Laura is an artist that I’m very lucky to have gotten to know though Painting in Text. Laura’s exhibition The Lost Acre is a great example of pieces from different modes of practice complimenting each other – this interview gives insight into Laura’s practice and the influences behind her work. I really enjoyed the interview, and hope you get as much out of it as I did.
Let’s Start with you Recent Exhibition
My most recent exhibition was The Lost Acre in the Leitrim Sculpture Centre. I was doing a residency there.
The title came about from a story that my dad told me he is into hill walking. He was coming down the mountain and he was talking to a farmer and the farmer had asked him had he gone through the lost acre, my dad didn’t know what it was and asked about it. The Farmer explained that it was a patch of land that you get lost in if you walk through it. You can be lead astray and become disoriented, Places that are familiar will start looking strange and even though your close to home, you feel like your really far away.
I felt it tied in with this residency because Manorhamilton is my hometown.Because I’m so familiar with this landscape I wanted to look at it in a new light and revisit it and look at it in more of an artists perspective compared to how I was looking at it when I was growing up. When you’re younger you don’t appreciate how beautiful it and it’s only when you’re away that you realise that you start missing it. I had recently moved home when this residency came about. And through the residency I got a studio in the town and I was living on main street.
What was your planning for the exhibition?
I knew I wanted to have a few different elements to the show. In my studio I mostly focus on painting but in this exhibition I also have a video, collage and sculptural elements as well.
Let’s start with the painting first
Most of my paintings have come from working with archival imagery that I find online. I mostly use two archives, one is the British library collection and there is the New York Public Library. They have uploaded these huge online archives of images which are copyright free so you can do whatever you want with them and often I would use them as a starting point to trigger memories. I would spend hours scrolling through these websites looking at tiny thumbnails and sometimes one just jumps out at me. I’m really drawn to certain ones probably because they remind me of places within my memory so then I’ll start painting from the images but often I won’t include a lot of the detail from the original image. I pair it down to a very minimal composition. Most of the photographs are black and white and I’m kind of inventing the colours based on my memories. When you see the paintings together they have a strange dream like quality because of the muted and distorted nature of the colours. My painting is moving to be more and more abstract. I think they are still landscapes but they are quite paired down, they are almost empty. It’s been a natural progression of my work. I general work really small I would like to make something bigger, but I also find it difficult. sometimes if I try and go bigger I end up painting something really small onto a big board!
Sometimes I work with found materials like old frames I find in charity shops. When I work with found materials often the first thing I will do is take it apart in some way. I might sand it down or peel away what’s there. I did an installation with the found objects for The Lost Acre exhibition called Fragments. I let the object inform what I would do to it. Another example, this one was originally a religious souvenir and the dome was made out of plastic. So, I decided I would change the image and I scratched the plastic, so it obscured what was inside it. For one piece that was a frame that originally had this twee landscape glued into it and I really wanted to take the image out. But you can see the remnants of it I couldn’t get it out completely, but I ended up really liking the texture that it created! So, I kept it. I spent so long trying to get the image out and eventually decided to just work with it. But these range from everything from things I found in a charity shops to things I find on the beach. A lot of them are coasters and old frames. Similar to the archival imagery I spend a lot of time rooting/collecting stuff trying to find objects. Sometimes it’s the cheaper one’s I prefer to work with because I can be less precious with them and don’t mind destroying them. I quite like how someone’s gotten rid of the object and don’t see the value in it, it could be the material or sometimes I turn the frame around and use the back of it because I like the shape. And create new surface for it.
Material can come from anywhere. My parents were adding insulation to their house and they didn’t know how to get rid of waste because you can’t burn it you and it’s too big to throw it in the bin and they were like oh Laura you will be able to do something with it. It looks like marble but is actually that I’ve covered it in wax, it’s something that was discarded Its very tactile people would want to touch it. And find out what it is your reflex is to reach out at it with your hand and try and figure out what a material it is people are usually surprised about how light it is I also like the idea of putting it alongside an actual rock albeit a strange looking one I look at them kind of like drawings even though they are objects they are something to draw from.
You also do video can you talk about that?
When I first started doing video I felt like I had to have a narrative to it, so I sort of ended up forcing this narrative and it just didn’t work so I I’ve just decided to change tact, it’s more of a purely visual experience. A material exploration and I’m not forcing a narrative into it. I’m self-trained and I would approach video from a painting perspective like composition wise I’d compose it the same way I would approach a painting. And a lot of the time I would see video as a moving painting. It has some elements of landscapes. I’ve even used paint in my video, I’ve had Jelly was sitting on black oil paint on a copper plate and filmed that.
When it comes to my video is almost a scientific process and you are experimenting you don’t know where it’s going to go or what is going to come out of it. I usually surround myself with materials I want to work with but then sometimes I might use something that I hadn’t planned on using just cos it happens to be there.
A scene from The Lost Acre video came about because I was trying to recreate the formation of an erratic rock. I was down in the burren doing a residency. I wanted to see if I froze a rock in a basin of water then melted it would the rock move. I filmed it melting then I’ve reversed the footage.
Time seems to be a factor in a lot of your work in different ways?
Time does feature a lot in the whole show even with my sculptural work I had a big green sculpture it’s actually foliage that I have shaped into an orb. And that came about because I wanted to create a sculptural work that would change over time. When I lived in japan for a couple of years I came across this traditional object made from cedar branches that they would hang outside sake breweries. When the sake was ready to be drank they would know because it would have turned brown so it’s almost like a natural timer. A really long timer! When you see them in japan they are perfectly shaped I left it a bit scraggly. It’s a more interesting object that way. it did turn brown over course the exhibition but it’s so slow you almost wouldn’t notice it. It’s gotten much lighter as it dried out a lot during the exhibition. So, yeah a natural way of telling time! A lot the found objects I was working with also have been changed through time. like the rusty frame,
And with my video work I have manipulated the time, sometimes I speed it up and sometimes I slow it down. Sometimes it’s not straightforward and it’s really hard to grasp what you are actually looking at!
Most of my video work is made in the studio, if I had more time to develop the work I would have liked to film in the landscape and create these experiments that I do in the studio out in the field. One time I carried with me a huge basin of jelly up the mountain and when I got there it started raining. And when I would put the basen down my dog would keep eating the jelly! It was such a disaster and I thought “what am I doing?!? this is ridiculous!” I retreated back to my studio! It didn’t work that time, but I have it in my back of my head that it is how I would like the work to develop.
your collage work is very interesting
In my collage again I’m working with archival images often postcards, I think there’s an element of humour in it, I might do something like place a buffalo in an odd location! There is something really beautiful about the quality of these old postcards though because they have been hand coloured they were originally black and white and they have been hand tinted so some parts are still left black and white and there is a parallel with the way I approach the paintings because I’m working from a black and white image but I’m adding colour.
Will we finish by talking about your influences?
I watch quite a lot of sci fi movies, more older ones because of the D.I.Y aesthetic and the practical effects they used kind of influence my work in a way. I watched one recently called Beware! The Blob and there is this red blog that attacks people, and I really want to know how they made the blob move!
Painting wise I like Fergus Feehily’s work he works with found material and often his work is just so beautiful I saw a show that he did in the Douglas Hyde and it kind of stuck with me just his use of materials and his minimal use of paint.
You can find out more about Laura’s work through his website link below