How did your style evolve while you are at university?
At the beginning of my degree, my style was very different; mostly pencil drawings that were very detailed but quite boring and always took so long to produce. During the first and second years, I didn’t always turn up but I was starting to slowly develop my style with the use of collage with generally average results. It wasn’t until I was hit by a car that my grades reached the 2:1/First area! I missed a project deadline and had to re-sit over the summer before my final year, changing the style and content of the project but ending up with better results than before and this continued throughout the remaining projects.
Would you say your degree has been valuable then?
Incredibly valuable! I honestly enjoyed researching for and writing my dissertation; it definitely refined my writing abilities and it acted as a confidence boost as well as a great start to my overall degree grade.
What skills have you developed?
I’d say the main skill I have learnt is Photoshop, as before university I had never even used it; now I find it invaluable! To begin with, I used Photoshop to either arrange handmade collages into more appealing layouts or adjust colour balances and contrast. However, during the final major project, I learnt how to organise photo shoots, adding a 3D element to my work so I then used Photoshop for digital collage too, which I layered on top of the photographs. The tutors were very helpful during the three years, in particular the third year, and of course the study trips to Berlin and Prague were brilliant!
What are the main influences of your work?
I never really had many artists that I can pin point and say they inspired me. Having said that, I’ve always found the films of Wong Kar Wai influential (mainly his use of colour) and collage artist Yvette Yang triggered my fondness of collaged typefaces. Through watching a lot of nature documentaries, I guess you could say people like David Attenborough have been influential too. If the subject matter is related to the natural world or eerie, avant-garde and somehow otherworldly yet draws inspiration from this world then it’s for me. Kingdom Animalia and just nature generally is definitely my biggest inspiration, as I don’t think I find anything more fascinating than the shapes, patterns, colours and variety that can be found in the natural world. That being said, humans intrigue me so much as well but particularly tribes, indigenous peoples and Shamans mainly due to their connection to nature. This connection people can have is often channelled into body adornments or decoration such as masks and headdresses and these in particular are highly influential for me. In terms of why animals inspire me, I was amazed by them from a young age and a friend of my family happened to be the local Zoo owner so I was allowed to play with the young animals, such as the lemurs and tiger cubs. Since then I’ve always cared about what happens to the world’s biodiversity and I think it would be sad world without the species we know now. In past projects I’ve focused on animals that are just as endangered as the panda and tiger (sometimes considerably more so) but don’t get the same public affection though I do understand the importance of pandas as flagship species – if they’re saved so are numerous other species in that habitat. Oddly though, I am also a fan of taxidermy art but I’d obviously prefer the animals to be living!
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am one of the artists showing work in an exhibition presented by a graphic design company named Johnny Toaster. It runs for two months at the Soul Cellar in Southampton. I have four images on display, which are digital prints of my collages. Though my work would have featured animals anyway, the show is in fact animal themed under the name ‘Menagerie’.
I am also involved with a new online publication called 5th Character; I have designed the poster for the conference, themed on future bodies. I am also waiting on a project brief for the first issue, also under that theme where I will be constructing headdresses for photo shoots based on appropriate texts. Recently, I designed a headdress for a final year fashion student who used it in a shoot within an old theatre under a showgirl theme. For this piece I began to use new materials, which have already widened the possibilities for future creations. I also hold a voluntary position with EjectorSeat Arts where I am the Site Artist Liaison Officer and responsible for all exhibitions, fine art, illustration and fashion that will be present at the EjectorSeat Festival 2011. The festival takes place on Saturday June 4th, with music, poetry, art and crafts all represented. One of the projects I’m organising involves Solent University fashion students giving Andy Warhol-themed makeovers to the public – this has an official connection with the Warhol exhibition held at the Southampton City Art Gallery.
What do you do in your spare time?
Predominantly, I research for my blog, which focuses on the relationship between human and animal in a wide variety of forms such as fashion, art and design. As well as in a contemporary sense, I also look into how we as humans have drawn inspiration from and adapted to the natural world historically and the evidence that remains such as existing tribes and indigenous peoples. On the other hand, I also write and post pictures of my own experiences and artwork so that I have a space where both my inspiration and how I’ve used that inspiration is easily accessible.
What direction do you see yourself going in the future?
At the moment, I’m really not sure! Fashion illustration would be great but now I’m making 3D pieces, I could possibly get into Millinery too. I don’t want to commit too much to one particular area right now as what I produce blurs between the three but as far as the photography goes, I don’t see that as the focus of my work and wouldn’t want to make it that either. I’ve started to experiment with making jewellery, seeing as I love it so much, but I’m still very much an amateur in need of practice.
Menagerie runs until May 15th at The Soul Cellar, 78 West Marlands Road, Southampton.