention to develop prototype works for this major commission.
Whilst on the island, I developed a new practice of pigment foraging; locating, collecting, processing and applying ochres found in the soil and on the beds and banks of rivers. The colour pallet of these pigments ranged from intense, mustard yellows, through bright reds to dusty purples, located on various, dramatic parts of the island. It was a fascinating process which provided me with a heightened appreciation for the British rural landscape and a completely new colour pallet for my sculptural works and drawings. I also utilised natural water sources during the production process of my works made on Skye; soaking stitched, pigmented newsprint panels in salt and freshwater, respective of the origin of the pigment present in each work, before tearing through the paper layers to reveal abstract landscapes, rock and weather formations. I was also inspired by the hard, geometric forms found in electrical power stations dotted around the island, which would puncture through the rising and sweeping Beinns and valleys. These power stations and distribution lines informed the geometric forms present in the works made on and will go on to inform the works that I will produce for my show at Spike Island.
Coming towards the end of this year and the final portion of the fellowship, I feel confident in my ability as a working, earning artist and delighted that despite the adverse conditions produced by the pandemic, my practice has blossomed exponentially, thanks to the AFFA and my determination to use the fellowship to as full an extent as possible. I am currently settling into my place at the Royal Academy Schools and in addition to my show at Spike Island next year, I will be participating in projects and exhibitions with; Hospital Rooms(Torbay Hospital), John Hansard Gallery, Goldsmiths CCA, Tate Liverpool and Vardaxoglou.