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How it started vs. How it’s going: Sonia Perkin, BA Fine Art

Have you ever looked at an artist’s work and thought that they must have always been that good and sure of what they’re doing? It’s easy to look at a piece of creative and not understand the development that leads up to the finished product. How it started vs. How it’s going aims to highlight what goes on in the background of each creative project, as well as comparing the artist’s personal growth over time. In this episode we speak to BA (Hons) Fine Art student Sonia Perkin and look at the development of her work from the beginning of Year 1 to the end of Year 3. 

Sonia Perkin

What got you into Fine Art?

I actually studied a Textiles degree to begin with as I’ve always had a love for tactility and materiality, and though there were elements of the course that I enjoyed, it wasn’t for me. 

Fine Art encourages individuality and freedom of expression, and is very broad in its spectrum of employment and further study opportunities, so I knew it would give me the flexibility and breathing-space I needed to decide what creative career I’d like to undertake.

How would you describe your style of making, then and now?

I was fairly experimental when I first started, but my projects lacked substance. I guess my love of experimenting hasn’t really diminished in the time that I’ve been studying here, it’s more that I’ve learnt how to refine my approach, having gained some level of professionalism, finesse, and a stronger identity.

Everyone knows me for having quite wacky ideas, and I pride myself on that! If it’s thought-provokingly strange, dexterous and vivid, you can bet that it’s probably mine!

As an artist with obsessive-compulsive disorder, my style of making has always been very meticulous, lengthy and project-based – that’s just how the disorder manifests itself in my work. Now I’m in my final year, I’ve been questioning what other effects the mental disorder has on my creative practice.

How it started: Sonia’s work in Year 1

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How has studying Fine Art helped develop your practice?

Through group critiques, exhibitions and workshops I’ve learnt so many transferable skills like curating, presenting, writing and editing, and more notably – learning how to share projects and collaborate, as I found it difficult not to have full control over all of the decision-making!

What have you found out about yourself as an artist since studying here?

The diversity of this course has not just taught me who I am as a creative practitioner, but what’s important to me as an individual – I didn’t realise just how humanitarian I am!

Don’t get me wrong, I love making for sheer curiosity, but what I’ve come to understand is that what I really want my practice to do is make a difference – it’s fulfilling when I know that what I’m doing is making an impact.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt about your practice whilst studying at NUA?

I think there’s sometimes this massive pressure to feel like you have to have a “thing” early on, but the more you try and force creativity or conform to what you think you should be doing, the more desensitised you’re likely to get to achieving something organic and real.

I learnt that it’s perfectly okay to be a multidisciplinary artist, and not feel like you need to choose between classing yourself as a sculptor, painter, printmaker or other – the “thing” that makes you unique is your message and style, not your preferred medium!

How it’s going: Sonia’s work in Year 3

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Where do you get your inspiration?

Naturally, people inspire me – I’m a chatty extrovert! My mother is an ex-counsellor and English teacher, now hypnotherapist – so she’s the queen of communication and very creative with words, and my father is an ex-groundsman and handyman – always pottering around in the garage making things, so I guess there’s a lot of creative energy bustling around in my genes. I have a lot to thank my parents for in collectively teaching me how to articulate myself, both verbally and physically.

Other than people, nature is a big inspiration. Even though I love my den (home), I can’t stress enough how important it is to get out there and see the world! Some of my favourite artists include Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama and Tai Shani.

What do you love the most about Fine Art?

I love that with fine art there are no limits. No material is off the table, nor subject matter. Fine art reminds us how important it is to see the world from multiple perspectives, and just how enlightening and transformational an experience that can be for people.

What advice would you give someone who is thinking of studying Fine Art, but might not feel too confident in their work or skill level?

Remember that everyone has to start somewhere. It was the same for all the well-known artists out there! The tutors and technicians are right there with you for support through the whole process – if you’ve got the ideas, they can help you make it happen!

This course revealed what I’m capable of, and built my confidence up enough to follow my own ambitions, which is ultimately why we’re here. I’ve realised that the right support and encouragement is everything, and it’s the people that have made this experience so rewarding.

I would encourage you to try everything, be involved in as much as possible, and make sure that the work you’re creating is what you want it to be.

All work pictured by Sonia Perkin.
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