After Nyne Gallery’s latest exhibition ‘Eight From Nyne’ is an exciting window into the world of some of the finest contemporary artists working today.
The exhibition, held at 45 Park Lane (Dorchester Group) in association with Ackerman Studios, the hotel’s in-house curator, features the work of a diverse range of artists including Richard Hoey and Gillian Hyland.
Richard’s work looks at the interplay of textures, channelling a wide range of themes and condensing them into intriguing and engaging new dialogues with form.
Gillian – who was the subject of After Nine Gallery’s debut exhibition – creates tableaus that are all at once recognisable and otherworldly. We sat down with both artists to discuss their inspirations and aspirations
You worked in furniture design before turning your hand to art full-time? How did that background inform your practice as a visual artist?
Line Form & Texture are important to my work. I would attribute this to the time I spent in design. I think an interest in diverse materials also comes from that. The way I plan my work also follows certain practices rooted in design; The work always begins with a concept, which is developed through sketching and planning before any making begins.
How would you describe your work to people who are unfamiliar with it?
My recent work is influenced by billboard advertising and elements of urban design found in Brazil where I have been living for the past three years. I bring elements from these billboards to the work such as text and colour. The work can be seen as collage-like; as each plane is divided into sections of differing geometrical shapes.
Tell us about your relationship with your materials – why did you decide to work with gold leaf?
I really enjoy working materials that I literally touch with my hands, rolling my sleeves up and getting quite physical with the materials is an integral part of the work, there is a lot of physical energy that goes into it. I work on canvas which is stretched over board, so they can withstand the pressure. Regarding the gold leaf…I am actually working more with aluminium leaf right now. It has an industrial feel to it and it’s highly reflective, more so than gold leaf, so much so that it can pick up and mirror objects that occupy the same space which I find interesting.
I initially began working with gold leaf because as part of my design training I came into contact with antique restoration techniques, and gilding was one of them. In 2002 I was making work which was inspired by an essay titled ‘In praise of shadows’ it was a consideration of Eastern appreciation of subtlety and shadow and the use of materials (including gold leaf) which reflect in low light. It felt natural to begin working with gold leaf in this context. I also appreciate the dichotomy which gold represents for me, on one hand of purification and deity and on the other bad taste and extreme wealth.
What are the main themes you like to explore in your work?
Identity, both my own, collective and national. The effects of Neo-colonialism on Brazilian culture, economy and environment. Questions of value; what do we give value to and why? The relationship between consumerism and capitalism.
You work across two very different continents; how is this reflected in your work?
The experience of living between the UK and Brazil has had a huge impact on me as a person and equally as an artist. It has challenged me hugely on both of these levels, which is great! My work is pretty much wholly informed by this experience.
I work from references which are very particular to Brazil. They are intrinsic to the work, such as the design of the paving stones which are very particular to cities such as Rio De Janeiro or Sao Paulo. The experience of living between these tow places has a big impact on me and throws up all sorts of questions about identity, corruption, economy, environmental vandalism, poverty and masses of beauty!
When I am in Brazil it is a very intense experience, I am very much ‘in’ it and sometimes feel quite overwhelmed. When I am back in the UK I find I am much more reflective, it gives me a chance to absorb the experiences of Brazil and to reflect on them from a distance. I am at a point where I am really questioning my practice in terms of my position and responsibility as a Western artist living between these two places. How can I use this to the full? What can I contribute? What is the message I want to put across in my work?
Who were your earliest inspirations?
Rothko, Brancussi, Vasarely, Pierre et Gilles.
And who have been the people who have inspired you on your journey as an artist?
Many contemporary artists, whom I admire greatly, honestly too many to mention… I have been particularly inspired by artist who use un conventional materials in their paintings especially Chris Ofili in the late nineties early noughties, with his use of resin, glitter map pins and of curse the infamous elephant dung. More recently Mark Bradford for his multi layered paintings and collages which he erodes aggressively with an electric sander.
You always seem to be absorbing new ideas and tackling big themes on a personal level – do you find an outlet for these in your work?
Yes absolutely! I am deeply concerned with the questions most of us ask ourselves about our existence and the meaning of it. I think this is good as an artist if not essential. My work is a direct outlet for all aspects of my life, I find it difficult to filter things out. My practice is just an extension of all of the other parts of my life, in some senses it is where everything comes together.
The experience of living between Brazil and the UK has shattered my whole belief system, I see the world in a different way now. I have been forced to ask myself all sorts of questions about myself and the world, particularly the injustice we see everywhere today and the nightmare-ish global political situation.
