Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
I have been working on The Witch's Garden paintings since 2018. With an ongoing series like this, research and personal experience feeds the work and it becomes almost self-sustaining, with each piece informing those that follow. When starting on a new body of work, this combination of drawing on my own autobiography alongside research has always been the way that I have found a way in. Practically speaking, when working towards a gallery show, the space I will be presenting work in is really important. Whilst I am predominantly a painter, I also make sculpture, moving image and installation and working towards something that has a site specific element is integral to the way I think about how the piece will impact on the people that see it.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
My influences and 'inspirations' definitely come as much from life as they do art but to expand on my artistic influences, though I am often coming across the work of artists that are new to me, there are those whose work I go back to time and again. These include people like, Stanley Spencer, Louise Bourgeois, Edward Burra, Maria Lassnig, Picabia. Their work continues to feed me.
There is something surreal, dream-like and at times historically symbolic about your work, could you tell us more about this?
I think the dreamlike nature of The Witch's Garden series is partly due to them being situated in these emptied out environments with the plants themselves being on the edge of believability. I find that stripping away other details and placing them in these unnatural, stage-set like spaces, allows for a complete focus on the plant. I also work with quite a high-key palette in an attempt to create an intense sense of atmosphere.
When I began the series, I was thinking of them as potential ingredients for love potions or spells and they were referencing herbal fertility guides and ancient spell books as well as other obscure plants that I was coming across. I was also trying for a baby at the time so my interest in fertility and how women have used plants in relation to their bodies historically was very intimately connected to my life. Through research, I became fascinated by the figure of the 'witch' who was often a herbalist and/or midwife trying to scratch out a meagre living within her community. Their solitary, vulnerable status and unusual knowledge made them perfect targets for the projection of other people's rage and fear when crops failed or babies died. The image references, ideas, influences, experiences and histories that inform the work are quite wide ranging and end up channelled into particular works.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My badger hair and goats hair brushes <3
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is a beautiful book that really articulated what I felt during pregnancy and post-partum. It weaves together memoir and theory in the most sensitive and masterful way. I discussed The Argonauts with Jillian Knipe on her podcast Art Fictions in 2020. (Link here.) When I was developing the works I presented as part of Garden of the Night at Castor last year, lots of Nelson's writing felt really appropriate for what I was exploring.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I will have a solo show with Castor Gallery in summer 2023 and an international solo show later in 2023 which I'm currently confirming the details for.