Artist Statement
“For all history is the history of waste, of what was left behind, excreted, discarded or lost.” - Tom Chivers

Anouska Samms’ practice draws on matrilineal memory, women’s bodies in relationship to domesticity, and the intersection between design and fine art. She produces distinct ceramic sculptures, tapestries and moving image work. Human hair is her primary medium, sourced from strangers and family. It is bleached, cut and sewn as individual strands are bound together; all before it is woven into a textile on a domestic floor-loom.

Animated by the unforeseen qualities and unpredictable nature of the materials themselves, Samms’ sculptures are characterised by a ceaseless experimentation with structure, functionality and archetype. She draws on a breadth of references from British studio pottery to biomorphism, and the abstract painting style associated with the Art Informel movement of the 1960s. Samms looks at the mechanisms and aesthetics of traditional crafts as inspiration, however through her embrace of gesture, new hybrid structures are proposed. Working with synchronicities and accidents, nothing goes to waste or is discarded. Here perceived ‘failures’ - breakages in the kiln, unintentional rips in the cloth - are reimagined as deconstructions of traditional forms. Quiet processes of control, such as throwing and weaving, become processes where the accident is invited, even encouraged. Neither technique or material is prioritised over the other, yet their distinct errors and waste dictate the shape of their final form.

Samms alludes to the complex relationships between women’s bodies and domestic function. Her vessels, tapestries and most recently pieces of furniture; intentionally retain the shadow of their former domestic purpose. Yet the additional layering of materials such as sand, upcycled scraps of leather and silk, and patinated steel evoke a harsher reality of daily life. Here refined materials are combined with something more industrial, bridging a dichotomy between the soft and abrasive, the decorative and the disagreeable. Samms’ practice is to merge discordant elements. In recent works, messier layers are revealed through heavy coatings of oil paint and pastel over textiles and clay.

Typically a red textured clay body is used, as the impression of Samms’ fingers are imprinted on the surface by movements of punching, pinching, scratching and tearing apart. Delicate and fleshy, hair is often painstakingly woven with minute silk threads on the loom to create an uncharacteristically fragile exoskeleton for these clay bodies, filling the empty gaps of the fractured, solid surfaces. This is a process where loose points of connection are made within seemingly disparate edges and textures, pairing the beautiful with the abject.

One particular preoccupation is the different ways intergenerational knowledge is passed down, and the ways individual memories and habits become entwined within one household. Hair is a physical representation of these concerns, as mitochondrial DNA is found within the hair shaft and is passed down specifically to a child from their mother or pregnant parent. It carries knowledge in its very form, as it literally holds natural inheritances and patterns from mother to daughter. However Samms’ use of hair also signals further psychological enmeshment - or rather, learnt behaviour. Bearing autobiographical elements, the hair is exhaustedly organised, before it is typically dyed different shades of the same colour - an earthly auburn, humorously mirroring five generations of women in Samms’ family who had all chosen to colour their hair alike. Samms’ terms this ‘mother-imitation’, an obsessive conditioning within lineages. Through this work, the audience is invited to consider the overwhelming behaviours we create in our psychic and physical realities as a way to stay attached to our heritage and unknown identities of self.