Frame 61

Alice Hartley

Frame 61
Alice Hartley

"These text pieces have been very physical in process and scale. I’ve found that interaction with my work is best in the flesh and to have some tactile relation to it."


You work with large scale prints, with short but punchy sentences or mid-sentences. Could you talk about your process and what your work is about?

When I first started using text I’d cut it out from a convocation I had one on one, or gleaned from a lecture I’d been too, something first hand that I’d experienced, that when isolated had resonated in a new way.

Each piece has an ambiguity to it, that’s always been important to me and when taken out of their original context the spirit of the sentence adjusts itself to the viewer. My initial aim was to voice the unspoken that is present in everyday life. This is where I began with my original piece for WE’RE ALL VERY DISAPPOINTED.

My most recent work is more dismissive, and could be read with some passive aggression (which I am not at all!) But I feel the tone in my text work changing, there’s more urgency. Before I’d always shy away from being labelled a political artist, but now I feel responsible, if I’m lucky enough to be given a platform I should be thoughtful in the way I use it. I don’t want to make quick brash slogans, there’s so much of these kicking around and it cheapens the voice, it becomes disposable. I’d hope that the viewer reads the piece in their own voice and to bring new discussion, why did you hear it that way? And how does it make you feel?

The process of making these pieces is kind of ridiculous but precious to the piece. I’m screen printing each piece in sections onto blue back paper that is used for billboards, they’re pasted directly to the wall and made especially for that space. Each print is a mono print, the process begun from impulsive and explosive drawing and painting which I adapted to screen printing.  I instinctively paint on the un-coated surface of a silk screen and then pull through with the squeegee once, leaving the outcome of the print open to chance and the unknown. The work occupies the space between a painting and a print, each piece being completely unique. Which means there’s only the one print, once it’s taken down its done, it becomes something else, a new object and cannot be shown in the same way again.

I’m trying to create something immersive that lets the mind wonder, to give a suggestion of a place but to let the audience decide exactly where that is for them; by using snippets of text that relates to identity and the internal voice, surrounded in abstracted space with expressive mark making. These text pieces have been very physical in process and scale. I’ve found that interaction with my work is best in the flesh and to have some tactile relation to it.



Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?

I try to be strict with my time, I’m always conscious to give myself enough time in the studio. I’ve been out of the studio for the last week working elsewhere and I’m finding it so hard to get back into routine.

Usually I’ll be in the studio by 9, make sure I have a tidy works space, make lists (I live by the list), mix some inks- think about colour first, (sometimes this takes a whole day!) I try and achieve at least one of the main things on my list and if it’s not working I’ll write or go to my sketchbook to take some pressure off.  Quite often if it’s going well I’ll work late, that’s the best feeling. Always lots of music, I tend to make a playlist for a project before doing anything else. My work come from a very emotive place, I’ll listen to a track there’s something in the energy and I like where it takes me, I try and keep the impulsivity of the mark honest to the nature of the sound.

My studio recently moved, I was in Dalston off Ridley Rd for 2 years after finishing my MA, I totally loved that spot the energy of the market is amazing. I just needed more space, I wasn’t making any work in my studio, and my work wasn’t getting any smaller.

Finding something affordable for what I need in London is impossible, so I’ve moved my space out to the countryside in Hampshire, I’m using a barn I have to myself, the space is amazing something I haven’t ever experienced before, my practice is benefitting from it, I’m bouncing up and down from London a lot, which isn’t ideal but it’s the best solution I have.  

Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practicing artist and where did you study?

I say I’ve been a practicing artist since 2013- the second year of my MA at RCA, that’s when I consciously decided that this is what I wanted to do. I previously studied at Kingston University where I got my BA hons in Illustration and Animation, the course wasn’t right for me but there were some fantastic tutors who pointed me in the right direction and encouraged me to apply for the Fine Art Printmaking course at the RCA, it was a really interesting time there and met some really important people who still mean a lot to my practice now, looking back I feel like I was rather naïve for the most of it, but the second half of the second year really stands out as a time when I got to grips with making work that was important and honest, I allowed my frustration to be a tool rather that something to overcome.



What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

I went to see Maria Lassnig’s paintings at Hauser and Wirth recently, very brave with colour and it’s so good to see so many large-scale paintings together.

The main thing that resonated with me wasn’t one artwork. But some time spent in Athens last year, I did a residency out there for a month, it completely opened my outlook on what one can really achieve. I went out there in a predicament, I was considering leaving my studio in Dalston, I was fed up, I was negotiating whether I should just give up my practice all together and focus on something else.  Athens had this raw fuck it energy, it was so good, they are making great things out of all they have, its broken but it’s beautiful because they’ve decided to use it, and there’s no bullshit.

Where has your work been headed more recently?

The last big piece I made was for a group exhibition Site Strike curated by Sacha Craddock at Pi Artworks London, which was another vast text piece called PLEASE LEAVE. I loved making that piece, there was more richness in the underlay of the text, I was thinking about this idea of tracking your movement, of passing though, going over a border, feeling something pass and gaining something new in the land but it never being permanent. So recently I’ve been making some large-scale paintings on canvas developing this idea.

It ties with another ongoing project of mine called A flag that has no land. There’s a lot of work going into this project, I’m hoping it will take form as a whole some point in the future, it’s something that I’ve been working on for myself for the last couple of years.



How do you go about naming your work?

The text pieces’ name themselves, I suppose the title always comes first.

With my abstract work the title will come from something I’ve written in a note book before, or from a piece of music, sometimes the title of a playlist will be the title of the work. Often I’ll make a list of titles and make work in response to those titles.

Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

At the moment I’m working on this ongoing collaboration with fashion designer Sophie Cull- Candy, I printed my mono prints onto fabric which she turned into pieces for her SS17 collection. I’m now printing these made-up flags on the back of t-shirts for this limited edition NO LAND collection, coming out very soon! I’m loving this work, it’s great to see my work take form in a completely new area.

I’ve got some groups shows coming up in the summer and later this year, and the Site Strike exhibition that Sacha curated will be touring to Backlit Gallery in Nottingham next year.

All images courtesy of the artist
Published date: 5/4/17