"Having been surrounded by industrial objects from a young age, this has influenced my practice, approach to any practical obstacles and experimentation with ‘heavy’ materials."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?
I studied Fine Art Sculpture at Carmarthen School of Art, Wales; specialising in casting, construction and fabrication. There was an emphasis on traditional sculpture techniques and processes which has continued to feed into my practice as a contemporary artist. After graduating in 2014 I was keen to continue developing my practice and took up the artist in residence position in the sculpture department at the school. Over the last few years I’ve exhibited work on an international and national level including most recently at the Venice Art House Gallery; besides this I’ve experienced in depth Iron Casting at Conferences, travelling to Ireland, Latvia and most recently to Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama.
Last year I completed my MFA after receiving a scholarship to study at Cardiff School of Art & Design; achieving a Distinction. However the year was a challenging experience and I found that my work shifted from previous heavily focused material experimentation and was limited at times due to space and facilities. There’s an organic approach to my practice, I try not to limit or tie myself to a specific discipline; my work currently sits at the intersection between sculpture, installation and performance.
Could you tell us about your recent performance piece “Women at Work”? What was the inspiration behind it?
The idea behind Women at Work came from previous research into women and industry, and how my own personal experiences of working in a foundry was predominately male dominated. The National Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art & Practices became a starting point of contact for female artists who are interested in working collaboratively to explore object (domestic) and action using molten cast iron as the primal material. The focus behind this body of work was to explore material, object and gender; highlighting and questioning the consciousness of stereotypical roles as my research has begun to consider the role of women in sculpture and how female sculptors have formed relationships with material.
The performance comprised of a production run pour with a female only crew. We worked specifically with domestic objects such as cake tins, dusters, sieves that were placed on long wooden tables and larger objects, the washing machine and tumble dryer became a focal point. Molten iron was poured in or over the objects becoming exposed and destroyed. The aim of Women at Work was to highlight the intense nature of foundry work, specifically iron casting; emphasising the role of women and questioning the consciousness of stereotypical roles. My experience at Sloss Furnaces evolved into an innovative approach and understanding of iron casting and how I can further engage with performance to explore an international and collaborative dialogue.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
I recently visited the Artes Mundi, which was held at the National Museum and Chapter in Cardiff. Neil Beloufa’s piece was a sculptural assemblage of videos as an installation exploring the parody of social interaction through the diverse subjects of extra-terrestrials, nationalism and terrorism. The work was elegantly exhibited, I was particularly drawn to the steel fabricated forms that formed the basis of the video work; the jarring dialogue between three and two dimensional approaches. Another range of works that provoked my practice was Renate Bertlmann’s solo exhibition Höhepunkte (Two Climaxes) at the Richard Saltoun Gallery. Bertlmann’s piece Bru(s)tkasten (Breast incubator), 1984; two moulded clay female breasts (encased in an 'incubator'). Her work confronts the idea of female vulnerability; the knife placed to each nipple expresses female power, and therefore rejecting the breast as a fetish. For me this body of work illustrates a unique sensitivity to material and female tropes.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?
Since leaving education I’ve found it difficult to balance my studio time whilst trying to earn a living. I try to prioritise my time during the evenings and weekends but have no specific routine. I currently share a space in my father’s garage where I have access to tools, machinery and floor space for larger works. Having been surrounded by industrial objects from a young age, this has influenced my practice, approach to any practical obstacles and experimentation with ‘heavy’ materials. At home I have a desk space where I mainly work on my journals for notes, research pointers or brief sketches; I call this my “clean” space. I regularly find myself having to balance work and my ongoing practice as an emerging artist; however I carry my journal on me wherever I go for any quiet breaks during the day to jot down any immediate ideas for future projects and new works.
Where has your work been headed more recently?
There seems to be two strands to my practice, collaborative and performance based work and how I can revisit previous industrial materials such as plaster and concrete. I don’t want to restrict myself or place my work in a categorized box, I work purely in the moment, time, space, and materials are all key components. Scale has always been a focal quality; previous works are much larger and weighty as I had no limitations with space. I find myself negotiating my practice at times but more recently I have been interested in evolving how the process of my work tends to involve an intensely physical approach. There is an investigation in my recent works where the confrontational and challenging social aspects of gender relations have become apparent through performative actions. How can I expand and mature to progress with future works?
How do you go about naming your work?
Personally I feel that titles are an important element of the work, they can provide the audience with a general understanding and context of a piece. My titles usually refer to how materials respond; therefore describing the action or the experience of process. With my most recent works the titles form a basis for further development of a piece as research, for example Women at Work is proposed as a series of future projects that will be re-enacted accordingly. The name is never something I spend time thinking about; it can sometimes become quite daunting when you find yourself starring at the finished work without means to an end. However the naming of work does become part of the process for me and when I finalise a name I begin to fully understand the work.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I’ve recently been accepted as Artist in Residence at Stiwdio Maelor in Corris, Wales, this will begin mid-August; I’ll be working in a large attic studio space for a month allowing me to focus my research and develop new work.
I’m currently working on my approach to material experimentation and the aesthetic quality in my practice. My time is also dedicated to finalising a performance proposal for the International Conference on Contemporary Cast Iron Art which will be held in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
All images courtesy of the artist
Interview published 01/06/17