Yew!

the cornish arts and culture magazine

Learn what The Lizard, Miami, Muskrats, a puddle and Emma’s figurehead have in common via Yew Mail



A meandering email exchange between Eleanor Turnbull and Emma Rose Kennedy


“I have really fallen in love with Penwith - surely there can be no place more beautiful and full of magic and mystery!”

We love the idea of two artists in conversation with one another, the coronavirus pandemic has limited that, so we’ve fashioned the idea of a meandering email exchange between two auspicious artists. Modern pen pals. We hoped that allowing artists to interview each other uncovers a new level of understanding that perhaps a journalist couldn’t unlock. With minimal guidance and not much form, we were curious to see where these email exchanges would take us and the reader. Our first pairing exceeded our expectation by providing a colorful and intimate insight into two artists and their convivial world.

At first glance Emma Rose Kennedy, the intricate painter from Miami and Eleanor Turnbull, the mesmerizing moulder from County Durham may not have a lot in common. Enter the alluring notion of Cornwall and the teachings of Slade and you have a companionship that creates colourful stories accompanied by profound conversation. In this meandering email exchange we learn that Cornwall and Slade isn’t the only common ground that these two artists share, the commitment to their craft, their endless humour and their vivid imagination adds another level to their already breathtaking art. Peek behind the instagram feed to see how these artists are formed.




Emma:
Hello ! I’m so so excited we were paired, I’ve been crushing on your pewter biscuits from afar for far too long ! I think we lapped over at the Slade for a brief bit before lockdown but we haven’t yet had the chance to collide, so i’ll introduce myself a little virtually.

I’m emma, from a little outside Miami, near the swamp. I moved to London to attend the Slade about a year and a half ago.  I was, for a while, obsessed with watching Paula Rego interviews and she always talked about her time at the Slade, so I decided to apply. It turned out to be an amazing uninformed decision though, as the Slade is so full of the most talented, wonderful friends whom I have learned so much from, even during my brief, interrupted time there so far.

After the first lockdown last year my dear old friend Ben Reader called me out of the blue and lured me down to his spare room in Penzance. I had never been to Cornwall before, but I knew it was on the Gulf Stream, like Florida, which felt a little bit like home. That, and it was also the most southern stop on the train, like Miami. I have been here a year now and am so grateful he kidnapped me from London, I have really fallen in love with Penwith - surely there can be no place more beautiful and full of magic and mystery ! I have met so many beautiful people and amazing artists down here, and it is so so lovely to be reunited with the sea ! The closest of friends and sometimes the worst of enemies ! It is so hard to be away from the sea ! Do you find that as well ?

How do your surroundings carry through to your art practice ? Since moving here I have spent so much time reading up on the history and ancient history and stories of Cornwall - my painting has certainly changed since moving here and reading too many stories about King Arthur, Ithell Colquhoun, and the folklore of Cornwall. I have always been fascinated with stories and storytelling and I think that is something Cornwall is so rich in.  I have also started painting on metal, which I really love ! I wanted to ask you about your most recent works with casting metal in the environment ! They are so gorgeous ! When did you start working on them !

Have you been reading anything since the start of lockdown? Haha reading has been my ultimate method of procrastination during lockdown ! That and walking around aimlessly when the sun peaks his head out.



“I’ve filmed myself shouting at the sea and mumbled to myself, it is all part of building beliefs, ideas, rituals, telling stories with sense (or non-sense) and ultimately trying to sort through my scatty brain.”


Eleanor:
I love that we have met this way! What a coincidence about the Slade, maybe there is time for us to meet there yet.

A quick introduction to me, I’m Eleanor. I make moulds.

Mould-making is a mending process for me, I use it to patch my thoughts together. So the casts themselves will always be tatty, home-spun, like a well loved jumper patched to the point of disrepair.

If i’m casting something it's because I’m infatuated by it, I need to know what makes me love it or hate it. I’ve cast to make objects shrink and disappear. I’ve copied rock-pools and spoons as if the process itself will reveal secrets.

