“I am fragmenting pectoral space with a similar intention to that of the Cubists. There was this way in which they were able to show things “in the round” so that all sides could be revealed at once.”
Interview by: Kitty Bew
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I was born in San Francisco California where I grew up, and later moved to Baltimore where I received my BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art. I then moved to London to study at the Royal College of Art where I received my MA, and I now live and work in London.
You have ascribed your paintings to a contemporary experience of visual overload. Is this an experience that you attribute directly to the digital?
I would absolutely attribute this experience to the digital and more specifically modern social tools that exist online. There is the phenomenon of endless scrolling and in addition the use of advertising and click bait, which inundate us with an overwhelming amount of information to process. It fascinates me how deeply invested we are in these tools, and also how little control or understanding we have on how they affect us psychologically. We have this blind faith, that new inventions will be good for us because we view technology as a progressive innovation, which gives it such a positive spin. The interesting part is that even the inventors could have never predicted how digital tools would have affected us socially.
I am especially interested in the effects of this on our understanding of and experience of time. The narratives in my works are fractured and reconfigured in a non-linear way. In any given moment we are viewing some edited version of a past event whilst also fixating on how we can create a future moment that is more interesting than the one we are presently in so that we can share it with others in this cyclical way. All of this removes this from the present moment.
Your figures are very solitary; jarring with their painted background. There is a touch of the absurd as a result, is this a sense that you intended to convey?
The figures are, for the most part self-portraits, juxtaposed against imagined psychological spaces. For this reason I feel that this sense of the absurd is imbedded in the work as it is so true to lived experience in modern times. More specifically I would say that I am fragmenting pectoral space with a similar intention to that of the Cubists. There was this way in which they were able to show things “in the round” so that all sides could be revealed at once. I utilize various vantage points in the same image, to allow for a similar description of a narrative scene to exist. There are moments where things slip, gaps in the work where the story doesn’t fully line up. My favourite works by other artists are ones where you look at them and feel an immediate sense of resolve and understanding, and then the moment that you fixate on any given part, the whole thing begins to fall apart. It’s the same thing when you try and reconstruct a dream. At first everything is so clear, and slowly as we try to recount them, everything dissolves into moments that make little sense when butted up against each other. It is the transitions that have been removed.
Your paintings seem indebted to mark-making; marks made with charcoal, juxtaposed with paint. What would you say that this juxtaposition brings to your practice?
I utilize painting as a place to make notes to self, or jot down thoughts, in this way it becomes a record that functions similarly to a journal. There is this phenomenon where in the same day you can bare witness to a child being born and one being torn away from their family by rather gruesome means, all within an instant, these videos can be presented literally back to back and without warning on social media. I find the experience of that quite jarring, and painting becomes this rare space where these very paradoxical worlds can collide on a surface in a similar way to how I experience them in daily life.
My use of mark making is a form of writing for me, a way to process daily exchanges. There is an emphasis on drawing and the quick gesture that I feel is best achieved both in a charcoal sketch as well as in the crayon like qualities of oil bar. The variation of mark for me is more so about tempo than anything. Some marks are fast and explosive while others must be meditated on. I owe these methods of painting to its rich history. I see the importance of American sign painting, Persian miniature painting, abstract expressionism, Chinese ink brush painting, and French Impressionism in that history, and utilize many of these innovations in painting within my work. I see this as being not dissimilar to how a modern car is built with all of the inventions that preceded it, and when combined, we have a new means of transportation.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
Each day I travel from my flat in Streatham to my studio in Camberwell. I try and handle most of the practical and logistical aspect of my practice (the business side) in the mornings. Writing emails, updating the website, working on applications ect. That way once I being painting or drawing my focus is not being pulled into anything else. When starting a new series I find it helpful to build a number of stretchers at various scales so that I can switch back and forth from painting to painting. My space is usually filled with at least three or four “active” paintings at once with a few finished works in the periphery. I think it is helpful to work in this way as it prevents me from fixating and also becomes a dialogue where each work responds to the other. At times if I am stuck, resolving something in a different painting can allow for new ideas to evolve so that I can return with a new understanding.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
There was a video installation at South Bank of a piece by the artist Arthur Jafa called 'Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death,' the work takes an unflinching look at the depths of the black experience, the brilliance of black creativity and expression as well as the extreme pain of loss, struggle, and suffering at the hands of white supremacy and racism. To say that this work is powerful is an understatement. It is important, it is honest, and it provides visibility in a world that often insists on wilful blindness to the very real experiences of others.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I have a work in Bloomberg New Contemporaries at South London Gallery, which is currently on view until the 24th of February. The Federation of British Artists has selected my work for the FBA Futures Show opening January 8th at the Mall Galleries. I will be a guest speaker for a series on the future of female artists as a part of the exhibition. Perhaps most exciting are two solo shows that I will have this spring, one at Public Gallery, and the other at Beers London, more details on those coming soon :)
All images are courtesy of the artist
Date of publication: 21/01/19