VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Fenner, Shelagh

Shelagh Fenner
UK video artist


  • artist biography
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    Interview: 10 questions

    1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
    I live with my partner and our 2 children in a seaside town in the North West of England, but it is also close to a large city. I have had a varied career and worked at many things before committing full time to making art. My early university career centered around social science where I read for an MA in Applied Social Research. It was not until much later on, when I felt so strongly about doing art, that I returned to university and studied fine art. My social science background, however, has been very useful to me and given me a broad cultural perspective on my position as an artist.

    2. When, how and why started you filming?
    I began filming in 2005. It was a friend and teacher of fine art who encouraged me to try. In fact Mirror Mum was my first film. Even though I have made six other films since, it remains very close to my heart, probably because it is my own mother on the screen.

    3. What kind of subjects have your films?
    Most of my films are about individual perceptions of belief and the desire for knowledge of both this and the metaphysical world. My interests stem from the emanatory position of the individual within the ontological and conceptual contexts of time, memory and myth.

    4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
    I do not consciously follow a style. I think my style just forces its way through no matter what kind of different idea I have that I am trying to realize to film. What is me, my personality or my particular
    creativity is there. People say to me, “You can tell it’s your film.” I do try to keep things subtle. I don’t like art of any medium that’s in your face. I think it’s important to allude to something or infer or suggest…it’s more interesting when the viewer can fill in the gaps for themselves.

    5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
    I use a hand held digital video-camera with the best lens I can afford, in my case a Leica lens. I also use a good quality portable sound recording unit. I collect sounds of allsorts; you never know when they may find their moment!

    6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
    I think the opportunities for new media are potentially endless. For me personally, I prefer to keep things simple. Different works require different treatment. I may be using digital right now, but could be using a super 8 tomorrow. It all depends on what you have in mind for the shot or for the feel of the work. I’m not in love with technology – but I do like to have a choice, like having a very large paint box.

    7. How do you finance your films?
    So far, the work is self-financed. But then again I have not gone looking for financial help. Maybe that will change in the future depending on how ambitious my projects get.

    8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
    if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?

    I worked solo on my first film, Mirror Mum, but after that had some help when required from my partner, who now works as editorial assistant. He is a software engineer by profession, so is much faster than I am at navigating the computer. I’ve never had a team as such; there’s just the two
    of us or just me. As long as I can get the shot to look as close as possible to how I imagined it, I am happy.

    9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
    In cinema there are 3 directors who spring immediately to mind:
    David Lynch, Peter Greenaway and Sally Potter. There is often a dreamlike quality to their work and they are all very painterly. From childhood, probably the early experience of the catholic church service made a lasting impression: the spectacle of ceremony; the amber glow of candle light which
    infused the depths of the church itself; the smoke and aroma of the incense which hung as veils of myrrh around the chanting congregation. it was captivating. I like to feel enchanted by stories, such as folk tales and ancient myths and I like to sense the essence of enchantment in film.

    10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
    I have many ideas for future works, which include documentary/art film; online installation and experimental film. Right now, I am researching the possibility of producing a documentary which incorporates artistic form.
    I cannot give too much away as nothing is confirmed, but it is set on a remote Island off the British coast and would portray a fairy tale for the 21st century which is also about cultural and individual identity; historical artefact and myth making. If I had complete freedom, that is, without time or financial constraints, I would travel more widely and move among people more – we can learn so much from each other.