River Sweeney image

Interview with River Sweeney Visual Artist

I am in the last stage of my two-year part-time master’s degree in Fine art at the University of Brighton, my degree was in Drama & theatre from Goldsmiths University London, where I majored in Live Art. My work focuses on aspects of representation within the media and considers identity and racial profiling here in the UK and USA. Recently in my video Blink, Blink explored the notion of youth violence and challenges the assertion that young melanin men are the only violent group around the world

My influences are from various genres and include, Faith Ringgold, Spike Lee, Kwame Kwei-Armah, Maria Abramovic, Larry Achiampong, Arthur Jafa and Bruce Nauman.

Injustices and the love of creativity inspire me to be in action and find diverse mediums to challenge discrimination unfair treatment of various groups and cultures.  Since I was a child, I was curious, intrigued and inspired by the notion of television, film and theatre came later.

Throughout my career I have strived to use my art to challenge the status quo and injustices here and around the world. The themes I explore through my work are representation within the media and considers identity and racial profiling here in the UK and USA. Employing video, sound, performance and fine art I examine current issues and inequalities that take place in the African and Caribbean diaspora. I choose to work in a non-linear way to provide a discourse to encourage discussion and provoke shifts in any singular perception in a gallery setting and site-specific locations.

Through the MA I have developed a new approach to my work, which has led me to create a new way of storytelling. The course is broad and allowed me to move in any direction, yet it is well structured.  These were perfect conditions for me to increase my confidence after my mother died five years prior.

Equally the course is designed to keep self-doubt to a minimum; during the first three months of the course we have to participate in a pop-up exhibition, this immediately gets you creating new work.

When creating my video art, I do not consider my target audience, my process is instinctual and fluid. Although the feedback I have had from viewers from the African Caribbean diaspora was equally the same as other cultures, although the first group enjoyed the techniques used to tell a very familiar story. My work is designed for audiences to bring their own interpretation to my videos; however, my aim is to evoke thought and discussion whilst provoking shifts in any singular perception.

I do not believe it is my place to speak for other artist, but as we deal with pressing concerns; such as climate change and continued racsium, artist may be compelled to include these environmental and cultural themes into their work. Personally, I think artist are in a key position as we ‘see’ political and social issues visually rather than theoretically. Also exhibiting political art in gallery spaces can highlight subjects such as racial profiling that some audience member may have no real knowledge of or understanding.

The themes in my work have been consistent over time I use creativity to address political or social issues that compel me, but I am always seeking new vehicles to tackle these issues, some of the vehicles include, theatre in education, Forum theatre in Prisons docudramas, designing and delivering personal and professional training programmes. for young people at risk, graduates and further education colleges.

After completing my master’s degree, I want to source some residences so I can focus solely on my practice and push the boundaries further in my work. I aim to do more exhibitions and establish myself as a visual artist.

In 2021/222 I would like to embark interdisciplinary PhD, social sciences and fine art so I can do more research in my field.

See more of Rivers work on the Graduate Show website and on her website www.riversweeneyvisualartist.com


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