Tell us about your experience of 2020? Has the pandemic and subsequent lockdown changed the way you work or think about your practice?
As with most people the experience of 2020 has been difficult. However, strangely enough I felt a weird sense of relief when everything closed down. I live quite a hermetic lifestyle anyway visiting the studio and my allotment, often seeing no one at these places. The major change was homeschooling! In between looking after the children at home, I managed to fit in studio time (thanks to my partner). I had the thinking space to re-access my work and even though time was very limited I made quite a lot of work. I believe that in 2020 there has been a huge shift in the work and I have gained a clearer perspective on what I am doing. It’s strange that this has happened in a year of such chaos, but maybe it has made a lot of people look at their life and work differently.
Congratulations on being shortlisted for the John Moores Painting Prize. How did it feel to get the email/call?
Thank you! I was incredibly nervous about opening the email. Expecting a rejection and therefore wondering how I can get my painting back (its quite large). However I am absolutely over the moon to be included in the exhibition. I have waited a long time to be in the John Moores exhibition. So thankful that the judges thought the painting I submitted was interesting in some way. I cannot wait to see all the work together.
You describe your subjects as an eclectic community of outsiders, who fall on the outside of mainstream culture. What is it about this cross section of people that interests you? And where do you find your reference material?
I have always felt myself to be on the periphery of the mainstream. From a teenager to now. I still feel like an outsider. Music, fashion, art, literature all feed into this, my twenties were very influential. Watching bands, listening to music, talking about music, dancing, dressing up, going out, reading, watching films; just living and consuming culture in every way. Subcultures and ritualistic behaviour interests me because of the nature of an individual or group positioning themselves at odds to the world. But conversely trying to find a kind of ’truth’ or way of being that makes sense. My reference material is mostly from online sources, I scour a lot of images, looking for something that speaks to me instinctively. I think of it as an image that I have to draw.
Colour has always been an integral part of your practice, are there any artists that you admire for their use of colour? What inspires your palette?
I have always admired Graham Sutherland for his use of colour. Particularly the way he uses black. How the black sits alongside orange, yellow, green and what this does to those colours when you place the colours next to each other. I was also influenced by Florida on a residency I undertook with Atlantic Centre for the Arts. The light there was incredible. Jules de Balincourt was master artist in residence, we had conversations about colour. His way of working influenced my work in a way. I was more confident with colour when I returned from the residency back to the grey skies of Manchester!
What exhibitions are you looking forward to, or what were you disappointed to miss out on seeing in 2020 due to the lockdown?
I would still like to catch the Lynette Yiadom-Boakye exhibition at Tate Britain, is is closed at the moment. I was really sad to not be able to visit Blenheim Palace to see Cecily Brown’s paintings.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on new paintings of figures, mostly women. However some androgynous figures have also crept in. Dress and costume is playing a big part. I am trying to forget about background as much as possible and leaving swathes of the canvas untouched or a faint suggestive wash behind the figures. It is a series of fictional portraits.
Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with, and why?
If I was allowed to resurrect someone for this, I would choose David Bowie. I’m sure we could have fantastic conversations about any subject; music, fashion, magic, dance, film, costumes... the list goes on... He could also pass the time by singing and performing!
What would you advice be to aspiring artists?