It’s a bright sunny day and from Maria’s top-floor Herne Hill window we can see the Gherkin and Canary Wharf glistening in the distance. Glass also glistens around us in her sitting room.

Maria, how are you preparing for Bankside?
I’m sifting through a lot of work to do with transience and transition. A lot is to do with mirror glass, which is a good medium for expressing transience, because it varies at different times of day and under different light effects, and when people move and become part of it. So I’m experimenting with that, and with a series of works based on nature, mainly flowers. One of the series is Dandyclock.Dandyclock, float glass and mirror glass, 30cm x 30cmFlowers have their perfect moments, and don’t look the same from one day to the next; they’re very symbolic of transience. The fused float glass holds and catches the light reflected off the mirror glass behind it, which in turn catches the viewer’s image and affects how the work looks, as the viewer fleetingly becomes part of the work. I’ve superimposed the tack-fused rectangles of float glass on top of the mirror glass, which has been etched away, just leaving circles of mirror.I’ve also created blurred images of people moving round and travelling, constant movement with no destination, so the images are in a circular form.Mirageman, float glass and etched mirror glass, 30 x 30cmThese images of people are actually related to those of flowers; I’ve presented people in vaguely flower-like shapes, emphasising the fleetingness of our lives, the way that you may have arrived at a particular moment, but nothing is fixed, everything is constantly changing. The sandblasting gives it a different texture. Whereas in the daytime the figures look black, by night the visual impact is totally different. This means it’s very hard to photograph my glass – even a light-box would fix it too much – and you need to get a sense of texture, but it’s hard to capture the magic of glass.

You studied fashion and textiles in the 1980s. How did you get from there to glass?
My ambition as a six-year-old was to be a painter, as painting is in my family. Although my mother was a very good painter and my grandfather was also a good artist, both ditched their artistic talents to follow financially secure careers. I didn’t want to make that sacrifice, so I choose a way that seemed to have both creative and financial potential. Balancing the two has taken me from fashion, to illustration, and graphic design. I have been involved in fine art projects alongside the commercial work, and glass became part of my more personal creative explorations.At this point my eyes light on the most amazing chair I have ever seen. It’s clearly old, but instead of a wooden seat, there is a piece of glass with writing and patterns all over.Never too lateOld chair with inset glass seat. Sandblasted glass, 40cm x 40cmIn one of my grandfather’s old chairs I’ve incorporated a piece of art work he did in July 1914, the month when the 1st World War broke out. He was just too young to be drafted, but actually lost two brothers to the war, and that knocked any sense of fancy idealism out of him, and made him very realistic. Instead of following his dreams he turned instead to become an accountant, and worked for Tate and Lyle, but didn’t completely abandon his interest in art; he was always pottering and fixing things, and made beautiful toys.Never too late was made after my father died. I inherited some of the furniture from my grandparents' house, that had been passed on to my father, and although the furniture was very rickety and a bit broken I'd always liked it, so couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. In deciding to use the chairs to incorporate glass I created portraits of the family as a sort of memorial. For the seat I used float glass, sandblasted on both sides. The design is based on a piece of art work my grandfather actually did at school.Returning to my interest in textiles, I’ve created lace-like effects in glass. The lace had to do with the life of a nice, comfortable, financially secure home, the life my grandparents had, a life with net curtains. But the lace can hide emotions and is a bit like glass – you can see through it, but it can be a threshold you pass through, like birth, marriage and death, life events where lace also plays a key role.