Do you have any desire to work across different mediums, i.e video art, installations?
I am very interested in installation, I am keen to produce something which is totally immersive, an environment which addressed the ideas I am working with right now. I am also interested in the collaborative aspect of such a production.
Tell us a little about how your background in fashion informed your career in photography
I started working within the industry young, first styling the fashion pages for a women’s glossy magazine then I moved to interiors, wardrobe and set design for films and TV, I got to work with talented photographers, directors and creatives of all types. I’ve always loved everything to do with the aesthetic of an image from the wardrobe to the environments, over the years I got to develop my skill for using colour and props to tell a story. The longer I worked in the industry the more my interest expanded into the other aspects of image making, styling meant I got access to work with very talented photographers who I could learn from. My love for fashion has a massive influence on my own photography, I get excited and inspired by unique environments which make me want to create interesting scenes within them.
Who were your earliest inspirations?
Early on the 2 photographers who’s work caught my attention for there mix of fashion, fantasy and playfulness is Tim Walker and David LaChapelle, their work is bold and unforgettable.
With regards to your creative process – what informs your decision to start a new project? An idea, or an aesthetic, or a message, or something else entirely?
It really varies there are times when I use a piece of writing to create a narrative and then I’ll seek out the right environment to shoot based on that story, there are other times when a place such as Havana ignites such passion that I can’t get enough of the place, and want to create images based on the wonderful places and people I find while travelling around. At the moment I am working on a film project, I wanted to take a poem I wrote at the beginning of a relationship and one I wrote at the end to build the storyline of the film, I’ve taken lines from different poems for the dialogue to weave the story I am want to create, my aim is to capture the same strong aesthetic and emotion of my photography in a short film, a poem in motion. It is my first venture into this realm and I’m excited and anxious, but that challenge of the unknown is what often drives my work and pushes me to try new things.
How long does it take you to take an initial idea and bring it to fruition?
It can take months, often there’s a few ideas floating around in my head at any given time, there’s a wonderful unique house I’ve seen recently, the style and colours have really stuck with me. I’m not sure yet what I’ll shoot there, it’s filed away for now until the right story presents itself. At the moment my focus is on the short film, once that is completed I’ll start planning the narrative for that place. I have also found that what is going on in my personal life can also impact which narratives I focus on at the that time, if I’m filled with a certain emotion then it filters through my work, I’m drawn to want to express or release it creatively.
Do you work with a large team, or have you developed a small close-knit unit?
I have certain key people I love to work with, it’s really important that everyone involved is excited about the project, it brings so much positive energy on the day and encourages everyone to push themselves to be the best they can. They are demanding shoots and long days so laughter along the way helps, I spend so much time working on my own that for me it’s great when I bring the team together and share the process the with them.
What has been your favourite series to work on so far?
I’m asked so often what is my favourite photo and they really all hold something special for me, I think the first time I went to Havana to shoot a series was memorable as I’d no idea how I’d manage to produce a shoot there, I was used to my team in the UK where I could control and produce every detail easily. In Cuba nothing was straight forward, it was such an adventure exploring the city how so many parts had to fall into place for the shoot to occur and watching it unfold was very rewarding. I can be very controlled when planning a shoot, working through every detail in advance. The Cuban series was more spontaneous in ways, I had to be flexible to the ever changing dynamics and think quick when something wasn’t working. It was also the first time I’d street cast, again a fun process which ended up meaning I got to photography some really interesting people who brought a unique part of themselves to the photo.
What has been the best feedback you’ve ever received on your work?
I’ve heard from several different people that my photos remind them of the artist Edward Hopper or photographer Gregory Crewdson’s work, I admire and love their pictures so much that it’s a great compliment to receive.
As a woman in the creative arts, what is your advice to other women who foresee the arts as a career path?
I think in some professions women feel like they need to manage their expressive emotional side, the arts is the opposite, the more you delve into your soul the better your creations will be. Integrity is so important in what you choose to create, if it comes from an honest perspective you can bring something with true value into what you produce. I also found that how your creative career unfolds in never straight forward as with other jobs where the path to success can be clear. It’s important to keep an open mind and try to approach it from different angels, best to be brave and put yourself out there, then waiting at home for someone to discover you!
Eight from Nyne will be on display at 45 Park Lane from May 11th – July 2nd. For more information on After Nyne Gallery visit www.afternynegallery.com
IMAGE: Richard Hoey, Foiled Attempts (Part Two), Mixed media painting on canvas wrapped board, 165 x 120 cm