Glynis Neslen, Photographer, tells us about herself and her work...

I’ve been a photographer since the age of 11. My foster mother used to take lots of photos with a box brownie. I have always been able to draw and used to draw faces and people all the time. I was always interested in where people came from.

I grew up in Great Yarmouth, then lived in London, Leeds and now Hull. I have a technician role at Hull School of Arts and Design. (HSAD). A few years ago I wanted to showcase the African artists in Hull, and I put on a group exhibition at Hull Central Library as part of Black History Month. It featured Papa Essell, David Okwesia, Ade Bare and me.

In 2015, I had my own solo exhibition at KAG (Kingston Art Group) Gallery on Humber Street of all my photographs, drawings and pots from London, Leeds and Hull, a retrospective… The pots are Nigerian Udu pots which are playable musical pots traditionally made by women.

Was some of your curiosity and interest in art about exploring gaps, finding out things about your heritage, who you might be?
Yes. We watched lots of people on TV. It was the 60s, and we had the Olympics athletes doing the black power salute. I created little scenarios. When you draw you drawn from imagination you don’t have to draw from life. You can make things up.

What interested you in Slate?
I think it was meeting people of colour. To explore. It was about focusing on myself. Being in Hull, very few of us have worked together. All the years I’ve been here I’ve been pushing other people and promoting them.

So is it in the last few years you’ve started to think about yourself and your practice?
Yes in the last few years. The other days, I’ve wanted to support my work. I’ve kept the studio going at KAG. I’m a member, I’ve painted things and that keeps my foot into the art world.

Are there any black artists in Hull who have been influential or a role model to you?
David Okwesia he’s like a big Nigerian brother to me and we have connected in the sense of both having Nigerian heritage. He’s lived in Hull his life and I’ve known him from the African and Caribbean Cultural Association (HACA). As well as an artist he’s a businessman and a youth and community worker. David has been one of the few black music promoters of note in Hull.

Tell me about the Slate workshop?
It was really good knowing people on it, I (already) knew Khadijah Ibrahim and Sohail Khan. It was great to (get to) know people a bit better. To do things together. In a sense, it was a week away from Hull, in York, to be able to try and focus.

Have any aspects come about as a result?
A lot of things..I got a lot. It was really nice meeting artists… it’s about people you can really work with. (the facilitator) Rani (Moorthy), she focused on confidence boosting and saying to myself ‘I am an artist and I need to put more effort into myself and not so much into other people.’. I am reconsidering the whole thing. All the facilitators encouraged us to explore taking ourselves seriously as individual Artists, using writing, theatre, movement and music and feelings of identity associated with all of those things. It made me think about putting my stuff together. The archive I have from London, Leeds and Hull and thinking about what to do with them next and my writing and Music compositions.

And you attended a recent Slate Salon? (run by Season Butler in Bradford)
It was really good going to the Bradford Salon as everyone was working on their stuff. Because Season had set it up so that you were working on whatever you were working on. That was nice, having a space. London has so many artists you’re almost spoilt when you’re there and I presume the same as Manchester. When you are in Hull when there are very few artists of colour, it does focus you. I have wanted to be around Black artists as you can forget things. But I have focused … it’s connecting me to the whole thing.

Has Slate been useful to you?
I think it’s good. It’s a really good way of people getting together and creating. You need to create groups, collectives who can work together or have been on something together so you can get to know somebody and you can follow them as they develop. It’s just being around people that are creative and are black as well, but still wanting to learn things and do things.

Glynis Neslen intervied by Melanie Abrahams, Slate Enabler, North Yorkshire & Humber, July 2017


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