After following the progression of this year’s SOLO Award since the competition was first announced, we are so thrilled to share that a winner has been selected!
Hopefully, you had a chance to view the incredible shortlisted artists’ works on our ArtAttack App, which we were honoured to exclusively showcase on the ‘Curated Art’ page. Well, one of these talented creatives is now the big winner! We are thrilled to introduce Victoria Lucas!
Victoria is a Sheffield-based artist represented by Mark Devereaux Projects. She received her BA (hons) in Fine Art (Sculpture) from Norwich School of Art and Design in 2004, followed by her MFA Fine Arts from the University of Leeds in 2007. Currently, she is a Fine Art Lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, Preston.
Victoria’s artworks are often initiated by a physical encounter with a place, site or landscape. By concentrating on these contexts and their current or former inhabitants, she develops conceptual narratives that subvert and categorise events and myths using a site’s materiality as a catalyst.
We had the chance to speak with Victoria about her SOLO Award victory and greater artistic practice.
ArtAttack: What is your first memory of creating art and when did you decide you wanted to pursue art as a career?
Victoria Lucas: My experiences in education played a significant role in steering me towards a career in the arts. The processes involved in art-making gave me a voice I felt I didn’t have in other subjects, and enabled me to question and challenge specific aspects of my social and cultural environment. Invaluable guidance and support from academic tutors and technicians throughout further and higher education enabled me to refine these processes and develop a critically informed art practice.
I have many memories of art-making, but I wouldn’t necessarily call the resulting objects resolved artworks. That came much later, once I had learnt how to communicate and resolve ideas. I would probably say that the work I made for my MFA Degree Show at the University of Leeds back in 2007 was the first time I felt that I was an artist.
AA: How did you hear about the SOLO Award and how did you decide which of your works to submit for the prestigious prize?
VL: My current project was devised after I received an invitation to develop a new video work for an exhibition in the Mojave Desert in California last September. I was awarded a semester long sabbatical from the University of Central Lancashire, where I currently hold an academic position, and I spent one month exhibiting and researching in California before returning to my Sheffield-based studio to develop a significant body of work and a PhD proposal. I have submitted work for the SOLO Award before and wasn’t successful, but I feel that this current body of work is much more conceptually resolved than previous submissions – mainly as a result of the uninterrupted studio and research time that my sabbatical provided. I begin a part-time PhD at Sheffield Hallam University in October 2016.
Psychedelic Westerns, detail of photograph in installation, dimensions variable, 2016
AA: Your winning piece, ‘Lay of the land (and other such myths)’ seems to be inspired by the American Western film genre. Can you tell me the inspiration/reason behind this choice? I am especially interested in the feminist aspects you seem to allude to in the ‘Women on Horses’ portion.
VL: The only desert experience I had before venturing to California last year was through cinematic portrayals. When developing the video work prior to travelling to Joshua Tree for the exhibition, I began to consider my impending experience as a woman alone in the desert through selected films shot in and around the Mojave Desert. The films I found repeatedly portrayed the female character as secondary to the male protagonist, who subsequently controls, dominates and manipulates the woman in different ways. Psychological distress is misrepresented as a female trait rather than the consequence of an unhealthy, oppressive relationship and women are framed as sexual objects through the mechanics of film. Most interestingly, the female characters are portrayed as vulnerable if left alone in the desert, susceptible to abuse, rape or death if caught by the wrong man without a chaperone. Unsurprisingly, all of the film directors are male.
Experiencing the desert first hand was a completely different experience to the cinematic representations that had warned me to stay indoors. I stayed at the isolated gallery site alone for a number of nights. There were no technologies of gender, no cultural controls over my body, no gender specific self-awareness, no threat of being kidnapped, raped or murdered like the films warned. This landscape took away the oppressive nature of my socially constructed gender and allowed me to know myself for the first time without a cultural veil. Subsequently, I was drawn to the Alabama Hills in Owens Valley as a site because the area was specifically used as a Hollywood film set in the early to mid 20th Century. The Western film genre cinematically retells the history of the American West, from a specifically white male perspective, whilst omitting the voices of women. This layering of truth and imagination felt like a rich context in which to explore notions of gender.
One example of the work developed as part of this broader project includes ‘Women on Horses’ (2016), which comprises found footage extracted from westerns filmed in the Alabama Hills. Each woman has been ‘rescued’ from their aggressive male pursuers through the editing process, and by ‘freeing’ them they ride through the landscape alone and on their own terms.
AA: When putting together a dynamic installation such as ‘Lay of the land (and other such myths)’ what is your artistic process? How do you decide the various elements you want to include in the work?
VL: The fluctuating seam between what is reality and what is fiction with reference to place-making is an important aspect of my work. Psychological, political, historical and fictional contexts form primary resource material, and areas of popular culture are examined against historical mythologies and assumptions that I feel impact significantly on the need for a more gender-neutral system. Various theorists and scholars inform this research.
I am also currently taking inspiration from the film industry, for example the gold boulders and photographic partitions in ‘Lay of the land (and other such myths)’ refer to constructed film sets that frame events and actions. I am interested in what we don’t see, or what is obstructed from view when depicting a place or landscape cinematically. Video is a fantastic medium because it provides me with the freedom to generate a utopian, fictional reality that imagines a new form of liberation – away from the controlling agendas that frame contemporary society.
AA: Any advice you can give to emerging artists trying to navigate the art world?
VL: Maintain a balanced perspective.
Remember that mistakes are part of the process.
Be critically informed and work hard.
The rest will follow.
– India Irving
Victoria Lucas’ winning work, ‘Lay of the land (and other such myths),’ will be on view at her very own stall at the London Art Fair 2017 from 18-22 January.
For more on Victoria:
For more on the SOLO Award: