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Gabi Marcellus-Temple

As we explore the legacy of The British Art Show 9 we take a look at some of the people that were inspired by it and inspired others too. None more so than the brilliant ambassadors, representatives from the local community, who tirelessly developed collaborations and engagement through a range of relevant and tailored activities, targeted at a specific community groups or networks.

My name’s Gabi Marcellus-Temple and I’m a freelance visual artist, writer and translator. I’ve been doing this for… ages and ages! I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil and began my working life as a translator, gradually working more and more in writing in general and the visual arts. My practice as a visual artist is really diverse – it can include drawing, installation, performance, ceramics…

What are you working on at the moment? What was your role/project as BAS9 ambassador?

I’ve been quite focussed on drawing recently, although that may change in my next project. It certainly forms a very important part of the BAS9 ambassador project I worked on with Louise Rabey, an illustrator, as we’ve included lots of drawings of dragons we’ve invented as disabled characters navigating the British Art Show in the city. We invented a game where people follow their routes and gain a first hand understanding of what it’s like to go around Plymouth and its cultural venues when you have a disability.

You can see it on our website www.followthedragons.co.uk!

What do you generally hope to achieve through your work? Has this changed over time?

In this project, we’re hoping to raise awareness and understanding of what it’s like to experience the world as a disabled person. There are lots of things which you never consider unless you need to, like finding dropped kerbs when you need to cross the road or knowing where there’s a quiet space if you need to take a bit of time. 

Generally, as an artist, my work is about communicating something from the artist to the viewer and exploring different ways to do that, whether it’s experiencing something in a language which you don’t speak or a visceral reaction to an immersive installation.

Where does your inspiration come from?

It is a pretty broad question, but so are my sources of inspiration! I’ve noticed that creative people seem to look at things differently, picking out little bits here and there, which feed into what they do. It can be the quality of light shining through a leaf, a particular expression overheard on a bus, another artist’s work, something which has an emotional impact… In my case, these things go round in my mind until they become cemented into an idea.

How do you think your work impacts the community in Plymouth? What do you hope people will take away from it?

It’s quite unusual for me to work on a project which is so family friendly, which is interesting! But I really want everyone to feel included and able to join in and have fun! Often, as mentioned above, it’s about communicating a message to people who come across my work and encouraging them to think more about things which I feel are important, like women’s safety or mental health.

Why are you based in Plymouth? What is it about living and working in Plymouth that attracts/keeps you here?

Apart from family connections – Plymouth is where my adult children have been born and raised – I enjoy a lot of things Plymouth has to offer. Geographically, in particular, it’s an amazing place with a lot more to offer than people realise and a lot of exciting things going on. Professionally, Plymouth differs from a lot of places where I’ve lived and worked because it’s always developing and changing, which is really exciting. Audiences are really varied and not afraid to let you know what they think, which is brilliant in terms of feedback and finding out what your work means to people. Even when a response is negative, it’s really interesting to find out why and what motivates a person to think that.

What path did you take to get to this point? Were there any particular organisations that stand out to you that have been crucial on your journey?

Educationally, I followed a kind of two-fold path, studying writing and languages academically through universities and studying art informally through practice and working with artists I got to know in and around Plymouth – I used to work at Flameworks, which had a lot of different practitioners based there and really got me into working with ceramics and putting on shows and events, not to mention putting my own work out there.

Another organisation which was really important, and which I’ve recently started working with again, is VAP (Visual Arts Plymouth), the group behind the Plymouth Art Weekender. I was one of the original members of VAP and it was great to be able to mould and shape the progression of culture in the city. Now we’re in a position where we need to professionalise and come back with a bang after the pandemic, which is another exciting challenge.

What would be your advice to creatives starting their careers? 

I know it’s really hard, but you need to show people your work and what you’re doing. So read at open mic nights, submit to publications and websites, get out there on social media, put your work in exhibitions… A lot of artists would be happier if they never had to show their work to anyone, but that’s not how it works!

Taking time to network is also really important – and it can be fun! Go to as many industry events, private views, talks etc as you can. There might be free drinks, if nothing else, and getting to know people can help a lot.

It’s really important, and not at all easy, to be resilient. You’ll be writing a lot of applications and getting turned down most of the time. Just keep asking for feedback, fine tuning them and churning them out…

Finally, just keep doing it. Whatever it is that you do creatively, keep on with it. If you face a block, set yourself a task to do as an exercise – write a story about the first thing you see when you look out of the window, finish a sketch in the time it takes your bus to arrive, something simple like that – and it’ll start to flow.

What are your hopes for your work in the future? What do you hope to achieve?

I guess my main hope is to keep working, to be able to make a living and work on the projects I want to do. I’ve always got a few ideas at the back of my mind that I want to develop at some point and getting them out there is always the next thing on the list. I don’t go in for five year plans and things like that – life’s too unpredictable – I just move from one thing to the next. I’m about to start a residency with the Barbican Theatre and Citybus which should be really interesting and I can’t wait to see how it develops.

What are your hopes for Plymouth? What do you think it should aspire to be? What do you hope it can become? How do you think we need to evolve or change? What does the city need to do better?

I think Plymouth is on the right track to becoming a really interesting and exciting place in terms of culture. It’s really important at this point that we keep working towards creating the environment we want to see, getting graduates and students involved in everything that’s going on and reaching out to new audiences. In the future, I’d really like to see the art weekender and Pride getting back on their feet again, as both have been severely impacted by the pandemic and are looking for additional support.

What’s the one cultural venue/place/work/person you would recommend to an outsider visiting Plymouth? Why?

It would depend who the outsider was and what their interests were, to be honest. I often tell people about Leadworks in Stonehouse, which is a great venue and does a lot for the arts and the local community. Working with CAMP is really interesting and a great way to build connections throughout the region as we expand – good for advice and guidance for professionals. Plymouth Culture are always friendly and supportive too. I’m leaving a lot of people out here, Plymouth has a lot to offer!

As we explore the legacy of The British Art Show 9 we take a look at some of the people that were inspired by it and inspired others too. None more so than the brilliant ambassadors, representatives from the local community, who tirelessly developed collaborations and engagement through a range of relevant and tailored activities, targeted at a specific community groups or networks.
As we explore the legacy of The British Art Show 9 we take a look at some of the people that were inspired by it and inspired others too. None more so than the brilliant ambassadors, representatives from the local community, who tirelessly developed collaborations and engagement through a range of relevant and tailored activities, targeted at a specific community groups or networks.

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