The Mould-making process fires up my brain in all sorts of directions and suddenly I will need to make a boat?!? or I need to learn how to do something I’ve never done before because it just makes perfect sense to me. I made a text adventure last month?!? I’ve filmed myself shouting at the sea and mumbled to myself, it is all part of building beliefs, ideas, rituals, telling stories with sense (or non-sense) and ultimately trying to sort through my scatty brain.

This is what immediately draws me to your paintings Emma! The mystery and the story-telling, it’s all present, and I find myself trying to patch things together and weave my own story. Figure out the connections between people and yourself.

I’ve always been a bit jealous of painters! To know what you’ll start and end with on a canvas, how freeing it must be to use a process that you know, I would love to know what you are thinking when you paint. Is it really practical and logical or is it about the stories you are weaving on the canvas?

How do you think a story turns into a myth, do you think it is possible to create new rituals, myths, do they have to carry the history of a place? Myth and ritual is something I’d like to have more presence in my work, but I get stuck in representing the oddities of daily life and I lose the sense of ancientness that draws me to Cornwall — That connection that Ithell Colqhoun talks about! 

I didn’t grow up in Cornwall but I make work like crazy when I come home to it. I would very much like Cornwall to be a part of me and maybe this is why I make so much work when I’m here, like I’m trying to bind myself to it, or at least locate myself. This is what my most recent metal works are about! melding my memories with the Cornish landscape.

I was born in a small town in County Durham, north UK. Spent half my school days in East Yorkshire and the other half in Cornwall. I moved to London to study - what an energy London has! So different to Cornwall, I move differently through London and it even affects my dreams! The pandemic has brought me home to Cornwall, and now I am reluctant to leave.

So happy that you like the pewter biscuits, and that you like stories, because there is one there. I used to work in a biscuit factory cutting out biscuit shapes! It was the best kind of work for me, repetitive, physical work that either lets your mind wander, becoming meditative, or it's so boring that the endurance of it all brings you closer to your colleagues. Either way, it was the perfect environment for story-telling, mind-wandering, telling secrets, weaving gossip. I wrote Secrets in Biscuits, to go with my pewter ones!

For the readers, a friendship biscuit is a custard cream (and I’ve now got a Bourbon version) pulled in half, and cast into two separate sections that fit together perfectly. Like a friendship charm in biscuit form. I’m also a twin and I somehow can’t escape making work about her indirectly.



“I feel like as a painter I sort of move around the world putting images and curiosities in my pocket, but I always take them back to my little hobbit hole of the studio to explore and paint.”


Emma:
I love that so much, you are a secret hunter ! A metal detective ! That sounds so incredibly exciting and beautiful, going round prying the secrets out of stones, spoons, and the world ! And the objects you create remind me of fossils, recording but also changing- creating myths themselves !

I love Secrets in Biscuits !  Secrets are the most exciting thing in the world, even better than stories I think. The best gifts are certainly the giving or receiving of a secret. They are so powerful ! So captivating ! Just like the friendship biscuits ! Oooh I’ll tell you a secret about secrets ! A few years ago I was going on a million GaZillioN random dates with people, mostly because it seemed like a funny way to make friends out of one’s little pathway, but I would always tell people a secret when I met them ! And I think the friends who were meant to be would tell one back. Thinking now it would be so nice to create a map of the shifting of gossip and secrets, even just around one town. I wonder what it would look like !

I am so curious about what it means to be out and about making things ! I feel like as a painter I sort of move around the world putting images and curiosities in my pocket, but I always take them back to my little hobbit hole of the studio to explore and paint. It is sort of cave orientated ! I feel like painting is so full of micro-drama - since you are always doing relatively the sameish thing of squishing paint around a surface - every little change of the way you move a brush or the paint you use or seems like an earth shattering change. On the other hand, you are out and about running around making things ! Sliding through different mediums and picking up all sorts of new things ! It sounds so exciting!  So much real drama ! I want some gossip from this side of life.

