British multimedia artist uses humour as her weapon to trigger socio-political discussions.
Londoner Liberty Antonia Sadler is a multidisciplinary artist who skillfully juggles drawing, moving image, and text. Interested in working with performance and film, she undertook a BA degree in Performance Design and Practice at Central Saint Martins and continued her studies towards a comprehensive understanding of the current art world with a MA degree in Fine Arts at Chelsea College of Art. Liberty has been based at Hotel Elephant since October 2016, where she works freelance. Her practice is balanced between personal artworks and commissioned pieces.
Committed to challenge the female presence on screen in a ‘photo-shopped’ world, Liberty’s work explores socio-political phenomena and 21st century body politics. Focussing on themes such as food, ‘femininity’ and sexuality, Liberty uses a humorous approach to trigger discussions about vulnerability, imperfection and inequality. Her artworks have been featured at various exhibitions at Whitechapel Gallery and OXO Gallery in London, HOME in Manchester, CCA in Glasgow, as well as in many magazines such as Nylon, Polyester, Metro, Grazia & Sukeban, among others. Her film 'Private Theatre' was part of Videoclub's Selected Six Programme and Tour in 2016.
We met Liberty in her colourful studio at Hotel Elephant, Spare Street to find out more about her practice, her studio at Hotel Elephant and to get her tips for those interested in a career in the creative industries.
Hi Liberty! Your artistic approach is very provocative and edgy. Do you receive many critiques?
Since I work with larger female bodies and it comes from a female perspective, people aren’t particularly used to it. Male artists have predominantly set the rules for female representations across history, so my work is a sort of ‘claiming back the agency’. Representations of fat bodies in a sexual context have a serious political purpose, mainly visibility. Some people say it’s too much, but I’m fine with that - it’s actually one of the effects I always hope for. My tutor back at University used to say that artists are ‘social surgeons’, they have to dissect society, we can explore our culture through art. I often use humour as a form of critique, I think it's a great way to break down audience barriers. I do not create to end up in a gallery, I do it for people and I always have a specific audience in my mind. I often receive very positive feedback too - people recognise themselves in what I do. I also create for myself. I find myself in my work. My tutor always also encouraged me to be myself as much as possible - that’s where your work starts to be effective, when it’s unapologetic.
We can see some notes and sketches on your wall and your notebook. Is it a project you’re currently working on?
It is! It’s still in early stages, but I can tell you a bit about my last short film titled ‘I feel Femme’, which mainly revolves around feminine stereotypes and the so-called ‘Madonna Whore complex’, which is the categorizing of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ women. I tend to explore power dynamics in my films and I’m particularly interested in gender illusion - using myself playing all the characters shows us how quickly we can transform. In ‘I feel Femme’ I play two male and two female characters. The two male ones represent the meninist side of society and they’re a critique of contemporary misogyny. I will use humour to explore the ‘nice guy’ phenomena, those guys behaving kindly just to reach their merely sexual goals and that presumptuously think they deserve a treat for behaving as a nice person. I impersonate all the characters of my films and play with gender roles and I always get so surprised of how quickly I embody them - I’d never thought I’d feel so comfortable with a beard on my face! 'I Feel Femme' has now been shown all over the world, such as at the AVIFF Art Film Festival at Cannes this summer, Altered Esthetics Film Festival in the USA, and most recently at CINEMQ in Shanghai. It's really exciting to see my films travel like that, from London with Love.
You’ve had a space at Spare Street for nearly a year now - What do you like the most about working at Hotel Elephant?
I love having my space and privacy, but also the opportunity to meet people in the coffee bar. There’s a nice feel of community around. Besides, working with Emily and Reuben, the directors, it’s fantastic. They help us promote our work and they have allowed me to create a short film evening here called 'MicroActs', a screening night for artists and filmmakers to share their work, the next one is coming up in September. It’s a very supportive environment.
Can you tell us a bit about your studio at Hotel Elephant?
I started looking for a space for myself a month after my MA and as soon as I walked in here I just felt it was the right place for the amount of walls, facilities and the freedom to move the layout of the studio at my will. It gives me the flexibility to focus on my personal projects, switch to commissioned work and then back again. Being a bit of a workaholic I can sometimes spend around 12 hours per day here, but it feels like home and it’s such a comfy space that I don’t notice the time passing by. I just love it and it’s my sanctuary. Working with emotional, intimate topics, my studio allows me to be very brave with my work and gives me enough privacy to focus on my projects in a safe space, completely undistracted. In terms of layout, I have a big desk where I carry out my digital works. Upon the same wall hangs my ‘mood board’, a sort of inspirational board with cards from exhibitions and notes that people wrote to me. My ‘planning wall’ on the other end is where I stick notes and sketches for the planning of my latest projects - it helps me think and organise the editing rhythm. Right next to the entrance is my favourite corner of the studio, my colourful ‘painting space’, where I work with gouache, water, drip-down techniques and thin layers of paint. This is something I could start exploring after moving here, having my own space to make as much mess as I want to.
At Hotel Elephant we’re interested in creating a creative community and encouraging collaborative working - How important do you think collaborative working is to your industry?
I think collaboration it’s very important and it’s fundamental to meet other people and share ideas. When I draw I work solo, but I collaborate with lots of artists for many commitments and I also meet many people in my studio to collaborate on their projects. When making my films I work with a team of amazing people I trust and we’ve built a close relationship over several years of work.
Do you have any advice for recent graduates or those just starting who want a career in the creative industries?
Put the right time into practice, whether you have your own studio or you work on your kitchen table. That’s the the only way you can build a consistent body of work and develop your creative ‘voice’. Besides, go to lots of private views and events, see what other people are working on and talk to them about their work. It’s important to be part of a community and to think of the world outside of your studio… while you’re in your studio! Not being isolated is definitely the top tip to follow.
Liberty Antonia Sadler is performing in collaboration with dance company TobyLikesMilk for their show 'GoneOff' at Camden Fringe 17-19th August, one of TimeOut's top 10 shows to see at Camden Fringe.
Liberty is also organising the next MicroActs film night here at Hotel Elephant on Thursday 14th September, from 6pm until late.
Follow Liberty on
(Words by Daniele Nolè)