Artist at work: Marysa Dowling

In response to our Artists at Work exhibition in the Drawings Gallery we wanted to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Marysa Dowling a freelance educator in our Public Programmes team discussing her practices.

Conceal Mexico 2017 #1

Could you tell us about your practice – what media you work in, what subject matter you focus on, what inspires you?

My photographic practice is participatory and rooted within portraiture. Many of my projects have an international focus as I work across several communities and cultures simultaneously to explore universal, human and democratic themes of communication, interaction and connection to place. Participation and collaborative possibilities are vital to my process.  Works are an exploration and observation of how people co-exist, relate to and interact with each other and the various environments they inhabit. I use photography as a tool to articulate experiences about our lives, how we live them and how we choose to represent ourselves. Working in both gallery and non-gallery spaces I aim to create thoughtful and playful photographic works, that come into being through social interaction. Recent projects have centred on journeys, the use of objects and human bodies as a form of performance through photography. Currently I am developing projects in the UK and Mexico firstly considering women’s roles in activism and change making, secondly how we use our hands to communicate, make and learn and using photography as a form of exchange. I am also working on my first book of a 10-year portraiture project with Smith Design.

Tell us about your working environment(s) and do you work anywhere other than, or in addition to, a studio – and if so, where?

My working environment varies hugely from job to job depending on the kind of project or where I am working. I can be based in a museum, gallery, school, studio, hospital, offices or out on location in the UK or other countries. An average week will involve working with people in a many different settings, as well as some time spent in my office or studio plus going to meetings. Currently I am an Artist in residence with GOSH Arts at Great Ormond Street Hospital, a unique and constantly changing environment to work in. This can involve working on a one to one basis with patients on wards or at bedsides or with larger groups in outpatients. You can see my studio in the photographs, but you will find out more about where I work from the locations and settings in my portraits. I love that things are constantly changing in my work. I find it stimulating to constantly meet new people to share ideas and make art with. As well as short term projects I develop ongoing projects to build long term relationships with individuals, communities and organisations.

How does your working environment affect your art (if at all)?

The environments I work in very much influence my art. Place, space and locations are often part of how and why I make my work and connect to the themes of each project. The location can dictate how the portrait and images will or can be made. Location often becomes relevant to part of the narrative I’m telling with my subject, both in my personal, participatory and education work.

Are there any particular tools or objects you feel particularly passionate about and/or are central to your work?

The concept and theme of the project will very much dictate the camera or cameras along with the methodology I use. My main tool is a Mamyia RZ 67 medium format analogue camera although I use various others such as a Canon DSLR 35mm digital, a wooden pinhole camera that takes medium format film, apps on a phone, scanners and paper-based image resources. When working on education projects having a little 6×4” printer with me encourages instant discussion and editing processes.

How do you deal with creative block? 

I start by go back to previous projects and begin to look again both at ideas, techniques and context. Trying to look afresh gives me to opportunity to ask myself what I get from the images now, what narratives, meaning and context is showing itself after some time away from the work. When I look again I start to see how themes and ideas are connecting. This usually gives me a way in to develop new ideas. I also play with laying out images to make connection and new narratives to spark ideas, simultaneously looking through my book collection and reading texts about my current interest. Sometimes getting out a camera I haven’t used for a while to experiment with techniques helps too.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Arts Exchange

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) Arts Exchange

Conceal Mexico #3 2017

 

Conceal Mexico 2015 #8

Conceal Mexico #9 2017

Discover more of Marysa’s work:

www.marysadowling.co.uk

Twitter:  @marysadowling

Instagram:  @marysadowling

 

 

Courtauld Artist At Work: Matthew Krishanu

Our Artists at Work exhibition in the Drawings Gallery is in full swing. We thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Matthew Krishanu, Artist Educator in our Public Programmes team discussing his practices.

Matthew Krishanu with Weapons 2018, 2, photo by Peter Mallet

Could you tell us about your practice – what media you work in, what subject matter you focus on, what inspires you?