I love so much what you said about trying to bind yourself to the landscape ! I have moved around so much that everywhere and nowhere feels like home. I often find myself just walking and walking around places endlessly, hoping I can make friends with the landscape, the streets, wherever I am! When I am walking around I often find myself making up stories along the way- and the next time I walk a certain tree or storefront will remind me of part of the story I was rambling on about in my mind. The stories don’t often make sense or go anywhere, but I think that is why I love painting so much- it lets you create little signs and markers of a story that everyone can walk around and patch together differently. I absolutely adore when people tell me stories, about anything ! But I am absolutely so horrendous at speaking out loud or recollecting any type of story, so I am very grateful painting allows you to just chat through little flashes.



“I’m a detail orientated person so I’m usually looking for tiny things in the landscape or my psychology that can be map onto huge areas, tiny gestures that can cover great territory, the very personal becoming, I hope, relatable and empathetic”


Eleanor:
A secret hunter, I like that! I also think Cornish towns and villages would be so perfect for mapping out gossip. Honestly, town facebook groups have been a constant source of amusement for me over the lockdowns. So many people saying all the things they’d never say to peoples faces. It's a real generational clash too. I love it when you’re following a controversial thread and it gets deleted by the group admin as you watch it take off. You have to laugh really because it's actually quite scary how clannish and regressive we can be in times like this! It reminds me of that scene in The Mist where they’re trapped in the supermarket and suddenly everyone believes in this pseudo-religion and human sacrifice.

Now I’m thinking how I could physically cast this type of gossip. Have you read Gossip From the Trees by Sara Maitland? The intro of her book throws out the definition of Gossip:

Gossip: sb, God + Sib (akin, related.)

One who has contracted a spiritual relationship with another by acting as a sponsor at a baptism.

A familiar acquaintance or friend. Especially applied to a women’s female friends invited to be present at a birth.

Idle talk; trifling or groundless rumour; tittle-tattle.

She goes on to describe that the gossip in her title refers to the encouraging, private, spiritual talk that we all want in times of trouble.

And I love what you’re saying about gossip and how it carries forward, and how the site specificity of myth/gossip can be mapped all over the world, it makes me want to join them up like star charts.

Your painting cave sounds cosy and the pocket you collect with! I can relate to this analogy! Except, I think I use my work to force myself to leave my cave haha. I love being outside and exploring the landscape, meeting new people but I’m a secret introvert. I’m a detail orientated person so I’m usually looking for tiny things in the landscape or my psychology that can be map onto huge areas, tiny gestures that can cover great territory, the very personal becoming, I hope, relatable and empathetic. I love big naive gestures.

I am mapping at the moment! I got swept into a project with the lovely Muratas', a couple who run Youkobo Art Space in Tokyo. They are passionate about cultural exchange and have generously given me a show for a participatory project. It’s called When Was the Last Time You Saw the Sea? And it will be an archive of standing water and their journeys to the sea, collected via an open call. Anyone is welcome to take part! It all started because I was casting puddles! I made a series of crappy videos, where I’m giving puddles directions to the nearest sea. I called it lonely puddles  I thought it would be so cool if something so small and insignificant, and accidental, could have the ability to move the sea. So I thought I’d get more people involved. I think you already followed the instagram @lonelypuddles yesterday! Thank you!

I am hoping to get my puddle to the sea by casting it into the side of a boat. I think this is a bit of a pipe dream but I love the idea of getting involved in boat building here. It seems ancient and part of the landscape.

Please tell me you were meeting people on dating apps?! Another source of lockdown amusement for me, honestly get so carried away with other people's lives in it, do you follow beam_me_up_softboi on instagram? Because that is a whole world of stories and micro-dramas. It feels so crazy at the time and when it's over you’re like, well that was silly and kinda nothing  I love it when art and the internet and friendships can open up a space for you to just gush about all these silly things that don’t make sense. I wrote my essay for the MFA on this and then I went and shouted a lot of it out to the rocks and the sea closest to me. I’m slightly embarrassed about this video but what’s to lose, how about we do an exchange, an embarrassing piece of work for a piece of work that you’re embarrassed about? 

It's called, Are you angry that i've copied you?, which also refers to the rockpool I cast and stole from it.


“They are so sublime ! I love how the sea is always reminding you how tiny you are and how powerful she is. The big mamma.”




