Isolation Interview with Hannah Tilson

Updated: Sep 3, 2020

Continuing our lockdown interview series, we sent Hannah a disposable camera and a list of questions during lockdown. Here are the results...

Photos by Hannah Tilson

S: How has your routine changed since lockdown? Are you finding any time to make new work? Are you still being taught by the Royal Drawing School?

HT: My routine has changed a lot since lockdown. I am currently in the countryside and this is the longest I have been in the countryside for! I have found that with the abundance of time this lock down has given us, I have hardly any time. The Royal Drawing School have been amazing about the situation, and have given us a virtual term of zoom classes! I definitely work much better when I have a routine! I am hoping to come back to London sometime in July, I have lots of exciting plans for big works in the studio that I am buzzing to try out.

S: Is there anything that you are missing during isolation that has surprised you?

S: Is there any artist in particular who has had an impact on you and your practice? You are very welcome to recreate your favourite artwork like the Getty Image challenge and use the camera image to document it.

HT: My parents actually did the most amazing Getty image challenge… ‘Ophelia’ by John Everett Millais, 1851-2.

When I was little my mum used to sing Ophelia to me, while washing my hair in the bath. Unlike in this photo, when I was a child the bath wasn’t filled with foraged three cornered leeks (Foraged in Peckham!) Nineteen year old Elizabeth Siddall was Millias’ Ophelia model. She posed for Millias in a bath, wearing an embroidered dress from a second hand shop. Her pose was very similar to my mums, who was also lying in the bath wearing a dress from a charity shop, 168 years apart. My parents didn’t know that Millias’ model was posing in a bath until after they had taken the photograph! I thought this was a fun coincidence.

S: Can you tell us a bit about your process and how your work begins?

HT: I tend to work from photographs and drawings but more recently I have been setting up theatrical sets in my room, hanging patterned fabrics, lighting them and painting self portraits while sitting in them. This is a new process and I am excited to see where it takes me. I am enjoying the clashing of patterns and overload of information, and how my body and clothes camouflage into the backdrop.

S: You are currently studying at the Royal Drawing School. Can you tell us a bit about what that is like? How has your work developed since being there?

HT: I am currently on The Drawing Year at the Royal Drawing School. I feel very lucky to be there and am constantly inspired by my year. I have alway drawn and had a sketchbook on me, but after working so hard on drawing as a medium I definitely feel more confident with my hand, which is allowing me to be confident with my painting! Over the lockdown I have started painting with watercolours and inks, and making self portraits. I have found that during a time where everything feels very out of your control, it has felt liberating to be in control of painting an image of myself. Last term I started working on etchings and mono-prints and was able to continue mono printing and making Lino prints at home!

S: What is it like now working from home?

S: What do you listen to when you work?

HT: I listen to a mixture of audiobooks and music while I work. Sometimes I am too distracted by the work I am asking to concentrate on the book so I switch to music or nothin at all! An album I have been listening to a lot recently is ‘The Bridge’ by Sonny Rollins, 1962. Sonny Rollins is an American jazz tenor saxophonist, I am also a musician. I play trombone and sing in a band called ‘This is the Deep’.

Some audiobooks I have really enjoyed listening to over the lockdown period:

- ‘The Pisces’ - Melisa Broader (I am actually only a few hours into this one!)

- ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ - Bernardine Evaristo

- ‘The Power’ - Naiomi Alderman

- ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation’ - Ottessa Moshfegh

- ‘The Mars Room’ - Rachel Kushner

- ‘Hot Milk’ - Deborah Levy

- ‘A tale of the time being’ - Ruth Ozeki

- ‘Milkman’ - Anna Burns

* I also normally fall asleep listening to Stephen Fry reading Harry Potter *

HT: I turned 25 during lockdown and my dad sent me ‘Ninja Peanut’ magazines. Ninja Peanut is our family cat! He has made a whole line of magazines featuring Ninja, based in Peckham Rye, where she tries to find the cure for Covid-19! I think he has posted the whole magazine on his instagram (@jaketilson).

S: Can you see any positive changes or developments coming from this time in isolation?

HT: I definitely think there will be some positive changes that come from this time in isolation. I was running around too much before, trying to get too many things done in one day/one hour! It feels like we have been given extra time to reconsider our hectic pre-lockdown lifestyles, as well as hopefully look after the earth more! - waiting less food, shopping locally!

S: Thinking of your work outside of the gallery, where would you most like to work or who with? Be it a residency, company or space to exhibit in?

HT: I am really looking forward to going to Palazzo Monti (@palazzomonti) when I finish the drawing year, to do my residency. I was meant to be going last October but was luckily rescheduled with Edoardo! (@edoardomonti) Clothes and pattern are a large source of inspiration to me, it would be great to work more with clothes maybe batiking scarves and working more with textiles!

S: What has inspired you most recently? Be it a film, book, quote or person.

HT: First two paragraphs from Miss Pandemic 2020 by Erin Bolens...

You do not have to be productive.

You are not a dairy cow or a field of wheat.

Nothing will grind to a halt

If you do not take up the ukulele,

Learn Spanish, start to crochet, master pilates.

This is not a competition;

There will be no ‘Miss Pandemic 2020’

You cannot get a sash out of this,

You cannot win a crisis.

S: And most importantly what is your favourite sandwich?

HT: Oooh, that is hard one. okay. baguette, butter, mayonnaise (yes, both butter and mayo!) salami, rocket, provolone cheese! Or a sandwich from Warren’s sandwich bar, just next to Warren Street station. Or a really good wrap! Option 2 would be same ingredients listed above but in a wrap!

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