A few years ago, a mutual friend and art collector Mathew Mellon simply said, “You have to meet Anouska Beckwith – you will love her art, passion and magic.” These words may have actually been an understatement.
Born in England and now living/working in France, Anouska Beckwith spent her early years travelling the globe. Driven by her search for the mystical and a desire to capture the wonder she experienced along the way, her camera was never far from hand. After graduating from Speos Photographic Institute in 2012, Beckwith went on to form the female collective of artists World Wide Women. Expressing herself through photography, art, film and poetry; nature and the feminine are enduring themes while Beckwith's work inspires a romantic and otherworldly feel, revealing a glimpse of her dreamlike fantasies.
Beckwith’s latest exhibition, actually positions its viewers as part of one universal song whose melody looks set to be quickly silenced by the impending end of the Earth. In photographs that observe nature at its finest, set within an immersive organic installation, Beckwith attempts to encourage viewers to engage in gratitude and guardianship of the Earth.
Just as her latest exhibition doors were preparing to open, we were able to convince Anouska for an interview to allow us to learn more about her magical and mystical Uni~Verse.
1) Can you explain how this solo show came about?
Since my solo show in New York City last year I have been working on lots of different projects and at the beginning of the year I was with my good friend Eliot Dodd (a fantastic art curator/ gallerist) and was telling him that I wished to have a solo show in London. Eliot suggested I looked at Palm Tree Gallery in Notting Hill as it was a cool new conceptual space. He then very sweetly took me in and made the introductions.
2) What has been some of the challenges in preparing for your first solo show in London?
Some of the challenges preparing for the solo show in London have been choosing the work to be shown. I have been living in Paris for nearly five years and have been in a little bubble of creation so sometimes it is quite nerve racking to put yourself out there especially when it is your hometown, the pressure is just that much more.
3) You seem to show with very unique galleries as opposed to simply white-wall galleries - - - is this a conscious decision?
I always love sensorial exhibitions as the viewer can actually take part rather than just witnessing, it becomes a more personal experience. So when I have been deciding which galleries to exhibit with at this stage in my career I have found working with smaller galleries who are open to a more creative vision have been more in line with my own creative process.
4) Can you explain a bit about your creative process as you developed Uni~Verse?
Usually when I create something it comes from being inspired by a song, book, poem or vision from a ceremony. With Uni~Verse it was a culmination of all of these things.
After the attacks in Paris at the end of last year everyone was living fearfully and a darkness fell like a veil over the city. It was extremely emotional for everyone and after a period of time I felt that it was important to create light and hope from the situation as one cannot live in fear. I think it is extremely important to shine light in the world even when you think things are hopeless one needs to remember there is still beauty, inspiration and love out there.
5) Can you also describe the creative world of Anouska Beckwith? Is there any overlap between Anouska’s world and Uni~Verse?
From a young age I was always playing make believe and creating fantasy worlds. I think as I got older I found the world we live in to be quite intense and chaotic and therefore retreated into trying to escape in many forms, mainly destructive. Then at the age of twenty three I was confronted with death and it made me really wake up. It gave me strength to actually look at my fears in life and confront them. I went in search of answers that society certainly wasn't offering and found that the spiritual path was full of healing and acceptance that until then I had not experienced.
I tried many forms of spiritual practice and found that meditation and shamanic ceremonies such as drinking ayahuasca, with incredible music men and shamans who I found had much more insight into the 'real' world than organized religions. From this I began to realize how important our Mother Earth was and how much suffering the planet has been put through. I found the message in my work became about showing the beauty, the mystical and to offer gratitude for my existence.
I choose to the title Uni~Verse for the exhibition as it means 'one song', which I felt encompassed the themes I was exploring at the time.
I believe that despite humans, animals and nature being different from one another we are all a collection of parts that make up the whole to form ‘one song’. I felt that Uni~Verse best described what I wished to express through my work, a melody in nature’s symphony.
6) When and how did you realize you wanted to create more than simple exhibitions and opted for what feels more like full sensory experiences?
About six years ago I went to stay with my friends David and Rose Cholmondeley who have a wonderful collection of James Turrell's work at their house in Norfolk. David is a huge art collector and champion of the arts and I remember when he showed me Sky Space I just feel in love with the experience. Shortly after I went to see Yayoi Kusama's retrospective at the Pompidou and I knew then that this was the kind of art that truly touched me. In no way am I comparing myself to these two incredible geniuses, however they did inspire me greatly to think outside the box!
7) What do you hope visitors or in this case, voyeurs will take away with them after experiencing Uni~Verse?
I hope that people come away from my exhibition feeling more in touch with nature and all the beauty it has to offer. I think it is important on a daily basis to reconnect to the natural world, especially if you live in a city. Even if it’s for 15 minutes a day, I like to take my shoes off and walk on the grass or sit under a tree. The peace and clarity you feel after is very important for ones soul. I think people forget that we are all interconnected and that without nature we would not exist.
8) What are you exploring for your next exhibition?
At present I am working on my first book and exhibition War In Heaven which is about fallen angels who have come to earth to help assist with the healing of our planet. I started the series after a break up and continued to make the work throughout the attacks in Paris.
The women I choose to photograph were all based in Paris and we all found it very therapeutic to go to the forest to create something from the darkness we were experiencing throughout the year and turn it into a positive.
Anouska Beckwith’s Uni~Verse is currently on display at the Palm Tree Gallery, located at 291 Portobello Rd, London, until October 7, 2016.
All photos courtesy of @AnouskaBeckwith