Emma:
Of course it was dating apps ! Yes ! Haha that whole world is so insane and fascinating, it is really bottomless in terms of entertainment. Maybe because it is such an unnatural and unprecedented way of colliding with people that interactions are so bizarre and freeform and lawless. No one knows how to act or who to be or what is going on- it can be quite exhilarating- like when you jump into the ocean and don’t know how cold it is going to be that day. I really liked just going to meet up with some stranger and pretending in my mind that I was an interviewer and asking loads of questions. Trying to get to the bottom of the story. Crack the case and bring home the bacon to the BBC haha.

I think that the best thing about all these chaotic encounters is being able to share surreal surreal stories and laugh and pick them apart together. I also have been such a long term fan of craigslist’s community section. My favourites are always in the missed connections where people get so into detail and really set the scene with things like “it was unusually warm” … so romantic <3

‘Is that why you're ignoring me?' is incredible, I enjoyed it so much, it is so relatable and beautiful. The way it is filmed reminds me of when you are a bit upset and angry and go for a walk to calm yourself down, but just sort of end up circling the park like a shark, flashing this way and that, cursing shrubs and stones. It is so exciting thinking about the gossip the stones and the sea must share.

Here is my embarrassing piece and it has absolutely nothing to do with anything we have spoken about. It is from a long while ago when I was briefly really into making ventriloquist dolls and was truly awful at making them speak. I apologise in advance haha.

I thought about the video recently because I'm so so SO terrible at texting and video chatting and all these forms of computer communication- they give me so much anxiety ! So, I thought maybe if I make a puppet of myself I can do it through her. It looks not totally great so far but i think it is something that has to be done.

I love the idea of casting your puddle to a boat ! I’ve been so obsessed lately with the figureheads that used to be at the front of ships ! I like how they are often women who either look so fierce and haunting or are sneakily smirking, like they are the secret keeper of the ship. I also found out about Klabautermann which I’ve decided is what I want to be when I grow up.  I made a weird painted blueprint of me as a crumbling figure head on a shipwreck. Hopefully that is a good start.

I also got lost in these photos one family took over years of shipwrecks in Cornwall I happened across the other day have you seen them before ? They are so sublime ! I love how the sea is always reminding you how tiny you are and how powerful she is. The big mamma.



“I think the bodiless version of me is more relatable than the moody scowly face that the fashion world appreciates.”


Eleanor:
Oh my Dayssssssss your ventriloquist Einstein is amazing haha. Honestly think we need to put plans in place to embrace this embarrassing side of our practices. I cannot wait to see this puppet version of you, it already looks brilliant. I can’t wait to hear what the puppet-you will say. It also really ties in with your figure-head, bringing out the fierce version of you.

I think this is so relevant to our social media culture! All of the personas we put out to the world and how they are different parts of us amplified and patched over till we are happy with the world seeing it, and all the anxiety we breed underneath. Very relatable.

I have a really strange relationship to my own image. I’m a fashion model alongside my day job and it gives me the time to make art and meet so many characters and travel places I’d never thought I'd reach but it throws up some real moral dilemmas for me. I’m also hugely camera shy haha! I think that’s why my art throws up everything about me but my physical image, and I’m pushing all those things into the landscape and away from my body. Somehow I think the bodiless version of me is more relatable than the moody scowly face that the fashion world appreciates. What you're saying about your puppet is similar! But using your own image to project.



“I often catch myself walking and looking up here and down there and then laughing when I remember that I am just a peanut.

On a stick.”



Emma:
Woahhh  ! being a model must be so so fascinating ! Like you said that must be amazing, meeting so many people and traveling all over. Is your twin a model as well ? Does she like to be photographed ? Are you identical twins ? What does she do !

I know what you mean about being camera shy ! I’ve always hated having my photo taken and often tend to avoid mirrors - I think largely because I don’t really like being constantly reminded I have a physical body. It would be so exhausting to have to always think about what you looked like skipping down a street, if you felt like it, or crawling around in the rain looking at bugs. I think that is why I love your work as a bodiless cloud of secrets and experiences curiously investigating the world. It is so relatable !

