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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Ashley Holmes

Double 6, 2019 Collaborative performance with R.I.P. Germain for Poor Image Projects 8. Photos by Jules Lister

Combining a multitude of different interests – such as music, film, visual arts and archiving – can be a difficult task, but it's something that artist Ashley Holmes has been able to harness, resulting in compelling and innovative work spanning across sculpture, film, sound and performance. In addition to organising community projects, working with young people and running music events, Holmes’s work also grapples with the somewhat difficult genre of the ‘autobiographical’.

Fundamentally, Ashley is interested in identity, and more specifically how the personal stories and experiences of Black people in Britain have been passed down through generations. He regularly uses images and film footage found in physical and digital archives to produce work that provides a unique insight into the complex relationships and narratives that are being told through music, popular culture, film and family photo albums.

Having exhibited in various venues across Sheffield, including S1 Artspace, Millennium Gallery and Site Gallery, along with DJing and working on music events across the city, Holmes may be a recognisable figure within cultural circles here in Sheffield. However his work extends beyond the UK, having been presented in Tokyo, Basel and New York, where Ashley is fast becoming one of the hottest prospects emerging out of the interdisciplinary field of exhibition making, moving image production, performance, music and radio broadcasting.

Ashley Holmes is an example of the high quality artistic talent to come out of Sheffield Institute of Arts over the last decade and is a name that you will no doubt see more of over the next ten years.

How would you describe your work?
Varied! I graduated from the fine art undergraduate course at Sheffield Institute of Arts in 2013, I was working mostly with video and film around then. My work more recently ranges across sound installations, exhibitions, music, performances and radio broadcasts. Most of the things I'm up to at the moment are informed by lots of conversations and collaborative work and thinking.

How do you choose the themes you work with?
Thematically my work is autobiographical. I use my own family history as a starting point to think about how the personal stories and experiences of Black people in Britain have generationally been told. I'm interested in the legacy and changing processes of archiving, as a way of investigating social and political histories as well as wider conversations about the intersections of race, class and identity.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm working on finishing off a new sound installation and short video essay at the moment for a couple of exhibitions I have coming up. I’m also continuing to develop the Open Deck series which I started earlier this year. It’s a social space where people are invited to bring music responding to a theme and contribute to a space of collective listening and sharing of stories, memories and perspectives.

Who, what or where should be better known in Sheffield?
UK Mondo Radio, Saddaca, Broomhall Centre, Red Haus Cafe + Books, Boo Wax Records, Showroom Cinema.

What would you change about the city?
Sheffield has a strong community ethos and I think has a reputation for a DIY culture with lots of well supported self initiated projects and organisations, but I think that there could be more connectivity in the city. It’s something I think about regularly and not to say it doesn’t happen already, but I seem to be having lots of similar conversations recently and it’s evident that lots of people have similar interests and concerns. So I’d like to see even more dialogue and exploration of the potential for collaboration – for example between artists and the people involved in the political and activism work that happens in the city, or between independent retailers and filmmakers, etc, etc!

AAA, 2018. Photo by Peter Martin

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