Folklore, digital manipulation & fine art – Meet Ashanti Hare
Ashanti Hare is a mature student currently working on the final year of a BA (Hons) Fine Art degree. An interdisciplinary fine artist who started their studies specialising in textiles and beadwork, Ashanti’s work has expanded over the course of their studies to include digital manipulation and writing, with particular references to spells and folklore.
We spoke to Ashanti to find out how a voluntary placement at KARST has led to a year-long placement learning about curation and installation, as well as learning what it was about Plymouth College of Art that attracted Ashanti to join us from London.
What made you decide on Fine Art as a discipline?
A large part of my practice is letting the material and research shape the work. I like to explore various mediums to find the best fit for the research and Fine Art allows for that. There’s also the freedom to explore how you think through what you make, which I hadn’t experienced with other disciplines. It’s less about the final result and more about the process of making.
SPELLJAR III, Ashanti Hare
What do you think is unique about Plymouth College of Art compared to other art schools?
A lot of the reasons why I decided to study here are also answered by this question. I was always dead set on studying at Plymouth College of Art despite applying for several large arts universities in London. I was immediately blown away by the facilities and the fact that this is a smaller, independent university.
I knew I’d get the support that I need here, which I didn’t feel I’d get at a larger university. I definitely think part of what attracted me is how passionate and interested the tutors are in your practice and how they can support you in developing that.
How has your creative practice developed while you have been here?
To start with, my practise was quite restrictive. I remember handing in my first project for fine art and being very rigid about creating work in one discipline. It was going to be textiles and beadwork or nothing. However, my practice has now become such a playful experience.
Is there a particular tutor who has helped you during your studies?
Absolutely. Sarah King, the subject leader for Fine Art, has been instrumental during my time here. Sarah is incredibly passionate about us as artists and supporting us in developing our practice. I owe a lot of my confidence as a creative to her.
Handspell Wax, Ashanti Hare
What inspires you to create?
For me, as an autistic person I have always struggled with verbal communication, so creating has been a way for me to communicate my thoughts and make sense of my experiences.
I can find inspiration in anything really. My recent work was a response to watching Suspiria and an episode of Buffy where a demon is trapped in a computer.
What is the best piece of advice given to you by your tutors?
Just go for it and don't be afraid to ask for help. They both kind of go hand-in-hand. If you have an idea for a project or there’s something you want to achieve then you should go for it.
Sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to achieve, but something I’ve learnt over the last year is that most artists, educators and galleries, especially in Devon and Cornwall, are willing to help if you know what it is you want.
What are the benefits of studying in Plymouth?
Having access to open space and natural landscapes. I’m originally from south London, so it’s a completely new experience of being able to explore Dartmoor or getting on a boat to Cornwall. There is a lot of inspiration to be found here.
You have a year's internship at KARST, could you tell me more about how that came about and what you have experienced and learned there so far?
I was introduced to KARST through an annual project called Test Space. In the second year of my degree we got to take over the gallery for a week, which resulted in a Test Space for creating gallery work and a closing event at KARST. For many of us it was the first opportunity we had to display in a gallery and test out different modes of displaying our work. It was a super fun experience! As a result of this show my work was selected to appear on the platform dore.collective.
I received a lot of positive feedback by the KARST team about my work and was offered help. I decided to reach out and take them up on that offer. Fortunately for me, they were developing an internship programme.
I have gained so much knowledge about how much work goes into installing and curating an exhibition, as well as how an artist-led space operates. It has definitely pushed me to explore curation as part of my practice and I’m excited to keep learning.
Daily Rituals, Ashanti Hare at KARST
Your work has recently focused on spells and magic. What attracted you to this subject?
I grew up around spiritual women and healers, so I was always around natural medicine or watching my mother/aunts’ making tinctures or remedies. Some of my earliest memories are making mud spells while helping my mother in the garden, or being fascinated by her various altars and collections of objects around the house. Spells and magic became sort of second nature to me.
It also has a lot to do with watching TV shows, films and reading about witches, folklore, and spirituality. I am especially interested in African and Caribbean folklore and magic.
If you weren’t studying art, what could you see yourself doing?
I don’t see myself doing anything but art. I’m a mature student and I’ve had a little taste of life without art and I don’t want it. I’ve considered studying botany, but I think that’s going to become part of my practice too!
What questions and subjects do you want to tackle in your work?
My work focuses on forming new concepts of spell work and spiritualism within art. Historically, art has a close relationship with religion; however indigenous spiritual practises are often demonised or left out of this conversation entirely. I want to challenge that.
As a creative, what do you hope to add to the world?
In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it in this way. I create because it’s what feeds my soul and how I understand and express my experience of the world.
I guess I’d like to inspire other black autistic creatives to pursue art and hopefully add a unique and simultaneously familiar perspective of life.