Talking about key life events, Maria, have you always lived in London?I was born here, moved to Cheshire when I was quite young, went to Art college in Bristol and moved back after college to London, so I have been here most of my life.Back to the chair. How did you create the lace-effect on the glass?I used fablon, with the lace image cut away with a scalpel.I see that on the other side of the room there’s another chair being worked on.Yes, that’s linked to my grandmother. She was a very typical English woman of those times, and because my grandfather worked for Tate and Lyle she always had huge amounts of every sort of sugar and syrup, made a lot of cakes, and always had a bag of sweets in her handbag.[Me: Mmm. Isn’t that interesting. I can’t think when I last had a bag of sweets in my handbag. Especially since Woolworths has gone with their Pick and Mix …Maria: Well, I always have a bag of sweets! Probably because of my grandmother. There was actually one on the mantelpiece, but I moved it before you came! ]So I’m making sugar cubes out of glass and they are going to be part of my ‘grandmother’s’ chair: I think it will be called ‘One lump or two’. The work with the chairs is very much to do with people and their history, because I’ve always been interested in people, have always been a people-watcher, and like trying to understand what makes people tick. For me art is a way of communicating this.Have you ever done any portraits?In a way I’m doing my own portrait, looking for bits of myself in my family, going over the family history to pick bits I like. I really enjoy working with mirror – and I like experimenting with the fabric side of things, seeing how textiles express a person and tell you something about who they are, and how they use things. With portraits I start in a fairly abstract sort of way: I have, for example, done a profile of my daughter in glass, using powdered frit (finely crushed glass), and I'm experimenting with silhouettes.When did you start working with glass?I’d only been out of college a couple of years and worked for a design company, and one day someone I worked with was going to a stained-glass class in Hampstead and I went too – from then on I was spending every Sunday making stained-glass panels. I was interested in the material qualities of glass and in colour, but couldn’t see any way of using it in my professional work. Then I worked with Ben Kelly Design on the interior of a gallery in a building designed by architect Will Allsop and I used laser-cut mirror – actually it was plexiglass – and this was a turning point, when I realised I could bring glass into my professional life.After my father died I began to think of all the things I wanted to do, and decided that life was too short to wait, and it was time to do them, so I closed the design studio and applied to Central St Martins to do a Postgraduate Certificate in Glass and Architecture. They showed me a lot of techniques, and we had a wide variety of lectures from lecturers on all different aspects of practice. Now I’m back again at St Martin’s, this time doing the course on Glass and Fine Art!Where do you exhibit?I’ve been selected for a research programme with Flat Time House on Bellenden Road in Peckham. It was the house of artist John Latham, and I am one of four people who have been selected to do research projects which we will exhibit in the Window Gallery in Charing Cross Road in March. And of course, as I said, I’m exhibiting at Bankside in April/May.My eyes caught a work on the mantelpiece.What’s this?Skylace, painted glass, 30 x 30cmI was looking at areas where people meet and their paths and interests briefly cross, places like airports, hotels, galleries, public spaces, and was thinking about the patterns people make. Each person is in their own world, but these worlds intersect and make patterns. That again takes us back to the textiles. I'm using lace as a way to represent patterns in behaviour, and the repetitions that define us, but it’s also about transitions, this time between the people and the lace-like patterns and designs that people form when they interact.Lots of ideas!Yes, I’ve always got lots of project ideas, and now I need to complete certain lines of thinking before I move off into different directions. I guess I’m coming back to who I am, where I am and what I am, and the complex patterns of interaction that this makes.Thanks so much, Maria, for talking about your work – that was absolutely fascinating!Look forward very much to seeing your work at Bankside 28 April – 5 May.
I met Elly Wright in the light, spacious studio in south London that she’s had for about 14 years. Colour is very important to her, as I found out – as is space and a love of France.

Have you always painted?
No. I was born in the Netherlands and as a child I went to museums in Amsterdam a lot with my grandfather – I loved the works of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Van Gogh. But I actually studied languages and worked for many years as a Secretary and PA, and later had a career in public housing. It wasn’t until 1987 that I started drawing and painting classes at City Literary Institute (City Lit), then did a BA at Chelsea College of Art and Design, graduating in 2000.

Is colour very important to you?

Yes, I’m really ‘seduced’ by colour - I like both acrylics and oils. At first I worked in oil, but in winter the smell of turps and paint gave me a headache and the paint wouldn’t dry (now you can use various mediums, gels and texture paste so the paint dries more quickly). I try to get more depth and a different use of space with acrylics. Sometimes I put on a layer of paint, then before it’s completely dry I splatter water over it or splash it with a brush and then take off the wet bits, so you get a certain energy – it depends on what I’m painting. Basically I need to be able to ‘lose myself’.

