Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Just finished my BFA at Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford and I’m about to head to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to do their BA Acting course. I love theatre and painting, the theatre of painting and theatre in painting! It’s taken a while to get to grips with these two interests of mine but I feel like I’m slowly getting to harness them both in interesting ways. It’s also quite interesting how many painters in the past had similar cross overs, Walter sickert, Mark Rothko even Picasso, so I’ve spent some time learning from the greats.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
GCSE really – that school sketchbook became my life, a complete obsession. Figurative art became this (somewhat misguided) fun way for me to tell really clear narratives I wanted to share. Then it started to grow out from this quite strict form of portraiture into a much more free and exciting practice.
What do you like most about working where you do?
Well I’m currently in transition mode at the minute. I’m going to carry on making work from home now I’m all finished up in Oxford but the group studio environment has been an interesting one. I would say I prefer working alone when I’m at home, however I find that a more vulnerable and shared studio space encourages me to push my self experimentally a lot more than I would otherwise.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
It’s like an oscillation between performing and conjuring imagery. My practice this year also evolved into expanded painting where I created sculptural environments around paintings that I then performed in. Yet even when I’m creating just a work of painting people have often found me in a strange position in my studio as I’m working out how the figures are interacting with each other / their environment, squeezing and contorting them into the compositions.
What is your process like?
I feel like a lot of the levity and strength of my work at the minute came from stopping myself from reading any large swathes of art text and just allowing natural interests to take over. I find it somewhat difficult to talk in depth about exactly what is going on largely because I want the situations I create to evade me and hear more about what other people think is going on. My interests definitely stem from quite a strict training in the figurative canon from secondary school, however that’s really where it ends. I draw from imagination and then translate these rough sketches to canvas, always bearing in mind the most interesting things happen when something is changed/deleted/added, seeking to leave evidence of that struggle on the canvas as witness for the viewer. Colour is also interests me – I currently feel like my paintings are very vibrant as I’ve always been very tentative and resorted to very earthy palettes, yet despite this development people tell me they seem quite muddy! But for me the painting ends when the colours have all aligned and consequently tamed down the otherwise melodramatic nature of the content.
Is there any subject or theme you’ve been particularly interested in lately?
Other than the artists mentioned previously, visually I really love other contemporary figurative painters at the minute – Sanya Kantarovsky, Apostolos Georgiou, artists I feel really get it when it comes to conjuring up weirdly performative scenes that never quite add up! However in terms of narrative/ literary influence, there’s always the great David Foster Wallace to call upon, not even taking scenes from his stories, I enjoy the way he writes. It’s detailed in a way that has patently come from his own genuine obsession with the random paraphernalia of life that you carry on reading despite not necessarily knowing what on Earth he’s going on about. I find that sort of tool very clever and very gripping and is something I’ve always strived to be able to do. Sometimes I also take moments from rehearsal rooms, using the strange combination of bodies and intentions and the artifice of it all as inspiration for a new work.
What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for art?
During my final term I was sat on a chair putting pitta bread in between my toes and dipping it in a pot of hummus without letting any of my body touch the floor.
Do you have a day job or other work that you split your time between?
Well yes, currently it’s juggling both the acting and the paintings and I find flitting between both extremely important, otherwise I have the tendency to take what I’m doing far too seriously and that’s when things start to die.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I don’t know really. Tutors have been very helpful at times and have suggested useful artists, but I’m always seeking to reach into the deepest caverns of my psyche to work out just what is going on with me as a person. I’ve found this extremely important I think especially as an actor because if it’s not coming from a personal truth it becomes too performative and actually not enjoyable anymore. I feel like someone or a collection of people have probably told me this over the course of my life I just can’t nail it down to a singular source!
How significant has attending art school been on your practice?
I have found it very useful indeed. I don’t think I would have been able to cultivate the artistic distance from my work if I hadn’t gone. Being amongst a group of people that technically study the same subject as you but approach it in the most varied of ways helps you realise there is no right or better way to approach your work. It’s allowed me to understand what the “playground” of Art is about and to just do what I enjoy!
How would you define “success” in art?
Baffling a viewer in a way that makes them want to ask more questions as to what is going on / Why things are happening in the work. This is because I am more interested in the abstract completeness of a visual work than its narrative clarity, however I want there to be enough substrate left over for the viewer to want to put themselves in the situations and get more out of it. I guess it’s a frustrating position I’m seeking, but it’s one I strive for nonetheless!
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently using this spare time to create new drawings and ideas before I head back home and start putting them to canvas
Anything else you would like to add?
Felt pretty exhaustive to me!