Associates 2023-24

Alex Vellis

Alex Vellis (They/Them) is a Greek-British poet, producer, and playwright from Canterbury, Kent. They hold an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Kent and have published five books through Whisky & Beards Publishing.

Vellis’ work challenges the ideas of hope and home, love and futility, and identity and place. Their new book ‘I saw a bird once’ follows the lives of three people as they explore change in a working-class world.

Alex’s work has been studied in schools in the Netherlands and in young offender’s institutes in the United States.

Vellis has performed nationally and internationally as a poet, gracing stages in Paris, London, Oxford, and Malta. As well as delivering lectures at universities and festivals on events production, being a working-class artist, and poetry in the larger sphere.

Emelia Kerr Beale

Emelia Kerr Beale works across drawing, sculpture and textile to process bodymind complexity and hold space for multiplicity. At the moment, Emelia is developing methods of communicating pain.

Since graduating from Edinburgh College of Art in 2019, Emelia has sought further ‘education’ through alternative routes, including In Session FKA GRADJOB (2019-2020) and The Newbridge Project’s Collective Studio (2021-2022). They are excited to continue this (un)learning at Open School East.

Recent exhibitions include There Has To Be Somewhere, Grand Union Gallery, Birmingham (2023) and pain folds its legs, Edinburgh Sculpture workshop, Edinburgh (2023).

Gwennan Thomas

Gwennan Thomas (She/Her) is a Franco-British artist who grew up in both France and South Wales. She was nominated for Abstract Critical Newcomer Awards in 2012 and selected for Flowers
Gallery’s Artist of the Day in 2013. She has shown regularly in the UK and has also participated in several curatorial projects.

Her practice is studio-based and process driven, working primarily with painting which sits somewhere between abstraction and figuration. The work explores fluidity in the context of memory, bicultural identity and language. She paints on a variety of surfaces and often makes her own paints, building a body of research on materiality and the tactile. She is
interested in showing works in alternative formats and often plays with how they are shown or grouped together. The paintings have a strong focus on colour and use framing mechanisms and repetitive motifs derived from film scenes, personal memories and the built environment.

Jas Dhillon

Jas is a self-taught artist and curator with an expanded practice. She uses her Punjabi, Sikh, Indian heritage, and a deep reverence for nature and spirituality, to create spaces for a tender and sensitive reflection on ideas of identity, rootedness and belonging.

Raised by working class, immigrant parents in Kent, she is inspired by the power of the ordinary, community, humanity, and kindness. Her practice so far has used; fabric, Punjabi script, screen printing, neon, sound, scent, and found objects.

She is currently a resident artist at People Dem Collective, was awarded Arts Council (DYCP) funding in December 2022, and was part of the 2022 cohort of the Autograph Gallery: PILOT mentoring programme.

Jas’ projects include an outdoor installation for the Glow Illumination trail 2022, curation of the Whitstable Biennale 2022 short film programme, co-curation and commissioning for the Estuary Festival 2021 opening weekend programme, and a commission for Margate Now 2020.

Kenny Mala Ngombe

Kenny Mala Ngombe (He/Him) is an artist based in Belgium. Through painting, drawing, sculpture, but also video, animation and sound, he explores the representation of and the perception of the human body.

His practice is preoccupied with how the fiction that is “otherness”, seeps into our reality and our society. Inspired by the Manifesto of Afro Surreal, Mala Ngombe attempts to unravel the invisible world hiding behind the visible one in which we operate, to rethink shapes and bodies.

He is co-founder of Customs & Borders, an artist-led collective that was active from 2021 to 2023, and which aimed to shift the boundaries of access to contemporary art with an Afrocentric vision.

Lucia Coppola

Lucia Coppola (She/Her) is an artist based in London. Her work explores and playfully critiques social dynamics and power structures. Within storytelling she leans into vulnerability, mystery, menace and joy. Coppola’s films and performances often unfold within domestic or leisure inspired settings and situations. Using humor, familiarity and unexpected climaxes she seeks to carefully unravel reality.

She graduated from Goldsmiths (BA Fine Art) in 2019 and was the recipient of The Nicholas & Andrei Tooth Traveling Scholarship. As a result of this award she made her recent film ‘The Last Tender’, which documents her experience on a cruise ship throughout February and March 2020, the same time the covid-19 pandemic was first unfolding. The research project initially stemmed from her own experiences of family cruise holidays growing up.

Middleton Maddocks

Middleton Maddocks (They/She/He) (formerly of UCA and Goldsmiths institutional commitment) is an artist, filmmaker & phenomenologitian.

Middleton’s work is concerned with mapping; language—its failures and tricks—; nonsense making; theatre as a space & performance as a mode for living; autofiction; and personal symbolic histories. They treat theatre as a space in which the complex dynamic that emerges between personal & extrapersonal languages of symbol/gesture can be unfurled with an audience; enabling a shared attunement to the (often nonsense-producing and chaotic) oscillations between the self & the other.

Off-beat and out of tune are considered important & technical homes in the creative, neurologically diverse landscape Middleton inhabits. Devotion to the good-life, girl bestfriendship and mourning are central to their practice.

Nikki Sheth

Nikki Sheth (She/Her) is an internationally recognised sound artist and composer. Her work aims to give voice to the environment and foster a deeper connection with the natural world through field recordings, soundscape composition, multimedia installations, and sound walking using multichannel and ambisonic spatial practices.

She was awarded a Sound and Music award (2020), nominated for the Phonurgia Nova Awards (2020), received an Honourable Mention for the Sound of the Year Awards (2021), nominated for Ivor Novello Composer Award (2021) and awarded a Sound and Music Seed Award for New Voices (2022).

She recently collaborated on the ‘Disruptive Frequencies’ album released with Nonclassical and her debut album, ‘Sounds of Mmabolela’ was released with Flaming Pines in 2021. She is currently a Sound UK Sound Generator Artist.