Photography / Editorial / Print

Since graduating from Middlesex University and looking at your work today, how has your work and practises evolved over time?

I completed my Fine Art degree at Middlesex in 1999. The time at university is quite intense, and you tend to explore different areas as you develop your interests and ways of working. I can still see connections with some of the work then to what I am doing now. In fact, I did continue doing some of the work that I began at Middlesex for several years after I finished, particularly the bubblegum paintings. I started showing them in exhibitions during university and eventually had a solo show with them in CAS Gallery. Osaka, Japan, in 2005. I received funding from the British Council for the project and spent two weeks chewing gum every day, with the final exhibition being an installation of six 1m sq paintings, along with a table with the various packets of gum and a spit bucket. What I see there is a concern with beginnings and possibilities, as well as exploring materials and creating order out of a kind of chaos. I think much of my current work still has these themes.

Much of your work currently focuses on the use of newspaper cuttings, stripping them of their informative qualities, particularly with the newspaper cut-out works. Could you describe the works and how taking away the information, creates an almost 3D drawing?

I started the newspaper cutout pieces in around 2000, and am still continuing them; they are pretty much infinite. I very carefully cut out all of the information - words, headlines, pictures, numbers, dates, etc - from the facing pages of the newspaper, leaving the 'skeleton' behind. The borders and abstract marks then become the composition. The pieces have strong formal qualities, and clearly relate to modernist grid paintings, Mondrian in particular. I also began to understand them as drawings - the empty spaces emphasising the lines and marks surrounding them - and have showed them in several drawing shows. They also seem to appeal to architects, as they appear like buildings or architectural plans. They also comment on the passing of time and how much information we consume on a daily basis.

The pieces are very intricate and take many hours and patience to create, how do you concentrate on the process and what is it that drives you?

The process is labour intensive, and quite boring. I just put on my head phones and concentrate on cutting as precisely as possible. The impetus is putting the paper together at the end and revealing the new composition.

How long does it take to complete a newspaper?

Different papers can take different amounts of time, depending on the layout. I use papers from around the world and each has its own particular visual language. So a simple tabloid, with just 10 pages might take half a day, while a paper such as The Nikkei, a Japanese broadsheet paper, has a much more intricate layout, so can take several full days.

Are the newspaper works a favourite subject? What is more important, the subject or the way it is executed?

I'm not sure I would describe the newspapers as a subject, as I see them more as material. Although I am exclusively using newspapers at the moment, I have used a variety of material in the past, and may experiment with different materials in the future. It all depends upon where the idea comes from. The relationship between subject and its execution is a complex one and I think each artist has their own ways of resolving this.

With the decline in Arts Council funding and looking at current trends in contemporary art, are their any works or exhibitions you have viewed recently which have given you hope?

As I am not reliant on public funding for my practice, the Arts Council cuts have not affected me directly. However, there will certainly be less opportunities for artists, in terms of residencies, applying for funding and exhibition opportunities. There are quite a few open submission exhitibitions that take place through the year and I know that some galleries that have had their funding cut are having to scale back their programmes. I go to see a lot of exhibitons, in major museums, artists run spaces, regional galleries and commercial galleries. Tate St Ives currently has a well curated display with a combination of artists that play well off each other, Martin Creed, Roman Ondak, Agnes Martin.

Recent works you have finished which focus on decay and destruction, with reference to 'The Ruins' and the 'Attic' again use newspaper as the medium, using cutouts to form key parts of the image, with breathtaking results. Is the use of newspaper symbolic in any way to the decay of information and how there is a decline in print?

After doing the newspaper cutouts for some years, I wanted to find a way of re-using all the cuttings that were discarded and piling up on my studio floor. There was an obituary of Gwyther Irwin in the papers in 2008. He was a British collage artist who emerged in the 50s/60s. The image accompanying the obit was of him in his studio picking through a huge mound of paper and material, as he created his works. This image sparked the large collage works that I am doing now. I recreated that image of Irwin by using all the leftover bits on my studio floor and all the other works have followed on from that. All the images are places or objects in a state of decay, hovering between order and disorder. I guess this relates to your question about subject and execution - the works are a combination of the initial image, the material and the process.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Inspiration can come from anywhere, different art forms as well as everyday things. Most of my work has started through experimentation and play in the studio, trying things out until I feel they are working. I generally work quite instinctively.

Looking at the map artworks, which follow paths of roads, streets and highways, cutout with precision, with each section forming a bone - vertebrae, rib, skull and so on, could you describe the artworks? Are the map pieces representative of veins, arteries, junctions?

The map works are similar to the newspaper cutout works in that they exploit an already made structure. My interest in the line as a starting point led me to think about the forms of streets within city maps and whether I could find shapes in them. I found a skull shape in London, recognised that the qualities of the maps lent themselves well to organic bodily forms and then went on to create a whole skeleton, using an image from Vesalius. These works, which are pinned directly onto the wall, culminated in a second solo show in Osaka, with a large installation of seven figures, and a skeletal horse and rider. This group of work is kind of on hold at the moment, I think I need time to reconsider them and they also may need some kind of professional mountings and framing, which is going to be tricky and expensive.

Seeing you at work in the studio, with music playing on an record player, has your work been influenced by music, moods and experiences?

I always have music in the studio, it helps me work. However I wouldn't say there is any direct influence. I listen to a wide variety of stuff. The record player is new, some of the records are old.

You are already established internationally with exhibitions in Japan and previously shortlisted for the Jerwood drawing prize, what plans do you have for this and coming years?

I have just had two works accepted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition for the first time, so that has been quite exciting. The show started in June and is continuing until mid-August. Following that, there is a group drawing show at Burton Art Gallery and Museum in Bideford, Devon, from September, organised by The Drawing Gallery. That will be 40 artists all showing A4 drawings, with a mixture of upcoming artists as well as fairly established artists, such as Michael Craig-Martin, Alison Wilding and Bill Woodrow. There are also a number of open submission coming up, and I'd like to get out to Japan again in the near future. Work just continues...

As featured in Unfolded Magazine Issue 03


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