I’m a multidisciplinary artist and musician whose artistic practice is made up of photography, music, painting, drawing, design, organising exhibitions, performance and writing and facilitating workshops. I graduated with a degree in Fine Art in 2002. Through my artwork I aim to highlight things that other people may not notice. I have taken part in over one hundred exhibitions in the last fifteen years. I have also been organising exhibitions at HeadSpace (located in the Egg Cafe, Newington L1) for ten years and at Threshold Festival for five years.
I am passionate about life, all things creative and about changing things for the better. I strive to bring out the beauty in whatever I create, whilst hopefully also making people think. I have lived in various places across England, Wales, Italy and America and have moved over thirty times. Having been around art, design, music and performance all of my life, I was also encouraged to question everything from an early age. All of my close family are creative in some way. I am dynamic, interested and engaged in what I do.
I believe that all of the things I create are linked in some way – there is a fluidity between them all. I’ve been asked, if I could or would (and even told I should) choose one particular artistic practice. Personally I don’t want to – I like the variety that doing lots of different creative things brings to my life – it keeps things exciting and fresh! I try not to spread myself to thinly and only commit to projects if I know I have enough time to give each one 100%.
My favourite (visual) artists are Patrick Heron; John Bratby; Paula Rego; Quentin Blake; Mark Rothko; Jenny Saville; Lucian Freud; Piet Mondrian; Edward Hopper; Paul Klee; Egon Schiele; Andy Warhol; Caravaggio; Michelangelo; Barbara Hepworth; Alberto Giacometti; Salvador Dali; Henri Matisse; Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; René Magritte and Gustav Klimt.
What do you think are the challenges facing artists in Liverpool?
Opportunities, finances and time.
The government have made so many cuts within the arts in recent years meaning there are less commission opportunities to make public art, less opportunities to work in schools and less public sector companies paying for freelance artists, photographers and designers to come and work in-house as they have no choice. The cuts also mean that funding for artists to create their own projects has become less accessible for many people. Artists also face the problem of trying to juggle having the time, and in particular the energy, to focus on being creative whilst struggling to pay the bills, to pay gallery and agency fees and commission to galleries when they make sales. This often means we all take on other part-time work which doesn’t necessarily pay well or fit-in completely with what we want to do artistically (but it is a means to an end).
When you are a freelance or a self employed artist there is no guarantee of constant work. Everyday you have to push your work forward and put yourself out there. You might have a really successful exhibition with sales or commissions, or several photo-shoots but then you also always have to keep an eye on next week or month and constantly strive to bring further / future work in. You don’t get much time to stop and think! As well as being creative most artists are doing all their own admin, marketing, books, tax returns, funding bids and writing applications for future job opportunities etc.
And being such a small but vibrant art scene, do you find opportunities are readily available?
Personally speaking, this is another benefit to being multidisciplinary! For example, if I am finding that work is thin on the ground as a photographer, there may be some paid gig opportunities or I might sell a painting. I am incredibly proactive – I think you have to be if you are going to have any sort of chance in the art scene as there are so many artists and if you are doing all your own promotion and marketing then if you don’t get out of bed every day and shout about what you are doing then no-one will know about it. If I am struggling and I have no work then rather than get downhearted/depressed I try to use the spare time as productively and creatively as I can. I create paintings, drawings, photographs and songs for myself in that time. Anything that I feel has worked out well enough I share all over social media and on my website, then I’ll put on exhibitions and/or go busking.
I also talk to everyone – friends, family and colleagues about what I am doing. I am always actively looking out for opportunities and having been freelance on and off for over ten years I have aimed to build up relationships and friendships within the art and music scene. When opportunities do arise I say yes as often as I can (and move things around if I need to accordingly). It means that sometimes I have to juggle, but I have found I have gotten better at organising my time over the years and I can survive on little sleep. I also know when to say no. I rarely watch mainstream TV or waste my time doing things that don’t interest me and I prioritise art and music every single day of my life. It’s something I can’t imagine not doing really.
What influenced this motivation and self-determination?
Personally speaking, and in terms of creating opportunities myself, I went bankrupt two years ago. I had to stop and everything kind of fell apart for a bit but then I had no choice other than to pick myself up and start a-fresh. At that time I made a whole series of semi-autobiographical illustrations using indian ink and acrylic paints – partly just to process what was going on. I nearly didn’t show anyone the work I had made – I was quite nervous about putting so much of my personal life out there. The series covers everything that was going on at the time in my life including the mundane and everyday stuff. People seem to relate to it though and I had two solo exhibitions and sold some of these works. I made more and some are in the show at The Egg now.
