Sam Ashby

Sam Ashby is a British artist and graphic designer. He graduated with a BA (Hons) in History of Art, Sheffield Hallam University, and went on to work as a film poster designer, creating award-winning artwork for independent and arthouse films for the UK and international markets. Since 2010 he has collaborated with writers, academics and artists on his publication Little Joe, ‘a magazine about queers and cinema, mostly.’ Sam’s first film, The Colour of His Hair, premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2017 and won the Best Documentary prize at the London Short Film Festival 2018. He is a recipient of the Van Abbemuseum’s Deviant Practice 2018 research grant.

Through archival research, Sam Ashby explores the past in a way that embraces desire and a longing for identification, in search of queer historical narratives of contemporary resonance.

Artist statement

My work is largely concerned with the uncovering of queer histories. Centuries of Western oppression have served to malign, distort and erase these diverse narratives. In response, my work brings these submerged stories into public view, enlivening them with a unique contemporary perspective. My practice comes from a passionate engagement with these histories that refuses to separate the personal and the political, the poetic and the archival document. 

Cruising the Past: Exploring the archive as a site of longing and desire

For me, artistic research is a loosely defined and open-ended practice akin to cruising – the act of looking for anonymous sex in public spaces. My subjects are often shifting political territories and underrepresented lives, discovered in the shelves and stacks of libraries and archives. My encounters with them are ephemeral and yet are filled with potential new narratives and forms. By enacting cruising as a methodology, I seek identification and recognition across time. When I cruise the archive, it is a longing for an inaccessible past, but also a passionate engagement with the present.

queer, archives, cruising, history of sexuality