Frame 61

Mollie Milton

Frame 61
Mollie Milton

Background: I’ll be graduating from my BA in June, so I guess a lot of people would say that is the starting point for an emerging artist but I’ve been living and practising in Manchester for five years now, and I have always considered myself as ‘practicing’ because I’ve very rarely not had something that I’m working on or towards. 

Body, flesh and fingerprints: In Stuck in an interval (somewhere between past and future), the sculptures have obvious fingerprints where I have pushed and squeezed the materials with my hands. While my sculptures act as a documentation of those gestures, I want them to be more than just a record of an interaction, taking on their own entity, referencing the human body but not explicitly. I am interested in the materiality of the body being present within the work but without it becoming overly figurative or grotesque. 

Fragility and decay: Time is a really important component of my practice - I tend to choose materials with contrasting longevity such as ceramic and wax, or materials in their different states such as fired and unfired clay. I am interested in the cyclical nature of life and the finality of death and how this translates into materials. I like to look at my work as ‘time-based’ because each material has its own lifespan from stoneware ceramic, which has been known to last for over 3500 years, to melting wax sculptures or dried flowers. These choices of materials are an integral part of exploring the cycle of life, death and decay. The fragility of human life is something I have always been interested in and I think often comes forth within my material choices. 

Hair and the Uncanny: Hair is an interesting medium because it has very different connotations depending on how it is presented. Detached from the body, hair is often considered abject and repulsive, however, I use it in my work because it references growth and the materiality of the body. In Denying I trapped swathes of dark brown hair in plaster to create slabs that look almost marbled from a distance - up close you realise it is hair escaping from the confines of the plaster - creating a sort of tension in the piece. I like my sculpture to tiptoe between alive and dead, existing in that in-between space - almost like purgatory. A lot of my work comes from this internal conflict between the ‘spiritual’ self and the material body, the idea that all humans have a subconscious desire to transcend death and exist beyond the means of their organic bodies. 

Heroes/heroines: My real art heroes are Egon Schiele, Giuseppe Penone, Anselm Kiefer, Louise Bourgeois, Rebecca Warren, Cornelia Parker, Anya Gallaccio, Olafur Eliasson, Bill Viola and Jan Svankmajer. They all make quite different work, but it is all incredibly awe inspiring and the kind of work that makes me want to head straight to the studio and make my own work.

Titles: I always find naming my work a really difficult task so usually I have to sit with the work for a while after completion and just mull everything over. I do think titles are quite important, so I’m quite hesitant to just leave things untitled. Sometimes it takes months for me to find a title that I am happy with, so they do get changed from time to time. I usually try and pick a word or a sentence that relates to my wider thinking or research relating to the piece, perhaps giving the work a little bit of context.

Studio/routine: I usually prefer not to spend too long looking at one thing and tend to be working on a few different projects at a time so I often flit between jobs. My studio is full of my work, ongoing and completed, so in between making I am often drawing links and connections between different pieces, experimenting with various materials - I like to be surrounded by interesting things so I often have a pile of stuff I have collected or made that I can sift through and experiment with. At the moment on my desk, I have a load of ivy from my garden, a block of beeswax, a bag of human hair that was donated to me, some small bronze thistles and a ceramic hand I made last week. I spend a lot of time playing with ceramics but sometimes     I never use the stuff I make, and I rarely draw out what I’m going to make first -  it’s a bit like sketching but with clay. 

What's next: I'm currently working on some larger scale bronze casts of some Teasels that I collected from the peak district. I am planning to do this using a process called investment casting, which is a process that essentially transforms organic materials into metals such as bronze, gold and silver. The process involves making a plaster cast, burning out the organic object, then filling the space with molten metal. The object itself then exists in a long-lasting metal but its essential nature has been burnt and destroyed. This to me is a really interesting process which really feeds into some of the ideas I have been thinking about recently - to do with the futile pursuit of immortality, so in order to preserve these organic objects, they end up getting destroyed.

Future: I have been selected to be part of a group show in Manchester at the Grosvenor Gallery, which is on next week. It’s being curated by Adam Smythe, who is one of the curator’s from the Bluecoat in Liverpool, so I’ve been working towards that for a while now. I’m also doing a group residency in Spain at Joya: Arte + ecología in a few weeks, which I'm very excited about. And then in the summer, I'll be looking for a new permanent studio to move into hopefully somewhere in the North West. 

Artist website

Publishing date of this interview 08/03/16