‘Experiences shape the microscopic details of your life; who you are depends on where you’ve been’, so artist Shanelle Bateman created a wearable artwork to carry her Slow Ways experience onward through life
“As an artist I tend to be ideas-led, meaning that the idea comes first and then I figure out how to do the technical side of the task as I go. This naturally lends itself to my being an artist of many disciplines – I use the technique that lends itself best to the specific idea I’m working on at the time, whether this be photography, painting, drawing, collage or, in the case of this particular commission, textiles…
I was very grateful to have been asked by Slow Ways to combine two of my favourite activities: hiking and making artwork! I had no idea what artistic outcome would come from the walk.
Whilst walking and capturing photographs along the way, I thought about the fact that I have walked so many routes in my life, and that they become a part of me – I am shaped by those experiences, I carry them (and all of the other experiences of my life) around with me.
There is a neuroscientist called David Eagleman whose work has helped shape my thinking about memories, experiences and how they link to identity.
He wrote: “All the experiences in your life – from single conversations to your broader culture – shape the microscopic details of your brain. Neurally speaking, who you are depends on where you’ve been. Your brain is a relentless shape-shifter, constantly rewriting its own circuitry – and because your experiences are unique, so are the vast detailed patterns in your neural networks. Because they continue to change your whole life, your identity is a moving target; it never reaches an endpoint.” (The Brain: The Story of You, Eagleman)
From this thought came the idea to create something that would be wearable. I wanted to create a piece that I could then take with me on further journeys; a piece that would grow, change and age along with me – a coat seemed like the perfect choice.
I’ve always had a bit of a knack for charity shopping, so the exact same day that I had the idea, I went to my favourite local charity shop and pretty much immediately found the most amazing, full-length trench coat just hanging there, as if waiting for me to take it and work with it.
I walked the route (from Leeds city centre to Pudsey, along the Leeds-Liverpool canal) with a close friend and fellow artist, Ranya. We chose this particular route because, whilst it had been a staple for me during my decade living in Leeds, it was a route she had never walked and I was excited to take her with me on a journey that already held a lot of memories for me.
There is a little irony in the responses we chose to make; Ranya is primarily a textile-artist, whilst I would consider my primary techniques to be collage (usually as a background) and drawing… For this project, we flipped the script – she made a collage, including illustrations from our experiences on the day, whilst I worked with embroidery and photographs printed on to fabric.
It’s as if we ‘rubbed off’ on each other through the experience!”
Shanelle Bateman Shanelle is a Leeds-based fine artist working in mixed mediums, exploring humanity, connection, emotion and popular culture. Follow her on Instagram via the button below.