Hannah Sarah Day

"This city is full of vibrant, socially engaged and connected communities that devote themselves in raising and nurturing others within the city. If you can find a little bit of courage to take that first step, Leicester can make you whole"

What do you do?

‘I attain a different kind of beauty, achieve a symmetry by means of infinite discords; showing all the traces of the mind’s passage through the world; achieve in the end, some kind of whole made of shivering fragments; to me this seems the natural process; the flight of the mind...’

Virginia Woolf, (1909).

My professional practice is the documentation of fragmentary moments of experience. Experiences that resist verbal representation; nuanced moments between spaces that build complicated patterns that define who we are and how we come to be.

My artworks form multimodal pictorial-conceptual puzzles by the design of fragmentary figurations, configured through photography, film, text and installation. These configurations form an open narrative analysing the complexities on the development of the self; particularly that of the parent-child relationship and its transference into intimate adult relations.

A figuration is a living map, a transformative account of the self. History repeats itself and cleaning up trouble remains necessary in every generation. My artworks enable the viewer to inhibit both analyst and analysand when deciphering the materialistic mappings of each conceptual figuration, allowing them to (re)(con)figure you.

My autobiographical and narrative driven artworks have won awards from nationally accredited organisations such as Artist Collecting Society and SANE. I’ve had a featured documentary opening discussions on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, as well as recently being selected as the cover artist for the internationally distributed publication created by No Jobs in the Arts.

I am a thinker. I am an artist-curator-writer-researcher-poet-art director and teacher.

How did you get to where you are?

I am a mature student at Loughborough University studying Fine Art in my final year. I left my full-time job as a junior art director at the award-winning film studio ‘Wander’, to pursue my aspirations of becoming an artist.

I came to university eight years later than I had hoped. In my late teens I found myself in the hands of crisis intervention, leading to a long process of navigating the NHS mental health system. There is, unfortunately, a wrong type of being ill; a type that is; high functioning and high achieving, and yet, simultaneously, dysfunctional and dysregulated. Individuals that exist on both sides of the coin who fall between the gaps within the systems of the mental health services, compounded by the continual depletion of funds within the NHS. The path can be long and arduous, and it never fails to amaze me how high functioning you have to be, to get help. Due to my experiences, I champion positive change and breaking down stigma, advocating for national mental health charities including MIND and SANE. In 2019, I was shortlisted for the highly prestigious MIND awards, following my documentary on Woman’s Hour.

In my early twenties, I moved to London working for various creative charities after I found myself at the bottom of a four-year waiting list on the NHS. During this time, I gained the opportunity to organise and co-curate an exhibition at TATE Modern, for the service users at Westminster Mind, while working in their creative department for holistic support programs. I moved to the Dragon Café after it was publicly acclaimed for its pioneering ambitious models of working, promoting social inclusion through the provision of creative events which foster social connection. My networks and support for chartable campaigns expanded when my experimental explorations of film were screened in independent cinemas including Phoenix Arts in Leicester. Self-taught in Adobe Creative Suite, I made small documentaries and short art films surrounding my experiences.

I am an imaginative and artistic writer, who won an internship at the prestigious Barbican Young Poets, I worked and performed alongside London’s leading emerging talent, performing on big stages such as the Barbican’s Curve and London’s internationally renowned Roundhouse. I was accepted onto the Roundhouse Talking Doorsteps program, as well as being short listed for ‘Best Feature Poet’, at London’s pioneering slam organisation, Farrago. My poetry has also received acclaim from Stephen Fry, who expressed my work as “brave, extraordinary and astonishing.”

Four years on the NHS waiting list made these years a struggle. After self-managing my own mental health difficulties reached its limit, I was shuffled up the queue to begin a life changing process. I am one of the lucky ones; I have been fortunate and privileged to obtain one of only three of the leading psychoanalytic psychotherapy programs in the country, with the region’s principal psychotherapist. During the therapeutic process I moved back to Leicester and joined the film studio ‘Wander’ as a junior art director. This was an intensive and expansive experience, allowing me to use my artistic vision to capture the stories and lives of the people and organisations we worked with through film and adapted media. I built a solid foundation of working professionally with big creative organisations such as National Theatre Live and independent creative agencies.

Moving through my therapeutic process, I found enough stability to venture onto my own path towards my ambition of becoming an artist. University had escaped me, but now I’m in my final semester after my efforts and hard work meant my dissertation was selected for excellence and innovation, by Dr Susannah Thompson from Glasgow School of Arts. I have performed in the Lithuanian Pavilion’s Sun and Sea (Marina) at the Venice Biennale, which won the Golden Lion Award. I have exhibited my artworks, curated my small intimate exhibitions and others, such as FORMAT, all acuminating towards my degrees show at the end of this academic year.

Why do you love what you do?

Despite a heightened social awareness in recent years towards emotional intelligence, wellbeing and mental health, the origins and fundamental interplay of the ‘psyche’ has remained an esoteric notion. I seek to fundamentally challenge this notion; Donald Winnicott proposed that the happiness of the human race depended ultimately, not so much on external political issues, but the way parents bring up their children. I believe that our acuteness and diligence to self-awareness and inter-personal relations could change our social, political and environmental sphere; we are the myriad of unfinished configurations of times, places, meanings and matters that matter.

Why Leicester?

I have often found myself questing the art world's precarious capabilities; it can be a difficult and tumultuous affair. What do artists do? How do they make ends meet? Why does it all feel like a secret? There is no nicely paved path with little signpost that shine a light on how you make it in the art world, or how you get there, or even, what it looks like when you do get there. In truth, everyone’s path in the arts is completely unique, which makes it (in equal measures), infuriatingly terrifying as well as unbounded in exciting potential. If you’re in that place, if you’re going through it right now, know that there are so many wonderfully talented, experienced and open creative people in this city that want to help you. Ask for help! People really do want to share their knowledge and experiences, the struggles they have faced and how you might best navigate your own path. Go to a group show, send an email, join a workshop, get Leicester’s creative newsletter emailed to your inbox. This city is full of vibrant, socially engaged and connected communities that devote themselves in raising and nurturing others within the city. If you can find a little bit of courage to take that first step, Leicester can make you whole.

What next?

I’m in that place. And today you’ve caught me where my possibilities are the sky. Finishing a degree is closing a door on one chapter and ahead is an expansive landscape of opportunities. I’m not scared. I want to do what I can to make change in the world as an artist. I’m searching for the opportunity to exhibit my first solo show; I’m in the process of producing and setting up my first podcast; and I’m creating an intimate feminist art-writing/book club. Head to my Instagram for all my “breaking news”.

I’m also building the foundations for The Artist Cake; for so long I didn’t believe I could have my cake and eat it. I want to support emerging artist in socially engaged projects that can provide the handrails while they navigate their path and potential within the arts and as a whole.

Reader Recommendations?

I am madly in love with Louis Theroux’s Grounded podcasts series. He asks all the difficult questions and I greatly admire the honesty and vulnerability his guest speakers provide. I find this an inquisitive pick-me-up.

Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. Emotional Intelligence starts here. It wasn’t until I listened to this book that I realised I didn’t even really understand what trust comprises of.

Malcom Gladwell’s Outliers or Blink. All his stuff is good. Read it all.

David Sedaris’s Calypso. If you’re in a bad place and need a story that will bring you joy. This is laugh out loud funny. I recommended it recently to a friend, as an audiobook during her walks while she was going through some bad dissociative symptoms. She read it in two days. Yes! It’s that good!


Instagram: @hannahsarahday

Twitter: @ItsHannahsDay

Website: HannahSarahDay.com