One Day Retrospective: sarah filmer (Interview)

One Day Retrospective: sarah filmer On 27th June 2018, Southampton based artist sarah filmer took part in a One Day Retrospective in Arch 04 at the Arches Studios.

A few weeks on, ‘a space’ arts Program and Projects Assistant Mia Delve caught up with sarah to chat about the exhibition and reflect on how it may impact her practice.

Mia Delve: Hi sarah! How are you and what have you been up to since I saw you last?

sarah filmer: Hi Mia – The ODR was in the middle of a particularly busy time – I had to take the show down that evening, and then be ready the following day for 2 days of the ‘cultural city’ conference, where I had lots of fun inviting delegates to make ‘placards of ambition’ in which they pledged positive actions to further Southampton’s development towards ‘city of culture’. We then processed through the park to the John Hansard Gallery … fun times. Further work on the ‘social seating’ project I am working on for the old Ford site in Swaythling, a quick bit of vetting, packed my bags, and then 10 glorious offline days (no comms at all) in Cuba with Col and all our magnificent kids. Then Larmer Tree Festival, filming the Southampton Ukulele Jam. And now, trying to catch up with all that i have missed.

MD: last month, you did a One Day Retrospective at the Arches Studios, how did you prepare for the exhibition, what were your processes?

sf: I decided to do the ODR many months ago as I had been to Alys’s and realised how valuable it had been for her. Then suddenly mine was pending … I have been out of art school for 8 years now, and my practice has developed and changed and refined and diversified a lot during that time. Over the last few years, I have been very project led – even when I have devised the projects myself, they still hone your practice down to certain strands. I have many interests and I am starting to feel that some of them are dropping out of my everyday practice, and I am not comfortable with that. So I am planning to apply for a ‘developing your creative practice’ grant from Arts Council England later this year, or early next. You need a strong rationale for why the grant is right for you, so holding the ODR was my first step towards that. I literally went through my attic, my studio at home, my studio in Tower House, the storage area in Tower House, God’s House Tower, my computer, my hard drives, and other people’s walls, to collect together all that i could to try and give as full a representation of my work to date as possible.

MD: It sounds like you had a huge amount of work to sort through, how did you decide what to display and how to display it? What was your curatorial approach?

sf: I tried to show as much as possible. Originally, I thought about being strictly chronological, but we decided that would be confusing due to the multi-stranded nature of my work. In the end I decided that displaying it thematically was the answer, with broad groupings being: animal based work; yarn based work; collaborative work; video work; curatorial work; and sketchbooks. Inevitably, there were crossovers between the different groups, and some other strands emerged that I had been less aware of until they became apparent through this format – for example, it became clear to me how much my family and my everyday lived experiences are implicated in the work and the thinking behind it.

MD: What are your thoughts about the experience and how it might impact your practice, now you’ve had some time to think and reflect?

sf: I really don’t know where to start with this …. the experience itself was intense!! So much to sort through and revisit and display/share/show. So great to have 62 visitors who were generous with their thoughts and revelations – most people said they knew about the collaborative work I did with people, but had no idea re video/photography/drawing/satchel gallery etc works. It made me realise how important it is to have a good website that represents you and your work. I will be addressing this over the summer.

Watching friends, students, work colleagues and others leafing through my sketchbooks was a peculiar feeling – it was tantamount to people rifling through my brain – exposing, immediate, responsive, reactive, personal, intuitive, unmediated mind material out there for the world to peruse. It was interesting to hear the thoughts of the Winchester MA curation students, as well as many of my own ex and current students coming along and turning the tables – they took great pleasure in pointing out that they were now free to give me a little critical feedback (they were pretty kind, actually!). In terms of my practice, it was a surprise to me to revisit older works and realise that they still had merit and relevance – I think that as an artist, you are so focused on the work you are making today, that you tend to forget the work you have made before. I was blown away by the thinking that others had around my work – it was a good example of how meaning is not fixed, despite intention.

I have transcribed the interviews that you so kindly did with several of the visitors – thank you so much Mia, without them, I think a lot of the feedback would have been lost – and there are some really insightful comments. I was very taken by Andy Jones’s noting of the formal relationship between the knitting needles and the blue jumper and the veterinary instruments and the removed tissues. I have never made this connection, often feeling there is a disconnect between these bodies of work, but am now keen to pursue that line of thinking in some new work. I could go on forever – it is a huge luxury to have such generous interaction with one’s whole body of work – this format has so much potential as a tool for learning for both artists and visitors.


One Day Retrospective is a series of exhibitions hosted by ‘a space’ arts and located at the Arches Studios. Every other month, a new artist will be invited to install their work in Arch 04 and contribute to a small program of activities and events.

Taking part in a One Day Retrospective provides the opportunity, time and space for an artist to reflect on their artistic career and receive feedback from new and established audiences. For visitors, the experience will provide a unique insight into the processes and development of an artist’s practice.

Our next One Day Retrospective will be hosted by Emma Richardson on Thursday 26th July and will be open to the public from 2pm.