Artist in Residence (2020): Elinor Rowlands – ‘I dug into the soil and I grew things’

Elinor Rowlands was one of the DM Artists in Residence for 2020/21. During a 10 month period the AiRs are embedded in Drake Music, working as part of the team, sharing and developing their practice and creating a new piece of work for their final project.

Elinor is wrapped in a rich purple velvet cloth, she has her eyes closed and her head turned to the side, pressing her cheek to the fabric. She is a white woman wearing a crown of flowers with long brown hair.

Elinor’s final project ‘I dug into the soil and I grew things’ is a series of richly textured videos which explore the emotions held within objects.  In the future she plans to develop it further, creating an immersive digital experience.

Elinor explains: “Here, my synaesthesia expresses live storytelling and embodied memory through objects. I use sound as a way to express and recall memories and dreams held in the prisms of objects, we keep, gather and display in our rooms and about us.” 

A gleaming glass pyramid shines with yellows and pinks on a deep purple to blue background.The project made its debut in winter 2020 at DM On The AiR ,  a micro-festival to celebrate the DM Artists in Residence with a feast of new music and R&D performances.

In an accessible and conversational Zoom performance, Elinor introduced and shared the sumptuous videos and immersive soundtracks. It was an engaging and captivating listening and watching experience for the audience of music fans and music industry people.

We will share the first of her Moving Image artworks below and you can explore the project further on Elinor’s website.


Elinor’s introduction to the project:

“Creating this new work helped me to identify why neurodivergent artists so often translate their work, and themselves, across various modalities, disciplines and media, and why we so often struggle with sticking to one thing, or identifying the genre of our work. I rely on reviews of my work and audience feedback in writing, so I have the words to describe my work.

A screen grab from Elinor's zoom event, showing an abstract scene like under the sea.
A screen-grab from Elinor’s Zoom event at DM On The AiR 2020


This is also perhaps why I fail at interviews or other art opportunities where creating relationships with organisations in neurotypically expected ways is a must. I am prevented by my pacing mind that races with fierce ideas and sensory moments and experiences that can render me unintelligible in the face of questions like; what do I want to explore, how can I facilitate, what do I want to create; because being forced to summarise my work into logical explanations expects the pretence that we are not utterly drenched in emotion…”

You can read the full intro on Elinor’s website

Velvet Curtains

The first of Elinor’s “I dug into the soil” videos exploring the emotions contained within objects is Velvet Curtains, an audio-video piece about the internal lived experience of autism.

This artwork holds the viewer – and listener – close. It is intimate and hushed, with an enveloping soundtrack that corresponds and inter-twines with the visual depiction of being wrapped up and cosseted in rich velvet curtains. Elinor’s voice opens a door to her internal experience as we hear birdsong, jazz lines and moving water while we engage with the repeated question: “what does it mean to dream of things that are beyond the glass?”.

Elinor says: “Velvet Curtains shows an enchanted journey into myself amongst the extra noise around me of people building, creating, living during lockdown.”

Explore the rest of the videos of the “I dug into the soil” project on Elinor’s website. 

This project, along with the other AiR productions, is a work-in-progress which the artist is looking to develop further with an appropriate organisation. If you would like to partner on developing these projects further, please contact Drake Music or get in touch with the artist directly.

The DM Artist in Residence programme is supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.

Esmee Fairbairn Foundation logo

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