Thursday, 9 July 2020

NA Meets: Ane Graff, artist

NA Meets: Ane Graff, artist

Ane Graff’s artistic practice is informed by feminist new materialism, with a focus on the human body as a system, health, and chronic illness. 

Born in Bodø in northern Norway, Graff now lives and works in Oslo. As well as making art, and being mother to a young child, Graff is a research fellow at the Academy of Fine Arts in Oslo, where she works in close collaboration with the Department of Biosciences at the University of Oslo, lecturing on microbiology.

In 2019, Graff represented Norway at the 58th Venice Biennale. Her work, States of Inflammation, consisted of three large-scale glass cabinets with smaller sculptures of plants and coral inside. It explored how all material bodies are affected by what they encounter, and, for humans, in particular, how pollution is causing the loss of bacteria that live on, and with, us. Accordingly, our bodies are changing into something new and unknown. 
Next year Graff will be exhibiting in the Liverpool Biennial (postponed from 2020 due to Covid-19). Norwegian Arts spoke to Graff about her varied research interests, her background and training, and life during lockdown.

Read my full interview for Norwegian Arts here

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Interview with Clae Eastgate

Interview with Clae Eastgate 

Clae Eastgate (b1968, Nottinghamshire, UK) is a largely self-taught portrait painter. For 16 years, she worked primarily as a commission artist, but her current project, Painting the Poets, sees her building a collection of portraits of female poets – a “legacy project”, she says, at “an unprecedented time in history, in terms of the growing cohort of female poets”. For Eastgate, painting a portrait is not just about achieving a physical likeness. For a portrait to be successful, it requires a balance of several elements – a sometimes elusive proposition – allowing the telling of a story through the visual representation of what is being communicated emotionally, or through the use of allegorical self-symbolism. Accordingly, each painting she makes will have its own style, echoing something of the sitter, as well as Eastgate’s own development as an artist. A perfectionist to the core, Eastgate, through this project, is learning a lot about the challenges and rewards of the art world, and hopes to present the portraits, not just as works in themselves, but accompanied by poetry recitals, and perhaps even live painting events, creating a much wider platform for women to express themselves artistically – and be heard. 

I spoke to Eastgate at her home in Shropshire.

Read the full interview here

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Interview with Matthew Burrows

Interview with Matthew Burrows

Matthew Burrows (b1971, the Wirral) is a painter through and through, even though his strategies for approaching his work include numerous analogies to try to free himself from the weight of art history. His canvases are built up with thin layers of paint, creating the effect of a textured piece, woven in and out, much like a basket. He likes to think of the horizontals and verticals as a play between a structure that is given and a process that is open.

Burrows is also the artist behind the enormously successful #ArtistSupportPledge, a simple idea, launched on Instagram just before lockdown in the UK, and now a worldwide phenomenon, earning many artists more than ever before, and proving to be self-sustaining for the community. Using the hashtag #ArtistSupportPledge, artists and makers post works for sale on social media, which must be £200 or under, with the implicit promise that, once they have sold £1,000 worth, they will buy a work by someone else, thus feeding back into the economy, creating a form of subsistence culture.

Burrows studied as an undergraduate at Birmingham School of Art (1990-93) and graduated with a master’s degree in painting from the Royal College of Art in 1995. He lives and works in East Sussex, where the landscape, and his endurance runs through it, form an integral part of his practice. 

Burrows spoke to me for Studio International about how the pledge came about, his hopes and plans for its future, his thinking about his practice, and how he hopes to return to being a full-time artist very soon.

Read the full interview here

Monday, 15 June 2020

Interview with David Downes

Interview: David Downes

When it became apparent that something big was approaching – that is, when deaths from Covid-19 started sweeping not just through China but also Italy – landscape artist David Downes saw a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to document this global pandemic, producing a work a day (or every other day), in the manner of a war artist. Mixing reality with surreality, familiar places with imagined representations of the virus – “Covids”, as Downes calls them – he has a growing series of pen, ink and acrylic drawings. Once there is more freedom of movement and he can return to his studio, Downes hopes to work some of these up to larger scale on canvas. He also has plans for an exhibition. 

