Online Artist TAKEOVER: Hattie Godfrey

By The Black Box

I’m Hattie Godfrey ( @hattiegodfrey ) and I’m a London born, Belfast based artist, writer and researcher. I studied Fine Art at Goldsmiths, London before completing an MSc in Psychological Science at Queen’s. I hold a studio within the @flaxartstudios Emerging Artist Programme, a brilliant community of recent graduate and emerging artists in North Street.

My work is primarily about our broken bodies and the broader landscape of care they inhabit. It examines cycles of pain, rest, and exhaustion, through a variety of mediums including performance, installation, and writing. These are used to create spaces, objects and experiences that build a sense of uncanny for the viewer, a feeling you’ve been here before. The sweep of a hospital curtain, a boiled egg slipping down your throat, the dirt on the soles of your feet. At the core of my practice is a fascination with the way we remember, understand, and describe experiences that happen to and within our bodies. As a result, much of my work occupies a space between art and health, and I have a particularly keen interest in the use of artistic methods in the diagnosis and treatment of psychological and physical conditions.

Last September I showed a durational performance work, ‘Put Into Flight’ as part of the @cathedralquarterartsfestival and as a conclusion to my commission with @bbeyondlive .

Throughout the performance I wrote and since, I have obsessed over the sentences, drawings and diagrams. These developed into a series of 36 works on paper, with each work representing one hour of the initial performance. Combining typography, poetry, printmaking and collage, this body of work is made up of disjointed memories, feelings and thoughts that surfaced during the long nights of the performance. Creating the work has, for me, been a therapeutic process, allowing me to unpack memories and experiences within and surrounding the performance. I have tended, in the past, to keep 2d work private, often considering it part of the journey towards a work, rather than a work in itself. As a result, sharing these works feels like a significant moment, or shift in my practice.

In terms of my working process I tend to go through periods of research and development, reading, writing, drawing and making connections. In 2020 I started researching classic cartoons and drawing connections between typical storylines and illness narratives. I identified a common cyclical pattern between the two: chase, capture, escape. From this period of sustained research, I draw themes, objects, characters, gestures and spaces. These usually come together in the form of installation and performance. My 2021 performance ‘Put Into Flight’ was a drawn out version of the ‘chase, capture, escape’ pattern, and contained a number of references to classic cartoons as well as to my autobiographical experience of chronic illness. Within my practice, no work exists in isolation, they are all connected to one another, and so, the writing and drawing done during ‘Put Into Flight’ is the basis for my latest of body of work, ‘We Watch The World Wake Up Together’. The idea returns to paper, but no doubt it will jump the page again soon.

My inspiration comes from many places, and whilst my work is centred around the body (both individual and collective), I wanted to share some of the lesser-known inspirations within my practice. I’ve chosen to share an artist, a thing and a place that inspire me. Forced Entertainment are a group of six artists who make theatre and performances that really inspire and excite me. I came across them first at art school and was fascinated by their artistic approach, which involves a lot of collaboration, improvisation, and a total disregard for putting the audience at ease! I also draw a lot of inspiration from animal behaviour, in particular bizarre events of animal behaviour, for example when a lightening storm killed 300 wild reindeer. They seemingly just fell over, creating the most dramatic, melancholic scene. In connection to animal behaviour, much of work takes inspiration from strange habitats, eco-systems and landscapes, particularly those with a lot of water.

Artist – Forced Entertainment
Thing – Animal Behaviour
Place – Strange landscapes

‘A While Back, Rub My Back’ from my Goldsmiths Degree show in 2018. Is a piece that has remained very close to me. The installation consisted of two spaces, one an insipid waiting room with a broken clock, and the other containing a wooden cubicle. Set in the wall of the cubicle was a wide window with wooden blinds. A durational performance took place within these two spaces, for 26 hours, over the course of four days.

For hours, the body is curled, crushed, dressed, everted and embraced. I think this work is significant to me because it achieved some form of catharsis. The work reflects on experiences had during a period when I was struggling with depression, kidney stones and Epstein Barr virus. In an attempt to reflect on and share these experiences, I somehow ended up reclaiming them and, for the first time in a long time, felt at home in my own body.

‘A Monthly Reading Group for Bored Cows’ was a project I did over a period of 6 months in 2017-2018. My research at the time was making connections between agricultural institutions and institutions of care. One of the main connections I drew was the amount ‘waiting’. Waiting for an appointment, waiting for a diagnosis, waiting to be milked, waiting to give birth. And all this waiting done is specially designed spaces, overseen by specially trained individuals. The group of dairy cows I spent time with were a combination of heifers (immature females) and heavily pregnant cows, neither of which were being milked. At first, they appeared docile and a little flighty, but as I began to interact with them, they were playful, naughty and affectionate. This drew, for me, comparisons with the way in which you can be initially seen by others and even by yourself when you have a ‘sick body’.

I am currently working on an arts and health project titled ‘The Inmate’s Journey’. It involves collating, discussing and sharing different narratives relating to illness experience. During the project I work with a number of participants, better understanding their day-to-day experience of living with chronic &/ long-term illness. Identifying common themes, experiences, and imagery between our narratives, I begin to devise works that critically explore these. This project is the kind of work that really excites me; it involves collaboration, allows me to use skills I gained during my masters in psychology and is relevant to the use of artistic interventions in healthcare environments. Alongside this, sharing the series of paper works has made me excited about widening my practice, I’m
currently painting and taking a printmaking course and I’m looking forward to seeing how these mediums make their way into my practice.

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