the cornish arts and culture magazine

Interview: Enticing the marvellous from the mundane is keeping Joely Mae Greally on her feet

Mundane was surely one of the catchwords from lockdown, where a trip to Lidl was a highlight of the week, the park bench became your local and your small talk game became even more abysmal. We spoke to Joely Mae Greally about how the seemingly mundane and the overlooked is where you can sometimes find the miraculous. Joely shares an experimental short film that explores relationships, human interactions and understanding - all things we’re hoping to get more of as things slowly edge towards a normality. Joely’s enticing video and stunning photos effortlessly close the gap between the tiresome and the miraculous.

Yew! Magazine: Hey Joely, wanted to ask about your preferred mediums. I can see that you often use more than one, is that important for you?

Joely Mae Greally: I generally work in and with experimental filmmaking, fine art photography and installation but I also occasionally work with performance and sound as well as writing poetry. All of the mediums I work with are interconnected and hold significant ties to one another once you explore my practice more! Whether it be themes, underlying intent or aesthetic choices, I like my work to work through connectivity and subtle links which can reciprocate one another, this is why it is vital I work with more than one.

YM: Lockdown looks like it may have some end in sight, how did it change the way you work?

JMG: I feel like lockdown encouraged me to be more chaotic in the way I work, simply because of the lack of physical freedom allowed. I was able to learn how to become more artistically free while attempting to be resourceful and fixated on sides of life that are often ignored or looked past. Making work about the mundane and the marvellous - it’s often the opposites and blatant differences that keep me curious and on my feet.

YM: You’re originally from Manchester, but I know that you have spent a lot of time in Cornwall. On the surface they seem like very different places, can you draw any parallels? What draws you to Cornwall?

JMG: They are both different but have some surprising similarities. I am, as of the last two years, living and working in Cornwall and I am fascinated by the slower pace of life. I am captivated by the people from both places though. Both cities and coasts often contain people I am interested in iconifying with my photographs and poems and practice all-round. For this part, the whereabouts doesn’t matter what intrigues me is the characters, street walkers and friends alike.

I like the sense of community in Cornwall. I enjoy that it feels far away from cityscapes, as I feel that it gives me more time to look inwards alone and with collectives. The fact that Cornwall keeps its own little spaces for communities is also so important. In Manchester there is always something to see, there is almost too much going on. In Cornwall (although of course physically beautiful) I am forced to look and find the idiosyncrasies and the peculiar, things I often want to feed back to my work.

YM: While looking through your work, I’m grabbed by the abundance of charm that’s apparent throughout. How do you capture this, how do you approach a subject?

JMG: I set out to iconify people, objects, scenarios and experiences. I like the idea of trying to make things that can often be ignored feel sacred and still, instead of swallowed and spat out through time. I am not certain where the charm comes from, maybe from the way I am initially charmed by the subject or the subject matter - it can be a good or a bad charm, but it’s still charm per-say and both are exciting.

Approaching a subject can often be quite meditative. When it comes to approaching people as subjects I suppose it comes from a place of charm but also curiosity. I’m also drawn to strange shapes, subtle movements and moments in time, anything that makes me want to contemplate through imagery, word and video. I also enjoy the idea of mediums working in a visceral way, I often double up or change the way I describe my practice so it fits it more in my mind. At the moment I find myself ‘painting’ with words, photographs and videos.

YM: Can you speak on the recordings you’ve shared with us today?

JMG: The tape I have shared with Yew! today is an experimental short film shot at the place I was living at in Cornwall, but the words are much to do with my strange attachment to Manchester, its people and past scenarios. It’s quite universal though and can be applied to anything really - relationships, human interactions and understandings. Again, this project was really set out to iconify my place in Cornwall, iconify the surroundings and everyday objects - the small excerpt of my poem over the top moulds the film into something different. The poem speaks differently now to what I intended it to - it almost seems as though the tape is a two minute pining and whining. It could also be a homage to times past - I like the idea of spectators making it their own, attaching it to their situations. I like to screen my video works instead of having them play through a screen online, it gives space for reaction in real time. By no means do I try and romanticise, but the lover in me likes to fall through (explains the softer aesthetics I often go for).

YM: What other projects do you have upcoming?

JMG: I am working on a photo and poetry book which is due to be released in November and published by Ceremony Press, a wonderful independent printed matter and art book publisher based in Manchester. ‘Good To Be Around’ is the name of the book and is the start of my venture to iconify everyday people and things. It’s a series of images that I am currently still working on that has spanned over the last eighteen months or so working in Cornwall, Germany and Italy. I am also the co-founder of a new artist initiative called the ‘Arts Culture Commune’ which is a fundraising project offering workshops, exhibitions and events in creative areas in hopes to raise money for an artist commune and residency my partner and I plan to set up in Europe in the near future. We’re hoping to champion artists from all over, escape the rat race and live alongside like minded individuals celebrating life through the arts. This is all in the future of course, our first fundraising exhibition will be on Saturday the 11th of September in Falmouth, open to all and there will be more information about this coming soon on our page. Within my personal practice, expect more experimental films, photographs and projects that can hopefully bring people together in the physical world, this is what is most important to me.

︎ Follow Joely on Instagram.

Tags | Q&A, Interview

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