Briefly describe the work that you do.
I produce sculpture made with wood collected from the forest floor, washed up on beaches, and generally from the local environment. This a pragmatic approach that creates an instinctive and intimate relationship between the locality, the material and myself.
The process of searching, gathering and making, leads to a continuous dialogue between ideas inspired by the material and its availability. Preconceived starting points are unhelpful, as the materials are determined by happenstance.
The ideas are essentially abstract, a visual language derived from an interest in sequences, patterns and rhythms that produce relationships between the disparate elements selected to produce a piece of work.
My work initially relied on a technique of threading and stacking taken from the breastplate adornments of Native Americans, and inspiring a series of geometrical wall hangings. Moving into three dimensions, I began making ‘frames’ by joining dried branches that provide the skeleton for the body of the work. Working the wood might involve cleaning, sanding, cutting, splicing, dowelling and gluing. The finished pieces have a quality of a drawing in three dimensions, and the shadows cast a new plane of observation.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
A significant moment came whilst working on a large ceramic installation consisting of three dimensional tiles in which symmetry was broken in the vertical. This occurred whilst studying at Central St Martins School of Art and Design in London, and that evening, as I cut through the vertical the sense of excitement and satisfaction is one I will always remember.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I grew up in a village on the edge of a fertile plain of the drained fens in the East of England. With the open pits of clay mining and tall chimneys of brickworks to the north, and industrial agriculture to the south and east, the extraction of needs from nature was an ever present part of the natural landscape.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
Ideas of transformation and order are central themes to my process as I work to impose new forms on seemingly random material. It is a process of refinement.
The need to search for my own material allows me to develop an intimate relationship with each piece of wood as I can continuously assess its usefulness. The collection is deliberate and considered. In the studio the bundles are catalogued into type (curve, length, width, individuality etc.) so I can begin to make connections in between individual pieces.
In essence I am creating a palette that I can use when making.
Next I lay everything out to evaluate which branches could create desirable curves, rhythms and sequences when joined together.
Connecting one piece to the next the sculpture slowly appears giving the opportunity to refine the structure more precisely until the frame is complete and ready to attach the smaller detail.
The transformation from raw material to finished work is achieved with a systematic approach and a pragmatic view of what can be assembled. The more I work the broader the visual language develops and in turn I increase the potential for more diverse outcomes.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
It is about persevering and working hard but it takes little motivation for meto spend time working in the studio. I have a compulsion to live a creative lifestyle. It is at the centre of all I do. The challenge is to feel that my practice is always moving forward as I continue to refine the skills necessary to produce work that is truly personal.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
I find it difficult to pin down exact influences. I have to recognise the indigenous societies across the globe that have left wonderful examples of how to produce work from natural objects found in their local environment whilst using limited technology i.e. Aboriginal art, North American Indian art…… Pattern making has always been present in my thinking and I have been drawn to different styles including Islamic design & Celtic Art. There are natural connections with the work of Andy Goldsworthy who has been a contemporary pioneer environmental art.
It was significant moment to feel the power of ‘Unique Forms of Continuity in Space’ 1913 (Umberto Boccioni) when visiting The Tate London during my college years, a fine example how it is possible to infuse a piece of work with such power and dynamism.
I think the nature of these influences has a more subliminal influence, which adds to a soup of memory that can be instinctively drawn from when formulating ideas for my own work.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
Maintaining a creative life occupies a large portion of my time and there is little left to spend on extra curricula activities. I have a keen interest in current events and make an effort to be aware of what is happening in the wider world, which often encourages me to go and see it for myself.
Leon Patchett was born in Peterborough Cambridgeshire. England 1966. In 1990 he graduate from Central/St.Martins School of Art & Design with a B.a. Hons Degree in Fine Art Ceramics. Later on in 1994 he completed a P.G.C.E. in Art & Design from Manchester Metropolitan University.
Leon has exhibited at home and abroad having taken part in international art exhibitions & symposiums in the UK, Macedonia, North Carolina, Spain and Bosnia as well as an Environmental Eco-Art Butterfly Project in Finland receiving several funding awards in the process.
Since 2002 he has been a self-employed artist living and working in Cromarty, Scotland.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.