Clifton Fine Art asked me more details about my studio practice:
When did you find your style?
I grew up with a mother who was always drawing and painting so I didn’t stop even when I began making conceptual performance and video art in the 90s. What changed was that it is always the idea or concept that is paramount. Media and style are symbols or conveyors of meaning which means that they vary according to the message or idea.
Who/What are your main artistic influences?
its almost impossible to know where to start as I have very varied and fluid interests. My favourite painters were always women – Surrealists Eileen Agar, Remedios Varo, Leonor Fini…. .I loved their use of colour and bizarre forms to convey ideas. And I also loved assemblage and installation works by Louis Bourgeois and Meret Oppenheim. My work is figurative, imaginative and metaphorical and always ideas-driven so other influences are too varied to mention.
What happens before you are ready to start a painting?
I always do a lot of reading and research as well as drawing to explore ideas and forms in combination. When I am ready I often ignore all of the prep work and just get the bitumen paint out and see what happens. Dripping bitumen paint is a lovely process and there is always a chance element of something beautiful happening – or failure! I only have limited control so no drip can ever replicate another – which is always exciting.
Some people say knowing when a painting is finished is an art form itself. When do you know a painting finished?
It takes a lot of experience to know when you have reached the conclusion of your idea and stop. Many of my paintings have layers underneath – often changing as I go along. I wish I could stick to a formula but there isn’t one. I am always trying new things out and love learning new things when it doesn’t work. It feels like they are always unfinished.
Could you walk us thought the technical side to creating a painting e.g. what surface you use, what paint, how you varnish?
At art college I deliberately avoided classes that wanted to teach me how to be a technical painter. I admire technical paintings but always strive to find my own language. Bitumen paint is one of the materials I use as metaphor and unique language. In 2005 I had some bitumen paint in my studio left over from painting an old pram for an installation and started experimenting with it. I liked bitumen as a black sticky metaphor for motherhood and became obsessed by its ability to viscously create curvilinear tactile lines. Of course bitumen has been used in art for hundreds of years but is still an unusual material. I layer it with gesso an acrylic varnish to create various effects, as well as protect the canvas and bitumen paint.
Do you narratives come from your imagination or real life?
I often start with just a single image or even a written idea and yes – there are often references to past lives and personal experience yet as paintings are vehicles for ideas and new thinking they apply present the whole of the human condition. I want to affectively engage people in thinking differently about how we care for each other and create empathy and understanding for women and their experiences.
What inspires your colour palettes?
I worked in monochrome for a while – dripping the bitumen onto white canvas. It drove me wild and the only antidote was colour. I am passionate about colour – hue, depth and tonality in odd combinations.
Have you had any other obsessions in your work?
I am obsessed with ideas – about so many things that I often have to stop and focus. I am really lucky to have a supportive partner Nigel Bispham who helps me to try to focus on what matters – even if we also perform and play music together, which is another distraction!
And finally do you have any advice for artists at the beginning of their career?
Read, read read! It’s so important to try to understand what you are dealing with. Visual form has a long history – knowing someone has already done what you are doing but why you are doing it, is really important in finding your own voice and believing passionately that art can change how we think and feel. Art can change everything.