Cube, 2014, Acrylic on found plywood, 28x31cm
What are you working on in your studio right now?
At the moment I'm working on a set of small paintings on found plywood. I stopped working on canvas at the beginning of last year after experimentation with found boards and household paints. I have been working this way ever since - the variation in surface textures and the way paint responds to the grain of the board is really satisfying. I've been thinking a lot about microcosm and macrocosm in recent work, particularly imagery relating to gemstones, geodes and cosmology.
Can you describe your working routine?
I don't really have a set routine, but I find that I'm most productive in my painting during the evening. During the day I research, saw and prep plywood but I find that I can think most clearly and better focus my energy on actually painting during the evening and night time.
Work space at Federation House 2014
Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
I've just started a six month residency with another artist Holly Rowan Hesson at Federation House in Manchester. It's an impressive early twentieth century building which up until recently functioned as an office block. We are supported in the residency by Castlefield Gallery who have generously provided us with a large space to work in through their New Art Spaces initiative *
The aim of the project is to explore ideas around abstraction, materials, found objects, site specific interventions and curation. We are making new work in response to the space and to each other’s practices. Holly works primarily through photography and projection so it's a really interesting process to see how we influence each other.
Working at Federation House has definitely made me more experimental in my approach, partly because the idea of conventional paintings doesn't seem quite right in the space, and because there are so many interesting objects and visuals elements to respond to. For example, I've obtained some pallets and boards from the basement of the building which I'm planning to cut up and use to paint on.
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
Allowing myself time to notice things in my surroundings is important. I'm interested in the idea of entropy and nature reclaiming the man-made, so details such as broken bricks or peeling paint on buildings really appeal to me. I don't make sketches, although I do sometimes take photos. I think that everything I see informs my practice whether I'm consciously aware of it or not. I try not to plan out work too much or have a set idea of what a finished painting is going to look like.
I begin the painting process with primed board, usually working with a particular colour combination for quite some time before adding contrasting elements as something to work against. I work with the board horizontal on a table or on the floor, using a series of washes of paint with drying time in between. I like for there to be some evidence of the colours underneath and I use various techniques to reveal the initial layers of paint.
Untitled, 2013, Acrylic on plywood, 25x30cm
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
I recently had a solo exhibition, and I found it really helpful to see all of the work I've made in the past year or so in one place. The paintings I showed were very much 'finished' pieces, and so moving on from that I'm trying to think more about the experimental process. In the project I'm currently working on, the idea is to really play with the properties of paint and to get back to an almost childlike way of working in terms of intuitive, playful and spontaneous responses to what the paint is doing - it's proving quite a hard mind-set to get into!
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
I do experiment with materials, but when I find a method I like I tend to stick with it for a quite a while. I've recently been experimenting with gloss spray paint which I'm really enjoying. In the past year I've also painted directly onto found building stone. I liked the interesting shapes brought about by weathering and the idea of these objects gradually returning to nature. I chose to emphasize this transition by using techniques I had been developing in my 2D work.
Installation of Geode exhibition
at South Square Gallery 2014
What does the future hold for this work?
I've started to think more about doorways, arches, windows, castles and masonry, which initially stemmed from the use of simplified shapes in my paintings. I'd like to explore this some more. I'm often very inspired by organising and curating exhibitions through the work of the participating artists and the conversations that take place. I have a couple of shows coming up and I'm looking forward to seeing how those experiences affect my work.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I'd just like to say thanks very much to you Valerie for featuring my work on Studio Critical. I think it's great that painting is made accessible through online resources such as this one, and through the exciting artist-led activity that's happening at the moment.
Disco, 2014, Acrylic on plywood, 29x31cm
* Castlefield Gallery’s New Art Spaces is an initiative to create dynamic project spaces for artists, artist collectives and artists development agencies. Making use of temporary vacant retail, office and light industrial units, NAS provides opportunities for emerging creatives to incubate their practices, produce work and showcase new art to local communities. Currently Castlefield Gallery runs New Art Spaces in Leigh, Widnes, and city centre Manchester.