How Bethany Jane Freer explores Surrealism and the unconscious August 17, 2017

Bethany Jane Freer was our Invention Award winner for the challenge What Can You Do in 3 Minutes? by Simba Sleep. Her animation 3 Minute Poem was an original and creative interpretation on the challenge to show through video what someone can make in three minutes. We highly recommend you watch it here.

With a strong understanding of the cultural context of her artwork, and infectious enthusiasm for surrealism and the work of other artists, Bethany is extremely interesting to listen to! Watch the video below to see her working process, and read my interview with her about winning the award below to find out more about her practice.

Above: an insight into Bethany Freer’s practice. Video clips supplied by Bethany, music by Haze.

To get straight into things, your animation 3 Minute Poem was a really quirky and original take on the brief. How did you get from the 3 minute challenge brief to your final idea?

When I get a brief I love to inject my own practise and style into a project. In my practise I use many automatic and chance related methods in an attempt to create the most original and authentic work I can, influenced by early Surrealist games. I felt this was perfect for the project as it becomes an activity and platform anyone can use to create a diversity of work from just a poem, whether that be music lyrics, paintings, sculptures- it’s a perfect way to show the creativeness of the Pop My Mind community! The “YouTube DIY” format came from the idea of Simba showing you how easy it is to assemble their product in 3 minutes, I wanted to create this same effect but with a creative angle – the video acting as a an instructional how to or “springboard” to the limitless things you can make in 3 minutes.

Was there a lot of preparation into making the video, and what did that involve?

When I started making story boards to help me create the video I actually had an idea for a small series of “how to’s” to show just how many things you could do in 3 minutes. I ended up filming the video in my kitchen! I used a table cloth as a green screen as I wanted to match Simba’s overall image and to re-create the same format as a Blue Peter or Art Attack how to. There was a lot of stop motion animation involved to make it a bit more stylised and quirky.

What were your other ideas?

I wanted to introduce more Surrealist inspired games such as the “Exquisite corpse”, where you and a partner take it in turns to draw body parts while folding the paper to hide what you have drawn. I thought this might be a cool idea as Simba have mattresses for couples!

A lot of your other pieces on Pop My Mind are sculpture. Your practice is very diverse, what would you say is the common thread running throughout it?

So many mediums excite me; I find it so hard to stick to one!

In both sculpture and all my work I rely on my automatic drawings to give me authentic material straight from my “unconscious” and latent thoughts. Automatic drawing is when you start scribbling randomly while in a meditation like state, allowing unconscious thoughts to surface when trying to identify shapes and forms within your master piece.

This is what my practise focuses on really, the idea of projecting the mind onto space and our environment to better understand how the individual thinks. This has especially been effective through sculpture, I love the freedom of moulding abstract forms which I use as tools for my audience to project their minds onto and find visuals within my sculptures, almost like identifying and understanding symbols in dreams. I like to call it a type of art therapy, I want my sculptures to aid positively with understanding and dealing with mental health which is a theme I am focusing on at the moment (stay tuned!).

Do you have any tips for someone else wanting to experiment with video?

Grab any device that can take video and film! Video Art is a very young and exciting platform which artists are only just starting to exploit, I defiantly recommend giving it a go and just experiment with editing and how it is presented; such as in an installation along other work maybe. I think the idea of appropriating film, which is where you make an almost collage of Film and TV is quite exciting. Check out Pipilotti Rist and Bill Viola, they will really inspire you to pick up a camera!

Is there artist on Pop My Mind who particularly inspires you, and why?

There are honestly many (you are all so talented!)

I love Sander Steins, the way he uses layout for his collages is so creative! I really like how he introduces such a clever use of gesture and mark making onto a range of images, it really inspired me to turn my automatic drawings into paintings using a range of different brush sizes and strokes using the process of chance!

I also really admire Martin Swan’s work; I saw his work in an exhibition when I first moved to Norwich and I think it’s really intense and witty. Love the idea of re-cycling found objects into topical hard hitting statements. If you want something really impactful I defiantly recommend seeing his work!

You joined us not very long ago in February this year. How have you found being on Pop My Mind so far?

I’ve seriously loved using the platform; I jump on as many opportunities as I can! I think it’s such a fantastic idea to encourage artist to not only respond and work with each other but also to inspire and challenge you to try new mediums and processes such as the 3 minute challenge.

It’s such a brilliant way to springboard your career and start getting your work out there as well, I’ve had some really exciting opportunities to work with real companies and brands and become more confident in my abilities as a working artist! It really motivates you to create work, I feel like an art machine at the moment.

If people were to respond to your piece, is there any element that you would like them to focus on and take in new directions?

Be as creative as you can! I would love to see a diversity of mediums being used to create work inspired by the automatic poems, like a song or even another video. I’ve had so much fun using Surrealist inspired processes to create work and want to make them more known to new artists, maybe even to use them commercially with the opportunities Pop my mind throws at us!

Do you have an idea of what you would like to spend your £50 bursary on?

Thank you so much for the bursary, it definitely didn’t take long to spend!

I’m really excited by paints at the moment, I want to see what different textures and shapes I can create using things like pouring medium – expect some colourful stuff!

What are you working on now… what’s next?

Many many more sculptures!

I hope to make a series of sculptures that focus on a therapy for mental health, I currently have 2 such sculptures on show at the Creative Thoughts exhibition at the University of Suffolk- one sculpture incorporates a blackboard element that you can write and draw on that I’m quite excited about!

I also hope to delve further into my drawings through using everyday materials: expect drawings using tools such as the humble ballpoint pen!


Find Bethany’s Pop My Mind profile here. Follow Pop My Mind on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to see more selected work from their talented artists!

Video and interview by Karis Lambert