Margaret Ashman read Physics at Oxford and worked for several years in the field of Acousto Optics. She retrained as an artist printmaker between 1998 and 2005 at the University of Hertfordshire and the University of Brighton. An experienced printmaker specialising in photo etching. Her work with dancers has led to ethereal images capturing fleeting moments and spontaneous bodily gesture. Her studies of deaf people signing have led to work in which she addresses issues of faith, spirituality and emotion.
Ashman has worked with the following deaf actors, choreographers and sign dancers:the Japanese choreographer and dancer Chisato Minamimura, David Bower from Wales and the Cuban dancer Isolte Avila. David and Isolte are part of SignDance Collective International. Ashman worked with deaf actors Nadia Nadarajah and Zoe McWhinney on a project for an exhibition celebrating Shakespeare’s four hundred year anniversary in 2016.
Ashman’s practice straddles many discourses: The use of a language for the deaf, typically BSL, in much of her work locates her practice within disability arts. In 2015 Yinka Shonibare selected her work for Shape Open – an open exhibition for disability arts practitioners. In the same year, she was commissioned by the Arts Council to make work for an exhibition, Shifting Subjects, bringing together self portraits by five contemporary women artists including Sarah Lucas. Ashman’s work made explicit the significance of language and communication as a means to define the self.
The Tempo Series and the Fragile Earth Series were made around the time of the start of the pandemic – Tempo Rubato was made before it started, while the Fragile Earth Series was made during the Pandemic. ‘Tempo Rubato’ literally ‘robbed time’ is named after a musical time signature whose beat is slightly slower or faster than a strict metronomical one. Many of us feel as though the Pandemic has ‘robbed us of time’ – with loved ones, of time pursuing work or pleasure or simply of our normal life. Fragile Earth began with photographs of wild flowers taken on walks during lockdown. The flowers were inverted to create the image, as our world was ’turned upside down’.