Susanna (Anna) Candlin

Anna Candlin had a successful career as a classical violinist before having a complete change of direction. She did an art foundation course at Oaklands College in St Albans before pursuing a degree in Fine Art at the University of Hertfordshire. She is the recipient of the University’s highest award, the University Prize for 2022. She supports her artistic practice by teaching and examining in the music profession.

Her sculpture explores the boundaries between self and other: the intertwined symbiosis of the human and nonhuman. The membranes between entities are blurred: she examines the permeability of feminine into masculine, human into flora, and inside into outside. The result is hybridity, weirdness and a biomorphic otherness.

The nuanced mysteries of life, its inner depths and outer shells, its thrusting and blooming, its decaying, its fragility and strength, are manifested through the use of specific, often humble and everyday materials: recycled cardboard-mâché, both light and brittle but surprisingly strong when dried; plaster, hard but easily damaged; found metal, tough but flexible, cut into flower-like shapes; offcut textiles, used to create probing, living tentacles; wire mesh and plaster bandage which can create larger carapaces; rich and vibrant paint colour, often combined with varnish to suggest moisture; and salt-stuffed balloons, pliant and yielding. The resulting works are often hollow casts; her main material, cardboard-mâché, has a plasticity when wet and can faithfully follow the form of the object it is being cast from. 

Thus, the final work contains a memory of the original object, and its material presence cannot be divorced from a corresponding absence. The moulds she uses range from pieces of wood, repurposed 3D work and clay sculptures, and the cardboard-mâché allows for seamlessly odd juxtapositions. She employs recycled and repurposed materials wherever possible, which can eventually return to the earth with little impact on the environment. The diversity and tactility of the works’ surfaces – variously smooth, rough, shiny or soft – suggest an organic complexity which correlates to the forms themselves.

Her practice is informed both by the close scrutiny of nature and by the philosophy of posthumanism and its respect for otherness and for nonhuman beings. The environment, and its present disintegration or ‘unravelling’* in this epoch of the Anthropocene, has always been a key concern; and she believes that visual art has a meaningful role to play in transforming attitudes to nature. She is inspired by thinkers such as Donna Haraway, with her emphasis on interrelationships (‘the polyform relatings of people, animals, soil, water and rocks’) and Timothy Morton with his vision of a ‘mesh’ of interconnected entities, all of which are strange, mutable and on an equitable footing. 

The need for a searching and humble stance links these writers: this uncertainty, which is almost a sine qua non for a fine artist’s practice, is embodied in her process, which involves letting the materials lead the thought. Although what is in the subconscious will inevitably find a way into the work, her process is very much akin to Tim Ingold’s thought that the artist must follow the fluidity of the material without having a pre-determined blueprint for a finished work. Her preparation involves observing and sketching nature, reading about the entanglements of trees and fungi, the complexity of mycelium, the humility and respect of indigenous peoples’ attitudes to the Earth, and the slow intentionality and intelligence of plants as shown in the extreme time-lapse photography of David Attenborough’s Green Planet.

Inspiration is also drawn from the work of artists such as Judy Chicago and her flower- and fruit-like sexual organs; the mysterious voids of Lee Bontecou; the environmental awareness and strange organic juxtapositions of Pedro Wirz; and and Louise Bourgeois and Dorothea Tanning’s hybrid beings, sensual, affective and complicated. 

It is important in the siting of her work that the viewer can interact with the sculptures, both to look into and through their conduits, and to touch them. Some works are enclosed cavities which, trumpet- or shell-like, suggest the act of listening. In the scale and positioning of the work, the human is always taken into consideration. The works are located so that viewers can explore the many apertures, connecting them with secret worlds.

Her final dissertation dealt with posthumanism, the climate, and interconnectivity. She was chosen to exhibit her work in the UH Gallery for the degree show in May/June 2022, and her sculpture Nexus was accepted into the summer exhibition 2022 at the Royal Academy of Art. She was selected by the Milton Keynes Gallery to represent them for the Platform Graduate Award 2022.

Link to Degree Dissertation here

She has just been accepted into the Slade School of Fine Art in London, part of UCL, to study sculpture. This is a two year course, beginning in September 2023.


* George Monbiot: MONBIOT, G. (1) (2020) Dysbiosis.The Guardian. [Online]. 

Donna Haraway: HARAWAY, D.J. (1) (2003). The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press. [Online].

Timothy Morton: “Tensions in the Mesh: Thoughts on The Ecological Thought.” by M. Griffiths www.jstor.org/stable/44030890

Tim Ingold ‘The Textility of Making’ in Cambridge Journal of Economics 2010, 34, 91–102 



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