I am a painter – I work primarily in oils, although I also love acrylics and watercolours. I find I use each medium in a different way. Over the last six years I have been building up a body of work that explores my childhood experiences of growing up between Bangladesh, India and Britain. I am currently showing thirty-three of these paintings (including ten large-scale works) in my solo show The Sun Never Sets, at Huddersfield Art Gallery (until 15 September 2018).

The show centres on ‘two boys’ – my brother and myself, who feature in most of the paintings. The exhibition title comes from my interest in the role of the British Empire in India (which at its height was known as ‘the empire on which the sun never sets’), and how aspects of the past empire are experienced by the two boys. There is also the fact that the sun never sets in a painting – that a painted scene captures a moment or a memory and freezes it in time.

My work is partly inspired by the novelist LP Hartley’s line ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. I’ve always liked the idea that our past selves continue to exist as if in a foreign land. With that in mind, the paintings are like windows onto the past (or another country), animated in paint.

Tell us about your working environment(s).

I have worked in a wonderful bright large studio in East London since 2013. It is south-facing, so has good sunlight throughout the day. My painting wall is four metres long, and it is here that I have worked on my largest paintings over the last five years (up to three metres wide). I usually have several paintings on the go, both large and small works. I work in layers of paint, allowing time to dry between layers, so paintings usually take several weeks or months to complete.

I have a painting table on wheels, allowing me to move my paints and palette around the studio to position myself in front of several different works. I love the peace of working in my space – it is a quiet studio group, with few interruptions. I particularly like arriving early in the morning, to paint with the first light (particularly in summer). Later in the day I find I make more mistakes in paintings – the first hours are always best.

Studio, photo Jens Marott

Do you work anywhere other than, or in addition to, a studio – and if so, where?

I sometimes work with watercolour and drawings at home, but always paint in the studio when working with oil paint (it’s fine to create a mess there). I generate a lot of the source material away from the studio – whether that is selecting or taking photographs as subject matter for paintings, working up ideas in sketchbooks, or drawing from observation. That said, the vast majority of my creative time and work takes place in the studio – it is where I am most focussed and productive.

How does your working environment affect your art (if at all)?

The transition to a large space (previously I worked in a smaller studio in a live/work space in Bow) allowed me to scale up my paintings, and was the catalyst for making my first large works. There is enough space for me to work on up to three large paintings in the studio at a time. In addition to space, I need light (sunlight is ideal) and uninterrupted time – whether I listen to music or work in silence, I need the time to be able to work for several hours without distractions. These include emails and social media – ideally when in the studio I only check my phone for messages when all brushes are washed and the painting session is finished.

Are there any particular tools or objects you feel particularly passionate about and/or are central to your work?

I love my brushes – I could not paint effectively without a great range of different shapes, sizes and styles of brushes. I particularly like wide, flat bristle brushes (four to six inches wide is ideal) – allowing me to apply large areas of blocked-in thinned paint to the canvas surface. I like the way the diluted paint then drips and runs, and I can wipe it back or change the tilt of the canvas to affect the drips.

I have a wide range of colours and brands in oil paint. I usually put out twenty colours on my palette (always in the same order), so that I can reach for any tone I need when painting, and don’t need to stop to squeeze out more paint.I require odour-free solvents (I use a mineral spirit called Shellsol T) to thin my paints – turpentine and white spirit give me headaches. My medium of choice is Stand Oil – I like the luscious, thick texture of it, which is ideal when building up fat layers of oil paint (although most of my paintings are made up of thinner glazes).

I also like puppets and dolls – particularly ones with national or cultural significance (like my Rajasthani puppets) – which I keep in my studio.

How do you deal with creative block?

I feel a lot of the creative blocks were earlier in my practice – when I was really trying to find a voice and subject for my work (through my BA, MA and for a couple of years after). Since 2012 (when I began my Another Country series of paintings of the two boys) I have had far more ideas and paintings than I could realise in the time – I will be working with this material for many years to come. In the next few years I also plan to re-visit India and Bangladesh to paint, draw and take photographs there – this will feed into my source material and offer a new wealth of subject matter.

