Artist Spotlight #82: Sorcha Yelland


Q: Hello Sorcha! Please tell us a little about yourself.

A: Hi! I’m a final year glass student at UniSA, who grew up in Adelaide and spent a lot of my childhood in Drogheda in Ireland. I play roller derby as a hobby and I’m totally glass obsessed!

Q: What form does your inspiration take? Is it people, travel, atmosphere, historical figures, memories or something else?

A: Social movements and political issues heavily inspire my work, particularly anything regarding the environment. I grew up in a kind of socially aware, hippy-ish family, so was raised with veggie gardens, my family make their own kombucha. I’ve been aware of environmental issues and understood the importance of conservation from a young age. When I’m not making work about conservation I like to explore ideas around gender, I’ve always been inspired by feminist art but have always been unsure of what I can contribute that hasn’t already been said.

Q: How would you describe your style and its progression throughout the years?

A: I really appreciate work that plays with glass as a medium and is heavily focused on form, shape and light. I think that’s what initially attracted me to the medium. But in contrast, my work is super decorative and figurative and I haven’t even been making much transparent work. I don’t know where that comes from, because a lot of the work that I’m inspired by can be quite abstract or minimalistic. Although my work is decorative, I do like to strip it back to be more monochromatic. I find when I’m working with something so busy that keeping the colours simple stops me from getting a headache from looking at it.

I worked with two-dimensional works for a long time and now I’ve recently moved to three-dimensional sculptural work, which has been a big shift for me. I’m grappling with that at the moment, building layers and dimension. I still find that when I’m making I keep accidentally thinking two-dimensionally and I need to rethink a little. In my earlier years at university we got to experiment with different mediums. I worked with clay, jewellery and different metals, which helped me to build an understanding of sculptural work and consequently how to work with three-dimensionality when creating with glass.


Q: Can you please describe your artistic and creative process i.e. from lingering idea to putting it into practice?

A: I’m a massive pesterer with my work. I’ll have an idea and I’ll message some friends straight away about it or go to my lecturer the next day, or try to find an artist that I admire, and bug them with my idea to see what other people think. I love to have conversations about my work! My family are so over me just talking about it all the time, talking about my ideas.

I don’t necessarily let other people’s opinions sway me too much, but I like to understand how people react. I like to hear different people’s perspectives. I feel like I know a very finite amount and I see the world through a narrow viewpoint, so the best way to build a work which people can resonate with it is to ask around and listen to how others interact with my ideas. I’m very lucky that glass is such a social medium that requires a lot of teamwork so always I’m surrounded with such knowledgeable and experienced minds. When I tell my peers about my ideas, they bring forth resources and techniques that will be helpful in developing the idea. I also find that verbalising something really helps me clarify concepts in my mind.

After this process, sometimes I like to collage things together and do lots of rough sketches. But as I’m working three-dimensionally, particularly with casts, I also like to play around with wax, which is a big part of my casting process. I’ll sculpt the wax into different shapes and find something that I like, and then I’ll try and source objects to make molds of, or sometimes I cast straight from my wax sculpting. I find this three-dimensional moulding a lot more helpful than drawing when I’m trying to visualise my work.

Q: Why do you make art? How does it make you feel?

A: I think I make art because I feel things deeply and have a lot of strong opinions that I want to express. If I didn’t make art I’d probably be bothering people in the streets. I’d like to see a lot of change the world, but I don’t really know what I’m doing. I think art makes me feel like I’m part something and that I have a voice. The arts community I’m surrounded by is also amazingly inspirational and motivating. The people really sold it for me.

Q: Please tell us about your recent work or collaborations. Any other projects in the works?

A: At the moment I have to finish a lot of work for my graduation at the end of the year. I’ve also been remaking some works that I broke and developing those a little further!

My main focus currently is pursuing a piece called Asphyxia. I’m really interested in the Great Barrier Reef, and think that as a country we’re not passionate enough about what’s going on there. I use The Great Barrier Reef as metaphor to explore my anxieties about the destructive nature of humanity and the current trajectory of our planet. About 70% of our breathing air comes from the ocean. Asphyxia means slow suffocation. My work depicts lungs and death masks encrusted with lesion like coral formations. Most of the masks are made of casts of my own face, but I’ve also done one of my younger brother and would like to use some other young faces. It’s about our generation and how all the actions of the last 200 years have accumulated to the point we are at right now. I believe the next few generations are really going to suffer the consequences.

I’ve got some works in the background I’ve been thinking about which explore menstrual rituals, and the ancient idea of how women are connected to lunar cycles, I think that’s a beautiful notion and find the whole thing fascinating.

Q: Where do you see your art practice taking you in the future?

A: As a glass artist I’ve worked with a lot of people who make design-focused work, they make pieces for production, beautiful functional things. Although I have a great appreciation of what they do I don’t really see that being my focus. I’d love to be an exhibiting artist and make conceptual work.  I think that’s why I get more involved in the casting process. I feel like it helps me portray my concepts in more recognizable ways.

I’d love to one day do my Masters in Art Therapy. I like the idea of being able to reach out to people with art. I’d like to do a bit of both art therapy and exhibiting. I think as an artist I have the opportunity to have a career full of variation and made up from multiple rewarding ‘jobs’.

Q: Where can we find more of your work (social media, personal website, current/upcoming exhibitions, etc.)?

You can find my work on my Instagram, and I currently have work on display in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, as part of the National Emerging Art Glass Prize. I will also have a piece in The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize exhibition which will be displayed at the South Australian Museum from the 8th of June and a selection of works in a group show in the Carclew foyer in mid June. After all that I’ll have my years work come together at the UniSA graduate exhibition in December.


Q: Finally, tell us more about roller derby! How did you get involved and what do you enjoy about the sport?

A: Sure! During my first year of glass, I had a hot shop partner who’d been playing roller derby for a few years, and that’s all she really talked about in our sessions; her roller derby friends, what she did in her game on the weekend! So she encouraged me to try out, which I did at the end of last year. I really enjoy it, its such a positive environment. It’s so empowering, I think that’s the best word for it, I love the feminine energy and I’ve gotten so much more out of it than I ever thought I could have! My team is called the Salty Dolls and we have a public game coming up at the Adelaide showgrounds on the 14th of July.

Sorcha will also be exhibiting her work as part of Collage’s ‘Small Worlds’ SALA Exhibition coming up in August! Stay tuned for more information.

Katerina Grypma

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