How do you ‘lose yourself’?
Something takes my eye round in a certain direction; or it might be a meander or an explosion of colour. Then I follow something, come to rest, and engage with it – look at it for quite a while and discover things. That doesn’t mean to say it all stays – quite a lot gets painted out.What I’m aiming for is a feeling of depth and space, as in On the Move (diptych, acrylic and pencil on canvas, 76cm x 122cm).



At the start it’s too early to say how a work will develop. I even take sandpaper to a work, or, if it’s small enough, I put it in the sink. Or I leave it out in the rain or put a garden hose on it when it’s half wet. I need to ‘disturb’ the landscape so it is not too much a ‘landscape’ – I drop paint on it, thus adding another layer or layers. This makes the landscape recede more. If I hadn’t got the layer of dark splashes in the front the rest wouldn’t come to life so much. You never know quite where a work might take you. It has to work for me, but also for the person who looks at it.

Since 1990 you’ve had a studio in France in a hamlet about an hour from Albi, home of Toulouse Lautrec. A lot of your works show the landscape there. Do you paint outside?
No. The landscape inspires me, but I never sit outside painting. I do the odd sketch, and some drawing and colour references, and take lots of photographs, then I work in my studio, usually focussing on one small section. Most of the paintings come about by little accidents. Something happens which makes me develop it in a certain direction. Memories of what I’ve experienced/felt emerge on to the canvas.

What direction is your work going in now?

In France I’m very aware of the wide, open spaces and the little hills. Previously I was looking more at what I saw in the hedgerows or at the side of the road, but now I’m trying to capture the feeling of space, but still zoom in on specific areas with a more intimate feel about them. Rather than represent it as it is, which never holds any charm for me, I try to give a feeling of the atmosphere, rather than provide an almost photographic record. Campagne No.2 (acrylic and pencil on canvas, 40cm x 40cm) is a good example of this.



You’ve had exhibitions of your work in both France and the UK. Do the French react differently to our work to people in the UK?

The French want to speak to you and ask questions – they make their kids ask questions too. I’ve had amazing interaction with the public in France. If other artists or SLWA members come to see my work, they’ll ask questions and give an opinion, but often people in Britain seem more reluctant to engage. In commercial terms my last exhibition in France was almost a complete sell-out. I was very lucky. The French can’t usually afford to spend a lot, apart from those who’re living in the big cities.

Do you think they bought the works because it was the countryside they knew?
No. It’s more the colours that they like. They feel uplifted by the paintings, as I do when a painting works. The atmosphere comes over – that’s a nice feeling.



That definitely comes over – you don’t need to know the actual landscape to appreciate the mood you’re creating! Thanks for your time, Elly.


In May I caught up with Gabrielle Bradshaw at Jeannie Avent Gallery in East Dulwich. She was surrounded by her works in charcoal, metal wall sculptures and her new venture, works in colour. Gabrielle came from an artistic family. Her father worked in advertising and as a child there were always lots of art materials around. The other important formative element in her childhood was trees and woods. Her garden backed on to trees and she had to walk to her primary school each day via One Tree Hill.

What did you study as an art student?
 I did the Foundation Course and then Sculpture at Camberwell, at the time considered to be the best department in the country. My drawings were all linear black lines and my tutor said why not use metal to interpret the black lines instead of clay or stone. I became really interested in metalwork and did the forge-work course at the Rural Development Centre in Salisbury which was set up to keep the old crafts going such as blacksmithing or scrollwork. Then I worked for a year and a half at the National Theatre in the welding shop – they used to make their own sets for the three theatres, but now it’s not all done in-house. In the past I did quite large pieces but now mostly do wall-pieces that are more accessible and can be put indoors.

 
How do you set about making a sculpture?
I start with the drawing – trees are my main theme - and usually have some idea about where it’s going. The metal is always beaten stock circular metal (round bar) and I beat it and hammer it to take off the man-made look, to give it a more organic feel. Sometimes things escalate and you can keep adding more and more and the work gets bigger and bigger. Recently I finished Summer Magic – it’s abstract but has strong roots in figurative drawing and is actually based on a snowberry bush. Canopy is based on one of those pathways where the leaves on one side join up with the other side.