I have such a disconnect between me and my physical body. Sometimes it feels like my mind and my body are two separate people living parallel lives. I think I paint myself so often as a way of reckoning with that and creating a relationship with the other me- by examining my physical appearance from a distance and repeating it over and over until it becomes a sort of symbol or friendly cartoon character of my own. When I look at my paintings of me I don’t really feel like they are me though, more like sort of an old imaginary friend or character.

What is it like to look at photos you have modeled in ? That must be so surreal, seeing yourself as all these different characters and in different costumes !

Let’s meander further - this is really absurd, but my brother once told me that we are all just peanuts on sticks wandering around. The stick is just holding up this peanut that is constantly twirling around scanning the environment and collecting information. It is so ridiculously stupid and not even a proper analogy, but I often catch myself walking and looking up here and down there and then laughing when I remember that I am just a peanut.

On a stick.



“I’m so sick of men wanting to portray female power by acting out fertility rituals and goddess like portrayals.”




Eleanor:
I can very much relate to the disconnection you talk about! Honestly I feel like modelling is a completely out of bodily experience, a separate dreamlike life. It can be ridiculously glamorous and then just plain ridiculous. It’s like being on a rollercoaster, sometimes you’re gonna throw up and sometimes you’re flying.

When I get past the weirdness of being looked at and dressed, it becomes a surreal role reversal, I am now the canvas and the painter is the stylist and the makeup artist and the photographer. I just have to sit back and wait, see what they’ve made me into and how that makes me feel and move.

It has made me think so much about ownership, authorship and consent. What it means when you become someone else's art. Honestly I’m so sick of men wanting to portray female power by acting out fertility rituals and goddess like portrayals. I’ve genuinely seen tits and pink liquid running down them, but its ok cos its ART and it’s ‘tasteful’ and its feminism. I just want to shout at them, this is a mans sexual fantasy, and how sick is it that I’m the subject. Consent wise, you have a choice, you say yes, its fine, photograph me naked because the photographer or stylist is a big shot and I may get some dollar some day because there’s a massive amount of unpaid work. You’re still human and you still gotta pay the bills.

Most of the time I feel like I’m on that gameshow where they’re like, lets take a look at what you could have won! And they bring out a speedboat, and you walk away with a free lunch and a crazy experience to tell instead haha, and sometimes that’s brilliant! I am not good at making art from art — experience is what I draw from, and in that sense, i’m rich.

I’m going to take a leaf out of your book and try to befriend my own image! Because I do not like 90% of the photographs! It’s like looking at a peanut on a stick hahahaha, honestly it shocks me every time I get a job.

My twin sister is also camera shy! There is no way you’ll catch her doing something she doesn’t like just for a story and that’s admirable. We are not identical, in a lot of ways we are opposite, I feel like we’ve made each other, because we’ve spent so much time together. I’m like this because she’s like that. And she’s like that because I did this. Maybe that’s a sibling thing in general? But I like to think all the strange coincidences are because we’re twins. Like dreams or strange pains when the other one’s upset.

My favourite seabirds are sandpipers, it's so funny how they gather in a gaggle around the shoreline, moving in and out like apprehensive swimmers who have realised its freezing! It's funny how we like animals based on how they remind us of ourselves! And when people have pets that look like themselves, how weird is that psychologically. My cat has the same hair colour and eye colour as me. Are you a cat person or a dog person? I genuinely believe you can tell so much about a person from the answer to this question!



“I think it is just so much better when people are just honest and upfront about their intentions, it becomes so much more creepy and horrid and confusing when people hide behind these fake veils of art and feminism”



Emma:
Wow ! Modeling sounds like a whole theater’s worth of drama and emotion ! It really does sound like being in a dream, or visiting someone else’s - being only vaguely in control of things- and with high stakes and so much action ! That must be such a wild ride ! You must have so many good (and not so good) stories ! I am personally crossing my fingers you win the speedboat though, we can race around the Lizard Miami style.

Ugh, eeeeek that is so gross. And you see it so often, on such a wide scale. Especially in the creative world, because everything is already so vague. I think it is just so much better when people are just honest and upfront about their intentions, it becomes so much more creepy and horrid and confusing when people hide behind these fake veils of art and feminism and whatever else to try and justify themselves and obscure what they are doing.

