Graduates 2023: Melanie Woodward: Fine Art

“I would tell my 16 year old self that pursuing an art career is not naïve. Go for it!”

Please tell us a bit about your work and your influences

My works about my Motswana identity are often about having to renounce my nationality, as is required of all Batswana dual-citizenship holders at the age of twenty-one. In response to this, I adopt official government documentation processes, such as the taking of fingerprints, in rebellious acts of self-representation. Through fingerprint self-portraiture I reclaim autonomy over my identity and how it is documented.

In my works about food production and trade, I contrast ideas around Botswana’s food importation, with those of local production by pulping cardboard, transforming it from a vessel of food transportation to a mud-like site for crop growth. Interested in Botswana’s reliance on South African food imports and the consequent saturation of South African foods in Botswana, I highlight the overlooking of the origin of such food items as they become deeply integrated into Botswana’s food industry. Considering the threats that cross-country trade pose on Botswana’s local food industries, my collages and paintings often combine patriotic symbols of national self-reliance with Google Earth images of importation processes.

How have you found your course and what made you choose it?

The main reason I chose to study Fine Art was because of the creative freedom that the course offers. I have been able to make self-directed work exploring concepts and materials that interest me, while also having opportunities to get feedback from my peers and tutors through tutorials and crits. One of the reasons I chose to study at Brighton specifically was because of the student exhibition opportunities. My work has been shown in four exhibitions through the University which I have really appreciated.

Did you do a placement? If so could you tell us a bit about it.

I didn’t do a placement, but I did do a Fine Art Studio Residency in second year on the topic ‘Notions of Diasporic Identity’. For the five-day residency I chose to visit galleries and conduct online research into artists working with similar themes. The end of the residency involved doing a presentation reflecting on my research and contextualising my own practice within it.

What are your plans after graduation?

After graduation I look forward to having more time to make work and continue developing my art practice.

If you could give you 16 year old self any advice about going to University what would it be?

The advice I’d give to my 16 year old self about going to university is to study what you really want to, which is art. You don’t have to try and think of something more ‘realistic’ or ‘useful’ to study. For a long time I thought that being an artist would be nice, but that it would just never happen. I would tell her that pursuing an art career is not naïve. Go for it!

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