Debra is a studio-based practitioner, working in sculpture and photography. Debra often makes things she can wear or use in a performative sense. Presenting themselves as possible artefacts or specimens, the objects she creates are gadgets, adornments or trophies that Debra collects. Acting as props, the objects imply function and substantiate the fabrication of the myth or inferred narratives she creates. The photography acts as a document of the experience, it also sets up a fantastic space.
She has adopted the persona of the scientist, explorer and philanthropist. The invention of her specimens is inherent to developing these personas. The organic fibres she works with to create the animate beings provide the specimens with a sense of ‘realness’ and although they are convincing, there is a point at which the work reveals itself as a hoax. The work begins to collapse through the realisation that the objects are constructed from every day mundane materials. The transformation of the materials is an important aspect of the work, setting up a tension between what we believe we are looking at and the prosaic every-day. Sometimes commenting on the domestic or private space, Debra uses materials she finds around her such as elastic bands, brown paper, greaseproof paper, Sellotape, parcel tape and dried plants.
Based in a need to escape, our fascination for the unexplained blurs the relationship between fact and fiction. Appealing to our own curiosity, the work sets up a strange relationship where fantasy draws on reality and creates a strange authenticity and value, in turn, questioning our belief systems and the process by which history is written and established as truth.
Debra Swann was born in London, in 1969. She graduated from Goldsmiths College in 2001 with an MA in Fine Art. Swann has exhibited nationally and internationally in various group exhibitions such as Cutnshunt, Contemporary Art Projects (2008) Meeting Place, Russell Cotes Museum, Bournemouth (2007) Dreaming of a White, Arts & Business, London (2005) Death of Romance, Ganton Street, London (2004) Glitch, K3 Project Space, Zurich (2003) and I am a Scientist, Zeppelin Project Space, Geneva (2003). In 2005 Swann attended Braziers International Artists Workshop and has also completed an artist residency in Ecole Cantonale D’art du Valais (2002 – 2004) in Switzerland. Swann is interested in working site specifically and has completed artist residencies which have culminated in solo exhibitions, Trouble in Paradise at the Wasp Room Gallery, Tether, Nottingham (2009) and Curiosity Shop at Coleman Swann Project Space in Bermondsey, London (2006). In 2007 she completed an international artist residency and exhibition A Comedy of Errors at Artspace in Sydney, Australia. She has exhibited her work at Chapter Art Centre in Cardiff as part of the group exhibition Pile in 2011. She is a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University.