Artwork’s Title: Calle 5 de Febrero (Top) Calle Isobel la Catolica (Bottom)
Materials Used: Cement, chalk, clay, concrete, modelling mud, plaster, sawdust and sweepings in aluminium and glass vitrine
Studio Based: London/Mexico City/Andalucia
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
The Souvenir series is an ongoing sculptural series that displays broken down materials, typically in strata, in a glass or acrylic vitrine. The materials are always sourced in the area around the studio, and sorted by type, size and colour.
I grew up on the Isle of Wight, and one of the first school trips I can remember was to Alum Bay to fill a glass tube or bottle with coloured sand from the cliffs. These souvenirs were first introduced at roughly the same time people began making and sending postcards using the same sand.
Seeing these things at such an early age made a lasting impression, and ever since, the two things, material and place have been inseparable.
How would you define your work in 3 words?
Material, place, stories.
Would you use another three different words to describe the ‘Calle 5 de Febrero’ – ‘Calle Isobel la Catolica‘ sculpture/artwork?
Lots of fun.
How did you come up with this sculpture idea? Is there any story behind this artwork?
At the time of making Calle de Febrero and Calle Isobel la Catolica 123, I was resident artist at M74 in Mexico City. The vitrine itself was made by a local craftsperson, and the materials inside were collected from the studio building, hardware stores and streets around the studio. I wanted to re-present the rugged beauty and chaos of the Colonia Guerrero, so after pouring the material in strata, I shook them up before sealing the lids shut.
What colour is used the most in this artwork?
I think it was white but it’s hard to tell. When I shook the vitrines to break up the strata, a lot of the colours merged to make a grey, concrete-like colour. I wouldn’t have chosen to put so much grey inside them, but I liked it because it looked like the city outside my window.
Is there any particular message that you wish your viewers can take from this sculpture?
I was in Mexico City for the first time and I was staying in the Centro Historico, and I fell in love with it right away; it’s beautiful, and sometimes chaotic and dirty, and it’s really a lot of fun. I had an incredible few months there, and I guess if there was a message, it would be that this sculpture was made by someone who was really enjoying being in the city.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
I would like to see a vitrine ten times the size of these or bigger, fill the end wall of a big empty space.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
The first art I saw was a book of Cezanne’s paintings. I loved them then, and I still love them today. The warmth of the colours is something I never forget, and his paintings of Motagne Sainte-Victoire are my favourites. I’m a really big fan of Bruce Nauman, and I like that he’s tried nearly everything. Right now I keep coming back to ‘Square Depression’, I saw it a few years ago at Skulptur Projekte Munster, and ‘Natural light, blue light room’, that’s another one I’d like to see again. I was keen to visit Mexcio City because I wanted to see where Francis Alys made a lot of his performances. The image of him pushing a block of ice along the pavement for ‘Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing’ is amazing; and the photographs of people stood in the shadow of the flag pole at the Zocalo, I wanted to see if they really do that, and they do! It was a wow moment, and now I can appreciate how brilliantly he captured the city. I think Ian Kiaer is fantastic, he makes the most incredible shows, Michael Dean, and Phyllida Barlow also, the way they use materials is exciting to see.
How did you know when this sculpture was finished?
When I was making the first vitrine, I thought if I kept shaking it it might look even better, but I also knew I could end up ruining it, so I put it down and decided to come back to it the next day. When I returned to the studio, I thought yeah, I like it, and I sealed the lid and it was done. With the second, I shook it, it looked good, and I put it on the table and stood back to take a better look, and I noticed the glass was cracked down one side. I had to do it all again, so the second vitrine – the one below – is actually the third one I made.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
The studio where I made this sculpture was in a specialist sculpture studio block called M74. It was the most beautiful studio I’ve ever had. On one side there are windows from floor to ceiling, and on the other side of that is a terrace. On the terrace I had a table for breaking down materials, and another for sieving them. People would meet on my terrace to start their evenings, so there were all the signs of that sort of thing going on. On the walls I taped a lot of templates, some I used, others not. On the floor and under the benches were lots of buckets filled with different materials. There was a dedicated area for everything, so despite the mess, there were signs of order.
What does your mum think about your art?
She’s more interested in talking about what I’m writing, and dad says I should make everything bigger and use brighter colours.
Which exhibition did you visit last?
It was Federico Herrero at Lulu in Mexico City, in February. I returned to London shortly after and went into lockdown. I travelled to Spain as soon as I could, and I’ve been here ever since.
Which are your plans for the near future?
I’m currently making a sculpture for a new sculpture trail in Andalucia. When it’s finished, I will make a wall hanging sculpture which is similar, but much bigger than the two we’ve been talking about. I plan to submit my novella in April, and then I will go somewhere hot with a beach and relax before I start working on my next project.
All images are courtesy of the artist