Boat, 2018, oil on canvas 200 x 300cm (photo Peter Mallet)

Skeleton, 2014, oil on canvas, 150 x 200cm, courtesy of the artist and the Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London (photo Peter Mallet)

Discover more of Matthew’s work:

www.matthewkrishanu.com

Twitter:  @MatthewKrishanu

Instagram:  @matthewkrishanu

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018

Courtauld Artist at Work: Jessica Akerman

Our Artists at Work exhibition in the Drawings Gallery is in full swing. We thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Jessica Akerman, Event Producer for the Research Forum discussing her practices.

 

Could you tell us about your practice – what media you work in, what subject matter you focus on, what inspires you?

My work draws on social history, landscape and I work in a variety of media; it depends on the project. My work is inspired by social history – ongoing themes include military architecture, gentrification and women’s working lives. I’m particularly interested in exploring these in relation to British landscape and culture.

I’ve been working with accessories in the last couple of years. Throughout 2018, I’m creating a suffrage patch each month, celebrating different aspects of the suffrage movement. I’ve also just finished as one of 100 female Lead Artists on Processions 2018, making a banner for the Cardiff procession, a live activist artwork. My banner (and accompanying cardboard armour) was inspired by dazzle ships and the homemade armour of suffragettes. And I’ve been using leather offcuts to make foil-embossed jewellery inspired by surveillance and Early Warning System architecture.

Tell us about your working environment(s).

I’m currently working mostly in my home studio in Bristol (where I’ve recently moved). It’s useful being able to carry on working at home in the evenings, and also to be able to make more of a mess than I did when I shared my studio space (on Ridley Road in Dalston)! I’m making small objects at the moment so don’t need masses of space. I send off my suffrage patch digital designs to my embroiderers, Lacemarket Embroidery in Nottingham, and they make them up, send them back, and I trim them. It’s great working with craftspeople who are enthusiastic about the project, and understand the nuances of working on artist projects as well as with commercial clients. (They work for Paul Smith, Grayson Perry and others.)

 

Do you work anywhere other than, or in addition to, a studio – and if so, where?

I’ve just finished working with Made in Roath, a community art organisation, in their shop front studio in Cardiff. Here we made the banner for Processions 2018. It was nice working just off a local high street and have curious people walk past and pop in to see what all our geometric, fluorescent fabrics were about. I use J.T. Bachelor’s and Little Workshop in Hackney for embossing and punching leather. I’m currently programming the Engage conference which is on art, health and wellbeing, and will be at The Whitworth in Manchester in November, so I have occasional meetings there with their inspiring engagement team.

How does your working environment affect your art (if at all)?

When I was studying sculpture at Chelsea I did lots of wood turning, and sometimes made larger structures, because I had lots of space and access to workshops. Since then I’ve worked in smaller studios and at times from home, when my children were very small. That, and having limited funds inevitably made my work less ambitious in scale, but not in concept! I have collaborated with other artists a lot in the last few years, including with filmmaker Abbe Leigh Fletcher and folk singer Frankie Armstrong. Making live, filmed or performance pieces is partially a response to constrained studio space.

Are there any particular tools or objects you feel particularly passionate about and/or are central to your work?

I have a real love of craft processes and materials, and like to use my basic knowledge to experiment with them. My materials work as tools to drive my ideas. Sustainable and waste materials, like leather offcuts, cork, wood veneers and fluorescent papers keep popping up in different guises, such as in cuir bouilli (boiled leather) and marquetry. I’m saving up for my own hot foil embossing machine.

How do you deal with creative block?

I tend to have the opposite problem – too many ideas and too little time! I know from experience that if I’m not working on anything in particular, it’s probably because I’m about to embark on a period of intensely juggling lots of projects at once. Inactivity or feeling stuck tends to right itself. There are always peaks and troughs with the creative process.

