Wanderarti.com a beautiful new site dedicated to showcasing art and travel, asked me these questions this week. I am looking forward to (hopefully) being featured on their blog soon.
Your travel pieces have a very distinct style. How did this develop?
My work has the overall sense of a painting but as you look close you will see that it is skilfully built up using layers of found papers, tissues and acrylic paint. When I travel I sketch and collect – paper bags, tickets, lettering, envelopes, shopping lists, posters…often from the street. The more worn and distressed the better. When I stopped travelling so much and made a studio space (ie. a table to work on) I started to use all my ‘paper scraps’ plus hand painted tissue paper and other bought papers to assemble my collages. I love the spontaneity of working this way, I can keep altering and recomposing by gluing more on or peeling some off. Paper collage has many edges, ripped, torn and cut.
I see the beauty in paper shapes, accidental marks and worn surfaces. By simplifying and flattening space with these shapes plus photographs I can recompose and avoid representational clarity. The vibrant colours, layers of tissue, positive and negative shapes all give a feeling of unity.
I usually draw in a fine liner pen, but lately I have been using charcoal and oil bars. The lines in my sketches are the edges of my collaged papers.
What’s the process behind your work? How is each piece realised from idea to physical piece?
I begin in a spontaneous way with cut shapes that relate to my subject (archways, doors – Marrakech) These ideas are taken form my sketchbooks and photographs. Many hours are spent deliberating over arrangements of papers, layers, edges, surfaces. As the pieces begin to link in an interesting way a sense of unity and design develops.
I will have a scene, a place, a memory in mind but this does not dominate, the collage is the idea, it is liberating and leads me in new directions. There are recognisable parts that draw the viewer in but snippets of lettering, textures and colours allow the viewer to use imagination too. Increasingly there is a strong abstract element but still with recognisable elements.
Tell us about your travels. Where did you go, what did you see, best bits, worst bits?
I spent most of my twenties and early thirties travelling and working around the world. I started in Greece working as a travel rep, I got the travel bug and carried on – bar work, hostess for sailing holidays, managing a sailing company – this took me to Turkey, the Caribbean, India, Cuba, Australia and New Zealand. I settled for a couple of years in NZ and began to use my collages for book covers and magazine editorial work.
Best bits – being foot loose and fancy free! Sitting sketching in little back streets and village squares – being totally absorbed in the scene around me and accepted by the locals. Worst bits of travelling…hard one, can’t think of any!
Why did you sketch and make art whilst you travelled?
I always have a sketchbook on the go. I try to record the characters, scene, buildings, the everyday life around me and often a scene develops as I sketch. Locals have moved rickshaws, brought me hot tea, chased dogs away, and posed carefully as I sit quietly. When I sketch I am totally focused, not just on what I see, the sounds and smells are just as important and are easily recalled when I look at the sketch or final collage.
Aside from travel, what inspires your work?
People watching, the human form. I am working on a series of people travelling (through the railway station) and a circus/burlesque theme at the moment.
What do you hope your pieces tell a viewer about a place?
I want the viewer to be reminded of a visit to that city/country, a memory of the smell of a morning coffee in the shady cafe, the feel of sun warmed walls. I want to capture the memory of a place and the sense of human presence, echoing the passing of time. Viewers will recognise bits of lettering, signs, colours that will evoke other travel memories.
If you could make art anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would love to have a mobile studio, a pop up studio, that I could set up in the back streets of any sunny city (preferably the older, dustier ones such as Bombay, Rio, Havana ) hidden slightly, in a shop or house. It would be equipped with all my papers, glue and scissors, shaded from the sun and rain. I would love to be sent on assignments to document and record the flavour of a country – and be paid!