I know so much what you mean about siblings and the I'm this because she’s that ! My brother and I are really close in age and have always been interested in pretty similar things, but growing up he was really into film and I books, he doing indoor things and I was always running around outside or on my bike, he was really funny and outgoing and I was paralyzingly shy- we were always balancing off of each other. As we have gotten older though, our and our little sister’s tastes and interests have all reached a colliding point and it's really fun because we are always recommending each other books and films and music and all have the same sense of humour. 

That is so so fascinating about the strange coincidences ! Having dreams when the other is upset is so mad, I really want to know more about it ! Like are your unconsciouses connected ? Are other people’s unconsciouses connected ? Is there an unconscious superhighway ? That is so interesting and special though ! I definitely don’t have anything like that with my siblings ! We are very close though. My little sister is a poet and our work often tangles together- I think we trade and draw from a lot of shared imagery and I always get so much energy, revving up creatively after reading what she sends me.
Ohhh my lord, I totally agree hahaha. I do like dogs !  but I am unequivocally, eternally a cat person . Every interview should begin with cats or dogs ? - so we know where everyone stands. Ohhh !  I want to see your cat ! My cat Pneuma and I have very similar personalities, but she has such a resting bitch face- she looks like a suspicious penguin a lot of the time. I get way too much joy out of watching animals and bugs and inventing voices and backstories for them. I heard this song the other day that makes me laugh so much, its about two muskrats having a lovely evening.

I think this is meant to be our last official email for Yew!

I want to officially say it has been so lovely to befriend you in this way ! Its sweet and strange and oddly fitting of this odd time in the world !

Wait !

I want to ask you one more official question before transition to sly and sneaky unofficial emails ! I feel like lockdown has really encouraged my propensity to get temporarily obsessed with odd things - I’ve drank a disgusting amount of instant coffee, read so much old Hollywood gossip, listened to every single interview Laurie Anderson has ever done, spent so much time researching ancient alchemy, pirates and random saints, got horrendously deep into disco aND 70s/80s country, and just got a pair of sparkly jelly sandals i really love walking around in.

What are a few of the things you have found yourself meandering into during this time?


“I think this Lizard-Miami speedboat experience — complete with your figurehead and a puddle on the side, Muskrat Love playing in the background — it’s the best image to summarise our Yew! email thread.“

Eleanor:

I absolutely believe in the subconscious highway! Or maybe it's intuition, you know when you meet someone that is so intuitive it's unnerving? I once got told by a completely random person that it wasn’t a good idea to wear thumb rings because they stop the flow of energy through your body. I’ve not worn much jewellery since, ahahaha.

Here are my temporary lockdown obsessions (I’m revealing my nerd side and the hopeless romantic here):

Attempting to play Magic the Gathering. It's like chess with nerdy world building.

Wild flower identification. Honestly been so good for my mental health,

Romantic teenage fiction. I’m surrounded by all the crappy teenage literature I used to absorb and I realise that my writing style has been heavily influenced by it aaaaaaahhh.

Horrendous TV programme obsessions like First Dates, Naked Attraction, Married at First Sight, Love Island and then the Japanese equivalents - Terraced House, Rea(L)ove…

I played this game with my classmates when the Slade went virtual and it was actually quite interesting: Summarise someone's practice in 3 words. I'm going to summarise what I’ve learnt through these emails about how you make art:

Ventriloquist

Pocket

Seabird

Honestly I think this Lizard-Miami speedboat experience — complete with your figurehead and a puddle on the side, Muskrat Love playing in the background — it’s the best image to summarise our Yew! email thread.

It’s been brilliant knowing you this way! Thank you Yew! For staging it! Can’t wait to meet you off stage via sneaky Yew!-less emails, Emma, and hopefully at the Slade!



︎ Follow Emma on Instagram.

︎ Follow Eleanor on Instagram.

Tags | Yew! Mail, Interview




Yew! magazine was contacted with regards to their stance on Cats and Dogs but were legally instructed to make no comment at this time.


Website Design by Elliott Hall
www.elliotthall.co.uk

© 2021 Yew! Media