Downes, who was born in Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, in 1971, completed an MA in communication design at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1996. His first major contract, in 1999, was a commission from the BBC to record the corporation’s most important architecture at the turn of the century. He has since had numerous other prestigious commissions, including painting the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant from the roof of the Savoy Hotel in 2012, and, last year, creating a giant mural for the launch of a new ITV period drama, depicting the fictional coastal town of Sanditon, based on Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel. 

Having been diagnosed with high-functioning autism at the age of 32, Downes is an active supporter of the National Autistic Society and has been a vice president since 2012. 

As I call Downes, one morning during lockdown, he is just about to start work on another large drawing, working from a spare room in the house he shares with his girlfriend and their dog, Winston, in Manningtree, Essex.

Read the full interview here

Friday, 12 June 2020

Interview with Studio Morison

Interview: Studio Morison 

Heather Peak Morison (b1973, UK) and Ivan Winston Morison (b1974, Turkey) have been working together for the past 15 years. Their collaborative practice incorporates aspects of art, sculpture, architecture and performance. They are co-directors of Studio Morison, an artist-led creative practice, and their blueprint for happiness. 

Studio Morison was selected last year as one of the artist practices to be commissioned by Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire as part of the three-year, region-wide arts commissioning programme New Geographies, funded by the national lottery through Arts Council England, which aims to bring contemporary art to unexpected places in the east of England. Their resulting work, MOTHER …, situated on Wicken Fen, is an interpretation of a traditional fenland hayrick, and offers a space for visitors to sit and shelter and be with nature. The work also engages with the connections between the natural world and our mental health. A series of four events, furthering this connection, has, in part, been postponed due to Covid-19.

I spoke to Heather and Ivan from Studio Morison, while under lockdown, about the ideas behind MOTHER … and the artists’ wider practice.  

Read the full interview here

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Q: Priscilla Coleman (courtroom artist)


Published in the summer 2020 issue of Art Quarterly

Feature: Supporting Islamic Art Expertise


Published in the summer 2020 issue of Art Quarterly

Book Review of Art is a Tyrant: The Unconventional Life of Rosa Bonheur, by Catherine Hewitt


Published in the summer 2020 issue of Art Quarterly

Review of Scandal and Beauty: Mark Gatiss on Aubrey Beardsley (BBC iPlayer)


Published in the summer 2020 issue of Art Quarterly

Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Time Present and Time Past: the uniting of temporal planes in the work of Susanne Kamps

Time Present and Time Past: the uniting of temporal planes in the work of Susanne Kamps

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
[TS Eliot, Four Quartets]

‘Who would not, while looking at the painting of Susanne Kamps, think of Matisse, Dufy, Derain and the Fauves…?’ asks Christiane Dressler in her 2010 essay. Certainly this is the case with the four works submitted to the tenth anniversary of Cynthia Corbett’s Young Masters Art Prize last year, in particular the diptych Behind the Screen (2019), which specifically pays homage to Henri Matisse’s Interior with Aubergines (1911). The vivid colour palette, the fronds of palms, the shuttered windows and tilted perspective all nod indisputably in the direction of the artist whom Kamps admits to having taken as her greatest inspiration since the year 2000. However, it would be far too facile to look only to him, as Kamps’ knowledge of and sampling from art history goes much further, taking in not only specific artists, but also movements, motifs and devices – all of which she subjects to her own interpretation, rendering the finished works, as she terms them, ‘homages’, very much imbued with her own added flavour. Kamps neither copies nor steals (to reference the widely-attributed Picasso quote that ‘good artists copy, but great artists steal’): she absorbs, amalgamates and reinterprets, using the art of past masters much as she uses her collection of photographs, bric-à-brac from her beloved flea markets, and domestic objects – as, in the words of Matisse, a ‘working library’. For me, the artists who come to mind most when looking at her paintings are Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, known for their style of ‘intimism’, or use of the domestic interior, along with the juxtaposition of pattern, planes of flat colour, and, again, the window motif. But there is also Kamps’ use of the diptych, which compositionally opens up the concept of past and present, as much as the looking back to art history for inspiration does on an academic level. 

Read the full essay here