Background: I would say that I have always seemed to gravitate towards Art for as long as I can remember but I have been serious about it for about 5 years. It is only since I began to focus on it and take it seriously that I began to question where I might have got it from and it all seems to stem back to home- I’m from Stoke On Trent originally and my Grandma was a caster for Wedgewood so that has had a huge impact on me whilst growing up as well as my Dad who is a builder so he is the ‘go to’ person who I seem to nag when I want advice on how to make something of a large scale and tends to be the person who usually sees all of my work before anyone else.
Organic forms like limbs or torsos: For the past year my entire practice was obsessing with trying to create these biomorphic forms which in some ways physically relate to people but in reality there is nothing human or relatable about them- that is something which I find really intriguing, we as people try to assign characteristics to things as a means of understanding them and I tend to try and manipulate this through the materials that I pair the forms with. It is this process of choosing the materials which has changed the direction that I have now gone in; the obsession of meticulously trying to define the mundane object and material and elevating it to a level in which it can be newly appreciated. David Crows writing on Semiotics and Metonyms has completely changed my perspective on Art and my work in general.
Sexual subcultures: The research that I have done has taken me down some bizarre and somewhat liberating routes over the past two years and it has enabled me to learn of things which are still regarded as a taboo subject. With this being the case, it has given me an opportunity and inspired me to tell these stories of the people and places that have been forgotten which tend to be the things that my research results in finding. A lot of the subject matter that I use were places and people who fell victim to the 1980’s AIDS epidemic and as a result was deleted from memory so in this sense I feel that Art can be an incredibly subtle tool as a means to recreate and remember these places which at a time were havens for liberation. My aim in the work isn’t to reveal aspects of sexuality but it is to document an aspect of sexuality as Art.
The viewer: The most important lesson that I have learnt is that I am never going to be able to control people's reactions- as soon as it leaves the security of my studio people can do and react as they wish. However I want people to walk away from the work obviously admiring it and maybe even developing some sense of humour in relation to it, but as long as they leave with new knowledge of a place or person then I feel that I have done what I intended to do- to tell a story. Levity is a characteristic that I pride myself on having and even though the work is not directly personal, I try to bring myself across through that. I am fully aware of the severity of the issues that I tend to focus on but I feel that light-hearted humour is a huge part which I try to incorporate into my work as a means of dealing with the issues.
Starting new work, process: My work is always heavy in context so this is a dominating factor in the making of the work. It tends to take off from a small description, material or image and from that point my ideas begin to merge and show a crossover of a variety of inspirations- the video game Crash Bandicoot is having a massive impact on my ideas at the minute and the visuals and ideas are beginning to form for new work. In terms of making the work I believe planning and experimenting is invaluable. Once I have done that part then I feel I can somehow detach myself away from the thinking and context and just focus purely on the making side which can be quite laborious so it gives me a lot of time to reflect on the aesthetics which I feel are equally as important- If people don’t necessarily understood my work then I at least want to make work that has some appealing visual qualities to it which is where the choices of my materials play a massive part.
Studio/routine: I follow my studio routine each day like clockwork as I feel it provides me with a method of staying on top and in control of what I am wanting to do. I am in really lucky situation where I can spend all day there and I don’t for a second want to take it for granted. But in regards to my studio itself, it is a bit of an assault course. I share a studio space with 3 other people but as all of my stuff is large, it takes over the entire room. At the minute I’m just finishing off a 12ft installation which has a few 8ft partition walls which completely dominates the space but this idea of being around a lot of work though is a great thing as it benefits me in terms of making. The prospect of an empty studio space scares me as I work best in a messy and chaotic environment.
Titles: I try not to think too much about naming my work as it tends to just creep up on me when I least expect it. Phrases and quotes from books often become names for the works as well as songs and quotes from films. Dallas Buyers Club in particular has influenced my practice and the naming of work massively over the past 6 months through the character, Rayon.
I remember watching it for the first time and just being completely obsessed with this fictional character who lives her life with a huge amount of levity and doesn’t allow anything to get to her which I completely admire in anyone. So its moments like this which completely feed everything; the moments that stay with you so much that you have to notice them and consider them.
Influences: My influences range massively on a spectrum. Obviously people like Jean Arp and Joseph Beuys have had huge impacts on my thinking but then there are people such as Claire Barclay, Shahryar Nashat and Iain Hales. The most important at the minute are Christodoulos Panayiotou, Dragset and Elmgreen and stage designer Robert Wilson who creates these intimidatingly atmospheric sets with singular props which dominate and become the protagonist on the stage. He did a production of Shakespeare’s sonnets in which the actors were chanting their lines in German with dubstep playing in the background- this has been on my mind for months.
Future/shows: I have a few things which I am really excited about. I have a group show in 2 weeks in which I’m showing a new piece of work about Harvey Milk which has been a massive labour of love and is on show at Kosmonaut in Manchester. I then have a few collaborations planned but the one that I am most excited about is a project which is being launched in August for a month in which I am being represented on the website of The White Pube Gallery which is ran by two Artists, Gabrielle De La Puente and Zarina Muhammad. Zarina is one of this year’s Bloomberg New Contemporaries so I’m incredibly honoured to be able to work with the both of them.
Publishing date of this interview 29/04/16