Briefly describe the work you do.
I construct my paintings, drawings and sculptural objects using cultural and art-historical references, taken from the art of the past and ceramics, found imagery and photography. Interested in the riot, revolution and reform that made modern Britain and science-fictions, I use the idiom of the past to describe the 21st century, conflating past and present in one pictorial event. Each element is selected because it socially and historically encapsulates the time in which it was made, the story it tells and its resonance today. Backwards and into the future and existing out of time in a dysfunctional melancholy world, I have developed a visual and narrative language of social and magical realism. The works appear whimsical, yet set within the familiar my themes are subversive and are about the underbelly of Englishness and contemporary anxiety.
My ink drawings are deceptively simple, and recall folk art, woodcuts and graphic novels. Developed from collages, the scenes are drawn using overlapping forms in outline, each line thickened and every angle rounded off, and balanced with negative space. Recently, the drawings have taken the form of sculptural objects, staged off the wall and into the room, to animate the space to tell complex tales that involve the viewer in the narrative. I am interested in the shift of context and how situation changes the experience of the viewer. The characters are scaled up and drawn life size onto hand cut ply that has been prepared with layers of gesso.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
I have more than 20 years experience as a creative practitioner. I worked for 11 years in the multimedia industry as an adult education tutor, illustrator, and freelance designer and creative director. For the last 10 years I have concentrated on my fine art practice as an artist and curator. My practice combines my interest in technology and history, and art as the visual record of our culture. I am always surprised by what I don’t know, what has been forgotten and what has be written over. My research is a process of discovery, shock, horror, wonder and awe. I read around a theme, make connections in time and space and respond emotionally in some way. I work from collages, hybridizing past, present and future projections with politics. Recent drawing objects have developed from collages about about globalisation, commodification and the effects of living in an increasingly digitised world with references from the Surrealist film ‘Chien Andelou’ and ‘The Third Man’. In the drawing ‘Smoking Gun’ I pull together personal concerns about international arms trade and Britain’s role as a leading arms manufacturer and exporter: eyes in the sky, unmanned drones, violence mediated by TV screens and surveillance technology. ‘Brimstone Bureaucracy’ is about British overseas policy and wars fought from behind desks; the ink splashes are oil. I am currently making these drawings into life-size freestanding objects to create a submersive narrative environment.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My practice is my own self-initiated research project – a line of enquiry that asks questions of my world in an attempt to understand it. Drawing for me is a way of collecting source materials, working in my notebooks and making collages on the computer to draw from. I use the computer because there is so much information and visual material available that I can resize and manipulate. I think of the resultant drawings, paintings and sculptural objects as visual poems. I work six days a week, two or three of which are spent in the studio in the traditional sense, using traditional techniques. I have several projects on the go at any one time and work in a range of media. I also curate.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I set out to paint 25 years ago I had never touched a computer so I never imagined that I would spend so much time using one. As well as researching and compositing images, much of my creative practice is spent developing my networks and doing my arts admin: emailing, working with timelines and budgets, applying for funding, publicizing my work via social media and submitting to shows.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I am disciplined in my art making. Studio days are 9am to 6pm, perhaps longer and later if I have deadline. My arts admin is done first thing in the morning or at night, again dependent on deadlines. A lot of my creative thinking happens when I am walking down the street.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My responses have become more multifaceted; any one image cannot depict the complexities that I am trying to convey. I am currently playing with scale to take the audience inside my peculiar vision, to position them as protagonist within my storytelling.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I read a lot of history and science fiction. The life and works of Mary Wollstonecraft, eighteenth century English writer, philosopher and proto-feminist, influenced recent drawings ‘A Hyena in Petticoats’. I have just finished reading The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi and On Ugliness by Umberto Eco. I am currently reading Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, and Madd Adam by Margaret Atwood – all of which will inform my new work about science fictions that are happening now. I have a very good network of peers and often collaborate other artists working locally. I follow lots of artists on Twitter to see what they are making and where they are exhibiting. My family is very supportive.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
From time to time I get pulled away from the studio to make enough money to support my family and my practice.
Artist and curator, I studied at St Martins School of Art, the Artec and Camberwell College of Arts, graduating in 2008 with a degree in painting. I live and work in London. Shortlisted for The 2010 Jerwood Drawing Prize, I exhibit regularly and have work in private collections within the UK and abroad.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.