Can you tell me about your practice? How do you get started on a piece of work?
I work across a range of mediums such as textiles, glass, ceramics and printmaking. There is a tension throughout my practice between craft and process as I work with mediums that require time, patience and precision however I then undermine and push them to their boundaries whether it be through evocative and confrontational imagery or brutal and irrevocable actions.
Symbols are an integral part of my work as they hold an archetypal weight to them and resonate throughout history. From all seeing eyes to hands or fasces (a bundle of rods and a single axe which were carried as a symbol of magisterial and priestly authority in ancient Rome), I often return to the lexicon of human imagery. I use these symbols as a way in which to tap into the collective unconsciousness and speak to anyone.
When I visualise my work, I can see it as a blurry image out of the corner of my eye and with each step of creation I am bringing this vision into focus. This is why I am not overly strict if a finished work does not look like what I originally intended as it is the process of creating the piece that determines its final outcome.
Who are your biggest influences?
I draw heavily from the imagery of civilisations such as Ancient Greece, Roman Antiquity, Ancient Egypt and South America. I am fascinated by the ancient world and especially the period between 11000 BC to 0 AD as what happened in this pre-Christian period hugely informed us and has either been lost to history or has been absorbed and largely become a part of or homogenized into European and Western Culture.
The same imagery and stories are universal across cultures and civilisations and I do think humans have both an innate dictionary of symbols and narratives that are built into us and which we all drawn upon when interacting with the world. This is why we return to the same subjects again and again – it is instinctual as much so as eating or sleeping. For me, there is an inherent truth in the stories of ancient civilisations.
For example, the story of sacrifice is central to mankind or the action of losing part of oneself - whether it is Odin in Norse mythology gouging out his eye to gain knowledge or Horus in Egyptian hieroglyphics travelling to the underworld to save his father Osiris and giving up his eye in the process - there is a cyclical nature to these myths.
Can you talk about the role text plays in your practice?
Text plays quite a significant role in my work, usually because of the way it is created. The text in my work will usually comes from performance works that I stage with myself and actors. I will set up certain themes and ideas that I want the actors and myself to inhabit which we then discuss and explore, allowing the words to materialise organically. I very much view the text like a sculpture or object as it has a structure and form which is then composed and placed into the larger work.
If I want to apply my text to a textile artwork, first I paint it onto acetate sheet. This is then treated so that the words can be screen printed onto a textile works. The process of painting over each letter is laborious and time consuming - after a while to a certain extent the letters and words disappear and become abstract marks. I see them then as symbols which convey emotion, almost like hieroglyphs to an interior landscape.
This is especially true with a work like ‘Bloodlines’ which is 300cm (H) x 130 (W) with the text screen printed in undulating blues and greens over abstract marks in blood reds. I wrote the text whilst on a residency in Italy, and then painted over the letters back in London over the course of many days. The piece can be viewed as a collection of marks that create tension without a need of reading it to obtain its connotations.
How does your work determine the materials you use?
The use of which medium hugely informs the work I make as it is an integral part of their conceptual underpinning. The glassworks typically deal with the idea of saints, martyrs, pain and suffering. They are receptacles of emotion, so when conceiving these works, I know I will be pouring myself into these vessels.
The textile works are inspired by tapestries that portray great historical events and banners used in warfare, strikes and civil unrest. These works deal with the ideas of grand narratives, projection and propaganda, they are taken from intimate moments yet told on the scale of significant historical events.
In contrast, my drawings and monoprints are about immediacy and working on paper allows me the freedom to get ideas down quickly. I do not often plan what I am going to create when I go to the printmaking studio. But with the monoprints I find great satisfaction with the finality of the printing process and see the raised edge and indentation from plate as a means to contain my frenetic actions.
What is your most important tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My studio book would be the most indispensable tool in my studio as I always have it to hand so that I can jot down ideas quickly. I tend not to be that precious with what I draw in it - it’s usually a simple notebook and I use biro. I think most of what’s inside it would be untranslatable to anyone else as the writing looks more like scratches. Sometimes I will not act upon an idea for months or even years, yet as long as I have put in down on the page, I have given it permeance and so it can germinate over time.
I have also found over the years not to pressure myself and try to fully realise every idea all at once as what I have found is that you should work on whatever is most pressing and at the forefront of your mind and as soon as you have completed this you will organically know what to do next. And naturally I find myself completing the ideas in the notebook without forcing it. I usually cross out an idea when it is completed and rip out the pages as I go, yet I have been told I should try to keep my studio books intact.
Can you give us a book recommendation that has been important in your practice? And tell us why it’s important.
Over the past couple of years, I have found it quite difficult to read fiction as it has become too fanciful to me. Instead, I have solidly read non-fiction and books that focus on world history, psychology and anthropology. I am also drawn to books that give an account or insight into our current world order but presenting a myriad of political and social factors rather than a simplistic version.
I would highly recommend ‘Guns, Germs & Steel’ by Jared Diamond. He gives an overview of the last 13,000 years since the last ice age, whilst focussing on why and how different civilisations have progressed and also those that have fallen during this time.
Finally, is there anything new coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I am excited to be part of a group show on the online platform AORA. Online spaces are still an unknown frontier and COVID has exponentially sped up their growth. However, I have never understood why galleries simply remake their spaces in a digital realm when they have the freedom to create whatever they want.
AORA is by far my favourite online space as it utilises the freedom of the digital realm by creating these unbelievable cathedral-like modernist structures that do not exist in the real world. It then places contemporary art as well as pieces from history that you would not be able to see in a gallery and places them together in the same context and so they can now have a dialogue.
‘AORA:III’ which will be online from Feb 1 to May 2, is curated around the ideas of bodies and how they both navigate and inhabit spaces. My piece ‘The Collapse of History IV’ (2019), will be on show in dialogue with sculpture and paintings by other contemporary artists in a newly conceived digital architectural space.
We Live in the Remains of the Gods, Anima Mundi Gallery, 2019
Bleed Me Dry, 2019
Bleed Me Dry detail, 2019
Vessel (Hand), 2019
All images courtesy of the artist