Emergent Creatives Interview by Eve Brinkley-Whittington, UK Arts Directory.
Whilst studying for your BA Hons in Fine Art: painting at Manchester Metropolitan University your tutors, the artists; Sharon Hall, David Ryan and Robert Holyhead, had a profound influence on your work. When you were younger did someone influential to you guide you towards Art, or has it always been an inherent passion?
I think it’s an inherent passion, possibly in my genes. I know my family history contains: painters, clock makers and architects, so maybe working with my hands is something that comes from within. I can always remember being creative from an early age; the idea of being able to create something from your imagination and visualise it on paper has always been an exciting prospect.
Artists who inform your current practice include Mali Morris, Fiona Rae, Juan Usle and Laura Owens. If you could spend the day with just one, who would it be and why?
It would have to be Fiona Rae. I’ve watched videos of her beening interviewed in her studio and the space she has looks amazing! She has these huge 8ft painting tables; one for her palette and a separate one for all her brushes, I’m very envious! I would love to have equipment like that in my studio. I’m very interested in her methodology; I would love just to sit and watch her paint a brush stroke and find out how she makes them so perfect and sensual.
Your current style has developed to blend abstraction and figuration. Do you see one as more important than the other and how difficult do you find it to balance use of both within your work?
I think both are equally as important. I do find it difficult to get the balance right and to be honest I think I’m still trying to get it right. My work is constantly developing and I think the figurative abstract balance is refined each time. I personally believe that the success of a painting depends on how successful this balance is.
Your current series of paintings focus on space arrangements and mark making. By deconstructing the recognisable such as room interiors and shop front windows into abstractions do you want to ask the viewer to look more carefully at the familiar, or do these serve as compositional devices within which to explore other artistic notions?
De-constructing spaces such as room interiors into abstractions do tend to serve mainly as compositional devices. I use them to explore other areas such as: the painting process, mark making and colour. However, I only use referential material up until a certain point; the remainder of the painting is finished intuitively.
You are working into your paintings with increasing layers, which in turn is extending the time you spend on a piece of work, how do you know when a painting is finished?
It’s hard to explain! It’s something that happens instinctively. I’ll go into my studio and look at a painting that I’ve been working on for a while and something will immediately click in my brain. I don’t know what it is, but everything just seems to fall into place and it feels right. I guess the reasons why this happens is something I’d like to remain a mystery. For me, it keeps my practice interesting and special.
Since graduating in 2008 you have been awarded the Joan Day Painting bursary, shortlisted for the New Lights Art Prize and have had a number of solo exhibitions and group shows across the North of England. As an emerging artist do you feel that Prizes are an important way to make people aware of your work?
Having your work showcased as part of an art prize does help to a certain extent, as I’ve found that they tend to be well attended and have a more notable audience. Being shortlisted for a prize also boosts your confidence, as it makes you feel that other people recognise your work as being important. However, I wouldn’t say that prizes are the main way of making people aware of your work; I’ve found having an online presence has been more beneficial to me.Actively using social media, maintaining a website and ablog has allowed me to reach out to a more global audience.
What do you feel is the future for painters in the 21st century and beyond? What can it offer that new media can’t?
I don’t believe in the whole “painting is dead” notion; I think it’s definitely still alive. It’s a basic human expression that is inherent in all of us. I think it offers a more tactile, sensual experience than new media, and more importantly it is something that is available to everyone. Although I don’t think new media should be entirely caste aside; I often find myself working digitally, usually in order to solve compositional problems I have when painting.
Do you feel as a contemporary artist, that your work is all important, or in a society obsessed with “celebrity”, is the personality of the artist just as important to ensure success?
To be honest I don’t have a lot of interest in celebrities;having an interesting personality can make the artist appear more exciting but at the end of the day, if the work is not up to standard then I personally don’t believe it makes any difference. However, I do find that I am more interested in an artist who appears to be down to earth, as I do find pretentious art speak quite off putting!
Would you be interested in collaborating with other artists, or do you prefer to work independently?
I prefer working independently as I feel that making art is quite a personal experience and I like to have full concentration when I’m working. However, I don’t think I would completely rule out collaborating with other artists if the right opportunity came along.
What words of advice would you offer anyone, young or old, contemplating a future in Art?
It is hard work! It requires a lot of dedication but it’s also very enjoyable and rewarding. One of the main things that I have learnt is to not take rejection personally. Quite often applying for art opportunities can result in rejection but you need to remember that it is normally because your work does not meet the criteria that they are looking for, so keep persevering! I would highly recommend having an online presence; create a website and actively participate in social media. Personally, I think this has been one of the most important factors for bringing an audience to my work. I would also recommend purchasing The Artists Yearbook, as it contains lots of valuable information for aspiring artists such as: contacts for galleries, useful websites and plenty of guidance. There are also many websites which provide good advice for artists such as: makingamark.blogspot.co.uk. Overall, if you are passionate, dedicated and believe in your work, then my advice is to go for it!
As an early career artist what are your aspirations for the future?
I hope to continue gaining a presence in the local art scene and also achieve a larger audience for my work. I also want to continue to improve my painting technique, so my paintings will develop further. Earning a little more money from selling my artwork would also be great too!