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Elizabeth Homersham interviews Kate Shepherd, Jack Friswell and Rebecca Turner, the winners of this year’s Exposure award, in a three-way skype conversation. All three winners are recent graduates from Wimbledon College of Art and their respective work in paint, time-based media and sculpture will be in exhibition at Parasol Unit, London until the 16 of October.
Elizabeth Homersham: I’d like to hear about your relationship to urban spaces.
Kate Shepherd: I’ve always lived in London and as a child my mother and I would go on long walks around the city, discovering hidden houses and museums. Now I’m intrigued by the socio-historical secrets of buildings and I try to translate all of this into painting.
EH: But paintings such as White Palace refer to prominent, rather than hidden buildings. Do you seek to estrange us from the sites we are overexposed to and assume we know?
KS: I guess my alternative representations make the origins of buildings harder to read without an explanation and therefore elevate the paint itself to just as worthy a subject. Layers of paint then mimic layers of landscape.EH: Do you use digital aids in your process?
KS: No, the layers evolve while painting and very little planning is involved. The process becomes more organic that way; elements emerge unexpectedly, much as they do in a cityscape. I’ve found that using computers leads to a loss of immediacy, so I prefer editing the image directly and allowing the canvas to develop its own memory.
EH: I’m also reminded of Surrealism when I see works blurring distinctions between invented and existent space; it strikes me that you’ve inherited Breton’s ideal of representing dreamed and lived reality on one plane.
KS: Surrealism has recently become a strong influence but initially I was drawn to artists such as Rauschenberg and Oehlen for their use of paint as collage. I’m also enthused by Will Fowler and Francesca Di Matteo’s abstract use of layering.
EH: Can we talk about Proscenium?
JF: Proscenium uses film to describe an endeavour: I stumble across a range of rocks leading to the sea and then a suspended green rectangle comes into view.
EH: What was the location for shooting?
JF: I filmed most of the footage just off Anglesey. The film has personal resonances as I grew up in North Wales. But I also wanted to represent and preserve an archetypal image of the ocean as found in Romantic literature: Proscenium is influenced by Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, while other works take John White’s sixteenth century depictions of American colonialism as a point of departure.
EH: So you navigate between autobiography and wider frames of reference?
JF: Sure, all my films are anchored in the natural landscapes I’ve been surrounded by. Proscenium, however, is also a formal inquiry into the cinematic presentation of these landscapes.
EH: Do you consciously resist mainstream cinema’s converse tendency to focus on character?
JF: Yes, it comes from a sort of empathy I have with landscape in film and the techniques used historically to induce various experiences in the audience. I play with conventional mechanisms in an attempt to undo what I know of cinema today.
EH: You’ve worked to contradict the habitual association of filmmaking with 'doing' then?
JF: Well, I grew up surrounded by cameras but initially I preferred to deconstruct and tamper with them instead of learning the appropriate technical skills.
EH: And what role do your drawings play?
JF: The drawings are the crux to the film works as the first visual forms my ideas take. Later they become guides to filmmaking. The book also offers a montage of the resources and visual elements informing the work, loosely hinting at how all these sporadic sources and images are interrelated.
EH: How did paper pulp become the medium in your work?
RT: I experimented for a while but paper pulp felt like the right material for conveying the interests and notions at the heart of my work. As the pulp is devoid of colour and invites textural manipulation, all the focus can be on form and surface.
EH: They look so light too, endowed with a kind of buoyancy. For me that compliments your attempt to make viewers navigate the space differently, more 'buoyantly', perhaps. Has dance has influenced you at all?
RT: I really like that idea, not directly dance but definitely movement; the work becomes a form of choreography, asking the viewer to explore in a particular way.
EH: Until now your viewers have explored the gallery space. Will you one day ask them to step outside?
RT: I enjoy gallery installations at the moment but my next move might involve creating site-specific works responding to external architecture. I’m really interested, for example, in the architectural aspect of Monika Sosnowska, Richard Wilson and Rachel Whiteread’s work.
EH: But you also evoke other worldliness and astronomy.
RT: Right, I have a particular interest in the moon! I love the mystery that surrounds it.
EH: In those terms your sculptures appear more abstractly haunting than Whiteread’s.
RT: Yes, but what I like about Whiteread’s work is how she reveals things about space. In my own work I want to encourage the viewer to explore a given space personally.
Exposure 11 runs at Parasol Unit from 12 September – 16 October 2011
14 Wharf Road, London, N1 7RW
29 September, 7pm
EXPOSURE 11 AWARD: Artist Talk Jack Friswell, Kate Shepherd and Rebecca Turner discuss the work in the exhibition and their experience of the EXPOSURE AWARD with Sarah Woodfine: BA Fine Art Sculpture Pathway Leader at Wimbledon College of Art and artist.