Oona Brown

With a sense of the mystical at play in her work, this Royal College of Art student has a portfolio that shows her passing seamlessly between the different worlds within visual communication.

How would you describe your practice? 

I think it’s becoming more and more research based. I spend a lot of time reading, listening to radio programmes, going to places, speaking to people, writing notes, looking things up. Looking out too – keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary. I like the approach of the flâneur; the collecting of abstract knowledge from your own surroundings and further afield. I suppose it’s like casting your brain off to different points and seeing what comes back. I’m very interested in the point where fact meets fiction, how they cross over and get muddled. Then it’s about trying to find a balance between thinking and doing, exploring the connections I’ve made through research, but outside of my brain.

What inspires you to make new work?

Lots of things: reading the Metro over people’s shoulders, books about crop circles, about material culture, about empires, anecdotes from pals. When you’re investigating the everyday and its irregularities, speaking to the people around you about their experiences opens up a lot of interesting avenues. A lot of the time you hear or read things where you think "‘you just can’t make that shit up,” stuff that makes your eyes light up and your brain start whirring. Being out and about and travelling to different places is important too, getting out of the studio and away from my desk. Recently I visited a man in Cornwall who built his own version of Stonehenge in his front garden. He told me stories about himself and about Cornwall, then we did some water divining around the stone circle. It was such a great trip. And then on my way home the other day I saw a guy loading a giant foot into the back of a van, that was great too. New ideas and new projects can come from anywhere.

You work across design and illustration, do you have an underlying approach that links all of your practice? 

Coming from a visual communication background, there’s such an emphasis on working across different mediums. I think often people are very keen to put you in the ‘illustration’ box, or the ‘graphics’ box. I’m not interested in that. I would say my practice isn’t just one thing, and consciously so. I like to work using new approaches and new materials, driven by ideas and experiences beyond my practice. I’m in the final year of my masters at the Royal College of Art and I’m definitely trying to push myself and my work into new territories and away from what might be expected. 

What have you been working on recently and what’s next?

Right now I’m working on a project about mythology and sacred texts and places. I’m also putting together a literary journal with writing from different artists which will be published next year. I’m hoping that, over time, it might evolve into some sort of parapsychological rag that people write to with their strange and mystical experiences. But that’s my secret plan, and it is only issue one, so we’ll see!  As to what’s next:  I have my masters Work in Progress in February and then, maybe, some sort of pilgrimage.

If you could collaborate with anyone on a project, who would it be?

I’d like to do a series of travel programs for Radio 4. I could visit all the large-scale Eiffel Tower replicas in the world (there’s over thirty), or investigate the superstitions of Russian Cosmonauts (they ask the ghost of a former cosmonaut for permission to fly). If not Radio 4, then Dustin Hoffman.