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In the studio with… Alberta Whittle

20 August 2021

Alberta Whittle was born in Barbados and moved to the UK as a teenager – and the artist, now based in Glasgow, often looks at the links between the Caribbean and the UK, and forms of historical forgetfulness. She works with performance, sculpture and collage, but is perhaps best known for her films. ‘Sorry not sorry’ (2018), for instance, addressed the Windrush scandal and ‘between a whisper and a cry’ (2019) looks at the devastating effects of the climate crisis. Whittle was one of the 10 artists who received a bursary when the annual Turner Prize was cancelled; she will represent Scotland at the Venice Biennale next year. Her work will be included in ‘Life Between Islands: Caribbean–British Art 1950s to Now’ at Tate Britain (1 December–3 April 2022) . RESET, a new film made in lockdown, is at Jupiter Artland until 31 October.

Where is your studio?
At Glasgow Sculpture Studios, in the north side of the city.

What do you like most about the space?
I am very lucky that my studio is a very good size and the windows have a great view of the Glasgow skyline and the canal.

What frustrates you about it?
Since Covid, it’s been so difficult to see other folks who have studios nearby. Before, you used to easily just bump into friends in the workshops or in the corridors and now there are fewer chances to just run into people. It was such a lovely way to figure out ideas by just grabbing someone and hearing what they think about what you are working on.

Do you work alone?
More often yes, but there are times when I am in the workshop, where I really cherish the sense of community and advice on offer.

How messy is your studio?
It is definitely organised chaos – lots of boxes of materials and piles of miscellaneous things.

Still from RESET (2020) by Alberta Whittle.

Still from RESET (2020) by Alberta Whittle. Image courtesy the artist

What does it smell like?
The window is always open, so I’d like to think it smells quite fresh.

What’s the weirdest object in there?
Probably a bag of ash from La Soufrière volcano on St. Vincent. The volcano erupted this April and covered Barbados in ash, so I gathered it and brought it home.

Which artistic tool could you least do without?
My laptop.

What’s the most well-thumbed book in your studio?
Christina Sharpe’s In the Wake: On blackness and Being.

Do you pin up images of other artists’ works?
I sometimes work from home and am surrounded by images of work I admire – drawings by my godsons, postcards of Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits, an image by Hilma Af Klint and a Zanele Muholi portrait.

Still from RESET (2020) by Alberta Whittle.

Still from RESET (2020) by Alberta Whittle.

What’s your typical studio lunch?
Sometimes leftovers from the night before, a bit of fruit and always nuts!

What do you listen to while you’re working?
Old-school dancehall, Grace Jones, Aretha Franklin and Jessye Norman. But sometimes a podcast like Talk Art or Code Switch.

What do you usually wear while you work?
Something comfy, often a pale pink boiler suit and usually a pair of slippers regardless of the weather.

Who’s the most interesting visitor you’ve had to your studio?
My godchildren who had lots of opinions on the work I was making.

Is anything (or anyone) banned?
Meat. I’m a vegetarian.