The Collective of the Emerging – Introducing the BYAA

In ART & FASHION, HOME, Interview by Charlotte Dawnay

Lucy Henshall and Emily Jones are cofounders of the BYAA – the British Young Artists Association. They also happen to be art students at the University of Edinburgh. For those of you unfamiliar with the BYAA it is ‘a fresh platform for the promotion of emerging talent in the visual arts’. Ergo they get to help talented young people realise their dreams by contacting galleries and dealers etc. etc. In the midst of keeping their eyes peeled for the next big thing, the girls dropped by PTL headquarters for a Q&A session *answered some questions via email* on their partnership, how the BYAA all began and Grayson Perry.

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 14.32.00To kick things off – how did you two meet?

L: We first met when we were both helping to curate for a small exhibition held in Teviot (Edinburgh University’s Student Union building). At the end of the experience we both said, “We could have done this better, let’s do something together in the future.” We wanted to do the same again but it never came about, but we kept bumping into each other at random events and finally decided that we had to work together.

E: Lucy and I both had a really similar work ethic, so we were like partners in crime from the beginning.

How did you go from there to setting up BYAA?

E: We really had no clue of what kind of project to do after that work experience. A year later though, I got in touch with Lucy to see if she wanted to organise something together. At the time, I was only thinking of doing something short term and small scale for fun, like an exhibition or an auction…but it shortly lead to BYAA.

L: Yeah, Emily messaged me to ask if I wanted to do a charity art auction with her, so we met up to discuss it over coffee. Then one thing led to another and we decided that if we wanted to do an event it would be more valuable to have some sort of a platform to back it up, for artists’ references and documentation etc. We searched the Internet to see what was about, and there were loads of various kinds of platforms for young artists, but we didn’t want to be afraid of taking on a name that was direct and accessible. First, we thought it would be wise to start small and focus on Edinburgh, but then it didn’t make sense to exclude artists from Glasgow or elsewhere. So we started with the Scottish Young Artists Association and then discovered that a British Young Artists organisation didn’t exist so we bought the domain and went with it.

In a bid to search deep into your souls – The Spice Girls or Destiny’s Child?

L: Destiny’s Child = Beyoncé. That’s all.

E: Well despite the fact that Spice Up Your Life was the jam of my tween years, Destiny’s Child. Beyoncé is too much of a goddess to ignore.

Bearing in mind that Lucy you are an artist and Emily you study art – do you find that you approach art differently?

E: I am actually a painter myself, albeit recreationally, and Lucy studies History of Art within her course, so I find that both of us are empathetic to both sides of art appreciation, as an artist and as an art historian – which works really well.

L: True, although I feel like I can definitely be biased towards my kind of art. As much physical energy as possible and not too conceptual – seems to be my art of choice. Emily often sees a bigger picture and appreciates things that are slightly subtler, whereas I like most things that are confident and passionate. I actually don’t think that there is enough of that particular style out there.

To put that to test. Grayson Perry – thoughts?

E: I’m a big fan. I listened to him speak a few years ago at the Dominion Theatre in Edinburgh and he was riveting – a fabulous showman and a real pioneer. I love the juxtaposition in his ceramic work; profane imagery meeting traditional mediums. Also a cult figure like Grayson Perry sharing his transvestite alter ego Claire with the world so loudly and proudly must be helping break down some tough barriers, which I find highly admirable.

L: Well I can’t say I’m a fan like Emily but there are a lot of qualities in his work that I appreciate. His life is a performance, which I think is cool (and partly the reason why I am in love with Dali). And I love the scale of his work and how he captures a mixture of a raw humanity with twee urbanity  in his tapestries – but he doesn’t come close to Dali in my eyes. Although I’m not sure may artists can.

Grayson-Perry-tapestry-009A segment of one of Perry’s most celebrated works – ‘The Walthamstow Tapestry’

What are your first memories of art?

L: Sitting on the kitchen floor covered in paint, painting a giant piece of cardboard a brown mush colour.

E: My granddad is a landscape painter and so my earliest memories involve him teaching me to paint. I’ve always had a lot of hero worship for his work.

With that in mind – what did you want to be when you were younger and how has that changed now?

E: I wish I could say that I wanted to be a farmer or a ballerina, but I’m embarrassed to say that I was that six year old that wanted to be a lawyer. Should have been spending more time playing in the mud, clearly.

L: Haha – I always wanted to be a nurse or a princess. It changed when I started to learn more about the world and then I found that I had no idea. I am still not entirely sure but unlike most I know what I love to do, and count myself lucky in that respect.

Tell us about someone on BYAA who you’re really excited about.

L: At the moment it is still really small and most of the people are people we know. But we are very lucky to know such talented people. Our current artist in spotlight is William Foyle, he doesn’t study anymore and works solely as a painter in London and Scotland. He is really dedicated and talented and a wonderful example of what we represent. For some we are just another access point to their work but for others we are really a platform.

E: For me, it’s Danny Leyland. He’s our latest addition to the BYAA. We first saw his work at the Edinburgh College of Art Second Year show and were immediately drawn to it because of his commitment to his subject and medium. His BYAA profile is cracking – you get such a rich sense of who he is as a thinker and an artist so check out his work.

How do you actually go about choosing artists for BYAA – is there a BYAA ‘standard’?

L: As of yet, it’s based on what Emily and I enjoy, we believe in our taste and so far we think we have wonderful artists.

E: We haven’t got a specific style or subject matter that we look out for, but only a sincerity of intention and artists that engage intellectually with their subject matter. We want the association to act as much as a collective as possible, for artists to collaborate and exchange ideas, so we’re trying to involve our current artists with the sourcing and selection of new artists as much as possible. The highly subjective nature of art means there is never a right or a wrong. As the BYAA grows, I’d like to build a panel of people from different areas of the art world to act as a balanced sounding board for the selection of artists.

And finally, with graduation looming in the not so distant future, where do you see yourselves and BYAA in the next ten years?

E: I’m taking an exchange year to the University of Miami from August this year, so would really like to take the BYAA to America. With the city being the home of the Miami Biennale, there is really exciting potential.

L: The wonderful thing about the BYAA is that there is no expectation to meet. We have plans of what we want to do but ideally it can just change and develop with new artists so keep your eyes peeled and if you’re a talented artist get in touch.

Pictures1      Works by William Foyle – BYAA’s first artist in the spotlight.

So that’s that. If you’d like to become a part of BYAA in anyway shape or form you can get in contact with the girls and see the young talents they currently foster over on their website: Alternatively, if art is not exactly your rasion d’être but you quite enjoy looking at it, head on over there to bask in some beautiful work.

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QUESTIONS: Charlotte Dawnay – ANSWERS: Lucy Henshall & Emily Jones

Lucy and Emily are, as aforementioned, the founders of BYAA. Lucy loves the smell of Christmas at home and listening to loud music whilst she paints. Emily, unsure of how to describe herself in this situation, decided that the fact that she once got a six hour lift from a porn producer was worth mentioning. Said lift occurred whilst hitchhiking between Edinburgh and Paris. Both enjoy the musical oeuvres of Destiny’s Child but have varying opinions on Grayson Perry.

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(Images sourced from:,