Can you tell me a little bit about you?
My name is Betsy Bradley, and i’m currently based at Grand Union in Birmingham where I’m taking part in a graduate residency. I studied my BA in Painting at Brighton University from 2012 – 2015, and after a two year gap moved to Birmingham to do an MA in Fine Art at Birmingham School of Art, which I finished last year- it was great, but I still miss Brighton and the sea air! I’m now taking part in the Turps Correspondence Course, having expanded from painting into a more sculptural territory on my broad-based MA, I wanted to become involved again in a more painterly discourse.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I was very lucky to grow up in a super creative family- I probably knew before I could speak (which wasn’t until I was 2 and a half!)- I spent a lot of my childhood drawing, painting, writing nonsense poems and making characters with plasticine.
What do you like most about working where you do?
The biggest perk is probably all the free materials lying around (wood, metal, canvas offcuts) dumped outside buildings and from the skips that are often fully loaded just opposite my studio.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
At the moment I am regarding my practice as a fluid entity, deliberately treating works as transient or in a state of becoming, and using that flexibility to adapt the work to new spaces/environments. My practice changed rapidly after a first ever installation I did during my MA, which exploded my painting into a whole new scale and took it beyond the canvas into performative space. From then on I begun working in a deconstructed manner, exploring elements of painting as mobile objects and incorporating found materials to create painting-sculptures that are suspended in moments of transition.
What is your process like?
My process is driven by spontaneity. I usually work in short outbursts of impulsive action, followed by periods of more meditative contemplation, or sometimes just staring at a blank wall! My best works can happen in minutes, or even seconds.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
I’ve been looking recently at Japanese Calligraphy, as I’m interested in the difference with the figure-ground relationship between Eastern and Western painting, and the purer experience of gesture that Calligraphy gives. I have also been drawing influence from the Support/Surface and Arte Povera movements.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
Probably when I had to dress up in a ridiculous costume and dance around the streets of Birmingham for a friend on my MA’s project, who was looking at Morris Dancing culture!
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
I think it’s important that whatever work I do aside from my practice doesn’t use up too much creative energy. I’m currently not working so am glued to my studio most of the time, but have just started private art tutoring which has been quite fulfilling. I would love to have a job related to the arts but more gallery/museum based (I am secretly a bit of an admin geek- so wouldn’t mind work like that for a gallery).
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
My mentor on the Turps Correspondence programme, Andrea Medjesi-Jones, has been fantastic. Being encouraged to stay playful and experimental (without getting too bogged down in painterly theory/critical stance) was really useful advice at this point in my practice- making should always be fun.
Is there any piece of advice you would offer to others?
Embrace surprises, be wary of repetition.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
I think it’s just the notion that you have people (whether near or far away) that you can have conversations with or share work with. When it comes to the studio/making work i’m a bit of a loner, but having people and close friends to go to shows with or have a good old rant about the art world is essential!
What is your studio like?
Surprisingly neat and tidy. My paints are ordered meticulously by colour, and materials stacked to give the most efficient use of space. Because I work best with a clear mind, and my actual painting process is so messy and unpredictable, I think the space needs to be organised so things are ready to go at any moment.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
Staring into space for long periods, lots of tea. I work best early in the morning when there is minimum distraction.
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
While I don’t think doing an MA (or even a BA) is absolutely necessary, for me it was invaluable in developing a deeper level of understanding of my practice and a new level of criticality. It really encouraged me to pick apart my practice and take it into new territories, but of course everyone is different. I think if you’re lucky enough to have a space to work in and a close community of artists around that can give you critical feedback, it doesn’t matter if that comes from a formal education setting or not.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Elitism and LACK OF FUNDS!
How would you define “success” in art?
When you have made work that continues to surprise yourself and others every time you/they see it.
What is the most exciting thing you’ve done or accomplished so far, related to your work?
I’ve recently shown work in the exhibition ‘Forward: New Art from Birmingham’ with Ikon gallery, which has been my first show with a major gallery.
Are you involved in any collaborative or self-organized projects?
Aside from taking part in the Turps Art School Correspondence Course, I’m a member of Eastside Projects, an artist-run organisation in Birmingham that offers artist opportunities and sometimes crit groups.
What are you working on right now?
At the moment i’m making work towards a couple of shows coming up, one at Grand Union gallery in May, and another in Bristol in July. The work will explore experimental and temporary painting display structures, and sculptural works that extend gesture beyond painting.
Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and work!