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Make Space For US

by Hannah Thompson

“Football is art and art is football. It was as simple as that. When I move on the pitch, I am making art, I am a creative player- it just suddenly made sense”

Hackney-born interdisciplinary artist Rosanna Frith-Salem is making waves in the football and art scene. She studied her craft at the Royal Drawing School experimenting with ‘everything and anything’ to develop her style, alongside playing for the London Bees development team. This was her first taste of a dual life balancing the demands of football and pursuing a foundation art degree.

“It was then I decided to do a project on football and exploring movements through art. I was moulding my feet and football boots in clay and seeing how my body and movements interacted with the medium. I was also doing a lot of drawing as I was watching Match of the Day and it just clicked. Football is art and art is football. It was as simple as that. When I move on the pitch, I am making art, I am a creative player- it just suddenly made sense.”

Towards the end of that degree and a helpful push from then-teammate Aoife Hurley (now Crystal Palace) Rosanna gained a place at Loughborough University – it is here where our paths crossed. My former pacey teammate was confident darting up and down the wing, unphased to challenge players and an expert on creating space for herself and exploiting it with ease. Little did I know her talents extended beyond the pitch and a text message asking our team if anyone had any spare boots for her project intrigued me.

Having departed with my laceless Zhero Gravity Lottos, I have followed Rosanna’s art ever since. And, fittingly like the name of this platform Rosanna uses studs as her paintbrush striking the page with each stud to embody ideas of movement within her work.

Now as a graduate artist Rosanna is working on commissions. A striking A0 piece titled ‘make space for us’ is made from the studs of different boots dipped into paint and then moved through the space of the blank canvas.

The idea of ‘making space’ is perhaps entangled in the political. A resistance and challenge to the patriarchal structures opposed upon women and their place in the space of sport. Considering the political, Rosanna carefully designs her work with subtleties pairing words, lines and studs to create artwork that gets louder on closer observation. From a distance it could just look like ‘dots on paper’ but it’s more than that. It’s words with meanings attached to the movement and precision of where the football boot asserts its studs planted into the process of creating space.

It is kind of annoying saying that making space for women is political as it shouldn’t be, it should just be a given. There are phrases like ‘woman on’ instead of ‘man on’, ‘change is coming’, ‘move more’ and I quite liked that because you move on the pitch, but we want more moves made off the pitch too, movements out here in these spaces for women. It’s the same idea of making space on the pitch for people, others and yourself but we want that to happen wider as a community. We want football to make space for us women.”. 

Although the unpredictability of being self-employed uncertain of what project may come her way next or what commission she’ll be creating is unsettling. Rosanna reminds herself to take each day as it comes and to enjoy the process of bringing together her love of art and football.

“I think for me the enjoyment comes when someone asks specifically for a line drawing of a goal that means something to them. I love doing bespoke designs like one of my football friends asked me to do a goal for her sister that she had scored so it was personal to them and no one else will have a piece like that. It’s original. I feel like that’s what I get out of it. It’s that feeling of like giving some someone something so special and unique that I really like.”