Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
My work is primarily drawing although it also spans painting and sculpture. I guess it goes wherever it needs to and I don’t feel locked into any particular discipline.
To get started I often just begin moving objects or drawings around the studio and something presents itself. Often a visual question will emerge with regards to how something sits next to another, or how forms jostle and compete for attention. When something suggests itself, this is one of the most exciting moments as it forges a possibility of something and a direction, but never an outcome as such.
Who are your biggest influences?
In terms of artists – I am constantly looking at whatever is being made right now alongside more historical influences. Recently I enjoyed the ‘Not Without My Ghosts’ exhibition from the Drawing Room and I have the publication at the studio. Also, Emma Talbot’s recent exhibition ‘When Screens Break’ at East Side Projects. Amy Sillman’s show at Camden Arts Centre was one I will always remember too. Historically I return to Louise Bourgeois and her drawings / writings. Also, Sandra Blow, Philip Guston and Tal R too.
Generally, my influences are my students, my children and family, those who I know and those I observe on TV, in films, on talk shows, on the radio, in books, in shops or out and about… My children have had a profound impact. They have always been at the studio with me and have taught me to approach materials with childlike curiosity and not to take the ups and downs of making work too seriously. The drawings I make are concerned with remaining open and child-like, in contrast to how we often age, shut down and move further and further away from that childlike curiosity.
Can you talk about the role motifs play in your practice?
Yes, I tend to work with a particular motif for a number of years. In my entire practice to date, I have grappled with a few motifs only. Finding a motif tends to be my way into making work too. I like to exhaust this motif – extract what I can from it. Turn it round and inside out. I don’t get overly wrapped up in the conceptual underpinning of the motif. I use it to communicate visually and to play with what it can be visually. There is a trust that if the motif contains something that preoccupies me, it has a value and a strength to communicate. It’s the hope that there are enough possibilities; that it is open-ended as opposed to being locked into something that has limitations. The motif is often connected to the human body in some way – a mouth, a head, a neck. It is about using the human body to communicate emotional states and experiences.
How important is material in your work?
Very important. It is entirely about working with material in a physical way. Cutting up paper and throwing it around the studio. I work very physically with the material often on the floor surrounded by a mass of things I have collected – old books, old jigsaw boxes, packaging. I work in bursts where I am very impulsive and can easily destroy something I have been working on for ages if it feels like it is necessary to move things on or find a direction.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
No not really. Yes, I have things I have used for years that I would miss – things like my old Pantone colour paint charts, all the hundreds of postcards / printouts of others’ work, my mantras written on bits of paper and plastered over the walls - but I have had to be very versatile with my practice due to working with small children in short bursts or with a studio in total chaos, so I can’t always find the thing I need. I have lots of found papers that I have been collecting for years and I feel fortunate to have lots to select from so I would miss those.
Having said all that, I only really need my essentials – pencils, masking tape, paper. I like working with constraints – having less choices and limited materials can be a force in itself. My electronic pencil sharpener would be missed though!
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
I love Rauschenberg’s ‘Cardboards and Related Pieces’ and a colleague of mine (Vanessa Corby at York St John University) bought a copy for me. What a gift!
I have loved returning to Rauschenberg for many years. I enjoyed seeing the Combines show at the Metropolitan Museum in New York in 2006. His work always seems to offer something whenever I revisit it.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I am about to conclude my Residency at Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire with the Forestry Commission. It has been a wonderful experience and I am just putting the final work together – some large-scale drawings enlarged into sculptural works.
Next year (2022) I have a solo show at Rabley Gallery, Wiltshire. Rabley have supported me for many years now and it will be great to have another solo exhibition – hopefully with some indoor and outdoor works shown.
Blue Head 4. 23 x 19cm Posca pen and collage on book cover
Confused Head 39. 25 x 19cm Posca pen and collage on book cover
Confused Head 46. 23 x 19cm Posca pen and collage on book cover
Head and Shapes 4 32x29cm Graphite and collage on cardboard
Blue Head 1. 24 x 19cm Posca Pen and collage on book cover
Imagined Environments (School Paper) 19x24cm Graphite and collage on found surface
Head and Shapes 1 32 x 36cm Graphite and collage on cardboard
All image credit the artist.