Can you tell us a bit about the thinking behind the work on display?
Some pieces are quite raw and honest (maybe too honest for some) but it was actually really refreshing to be able to create in this way. As a result of starting over I think I have now become a lot more determined, focused and stronger as an artist and as a woman running a business. I think I am better at knowing how and where to focus my energy and attention than I used to be. I waste a lot less time and in many ways have a lot more free time. If something I am doing isn’t working, I will either find a way to make it work or stop doing it. I would rather concentrate on projects that excite me: I feel it shows through in the work you produce anyway – if you are not interested in what you are doing then how can you expect anyone else to be?
I wanted to display examples of all of my visual artwork and I wanted to try to do it as well and professionally as I could do with the resources I had available to me. I gave myself some breathing space to create some new paintings and photographs for the show as well as displaying some older work (but work that has not been seen or displayed much). I tried to include the best examples of my work and was quite selective in deciding what to include, aiming for quality not quantity. I wanted to make the show vibrant, colourful and eye-catching. I was also aiming to make people think, laugh and question things with the work I chose for the show. The online exhibition guide and price list for the show can be found here.
How do you balance being an artist with curating shows too?
When things are busy and I have lot on, I tend to have lots of late nights/early mornings and I generally sacrifice sleep to fit everything in. This is not always good for my mental health or my friends and family who have to deal with me on a day to day basis (!) so I try my best to avoid this these days by managing my time more effectively and by saying no if I can’t fit everything in. I will generally work on things on a project-to-project based way. This means I will give a project my full attention and push everything else to one side until that particular project is finished. Or I will portion up my time in a week if I have to manage several projects at a time accordingly.
For example, if I’m waiting for paint to dry on afternoon, I will practise some songs while I wait. I am really not much of a fan or believer in multi-tasking though – I don’t think it works and it means you waste more time trying to juggle and end up all confused and tired out. I find that if you focus all your attention on the task / project at hand you can complete that, do it well and then move on. That’s how it works for me anyway. So I will set aside time for curating a show, then once that is done I will focus on my art or music and often switch my emails and phone off while I do so. Conversely, the other half of me says to trust the universe too and to go with the flow. So I won’t be too strict or harsh on myself if something isn’t working out quite as planned.
This year you curated the exhibition for Threshold 2015 – what was it like working with Andy Minnis and the rest of the team, and is this something you can see yourself doing again next year?
I have been involved with Threshold Festival since it began in 2011. I have been friends with Festival founder / director Kaya for about 11 years. And I also know Chris and Andy & the rest of the team pretty well now too! Initially I was involved as an external promotor after Kaya and Chris asked if Headspace (who run the shows at The Egg) would put shows on as part of the arts programme during 2011, 2012 and 2013. Andy became a Threshold Festival director in 2012, and in summer 2013 I was asked by Kaya and Chris if I would curate the whole arts programme in 2014 and work closely alongside Andy – the whole team are lovely to work with. Andy and I have organised/curated the last two shows together and have been in agreement about a lot of what pieces have been successfully selected for shows. And yes, I will gladly be involved in curating next year’s Threshold Festival exhibition – if they’ll have me back!
What’s next – have you got any more projects lined up for 2015?
Nothing is concrete at the moment but I have lots of ideas in terms of what I want to be doing! I have several bits of freelance photography and music work on the go and/or coming up at the moment and as I said I am always creating new paintings, photographs and drawings.
I really want to record an album and I’ve been saying I am going to do this for far too long! With concentrating on organising shows and on photography, painting and drawing a lot recently, I have neglected my music a little bit. My band Moxie made the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition long-list (one of 120 artists selected from 1000’s of entries) earlier this year. I have several gigs coming up, including 2 solo gigs: One at Milo Lounge as part of Pros & Coms on Thursday from 8pm and one at the Anchor Courtyard near the Maritime Museum on Sunday (to include 3 performances from 12noon – 3pm). I also have several new songs of my own in development as well as more than an album’s worth of material waiting to be recorded – so the sooner the better!
In my illustration work, I want to create some socio-political illustrations based on what is going on at the moment in the world and in the UK. Think Spitting Image/Quentin Blake/Mock The Week in terms of my inspiration. I’m still coming up with ideas for this though! In terms of personal exhibitions I would like to expand to having a show in Manchester, to revisit Italy where I organised by first ever exhibition in 2001 with two friends of mine and to show in London again.
What are you most looking forward to in the next few months in Liverpool?