Favourite woman artist and why/how has she/her art or life inspired you?
Prunella Clough. She was my personal tutor when I was a student at Wimbledon School of Art in the early 1990’s. She was very private and unassuming but could analyse an idea with razor sharp precision, her words were never intrusive and would never hinder a piece of work that you were trying to make, but she always made you think around the idea, and about ‘other possibilities’ which might facilitate ‘chance discoveries’. Her words still shout loudly in my ears when I am working in my studio almost thirty years later.
Women globally are far less represented in galleries and museums than their male counterparts. Have you yourself found the art world difficult to navigate as a woman or have you come up against any particular obstacles and how did you deal with them? Do you support all-women shows etc..? Why/why not? Have you noticed any changes?
It is my ambition to be a good painter. I want my work to speak for me, I never think of that voice as female, I think of myself as an equal player. I am not a painter who wants to make work about being a woman, it's about so much more than that.
I have been fortunate in my experience of the art world, I have dealt with many good people, and on the whole have always been treated fairly and with respect. I have benefitted from equal opportunities participating in exhibitions, where for me I want my work to have a voice which can withstand any competition.
My worst experience of being treated very poorly has been by a female art dealer who trampled and stepped over me to further her own career whilst shouting about being a female champion. Bad business behaviour is unacceptable from a man or a woman.
I am hesitant about the current trend of all ‘female’ exhibitions, while I understand why it is happening, I would prefer to see some interesting, engaging exhibitions, where strong work is the sole focus, not the human behind it.
When did you first discover art? and when did you realise that you wanted to pursue it professionally?
I have wanted to ‘make’ things since junior school. I was a loner at school, and then I discovered glueing and pasting, drawing, painting and making, and suddenly I felt an energy that transported me outside of myself to another place, from then I just knew that I wanted to make my life about chasing that obsession.
Can you tell me a bit about you/your background? (eg where are you from/based? What has your educational path been like or are you self-taught?)
I was raised in Kent in the 1970s by parents who allowed me to follow my dream with their full support. I was also lucky to be taught at a girls grammar school in the 1980’s where encouraging female equality was paramount. Subsequently I had strong self belief systems instilled in me which have assisted me when navigating the often lonely and frustrating isolation that being an artist can bring.
Following school, I completed a foundation course at Maidstone College of Art, a BA Hons Degree at Wimbledon School of Art and an MA at Chelsea College of Art. I left full time education in 1994.
Once I left college I was very fortunate to begin exhibiting work fairly swiftly and I was taken on by a gallery in Chelsea the year after I left college, which supported my practice and allowed me to find my feet working as an artist in the real world.
What themes or ideas do you explore in your work?
My intention is to create works which allude to an experience of place, incorporating personal associations and visual notations. Attempts to create monuments of emotional experience, interpreting my experience, making notes, recording phrases or conversations held in that place, recalling sensory experience, attempting to capture a moment in time that I can then reflect upon during the painting process.
But I also want to make paintings about painting, I am very reluctant to pin down an explanation for the making of a work, it is a physical experience, I am guided by my emotion, my physicality, by sounds and smell, by the pure joy of the material, by past experience, by the process of play...those things can’t be written down and explained, they are instinctive and they come to my hand as a language that I speak through materials being laid down onto canvas.
What is your process like? (Do you do a lot of research? Do you favour an intuitive approach? Do you do a lot of preparatory studies? Do you use photography/digital media? Do you concentrate on just one piece or do you work on several at the same time? How long do you spend working on each piece?)
My painting process involves the application of very thick oil paint and loose pigment to a surface. The paintings are worked vertically, propped up against the wall and I draw and scrape into the painted surface using a variety of tools and brushes to create a three dimensional landscape which stands proud from the canvas surface. I then dust loose pigment across the surface of the work to illuminate every mark achieved through the painting process.
A typical working period for a painting would be three to four months, I work on a number of paintings at any one time, and I allow the works to inform each other as a group. Paintings evolve from a history and experience of painting, I don’t make preparatory work, preferring to battle it out within the work, but I do have a very strict rule that once a painting is complete, I move onto the next one. My instinct is usually strong, and sometimes the painting will run ahead of me, I won’t fully understand it, but it will feel relevant to leave it and hope that I will understand its meaning in the weeks to come.
What have been your influences? (Anything in history? A particular work of art? Other artists? Landscape? Movies? Family/friends? Literature?)
Moon landing... Spacemen... John Donne.. Anselm Kiefer.. Abba.. Robert Rauschenberg.. Frank Stella.. Andrea Mantegna..The Northern Renaissance.. Landscape.. Journeys.. Illuminated manuscripts... Photography.. Flight.. Cartography... Geology..Geography.. Snow...Dust..Stories..Conversations...
Could you name a book you would recommend to every artist? (Not necessarily art-related) And why?
“The Artist’s Handbook Of Materials and Techniques” by Ralph Meyer published by Faber and Faber.
A bible for technique, material and process: “Search For The Real” by Hans Hofmann. Just read it…It’s magic.
Do you have any advice for other artists? Particularly students/emerging?
Be sure that you want to commit your life to enquiry and making things.
Try and establish a network of people who you really admire and whose opinion you respect. Hopefully many points of view will come your way but it is essential to know which voices will be really honest and tell you the things that you need to hear.
Working as an artist generally means that you will be self employed and you will need to learn a range of skills to facilitate this. I would advise students to ask questions of the people that you come across at Art school, how do they do things? I would also advise getting your name onto studio building lists as these can often take years to become fruitful, find out about good art suppliers, set up an Instagram account, network and talk to people. It can be isolating being an artist, keep in touch with other artists, meet up for coffee. I have found Instagram to be an incredible tool for linking with other artists and interacting, there are huge networks of other ‘makers’ within reach through social media.
Do you have any exhibitions coming up? Where/when? Tell us about them/what are they about?
I currently have work in a two man show “ Space and Time” at Knightwebb Gallery Battersea: www.knightwebbgallery.com
Jerry Saltz once said on Instagram that he wanted to know about an “artist’s dreams, paranoid fantasies and ideas about other art” in interviews ... Shoot!! Tell us all!!
If it was as simple as that to write those things down, I certainly wouldn’t bother to try and paint.