Discover more of Jessica’s work:

www.jessicaakerman.com

Instagram: @jessicaakerman 

 

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018  

Courtauld Artist at Work: Christine Maria La Carbonara

Our Artists at Work exhibition in the Drawings Gallery is in full swing. We thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Christine Maria La Carbonara, Retail Digital / E commerce Manager for The Courtauld Shop discussing her practices.

Could you tell us about your practice – what media you work in, what subject matter you focus on, what inspires you?

I work with different mediums. Oil painting is my primary method of expression. I also experiment with photography and painting with acrylics on various surfaces: including terracotta and wood. I am inspired by the trivial, the banalities that I only imagine many people interpret as the quotidian. Life excites me. I love documenting everything. Adding form, whether figurative or abstract, to a sensation or to  encapsulate a remarkable moment in time. The latter of course which holds meaning to me. I only hope that others will see or feel what I try to convey through my works.

Tell us about your working environment(s).

I do not have a studio.  The world around me is my studio. 

Do you work anywhere other than, or in addition to, a studio – and if so, where?

I have worked across three countries. Sometimes with an easel, sometimes painting a canvas that I’m simply embracing physically.

How does your working environment affect your art (if at all)?

I would love to have a dedicated space to create works of art. However, I find it challenging and exploratory creating a space for creation.

Are there any particular tools or objects you feel particularly passionate about and/or are central to your work?

Colour!! I need colour for my works.

How do you deal with creative block?

Creative block is something that happens, in my opinion, when we’ve platuead emotionally, psychologically, sentimentally. Take a trip! Approach a stranger for a random conversation. You’ll find inspiration once more.

Discover more of Christine’s work:

Instagram: @solarskyify

Facebook: /solarskyify

Twitter: /solarskyify

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018 

Courtauld Artists At Work: Vicky Falconer

Our Artists at Work exhibition in the Drawings Gallery is in full swing. We thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Vicky Falconer, Assistant Librarian, serials and e-resources at The Courtauld discussing her practices.

My practice is mixed media but almost always involves a lens-based element to it, as well as a strong engagement with space and architecture – and in particular a longstanding interest in the relationship between interior and exterior.

Since leaving art school I have only ever had studios for brief periods. I’ve worked from home for the last eight years, with the exception of using facilities for specialist processes I can’t do at home. I co-opt parts of my living space to use for whatever I need. But my domestic environment has also become an essential part of the work itself. At the moment I am working on a series of photographic works which I started last year – Inhale/Exhale – made in my living room and back garden. The inspiration for these was some beautiful double exposure photographs by Constantin Brâncuși, as well as a text that I had been reading, Through Vegetal Being, by Luce Irigaray and Michael Marder. There were some ideas in this text that felt really vivid for me: the necessity of breath, which immersion in plant life facilitates, and the capacity for that immersion to dissolve the usual boundaries between interior and exterior.

I can’t imagine having a studio now. So many artists these days have practices which are don’t require it. Perhaps this accounts partly for what seems to be have been a resurgence of interest in the domestic within contemporary art? In terms of ‘creative block’, like most other artists I have a number of commitments outside of my practice. Lack of time for creative practice is both a hardship and blessing in this sense! I go and do something else and by the time I have the opportunity to turn my attentions to my work again, some kind of direction, clarity or purpose has returned. In terms of objects or tools that are special to me, I have a few things which I’ve collected which sometimes make their way into works. I use both analogue and digital techniques, but the Inhale/Exhale works are made on an old Pentax SLR camera – which was actually my 21st birthday gift! It is lovely to think that I am still using it. I am a very un-technical artist in some ways, though. Just as I co-opt rooms in my house to use for what I need, I co-opt materials or processes to make the images or works that I have in mind.  I often put images through a number of transformative processes – scanning, digital recapture, etc. – and it is likely that these current works will be worked on in the same way, with the means of their production very much informed by whichever space they will be presented in eventually.

 

Discover more of Vicky ‘s work:

www.vickyfalconer.co.uk

 

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018