Can you tell me a little bit about you?
Born and having studied in London, I associate most with being from there although I have moved around a bit too. I studied at Central Saint Martins (Byam Shaw), Wimbledon College of Arts and The Royal Drawing School, all in London. And right now I am living in Bogota, Colombia, which is a totally different experience. My art education was integral to my progression and definitely not a straight trajectory, I think that one of the best things about it was the time to experiment and try new things such as metal-welding, print-making and dark-room photography. I have always returned to painting as my primary form of expression and now more recently combining this with sculptural elements as installations.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I have an early memory of being around 4-5 years old and watching my older brother and dad paint a watercolour whilst sat on the floor in our living room. In the centre of this abstract watercolour was an ominous black form which in my mind was a floating elephant head, this moment of creation and emergence seemed like pure magic to me! I recalled the feeling many years later when I encountered a similar sensation making one of my first pictures (of an island with sheer cliff faces). It’s a difficult sensation to describe but I think it’s what I’m chasing when I paint, something like the emergence of the unexpected that gives you an electric high, to get there is often a long process or comes as a sudden flash right towards the end of losing yourself in a painting session. I continued to paint and draw strange inventions mostly when younger then I properly started getting into painting when I was around 15 years old and looking for an escape and expression for my teenage angst, i guess I never really lost that either!
What do you like most about working where you do?
I’m currently working in Bogota, Colombia, and I love it here. The change in scenery from London has been really refreshing for me and there are many subtle differences such as the music and approaches to art making- which I feel is a very authentic and material-based culture. Whilst being here I have tried to engage as much as possible with local artists and art forms and so at the moment I am currently exploring natural pigmentation techniques and will soon be visiting a region in the Amazon to work with several of the indigenous communities and learn their plant dye and pigment extraction techniques. I’ve also been absorbed by the sheer amount of tropical vegetation in the country and the landscapes even just a couple of hours drive outside of the city. I can see the Andes mountains from my studio window and as it’s on the equator the sunlight is consistent all year round.
What ideas are you exploring in your practice?
I have always been fascinated by the notion of the exotic, as in that which we cannot fully reach and so fetishise from a distance. I wanted to engage with my own tendency to do this as well as art historical canons such as that of Impressionism and Fauvism. I have particularly been looking at the self-mythologising of artists such as Henri Rousseau and Paul Gauguin, both for their depictions of the exotic Other and for their personal biases in doing so from the Eurocentric perspective.
Working abroad and in a new environment has helped me to address some of these issues and I feel more authentic in playing upon them now.
What is your favorite material to work with, and why?
I use many and try not to be hierarchical as they all have their different qualities and uses. For example when painting I enjoy acrylic paint for it’s quick drying time which allows for the faster mapping out of ideas and then the versatility and luminosity of oil paint is something which always brings me back. I also use spray paints and gloss paint occasionally but right now I am focusing on experimenting with natural dyes which is a whole new foray into control and tactility.
What do you do when you’re find yourself in a creative rut, or feeling unsure about what direction to go?
Make a mess. I try to meditate or take a break for a while, otherwise I can just keep pushing in the wrong direction and finding myself frustrated. I’ve also been playing drums and started jogging again which i find helps with any loose energy I need to displace.
What does it mean to you to have a “community?”
I think feedback and input from others is really important. I realised while at art college how much an offhand comment from someone can really stick with you and pervade your work, it also helps in knowing when to stop as I feel I have a tendency to overwork things and sometimes it would take the comments of friends to help me prevent that.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode or mindset to make your work?
I usually wake up very early around 6:00am for sunrise. I check my emails and have breakfast then I find it takes me a few hours to get going, I find 11:00am seems to be when I feel most productive and then by mid-afternoon I typically reach a point when I’m ready to stop. I used to prefer working at night when i was in London, mainly because I was working a 9-5 job at the same time but now I much more enjoy the natural light and feeling fresh.
Music and coffee both definitely help too. The types of music I listen to will vary but often I will keep an album on repeat and get lost in it once I’m really focused. I’ve noticed more of a Latin American influence in my music tastes as well as art since having moved here.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
Making a living. After just a few exhibitions the act of exhibiting doesn’t seem so scary in fact I kind of relish the opportunity to get more feedback (especially when constructive). Making a reliable income without compromising what you want to do, this is the bigger challenge.
How would you define “success” in art?
That’s so subjective and personal so perhaps it’s different for everyone. I’d like to claim it’s all internal and comes from the satisfaction or feeling of producing something beyond the limits of what you’d previously anticipated such as a great show or a single piece. However, I have to acknowledge the fact that external rewards such as selling work or winning competitions still plays a part. I had a dream about the Turner prize the other night which was nice.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working towards a collaborative show with another artist here in Bogota. She makes these fantastic light sculptures which I’m excited to see and work with in relation to my paintings and sculptures. I’ve been focusing mainly on painting but will be producing some more sculptural work here too – using a combination of natural materials and plants with concrete to fit the show’s theme of ‘La Selva Concreta/Concrete Jungle’ and compliment the paintings too.
I’m also participating in natural dye workshops in preparation for my trip to the Amazon and intend to bring this more into my work once I know more.