 
How long have you worked in charcoal?
About the last fifteen years, working very, very specifically monochrome. I developed a way of working that’s close to the metalwork in feel.

Very recently, and especially in the last couple of months, I’ve started working with colour. This is a very, very new venture. It’s extremely exciting and a bit scary. This is the first exhibition I’ve had with probably more colour works than black and white, and I’m a bit nervous. The feedback has been that the three types of work fit very well together. The colour work gives the metalwork a new dimension and metalwork gives the black and white drawing more vibrancy.

How do you work with charcoal and pastels?
Over the years I’ve built up a language that makes sense. I’m meticulous with the drawing and concentrate on getting the information down on the whole surface (I’m always out in the woods with my easel - if the weather’s good it takes a day or two to do and I may be able to do the whole thing out of doors), but then these details may get lost. The next stage involves a sense of dancing all over it. This is when I allow myself to be more intuitive and less representational. I once did a course on Chinese brush painting and position 5 is the one where you stab. I like working with a material you can use fairly quickly and aggressively. I create the greys by using my paintbrush and water and pulling the charcoal round. There’s an element of painting, but the works aren’t smudgy. Ironically, that’s normally the joy of charcoal, but I prefer clarity and strong lines.

As I said, recently I’ve been branching out and using colour – oil pastels and watercolour pencils. I allow myself to be quite intuitive, but only use five or six colours and am very selective. At the moment I’m still not sure where the colour work is going.

Any plans for the future?
I did a fair bit of etching at college on the Foundation course and that’s possibly something I might like to take up again.
Watch this space!
 
PS The drawings from the show are now being exhibited at The Palmerston on Lordship Lane until 8th July, and then some will be in The Dolphin as part of the Sydenham Festival.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

I met up with Bolton-born Patsy Whiting at King’s Place, the new cultural venue just behind King’s Cross station. We discussed three aspects of her work: digital animations, print-making, and portraits based on life-drawing.

How did your interest in art begin?
I studied Art at Loughborough, then went back to my roots in the north-west, where I began a career in teaching. I started by teaching art, then moved into deaf education and finally took an MSc in Educational Audiology which led to a much wider role working in a local paediatric audiology clinic in addition to teaching and providing advice for mainstream schools on hearing impairment. I’ve always been passionate about drawing and print-making, but once I bought a printing press I realised that I hadn’t got enough time to devote to my art, and in 2007 I gave up my job to pursue art full-time.

Can we start by talking about some of your earlier work, the animations?
While I was working as a teacher I still continued producing art. The reason I became more and more interested in graphics and visuals was partly out of a desire to explain things to the deaf children I was teaching. I returned to some photography I’d done as an art student, involving nudes and coloured lighting, and decided to experiment with animating these images.

Then I developed two more animations, Paper Doll Ballet 
and Neon Dream, using a painted print of dancers from the 1980s, various photos and a drawing. These took about two years and were completed in 2007.

In Paper Doll Ballet I loved the contrasts between the figures and the background.
Yes, I’m very interested in the interplay of monochrome and colour, the nude form and the effect of light on the body. I create a shallow space, with the background quite close. The music for these two animations is electronic music that I selected myself. With Neon Dream I was interested in the connection between a sign for a fish and chip shop, and on the other hand, an image of a tight-rope walker seen in a gallery in Berlin.

It sounds an unlikely combination, but it works really well! Which artists have influenced you most?
Picasso – I was fascinated by the way he depicted women, particularly the formal side, and how he showed stillness and strangeness. Surrealism had always fascinated me. I was also influenced by Léger and Braque, and more recently Balthus, Edward Hopper and Seurat. In my view, Seurat does the most beautiful drawings - his technique was to use a soft fatty conte crayon on grainy paper, just catching the uppermost grain of paper, so that there are no lines, just light and shade. I think Seurat felt you need to sort out things in monochrome before you introduce colour.

