Local Spotlights

Local Spotlight: Jemima Burrill, artist and mum

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Tattoo 2003 by Jemima Burrill

Contributed by Emma Mackie:

Jemima Burrill is a W12 based artist, film maker and mum.  Her work ranges from political statements—for example her performance art piece protesting the lack of women in the cabinet to noticing life’s everyday mundane moments we take for granted.  She can often be found to incorporate her children in her work, that at times can have a dark edge to it, creating a tension which is always a sign of a good artist.

Her work has been shown around the world and she has received awards and recognition from the global art community.

WLM recently caught up with Jemima:

The films that you’ve made with your children look like lots of fun, how much do you direct your children before you start filming?
They are aware that it is my work and we are making a video. They take it quite seriously.  I was worried initially about getting them involved. Sally Mann had issues with putting her kids in her work later on in her life but someone gave me a great piece of advice – get your kids involved in what you love doing.  I love making art – and their excellence is totally due to the fact they respect and understood the project.  I sat for over 30 minutes and just laid out some tools, the flour, honey and water.  I gave them specific instructions and they just got on with it.  There was a sense of trust, although my youngest daughter did empty a pot of water over my head – twice!  But they were perfect.  They are not so interested in the final video. I have just made a film in a car wash and my daughter said to me:  “How was work Mum, did you go through the car wash today?”

How long have you been making films?
I started making films when I went to Chelsea College of Art to study sculpture, at the ripe old age of 30.  I decided if I didn’t go to art school then I would remain in PR and organising events and probably blow my brains out.  I still organise events at Great Western Studios but it is well balanced with making my own work too.  I have made over 16 short videos in 12 years – some which were terrible (me talking to nests about their productiveness in a wood); and some which are better and on my website.

Check out her most recent work here:

Kneaded by Jemima Burrill from Jemima Burrill on Vimeo.

What inspires you?
Little mundane incidences that might get ignored, feelings of frustration, emotional responses and inappropriate behaviour.  Other artist’s great work (Yoko Ono’s exhibition at the Serpentine – take the kids), good food, jogging with music and time to think, going to films – for example ‘Tiny Furniture’ and having chats with good friends. And getting enough sleep.

What are you working on at the moment?
I have just finished shooting a short where I go through a carwash – literally.  I am the domestic lady with rubber gloves, an apron and a 1950s rose covered dress.  I get hoovered and sprayed and go through the rollers and come out transformed.  It was physically hard (I must enjoy that on some level) but I had a great team who worked to get great footage in very little time.  The idea behind the shoot comes from an interest in exploring loosing control, washing away responsibility and how this might open up possibilities.  We will see if this is conveyed in the final video!

I am editing next week.  It is the first time I have used both a crew and an editor, so it is very exciting but also unnerving giving up some of my control to work with experts.  I am thinking of doing a radio program now about breadmaking and cleaning, so I can go back to a mic and me! Or maybe I will go the whole hog and make a feature.

What is your favourite gallery to take children to?
Ha – taking kids to galleries –  ha.  There has to be stuff for them to do, otherwise I’m happier on my own.  South London Gallery for their great Sunday kids sessions and the best brunch ever.  Smaller galleries are great like Camden Art Gallery and I get on the tube to The Whitechapel with my youngest but not as often as I would like.  London is the best for galleries, we are so lucky.  We are booked into a make a teapot session at the V&A this summer and I want to take the girls to see the Tanks at Tate Modern. Also the South Bank and all the performances that go on in front of the NFT, but if the weather clears up you are more likely to find me at Kew or in the paddling pool in Ravenscourt Park.  But Hooray for galleries when it is raining.

What’s your favourite place in West London to relax?
Michael my husband, my brother and I went to Hedone in Chiswick for the most amazing meal and the wonderful chef gave me lots of tips on making sour dough bread which I am trying to master. The most relaxing place is Wendell Park with friends and their kids from Wendell Park School – the best school ever – and a picnic, and by Friday a bottle of wine or two. This after school ritual has been sadly missed due to damp ground and inhospitable rain.


How long have you lived in West London for?
I was born in a house between Ladbroke Grove and Holland Park. I am a born and bred West Londoner, so I had to move further West to off the Askew Road – but I love West London.  My husband is from Suffolk via Peckham, and there was no way I was ever crossing the river.  My dear family and old friends are in the hood and it makes being a mother easier and makes me happy.

Do you have a favourite childhood memory of a film that was special to you?

Good question – my Dad is a film producer – so film was always an important part of my life.  I was in Polanski’s Tess; you blink and you miss me but I got to see how a film was made.  It took me until I was 30 to realise that making films was I wanted to do. Those films like ‘The Magnificent Men in their Flying Machine’ and the original ‘Willy Wonka’ – those were what I grew up on.  There will always be a surreal element to my films I suppose.
For more information on Jemima, please visit:
The MotherHood

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