'Journey to Self' - Interview with artist Ann Healey

By Chrom-Art Director Beata Kozlowska

Having just moved back to England after 17 years away, a multitude of events and experiences have help define the art of Ann Healey. Following a Fine Art & Mathematics degree and two subsequent years broking in London, Healey left England to embark on a 12 month journey around the world. Following two months in Asia, and just three weeks into the Australian leg of her journey, whilst trying to drive from Sydney to Perth, engine failure and two weeks of orange picking lead Healey to return to Singapore. Never intending for it to be permanent, she stayed for 17 years, building up a successful career as an artist. In 2015, she decided to come home to England, with no real plan other than ‘ it will all go well’  which, so far, seems to be prophetic.

Ann Healey’ s work is informed by elements from both her country of birth and the country where she spent almost two decades. Healey integrates the decoration of her childhood-patterns from old wallpaper, material collected by her maternal grandmother and elements of graffiti-with components of Asian inspired design and popular culture, referencing cartoon imagery in particular. Using technology to manipulate the abstract shapes, figures and partially obscured structures, she alters the original components of the work, in a process that deforms and then reforms the original parts into an unfamiliar actuality.

 

Ann Healey received a First Class degree in the combined studies of Fine Art Painting and Mathematics from Liverpool University after completing her Foundation Course at Central Saint Martins. She has held thirteen solo exhibitions around Asia as well as taking part in numerous group shows in galleries including the Singapore Art Museum and The Esplanade. She has been commissioned by brands from F1 Night Race Singapore to the Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore


 

How would you describe your practice? Do you feel that working simultaneously on your mixed media and printing practice and also creating your commercial art for magazines influence each other?

I would describe my practice in the same way that I would describe my life - as a work in constant fluctuation, but always in progress. Don't go halfway. Go all the way - dissect your brain. Present it on a disposable plate to be consumed and discarded. Nothing is permanent. Learn to love what you create unconditionally and then look at it with the disdain that you would perceive an unfaithful lover. Don't believe anything that anyone tells you just because they shout. Listen to those that remain silent. I think that it would be difficult to entirely compartmentalise different areas of work and life, and so they do affect each other to certain degrees. I studied both Maths and Fine Art at university and I think that, often, it is the mathematical influence that is pervasive throughout all my work.

 

You have been travelling quite extensively and lived abroad? What inspires you in choosing the themes of your works?

I tend not to consciously choose a theme, but rather allow my work to evolve and refine my thoughts. It tends to be about what I am interested in, or involved with, at the current time. Time has a lot to do with how my thoughts are shaped, meaning that they are prone to constant change and that can be a challenge when trying to establish a fixed point of departure.  I’ m inspired all the time - by everything that I see and hear. There is so much to take in at any one moment - we are literally bombarded by external stimuli - sometimes the challenge is to create a filter or an impenetrable wall so that it does not become overwhelming. For about two months, I have been fairly obsessed with the micro details in the cement that can yield the 

most incredible patterns when magnified and repeated. They become like a meditation for me. Most mornings, my day starts with taking pictures of the road, the concrete and occasionally saving a snail.


In your practice you use quite diverse media, especially within printing and mixed media techniques. How does it relate to your experiments with sounds and video work? What are your favourite media to express yourself?

Technology has transformed art in a variety of ways, from creation to distribution, to constructing producers from consumers. Many artists are turning to various aspects of technology with which to experiment. I think having the choice to work in a multiplicity of disciplines, across a diverse range of mediums keeps the work more interesting as there is awareness that you may discard this method of production at any given time. There’ s impermanence in that, which I find appealing. The one that I am working in at the current time is always my favourite. Much like life!

What is the main message in your art? How important is the audience in your work?    

Right now, I am looking at two primary themes – identity and impermanence.  We live in a society where we spend a disproportionate amount of time attempting to elicit a response from an online audience. I think that as human beings, we have always had a desire to be validated by others. We want to know that the audience is listening. Certain members of my audience are obviously important to me, but I think that fundamentally, you have to be your own spectator. That doesn’ t mean that you have to love everything that you do or create, but to be mindful enough to acknowledge your achievements, and make adjustments with respect to your failures. After all that is done, and you are confident in your own centre, then you can make time to listen to the cheers (or the slow claps) from everyone else. 

Could you please tell us about the creative process since initial thoughts to completion?

It’ s like picking out the pieces of your brain, at first carefully, whilst you try to make sense of what is actually in there and draw some logical conclusions from it. Then, when you realise that your brain is anything but logical, you decide that there must be a better way, and so you decide that a liquidizer is the solution, only to realise, that this was not a good idea, and so you start, once again, from zero, (sometimes whilst crying) and try to build from nothingness.

 

What would be your dream collaboration?

That’ s a difficult question as there are many people that I would love to collaborate with in a variety of processes. Right now, it would probably be a collective comprised of someone from the music industry, a dancer, an IT expert and a filmmaker. I like the idea of them all being women too. We are vastly underrepresented and immeasurably misrepresented.


Who has influenced you the most? Would you say Asian Culture had a significant impact on your art practice?

My family, in all of its permutations. I feel that Asian Culture has had a significant impact on aspects of my own identity and that has permeated through, into my art. It is difficult to explain something that is so much a part of you, and it was only when I left England, that I was gradually able to look at my home as an observer and see the 

construction of our society and the subtle nuances that are specific to the UK. So in understanding that, I can now see the parts of me that have transformed. There’ s an incredible art scene in Asia, and visually, I am sure that it has impacted aspects of my work, especially in terms of some of the design that I incorporate.


What other artists do you admire? What is your favourite piece of art?

I admire any artists that are going out in the industry and pushing boundaries in order to expand their creative process. I admire anyone who makes time to create...anything. Art is such an exposure of the soul. To have the courage to share fragments of ourselves with others is brave, especially when everyone's a critic, so I admire all people who are laying themselves open to that. With that said, I love Zanele Muholi’ s work. Today, anything by her would be my favourite piece of art.

 

How would you describe the current art scene in London and UK? The arts scene has always been extraordinary in London and the UK. I am still constantly inspired by seeing what people are doing here. I recently went to see The Diary of a Hounslow Girl and walked out of there thinking ‘ I need to do more’ . 


Could you tell us a little bit more about your forthcoming projects?

I have some exciting things lined up for this year. I once said in an interview that I was probably going to leave Asia within twelve months, and then, with that being printed as “Ann Healey will be leaving Asia this year”, had to follow through and leave, I am forever mindful of doing what I say that I will do - whether with family, friends or interviews! So, with that said - I’ m developing a body of work based on gender identity and how that relates to transmissions of power. I am also working on a collaboration with Tonisha Tagoe, a film maker, amongst many other accomplishments, which will be complete in about 8 months. Any musicians, IT people or dancers out there?! 

More information about the Artist available on www.annhealey.com

Write a comment

Comments: 3
  • #1

    Diane McCann (Monday, 20 June 2016 09:47)

    Absolutely astonishing Ann, you are remarkable, as ever. All our love Diane & Robert xx

  • #2

    Sandy Walker (Thursday, 23 June 2016)

    Fabulous interview, fabulous art, fabulous woman. Great stuff Annie

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