About four years ago I visited the Picasso Museum in Paris. This inspired me to return to Picasso’s iconic Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). I selected a section of the work, did drawings and made a large nine part print, each part being A1 in size.
I picked up on a technique I’d used before – I’d planned to make prints and then make a collage out of them, but in the end I left them as nine separate images, separated by the mounting board – it almost looks like a window.

Yes. You said earlier that Picasso’s work has a certain strangeness. Your ‘take’ on his work is also ‘strange’, but very distinctive. Moving now to your recent developments. How do you think your work is changing?
I used to be very dependent on, and influenced by other artists and my imagination, but since January I have become more and more interested in what I see – not editing things out according to some preconceived idea of what the world is like. Now I’m going regularly to a life-drawing class, and that’s really changing how I work.

There are a number of drawings of a model. One of them is called Student Doctor 2, 2009 (crayon on paper, 50cm x 58cm)
.

The series will probably end up comprising between 10 and 20 works. In Lily

 
Lilly

there is more stylisation than in Student Doctor 2 – it’s not so clear in the reproduction, but there are a range of colours, from the flesh tones to creams, browns, russets and pinks.

 When I first saw Moonlight 2009 (crayon on paper 63 x 46cm)
Moonlight 

I was struck by the resemblance to David’s The Death of Marat (1793). That’s amazing – yes, that was one of my influences. Did you see the recent exhibition at the Royal Academy of work by Vilhelm Hammershøi?
No, why?

Well, he was also very interested in showing stillness (you’d said earlier that was one of the things you admired in Picasso), and often showed a figure from behind, so you didn’t see the face.
Moonlight 2009 was drawn after some hot nights. I’d disappeared to open a window to get cooler and you can see the moon from our skylight at home. I don’t have a preconceived idea of the atmosphere I’m going to create – I concentrate on the form and want the atmosphere to emerge on its own. Some parts are quite stylised, even though the basis is the natural form. If you look carefully you’ll see there’s no shading in the hair – I wanted to leave that section as a gap. 
How is the exhibiting going?
I have shown work at the Society of Women Artists Open Exhibitions at the Mall galleries in 2008/9, at Nottingham Society of Artists, several other open exhibitions and am hoping to have work in the SLWA Dulwich Library and Bankside exhibitions. In addition I’ve already a number of dates booked when my work is being shown in exhibitions in 2009 and early 2010.

Thanks very much for your time, Patsy. All three types of work, the animations, the prints and the drawings, are intriguing in different ways. It would be great if you could have an exhibition to showcase this diversity and versatility.

Golf tees, grids and the written word: Interview with Claudia Tate of Tate Sisters
by Susan Wood

Whereas all the other members of SLWA are individuals, TATE SISTERS are two sisters, Claudia and Emeline, who still work together even though Emeline is now in California. I talked to Claudia in her Peckham home/studio.

Why are you called Tate Sisters and what got you interested in art?
That’s our name! And we’re sisters! It’s obviously a name that people will remember. We’ve both always been encouraged to paint by Mum – we did arts and crafts from an early age and loved it. It just feels like a natural part of life. After doing a Foundation Art course at Brighton where I got a taste of everything – sculpting, animation, printing, life-drawing etc - I specialised in Fine Art. Almost immediately I finished the course I got a job in London as a picture researcher. Emeline did a Foundation Course in Eastbourne and a Fashion Degree in Worthing and is now working in California.

A contract with Art Group. Tate Sisters have had work accepted by Art Group, who’ve made greeting cards and posters from your works. How did that happen?
Art Group are always on the look-out for new artists. They came across our work on our website and contacted us. They took four of Emeline’s works and they’re sold as cards, distributed by WH Smith. Two of my works are going to be reproduced as posters for Habitat in the autumn 2009, and distributed world-wide. The posters are entitled Your Smile Makes Me Smile and Anyone Can. We then get royalties every six months.

What materials are used in the actual works?
We’ve both done works in which we push brightly coloured golf tees [bought online] into the holes in a board (the sort that could be used for displaying tools). We both like grids, organised patterns and colour. Emeline works slightly differently to me – in acrylic paint she leaves all the holes as holes, whereas I cover them over with the paint. In my work I Saw Falling Rain I arrange the pegs almost in the order of the rainbow – red, orange, beige, yellow, green, blue and violet. The patterns run horizontally, vertically and diagonally.

