Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
In my practice I focus on the exploration of queer culture, particularly focusing on the binary of private and public and the materials and objects that I use are at the forefront of the exploration. Currently I’m really interested in room typologies and how, through objects, we can identify our surroundings and looking at this through a queer scope and trying to envision a sense of futurity in relation to queer culture.
The way that I get started on a piece has always been the same- the visual for the work in my mind comes about quite vividly so it then goes from this abstract version in my mind to a drawing and then material experimentations and then finally to producing the work itself. I’ve currently got some socks cast in rubber that are curing in the studio and they were a material experimentation that I wasn’t sure I’d be keen on but have suddenly taken this centre stage role in a new work that I’ll be showing later this year.
Who are your biggest influences?
My influences change quite often but one that has always stayed constant is Matthew Barney. He uses materials in quite a different way to me, almost through a process of discovery and seeing the potential and limitations that exist within themselves. I saw his show ‘Facility of Decline’ when I was in New York a few years ago and I always cite him and that show as being the cause of major shift within my work. A more recently acquired influence though is the Greek playwriter Aristophanes and the Greek hero Odysseus from ‘The Odyssey’. The solo show in London takes direct inspiration from the writing and characterisation which is for me a really huge shift from what people would maybe associate with my work. In school I chose Classics for my GCSE’s so I could go to Pompeii on a trip and then spent the next 2 years having to read those types of texts and absolutely hating every second of it and now its seemingly gone full circle.
Can you talk about the role that queer culture plays in your practice?
It has always been at the forefront! I think in the past I was quite intentional with making it really obvious but as I’ve gotten older and my work has continued, it can at times take a bit of a step back and then at other points comes forward once again. I think the fascination stems from where I’m from. I grew up in Stoke and then moved away for university and was able to start figuring things out for myself. However, once I started looking into it I became fascinated by the history of queer culture, people that had lived before us and sites that became safe havens and I think it was by seeing examples of this appropriation of space and the ways that it was used and how it was being protected and safe guarded, I think that’s where my fascination began and its turned into this sense of cathexis where you spend a lot of time and energy on an idea, person or object.
How important is material in your work?
So important! I think because we are so used to material and object culture that we actually forget the relevance of material and the impact it has on us. The ways in which we are possibly drawn into materials that are smooth or shiny or the reason why we are more drawn to look at a Lamborghini in the street rather than a Ford Focus- there’s an element of seduction in all of these things. I think in my work that’s part of what I want to do and that is to keep seducing people through the materials that I use. There is obviously that link between sexuality and seduction, but I think that exists on a surface level. For me, that idea of seduction exists much deeper and I think it’s a tool that I use to entice people into connecting with the work and trying to think a little deeper about the wider context. I also think it’s important to say though that of course people will not like the work or not understand it, but aesthetics plays a major role in everything so if people connect with the work purely based on an aesthetical perception then I’m absolutely fine with that.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
I would probably say the chop saw. A lot of the work that I produce is made through the construction of moulds, so it tends to be the tool that is at the forefront of everything! However, if I could choose another, I’d say my laptop. I do all of the technical drawings on it and I have folders and folders full of reference images and technical drawings of plans that have never come into fruition or are about to. I’ve always had this thought process that if I can construct the sculpture first methodically on drawing software then 90% of the work is already done and then I use the drawings as reference and can fully commit and enjoy the making side.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
There have been a few that stick in my mind and have become a standard thing that I refer back to, Henri Lefebvre’s ‘Production Of Space’, Olivia Laings ‘The Lonely City’ to name a few but more recently its Sternberg Press’ ‘Whats Love Got To Do With It?’ I picked it up when I was in Berlin for art week in 2019 and it’s a collection of essays which are either directly in relation to the concept of Love or essays that loosely refer to it but I guess it’s completely subjective as to how you want to interpret it. I read one that spoke of Machines of Discourse and that has kind of set the precedent for how I’m working for the new show at the end of the year. It discussed things and objects that we use to communicate with in quite a speculative sense and I guess it’s helped me to work in a more abstract and speculative way; questioning how things can exist or would exist if they were made 400 years from now- things becoming futile and/or things being manipulated and adapted for an alternative function. I think there’s a link there between queer culture and the ways that things which had previously been thrown away or left to ruin, become reinvigorated and exalted with more value.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
There is, I feel really fortunate to have been able to maintain things considering the current situation. I’m in a group show at Koenig Galerie in Berlin in March and then I’ve made two new works for a group show with Carl Kostyal Gallery in their new space in Stockholm and then I just got an Arts Council Grant for my first solo show in London later this year.
Image credit, the artist