Courtauld Artists at work Archive

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 Artists At Work: Chloe Le Tissier

With the opening of Artists at Work in our Drawings Gallery we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld. Here we have Chloe Le Tissier, Assistant Registrar / PA to Head of Gallery and The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 winner 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 primarily with oil on canvas and watercolour, and sketching and drawing forms the basis of much of my work. I am inspired by my surroundings, particularly from travels, as well as everyday scenes, people, objects and beauty in nature.

Tell us about your working environment(s).

My studio is at Thames-side Studios in Woolwich where I have a lovely view of the river and north facing light which is perfect for painting.  I often work outside of my studio too, which largely came about through studying at the Royal Drawing School where courses were regularly taught out and about.  Many of the pictures in the show Artists at work are really familiar sights!

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

I often have a sketchbook to hand in case I can grab a few moments in the Gallery to sketch from works in the Courtauld collection. I spent a lot of time in the Goya: Witches and Old Women exhibition a couple of years ago and managed to make a sketch of each work from the album we were displaying. I love drawing and painting in other museums and galleries as well as outside; in woods, parks, on the beach and at the Zoo, anywhere that captures the imagination and is visually intriguing.  I undertake Artist Residencies too where you are completely removed from your usual location, which can be both enjoyable and challenging.

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

Working outside can present certain practical limitations – the scale of the work, the medium, how much equipment you want to carry with you, whether it dries in time (especially in the British weather… I once watched a watercolour I was working on melt away as I tried to take shelter under a tree from heavy rain).

In my studio I am surrounded by my paintings, by books, materials and canvases. I have had the contents of my studio for years so it’s all very familiar and comfortable, but I also try to keep it clean and clear so that I can focus on painting.  I love having a view from my studio for the connection to the outside world.

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

Studying other artists and art history, seeing exhibitions and observational drawing are all really important to my practice, as is knowing when to stop on a painting, when it is finished.

How do you deal with creative block?  

Studying other artists and art history, seeing exhibitions and observational drawing! As well as sometimes just stepping back and thinking, trying not to panic and staying positive.

Thames-side Studios are having an Open Studios this weekend, 9-10 June 2018. All welcome! more info here 

 

Discover more of Chloe’s work:

www.chloeletissier.com

https://www.thames-sidestudios.co.uk/

Instagram: chloe_le_tissier

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018

Courtauld Artists at Work: Millie Nice

With the opening of Artists at Work in our Drawings Gallery we thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to shed some light on the artists among our colleagues at The Courtauld.

First up we have Millie Nice who is an Educator working with our Public Programmes team.

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

I’m an illustrator so the I use the media that responds best to the job; it can be digital, coloured pencils, markers or an enormous painted mural! But at the centre of it I just really love to draw so anything that I can make a good line with suits me. When I started I would only ever draw in pens or markers that wouldn’t allow me to hesitate or change my mind and I still tend to make work this way. It often means you have to draw something multiple times to get to the right one! I use my History of Art background a lot in my work, re-drawing objects and artworks from the past. I’m inspired by history but I like to bring in as much humour and character as I can and encourage people to laugh and have fun with artworks from the past.

Tell us about your working environment(s).

I have a small studio at home with a drawing table, a scanner and a computer; it’s very simple but I can be fairly messy so the less space I have the better! I also work from a print collective studios in south London which has been brilliant for working alongside other creatives. Being freelance and working from home is a fairly intense experience so it’s great to be able to work with other people and support each other in the ups and downs that come with making what you love.

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

Because I draw from museum objects and artworks a lot I often end up in museums in galleries; I will always draw from life where I can. It’s easier to absorb more of an object’s character if you sit with it for a while and I love watching other people react to the artworks in the gallery; I suppose it’s like a kind of audience research for me!

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

When I was young it affected me in a very practical way; I was an art student working part-time as a museum steward and I would draw in the galleries when I was at work. I could only ever use pencils and I worked in small notebooks that I could quickly slip in my pocket and not get caught! I still carry a small notebook and pencil with  me all the time and they are mostly full of quick little ideas I might come back to or work up in the studio. Over time I realised I’d enjoyed drawing at work the most out of everything I’d created while I was studying and it taught me to love all the strange and unexpected things that happen when you’re drawing quickly on location and to appreciate all you can do with a simple pencil.

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

I try not to get too attached to any particular material, I like to be adaptable and I enjoy that you can make a drawing with even the simplest of tools. I feel pretty passionate about my phone as a creative tool but only because I think it’s terrible! I often have to work from photographs as reference material and it’s never as engaging as the real thing. When I first got my phone I was constantly taking photos of things I didn’t have time to draw but I never ended up going back to them. Now I operate a strict ‘sketch it or forget it’ policy!

How do you deal with creative block?

I find a good deadline sorts that out fairly quickly! If I get stuck it’s usually because I’m worrying about details so I try to make things as simply and quickly as possible. I try to give all my ideas an immediate rough try like a sketch or a small test. If an idea is weak then a quick rough is all it really needs and then I put it aside; the stronger ideas are the ones I enjoy and I want to keep working on.

Discover more of Millie’s work: 

www.millienice.com 

Twitter @millieknice
Instagram @millie.nice

Artists at Work
The Drawings Gallery
Until 15 July 2018