What gave you both the idea?
There was a work with nails banged into a board, creating shadows. Rather than copying it we varied the idea and used colours so the falling light gives you different shadows, and used golf tees rather than nails.

Quite a lot of your work includes the written word. How do you use it?
The works with lots of writing are Emeline’s – I don’t like to ‘expose myself’ so much – with her it’s out there on the wall – I like to be more hidden. For example, Twinkle Star is a work she did about a guy she really liked – or Relish In Growing Older is about growing older. She’s three years older than me and I think she’s more prepared to share her inner world.

Are you involved in any other artists’ groups, Claudia?
Yes, I’m part of East End London Artists, and they were recently in Design Week magazine, where they featured one of my felt-tip works, We Met Joe. My sister and I did meet Joe Strummer at a private view at Proud Galleries; he was lovely, and again words are central. We were invited to choose a song or a lyric to do with London and we all developed the idea differently - I chose The Clash’s London Calling, as it was so personal.

 Thanks very much for your time, Claudia.

PS Look out for TATE SISTERS at WH Smith now and at Habitat later this year.

Golf tees, grids and the written word: Interview with Claudia Tate of Tate Sisters
by Susan Wood

Whereas all the other members of SLWA are individuals, TATE SISTERS are two sisters, Claudia and Emeline, who still work together even though Emeline is now in California. I talked to Claudia in her Peckham home/studio.

Why are you called Tate Sisters and what got you interested in art?
That’s our name! And we’re sisters! It’s obviously a name that people will remember. We’ve both always been encouraged to paint by Mum – we did arts and crafts from an early age and loved it. It just feels like a natural part of life. After doing a Foundation Art course at Brighton where I got a taste of everything – sculpting, animation, printing, life-drawing etc - I specialised in Fine Art. Almost immediately I finished the course I got a job in London as a picture researcher. Emeline did a Foundation Course in Eastbourne and a Fashion Degree in Worthing and is now working in California.

A contract with Art Group. Tate Sisters have had work accepted by Art Group, who’ve made greeting cards and posters from your works. How did that happen?
Art Group are always on the look-out for new artists. They came across our work on our website and contacted us. They took four of Emeline’s works and they’re sold as cards, distributed by WH Smith. Two of my works are going to be reproduced as posters for Habitat in the autumn 2009, and distributed world-wide. The posters are entitled Your Smile Makes Me Smile and Anyone Can. We then get royalties every six months.

What materials are used in the actual works?
We’ve both done works in which we push brightly coloured golf tees [bought online] into the holes in a board (the sort that could be used for displaying tools). We both like grids, organised patterns and colour. Emeline works slightly differently to me – in acrylic paint she leaves all the holes as holes, whereas I cover them over with the paint. In my work I Saw Falling Rain I arrange the pegs almost in the order of the rainbow – red, orange, beige, yellow, green, blue and violet. The patterns run horizontally, vertically and diagonally.

What gave you both the idea?
There was a work with nails banged into a board, creating shadows. Rather than copying it we varied the idea and used colours so the falling light gives you different shadows, and used golf tees rather than nails.

Quite a lot of your work includes the written word. How do you use it?
The works with lots of writing are Emeline’s – I don’t like to ‘expose myself’ so much – with her it’s out there on the wall – I like to be more hidden. For example, Twinkle Star is a work she did about a guy she really liked – or Relish In Growing Older is about growing older. She’s three years older than me and I think she’s more prepared to share her inner world.

Are you involved in any other artists’ groups, Claudia?
Yes, I’m part of East End London Artists, and they were recently in Design Week magazine, where they featured one of my felt-tip works, We Met Joe. My sister and I did meet Joe Strummer at a private view at Proud Galleries; he was lovely, and again words are central. We were invited to choose a song or a lyric to do with London and we all developed the idea differently - I chose The Clash’s London Calling, as it was so personal.

 Thanks very much for your time, Claudia.

PS Look out for TATE SISTERS at WH Smith now and at Habitat later this year.