"These shapes, drawn from modernist forms and digital tools ‘pin’ spilled wet vistas to create ambiguous spaces. Stains and poured goo onto raw canvas refer both to the body and to Abstract Expressionism."
Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practicing artist and where did you study?
It’s a long and complicated story. Here goes. I grew up in the North West of England and went to Mid Cheshire College for Foundation which was a heady mix of being 1989 near Manchester with all the dancing, music and haircuts involved in that, inspirational teachers, an insanely talented cohort and a lot of throwing buckets of paint at canvases to good effect. I moved to London and studied painting at Central Saint Martins from 1990-93 (with a year at the HdK in Berlin on an Erasmus exchange in the middle – good stories of showing paintings in squats with the Mutoid Waste Company alongside the rigorous German painting education system). Partly down to being young and pretty vulnerable really, painting, feeling kind of not ok combined with not having the strength or wisdom to stand up to that, I stopped making work shortly afterwards.
After a few years of being a secretary (one of the most useful things I ever did as an artist) and working at Marks and Spencer (in the shoe department), through the paintings I made shortly after college, I landed up working creatively in TV in motion graphics and directing. I had my son in 2000 – he is 17 now and the best thing in this whole story. After some heavy life events I returned to painting around 12 years ago. I have been painting obsessively ever since and returned to education to do the MFA at Goldsmiths for four life changing years as a part timer, graduating last July. This experience will probably take the rest of my life to unravel but essentially it stripped both myself and the work back to the core. It was painful but it was amazing. I met magical people who are a great support and inspiration to me and I feel incredibly privileged to have had that experience. I live in Peckham; I have a dog; I love where I live, I love my son and my beautiful friends and I still like dancing even though 1989 is a long time ago now.
Your work has an interesting balance between form and disorder, could you tell us about these paintings and the meaning behind them?
The work is kind of driven by an idea that was spoken about by Mark Leckey at Goldsmiths which is in essence that “art comes through the body and the life experience”. I have in some ways been trying to make the same painting since I was 19 but of course all the life experience between then and now is channeled through the body into the work. This was a life changing idea, an idea of acceptance in some ways, it also allows for a kind of “feedback loop” where sometimes the work is telling you things you did not consciously tell it to say – and this is kind of the best when this happens.
The history of painting, of course, comes into the work. Touchstones like Blinky Palermo, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler, Agnes Martin who have been ingested visually are always in there in some way, shape or form (literally). The paintings explore ideas around the bodily materiality of paint too. In the paintings voluptuous gestural elements are set against translucent geometric planes. These shapes, drawn from modernist forms and digital tools ‘pin’ spilled wet vistas to create ambiguous spaces. Stains and poured goo onto raw canvas refer both to the body and to Abstract Expressionism.
So the works investigate the sensuousness of making, the vitality of matter and the agency of “stuff” through paint. To me they have a bodily quality to the works: they are vulnerable, exposed, rent open. After all, De Kooning said “Flesh is the reason Oil paint was invented.” The paint itself freezes the hidden performance, the interaction between the body and materials in the studio. The traces and residues of moments are captured like photographic exposures. The edges of the stretcher contain and tether sensations, and through this containment the forces are heightened, to create deep spaces, harness the chaos of the studio, and ultimately generate a small universe within the frame.
In some of your older works you used an old computer program called 'Claris Works', making lines and shapes out of it, then in turn projecting it on to the canvas. Do you still use this method?
I don’t. I used it as a way to explore ideas about painting in the first years of returning to it. I learned a lot making those works and some of them are important to me but essentially that was a way of working that got shifted and broken down during my studies. I guess I am now able to let go of the “grid” and be freer with the spaces in the paintings now, more painterly, making more fragile, sensual spaces.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine? What is your studio like?
I walk my dog first in Nunhead Cemetery or Peckham Rye to get her tired enough to sleep for four or five hours while I paint. When I get there I feed the dog and get her settled, eat, drink coffee, smoke and work up the will to get into my painting clothes. Once these rituals are done I am immersed in the work sometimes in that kind of outer body way that us painters strive for. My studio is an Acme space in Deptford, it was an old propeller factory, it is deeply messy. It has large Victorian windows and scarred wooden floors from its industrial past (I have to be careful that the water from making the work does not seep through them and am often in trouble for this). It is a haven; the light is beautiful and I love it there. It contains and makes sense of everything for me, like the work.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
I was lucky enough to attend the participatory performance that my friend, Barbara Gamper, made with Sonia Boyce and Elaine Mitchener at the ICA, that became an installation by Sonia called “We move in her Way”. The generosity, physicality and surprising outcomes of this piece left a deep impression on me. The interaction between bodies and sound and the formal elements of the sculptures, all brought together with unexpected interactions and connections was moving and hopeful.
How do you go about naming your work?
The titles are encrypted, often autobiographical references that allude to the body, sex and sensuality, desire and containment. They are conjured up around the time the paintings are made so that the titles as well as the marks are kind of a trace of those moments.
What does the future hold for you as an artist? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I am very excited to be a part of the project Must curated by Ingrid Berthon Moine for which I have been making some photographic work with painting and the body outside of the frame of the canvas. I will be showing with one of my very favourite painters Jacqueline Utley at Studio 1.1 in July and will be part of After Projects “Glossary” Show in the Autumn. Galeria Bacelos will be showing works of mine at their gallery in Vigo, Spain. I am also really pleased to be showing in a Women only painting show called “Women can’t Paint” at Turps Gallery with some people that I admire beyond words.
Banner image: Install shot, Goldsmiths Fine Art MFA Degree Show, 2016
All images courtesy of the artist, photography is by FXP London
Published date: 5/4/17