Anna Hunt works with ceramics to create objects of fine contemporary craft that “rekindle a forgotten, childlike sense of curiosity and delight”. I recently saw one of her major works, Stirring the Swarm, at Nottingham Castle - an installation of 10,000 ceramic insects that infested the central staircase. It was rather awesome.
Inspired by her captivating, and often haunting work I asked Anna about her top five inspirations. Here she talks us through fairy tales, science and getting lost in a French wood.
One… Pans Labyrinth
From the very first second of this film I was in awe. Watching the film has become a form of escapism for me, just for a few hours, and afterwards there is always a new idea nesting inside my head. The film has taught me much about a haunting beauty, and I love how the story unfurls. It is both radiant and alluring, yet dark and disturbing, which is constantly reflected in the imagery as well as the story. I find this contrast incredibly curious and captivating, it’s the dazzling fairy tale that has turned so diabolically wrong. I have experimented with a similar balance in my ceramic practice, and it is an area that continues to fascinate me.
Two… The World of Science
From a very early age I truly believed that I would one day become an astronaut. At school I enjoyed both art and science, and I often felt torn between the two. Obviously I chose a creative pathway in the end, however I still find science a very intriguing subject. I frequently borrow copies of New Scientist magazine to leisurely peruse. I’m always left amazed at how peculiar our world is. I am also fascinated by the grim practices of historic sciences. I spend far too much money buying old science books purely to look at the pictures, the text style and (excitement mounting) the diagrams. I love the way science so carefully makes notes, conducts experiments, uses labels, bottles, Latin names, and puts things into neat tidy boxes. This is the opposite of how I function, which is possibly why I’m drawn to it, and increasingly my ceramics are beginning to mirror some of these elements.
Three… Calke Abbey
I discovered the magical place that is Calke Abbey 2 years ago, and it is the most inspirational and bewitching place I have ever visited in my life. The National Trust property has controversially been preserved in a state of semi disrepair – the exact state it was found in after being abandoned. The upper part of the house is dark and gloomy, with all the shutters closed. Taxidermy animal heads are piled up on beds, the peeling floor boards creek ominously and the skeletons of chairs are just visible in the gloom. It’s like a macabre spell has been cast over the house, and I feel as though I am in a Brothers Grimm story as I meander around the rooms. This experience has left a huge impression on me, and I love the balance between decadence and deterioration. Many elements have become weaved into my art work as a result of this visit to Calke abbey, and I can’t wait to return when it opens again.
Four… Fairy Tales
It’s probably doesn’t come as a surprise to find ‘fairy tales’ on my list of inspirations. I suppose this inspiration started casting its influence over me from a very young age! I was a Disney child, and my Aladdin Party is still spoken about as if it were a legend. It’s only recently that I have started to peer into the depths of the original fairy tales by the Grimms, Anderson and Perrault. I was initially shocked at how grim and sinister many of these children’s tales were. Also by how strange and odd elements of the stories are. The idea of following trails of stones into the woods, or following a white rabbit down a rabbit hole makes me tingle with excitement yet gives me the chills. I’m fascinated by the whole subject now, and like a thorny vine, the influence has started creeping into the foundations of my practice. I love story telling in general too, and this has always been at the core of my work.
Five… Into the Woods
I spent a rather splendid day lost in a French wood in Normandy last summer. We were being led through the wood by a trail of curious yellow markers hidden on trees. The guide had indicated the walk should have taken an hour, but two and a half hours later we were forced to admit that we were incredibly lost. At first it was fun, but as the trail got denser, and as we stumbled into thick spiders webs that barred our path, I started to panic. I was hot, thirsty and my feet were about to drop off. And then all of a sudden we rounded the corner and there was a French man with the biggest basket of mushrooms I had ever seen. It was most curious. I love the green of woods, the smell of damp and rot, the forks of light, and the gloom. As a city dweller, I enjoy the stillness, despite the forests being alive with animal activity. I am greatly inspired by the magic I find in forests. I also enjoy the calm thinking space and clarity that so often comes to me whilst I stroll through a wood. I always leave feeling fresh, inspired and slightly muddy.
Anna’s Swarm can be seen at Made in the Middle, a touring exhibition that launched on 10th Feb at MAC Birmingham. Anna has also created an accompanying iPhone app which is now available to download from the Apple app store.
Anna is also part of the Crafts Councils Hothouse scheme for 2012.