Ellen Brady is based in Nottinghamshire. Her practice is concerned predominantly with sound, photography, text and moving image. Her work is informed by how the materials and processes that make up different media operate. She also has a background as a musician which heavily influences her practice and she regularly collaborates with Angry Gang on projects and performances. Ellen graduated with a BA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London in 2016. She is an Associate Artist at Backlit Gallery, Nottingham and at General Practice, Lincoln. She has had exhibitions in London, the East Midlands and the Netherlands.
Where are you based?
Describe your practice for us
My practice is dominantly moving image and is rooted in an interest in storytelling and the different ways in which we try to communicate our experiences to others. I work mostly within and around the parameters of moving image, meaning that as well as moving image pieces I also work with sound, photography, text, performance and installation. It feels as if these materials sit very naturally together and lend themselves to, or reference moving image in some way.
How long have you been practising and by what route did you come to your practice?
I started to form and define my current practice about three years ago while still at Art School.
You’re interested in how the materials and processes that make up different media operate. As viewers of your work, are we aware of this?
That is my hope for the work, that gradually the viewer becomes increasingly aware of the mechanisms and materials that make up the work itself, I try to treat the body of the viewer as an active object within the space to allow this to happen. My work often aims to be immersive, however, it is important to me that the work also draws attention to the fact it is an immersive experience; it is something controlled and manufactured. My interest in using material in this way came out of a fascination with sound design and the way in which for example, in a cinema we are aware that sound is playing out from speakers yet we will suspend disbelief once the lights are dimmed. There’s something intriguing about the artifice of a cinematic space and the relationship between the three-dimensional sound playing in the space and the image projected onto what is a really quite limited flat and rectangular screen.
More generally, this approach has come out of an awareness of the role of moving image in how we perceive, communicate and filter experiences and information. I’m interested in how the constant viewing of digital images effects our perception and memories of events. I wonder what the implication of this might be, especially with the development of increasingly immersive virtual reality.
You work across disciplines. Has this approach stimulated your interest in exploring ideas of representation and experience, or did your interest lead you to develop a multi-artform practice?
These things seem to have formed naturally all together. I couldn’t pin point which came first.
You’re also a musician, does this have an influence on or a connection with your art practice?
My background in music has had a really strong influence on my approach to my practice. I don’t see a difference between working visually or with sound, it’s just another way to explore ideas so I try not to separate these parts of my practice. Sometimes visual works emerge from the work I am doing with sound, and I often produce scoring and music for my visual works. It is important for me to treat sound equally to any visual component of any audiovisual work.
Working musically and with sound has opened up avenues for collaboration within my practice. I often work with artists Nathan Baxter and Ross Oliver who also both have visual and auditory practices, to produce improvisational works and performances.
What is the most interesting or inspiring thing you have seen or been to recently, and why?
I saw Complicité’s The Encounter, which has just finished a run at Barbican Centre in London. The play uses sound design to immerse the audience in the story, but simultaneously shows the bones of the immersive sound experience. Even though you can see how what you’re hearing is being produced, you are still immersed in it. I am really interested in the role of imagination and imagined space, and The Encounter really plays with that. Also, from a purely technical point of view I found the play fascinating and really stimulating. I use a Binaural Head to generate sound for my own work, though usually I use this technology when out field recording. Recently I have been thinking about other ways of using it, and doing so live is something I’m particularly interested in.
Which other artists’ work do you admire, and why?
Katrina Palmer’s work ‘The Necropolitan Line’, which was installed at the Henry Moore Institute in 2016 still resonates with me today. This work, while controlling through our natural behaviours to certain kinds of spaces, treated the body of the viewer in a completely non-authoritarian manner allowing for each visitor to have a personal and subjective experience of the work. The work had so many layers and veins which an audience could engage with, I think about this a lot when considering my own work.
Where can people see your work?
On my website.
Ellen was interviewed in May 2018.
The images are courtesy of the artist.