... but I stopped. Now I'm a dad, and may blog again...

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

589: Liz West, Chroma & Crowdfunding

Today I visited Manchester-based artist Liz West, in her studio at Rogue, to talk about her forthcoming solo exhibition, Chroma, at BLANKSPACE, and her efforts to raise the money she needs via crowdsourcing.  To contribute please go to her sponsume.com page here.

For the collectors and completists here is the unedited text of the interview:

What first got you interested in colour collecting and this kind of work?

It goes right back to when I was a really young girl. I lived in Barnsley and their wasn't much happening, so I used to go and visit Barnsley market on a Saturday; go into town shopping. And I'd come back with really bright little bottles of nail varnish. I was about eight. I'd get home and then I'd arrange them in colour order along my bedroom window sill, until after a year or so I'd got so many that I had a complete spectrum lined up.

So that must have been the very first foray into collecting, way before the music memorabilia, the dolls' house furniture collecting; anything like that. My dad is a record collector as well. He has a wall that is full of CDs and records, so it's been in me from day dot.

I've always been naturally attracted to bright shiny colours. Brash colours. I'm not interested in subtle tones. They don't belong in my work. For me it exploring the manufactured quality, mainly plastics, which obviously always come in garish colours. Quite... POP!

When did your collecting and your colour obsession become your art?

I struggled on my degree. Went to Glasgow -great university, great art school- and spent two or three years faffing about with different ideas trying to make work that I thought I was interested in. I was making work about what I thought it would be like to be a celebrity. Work about life, drawing, and none of it really seemed to suit me. My tutors knew about the fact that I collected pop memorabilia, and therefore bright intense colouration.

The photographs that I would always take as documentation or research were always shots of brightly coloured things in shops, always lined up. Compacted together in a mass. In my third and final year I sat down and looked at all the elements that were feeding my practise and they said it's obvious. It's obvious it's about colour. It's obvious it's about collecting and using these two things in space so you are immersing the viewer in a kaleidoscopic environments... Why aren't you making work about this?

And it was one of those Ah-hah! moments. From the Christmas leading up to my degree show I started experimenting with making collections of single coloured objects. I started with yellow, hence why I've got quite a lot of yellow. I made a piece in my degree show using just yellow objects. And so it began.

How will you develop this in the new show, Chroma?

The work in Chroma is going to be on a much larger scale. The work I have made in the past, my chamber pieces where people can only look through a tiny slot in the wall, so it's not quite tangible; there's a barrier between. I've always wished I had a budget so I could completely envelop someone in a whole room. With Chroma I have that, so I'm given an opportunity.

There are four different rooms at BLANKSPACE [the gallery hosting Chroma]. One is going to be completely green -ceiling, flour, walls- the lighting is going to be intense. Garish green. Grass green. The the next room is going to be like walking into the sunshine: yellow. The royal blue, kind of a marine blue. And then postbox red. So very obvious colour choices. Your primary colours and then green, one of your secondaries.

Those colours and then the lighting in those rooms will then affect white objects which will run in a horizontal perspex tube through the four spaces as if the four spaces are joined together. So again I'm working with illusion, like in the chambers with the mirrors, but I'm being given the space to actually fabricate a huge structure.

You are crowdfunding through Sponsume to raise the money needed for Chroma. How much more do you need to raise, and what do people get in exchange for their donations?

I'm looking to raise one thousand pounds, and I've got about three hundred and fifty, so I'm looking for another six hundred and fifty. Is that right? Maths was never my strong point! There are different incentives for people depending on how much they donate. The top one: if they were to donate three hundred pounds I would make a piece of work especially for that person, a commission.

For a hundred pounds you get a day with me, oh joy! So, a studio tour, tour around the exhibition, nice cup of coffee, chat about whatever they want to... within reason! Seventy five pounds gets them one of my trolley prints, they can choose the primary colours or the secondary colours. I would personally go for one of the primary colours -either the blue, red, or yellow- because they were the originals. They have been exhibited nationwide and internationally and would ordinarily cost three hundred pounds each, but for this limited time only seventy five pounds will get them an unframed print. And they are limited edition.

For thirty pounds, a signed copy of the book, a limited edition publication of one hundred copies. And then as you get further down, ten pounds will get your name on my website, a set of postcards. Right down to a pound which will get you a smile, but in actual fact will buy me a purely coloured object from the pound shop and that will be in the show. Every little really does help.

What do you want to achieve with Chroma; artistically, career wise?

That's a big question. This is my first solo show and a rather major one because of the space I'm using. It's huge, it's vast and it's quite an interesting space as well. What I'm trying to do is get an array of people there; opinion formers, gallery curators, art collectors, dealers, critics, people who... and even if they don't actually come and see the show they will be sent a VIP private view card which illustrates my work, so they are getting to know my name. It is important for a young artist these days.

I'm just hoping to push my name out there a bit more than it has been up to this point. For people to see that I am ambitious with my ideas, with my work, and to see that I am capable of working in interesting spaces, site-specific work. Or even with, for example, the dolls' house piece; it was a piece that can be shown anywhere. Let's hope it moves my career on to the next rung of the ladder from where I am now.

So, what would you like that to be? The next rung of the ladder, artistically?

I would like to keep investing time in funding proposals that enable me to keep making large-scale work which is comparable in scale to James Turrell. Massive, all-immersive environments. That's what excites me as a viewer, so that's what I want to excite my viewers with. Obviously you have limitations when you haven't got a huge budget. That would be one thing; I want to just keep pushing the scale of the work.

Conceptually within the work I want to have a bit of time to really read up on my subjects, more so than I already have done. So I'm really immersing myself in information about colour theory, about collecting, and also about curating light, in space and immersive environments. So much has been written about these subjects that it is unreal, so I just want to fill some knowledge.

What would be really interesting would be to work collaboratively with a writer, to maybe come up with a piece of text relating to these subjects. That's something I would quite like to do. From a career level, having gallery representation would be fantastic, and getting more commissions.

What would be your dream space to do a site-specific piece in?

When I was... I went to the first show when the Tate Modern opened and I remembered seeing Louise Bourgeois' name in the vinyl lettering on the glass panels at the top of the Tate. I said to my mum, Mum, one day I want to see 'Liz West' on there. Which means I have to somehow fill the Turbine Hall. I like a challenge! Maybe in fifty years time! I think that's an interesting space.

I don't think I've seen enough spaces, perhaps?

Finally, is there anything else you'd like to say?

For the installation work in the Chroma exhibition there's going to be a mass of white objects and a mass of orange objects, and obviously I need to gather those somehow. So whether they are found, bought or given, so here's my opportunity to call out to people!

If you have got anything they would throw away -milk bottles, yogurt pots, etc- donate them to Blank Media, or bring them to me at Rogue Artists' Studios, then the more the merrier. It needs to be pure white or pure orange, but you can strip the labels off them, take tops off, clean them up.

For example, green egg box, I've just taken the labels off that. The same with a kind of domestic bottle, peeled off the labels and then that obviously turns it into a purely coloured object. So, they're my rules!

And! I quite like plastic materials because of the manufactured quality of them, rather than glass, or I completely hate natural things; it has to be artificial colour, cos that's quite a bright orange.

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