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Artist Abigail Reynolds on being featured in the British Art Show 9

Abigail Reynolds is the only South West based artist to be featured in The British Art Show 9. She lives and works in St Ives in the far west of Cornwall. Her work in embraces sculpture, collage, print, moving image and performance, often involving both the local landscape and its communities, as well as history, literature and ritual.

Much of her art is inspired by her deep love of books and libraries. In this, the first of three filmed interviews with Abigail, she discusses why she’s so pleased to have made a contribution to BAS9.

Being invited to participate in British Art Show 9 was really important to me because I’ve seen so many previous editions of the British Art Show. We’re on number nine. It was a post-war initiative really that the South Bank Centre based… The Haywood Gallery in London would make a survey show every five years and that show was supposed to be like a survey or a summary of what was really interesting happening in British art now. 

So of course it’s wonderful to be invited to participate because this is a kind of summary of where we are with art now. What’s interesting now? What are artists thinking about now that feels relevant and valuable? And so there’s also this great sense that it’s a wider, national dialogue. It’s not just people in London going to see something. It’s for everybody, which I also found really exciting.

The first British Art Show I ever went to was in Birmingham and I really remember going when I was a student, and I wasn’t even a student of art, and it just really stayed with me. So I was absolutely delighted to be invited to participate and, for me, I’ve worked in every city so this edition of the British Art Show has a lot of artists but none of the artists are showing in every city because there are too many. 

I’m slightly different case because I was invited to work with libraries in every city. So, in Plymouth I am showing a sculpture in a gallery, The Levinsky, but I’m also continuing this work at The Box that I’ve begun in three libraries earlier in the tour. So, for me, it’s been a huge amount of production to work with all of those libraries but it’s been absolutely wonderful and it’s really given me a feeling of culture in these different cities. Aberdeen, being so far north, Wolverhampton, Manchester, they’re all such different places, very different to the South West.

I don’t know what it will lead to. I would love to continue to work with libraries in different ways and I would like to just continue the conversations that I feel have arisen while I’ve been working.

The British Art Show, in terms of legacy, for me, I guess it places my work with all of these earlier editions, happening every five years, with some incredible artwork there so that’s wonderful. There are catalogs for every show. There’s just a feeling of having been there and made a contribution to this cultural conversation, which, as an artist, is what I want. It’s what I want most, is to be instrumental in shaping what that conversation is culturally for us now in Britain.

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