OSCAR CRABB is an artist in his third year at the Slade. Working mostly in textiles, he explores sustainable practices and uses art as a means for political discussion. JEAN WATT interviewed him about his practice, how he’s staying creative at the moment, and how this lockdown period might affect his future work.
What have you been working on at the moment?
I haven’t been able to make any of my usual work, so I’ve been mostly planning what I could do when I’m able to access my materials again, as they’re currently locked inside my studio at the Slade. In the meantime I’ve been doing some weaving at home on a loom, drawing and a bit of writing, just trying to keep up momentum.
And what else have you been doing day to day?
Cooking, lots of cooking, making cocktails…
Tell me more!
I’ve been trying out some new drinks, one of my favourites is called ‘The Aviation’ which is gin, maraschino and creme de violette (which is a purple liqueur). I’ve also been doing a radio show on VIPMIX, called Aperitif, every second Friday of the month at around 7 or 8 in the evening. It’s music to have a drink to.
Do you feel like cooking and making cocktails, things like that, have a relationship with your work or that you approach them in similar ways as a way of expressing yourself?
I don’t think so, I think it’s different. I make work and approach art through feeling, like trying to explore an injustice, or explore something that bothers me. And I cook just to enjoy spending time on something.
So what have you been working on this year, up until this point?
I was making large flag textile pieces using natural dyes; some of them foraged myself, some of them sourced locally or ethically. I wanted these flags to act as a stepping stone for a discussion within an artistic space and also as a more topical, political kind of catalyst.
What kind of discussions has your work inspired?
I’ve been talking about transparency within material processes in the arts and consumption of hazardous or dangerous materials – and disposal particularly. Thinking about what goes into making a piece of artwork, particularly paintings. And so, using the display space that we have in Slade, I tried to change it into a space for education supported by an aesthetic display of work.
You ran a workshop this year at the Slade (Natural Dyes for Beginners). How important to your work is education and teaching others how to develop more sustainable practices?
It’s equally as important as what the work looks like. Without each other, those things would become useless. If it didn’t look good, then it would be much harder for an audience to be captivated and then want to learn. And if it didn’t provide any education then it would just be materialistic and hollow work.
In what other ways do you try to lead a sustainable lifestyle?
It’s pretty hard in London in 2020. But, I try to know where things come from and always look for a place of manufacture or place of origin on whatever I buy, food or clothes. I make sure to look for any kind of red flag ingredients, like non-sustainable palm oil. And just trying to mend things, reuse things. I used to go to the protests but I can’t really do that at the moment so just trying to get other people to do little ecological acts too.
So while we’re in this period of lockdown, where do you hope to move forwards after it and how has it affected your mindset in terms of creativity?
It’s definitely affected my work, and impacted my thinking. I’m going into my final year next year and it’s made me think about what I can base my projects on, maybe in terms of a local regrowth sort of project. I think coronavirus has made some people adopt a more communal way of thinking, so I’ve been wondering how to maintain this. Hopefully I’ll be collaborating with some people on how we could help in mapping out ways to be sustainable in our local areas. Or having open-invite discussions in community centres with local people on how they see sustainability in their area, how could their area be more sustainable for them and what’s accessible for them. And then maybe trying to bring something from that back into the context of my work.