Interview for The Edition – In The Studio with Emma Lawrenson 2015
An A-Z of how my work is made from start to finish!
Interview for House and Gardens magazine 2014 by Emily Tobin
Do any other artists inspire your work?
Those I have been thinking about recently are Agnes Martin, Ettore Sottsass, Andrew Bick, Breon O’casey and Louise Bourgeois. However, I would say my main inspiration remains with the American Color Field artists and a little bit of Fifties textiles design thrown in!
And what beyond artists inspire your work?
The inspiration for much of my work comes from my immediate environment and the rural landscape. Living in the countryside has a big influence. I have two styles of working. I work with irregular drawn shapes, and I also make geometric/linear work. Inspiration for the latter usually comes from the harder landscape; stone buildings, barns, doorways, windows, pathways. I try to look beyond the obvious and note unusual shapes, patterns and colours as I go about my day.
What is your studio like?
My home studio is my Yorkshire farmhouse. It faces out into a lovely flower filled courtyard garden with an adjacent barn. It is part of our home, so it it filled with antique furniture, painted glass cupboards strewn with pots and pots of inks, my large collection of art books and two overflowing plan chests. At the moment I travel to a printmaking workshop about ten miles away once a week to use the facilities there. I have plans to turn our barn into my own screen printing studio soon.
How would you describe your work?
Minimal, abstract, simple, understated, elegant.
What appeals to you about the screen printing process?
I love that is allows me to be very methodical and precise. It enables me to produce crisp, smooth and clean images, exploring shape and form through the layering of colours, textures and painterly marks. I love the anticipation of lifting up the screen to see what has happened underneath on the paper.
Can you describe the process?
Screen printing is a stencil method of printmaking. A fine mesh screen is coated with a photo-sensitive emulsion and left to dry in a darkroom. The stencil is transferred onto the screen using ultraviolet light. I create stencils from either cut paper or by drawing onto special film using inks, pastels and china graph pencils. Once the screen is made, ink is forced through the voids in the mesh using a squeegee. One colour is printed at a time, so several screens are used to produce a multi-coloured image.
I press all of my work between tissue paper and weigh it down under heavy boards to flatten perfectly, then I edition the prints in pencil. Some pieces are worked into afterwards with white conte crayon or pencil.
To what extent does nature/landscape inform your practice?
Very much so, but I think in a subconscious way. The shapes, contours and colours of the landscape are part of my daily life, and I make a point of absorbing as much as possible wherever I am.
How important is colour, form and shape?
These three elements are fundamental to my work. From the initial origins/drawings/photographs in my sketchbooks I begin a process of stripping everything back to the bare essentials through a process of abstraction. Images then begin to evolve as small paintings or collages. I spend my time adding removing and moving pieces around on a background, allowing the image to slowing define itself. The emphasis of the work then becomes wholly about shape, colour,proportion, scale and balance.
Colour is often the most difficult and time consuming aspect to get right. Work ultimately emerges by intuition, and then I modify it several times before a decision is made. Even after printing, I modify and re-work some pieces by tweaking colours.
How small is your print run?
I like to keep editions small, so I usually make edition sizes between 10 & 30.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a new series of large ‘drawn’ geometric screen prints. These have soft muted colours and mix elements of solid block colour with hand drawn textures. I love the rhythms and structures of geometry. I can play with internal and external space within a flat background.
And what is next?
My printmaking studio is a must this summer, and then it’s full steam ahead making work on a larger scale. I am exhibiting in the RA summer exhibition at the moment, and have been invited to exhibit at ‘The Royal Academy of Arts in Yorkshire’ and the 7th Printmaking Biennale in Duoro, Portugal soon. I hope to hold a solo exhibition in London, watch this space!
Interview: February 2012
Can you briefly describe what you do?
I am a printmaker, only using the screen printing process at the moment.
I make abstract prints inspired by anything and everything around me. I notice unusual shapes, patterns and colours then try to make some sort of order out of them back in my studio. I can take shapes and images from almost anywhere and am constantly scanning as I go about my day.
Deciding what is worthy of noting, or drawing is sometimes a struggle. If I’m lacking stimulus or feel overwhelmed by all the stuff in my sketchbooks I’ll go out for a walk with my dog in the hills or by the river and absorb colours, textures and clear my head.
I have two main styles of working; one is the more hard-edged geometric or linear style and the other, the more fluid abstract shapes and organic work.
I tend to focus back to nature and the rural landscape when I find myself going off on tangents, it makes me channel into an area I find calming and makes me work at a slower pace.
I find the organic prints are the most beautiful. They have softer lines and curves. These also tend to be the prints with the least colours, so never seem to go wrong.
Does your work go wrong?
Sometimes the colours in my prints do go badly wrong and I have to overprint several times. I find colour is the most time consuming part of the work.
You talk about different styles of work, which style of work do you enjoy making the most?
I enjoy both, depending how I’m feeling at the time. I like creating the more geometric work simply because I enjoy patterns and the challenge of working with more colours. As a child, I loved drawing patterns and filling them in. I like that there is a structure and that an image will nearly always work without having to try too hard at it.
I tend to stick to certain rules; I like to crop the shapes, I prefer to work within a rectangle and I think about positive and negative space. I find this is ingrained in me, an intuitive part of my practice. I question whether the image is balanced and if your eye is led into the picture, or if it is too static…..I question myself all the time.
When making work I also think about how the work will ‘fit in’ with other works. I feel that it is very important to view works side by side, letting them interact with one another. I never just print something hoping it will just slot into place with others.
I always have both finished and unfinished work on my studio and home walls, it helps me to work out sizes and connections between works.
What drives you to make work?
The process and formal qualities and conventions of screen printing fascinate me. My work is an engagment with the process, and I have a need to create work that is perfectly printed. I view printing as a craft, it is a skill to practice and keep practicing, like ceramics or painting. Another reason is the need to simply sort through and express my ideas.
Can you tell me something of your day-to-day working practice?
After I have dropped my two children at school I go to my studio, which is currently at home. I check e-mails to see if I have made any sales that need wrapping and posting out. Also I have quite a few clients now who often e-mail, so I keep checking throughout the day.
I usually get down to some serious work at about 8.30 when I look through my sketchbooks and notes to see what I did the day before. On most days I work out ideas as small collages, I have a few on the go at once. I paint onto spare pieces of Fabriano Paper, and then cut them up to make the collages, working from the drawings or photographs in my sketchbooks. I spend my time adding, removing and moving pieces around on a background, allowing the image to slowly define itself.
My whole week revolves around a Friday, which is the only day I can have sole use of the screen printing room at the print workshop I use. I have to be on my own there or I lose concentration and make mistakes.
Thursdays are pretty hectic, as I need to have all my artwork ready to transfer onto the screens the next day, and I have to have all my inks mixed in advance.
I find it tough, not having my own printing facilitites. It’s like being a painter, but only being able to get to my canvas on a friday. It’s difficult. I’m in the process of drawing up plans for a studio in an outbuilding at the moment.
How long have you been working in that way?
I have always worked this way. When I’m not printing I am wielding a scalpel! When I was at the R.C.A, I seemed to spend a lot of time carefully cutting up bits of paper with a scalpel. My studio became known as ‘the surgery’!
Which artists have had the greatest affect on your work?
Those I have been thinking about recently are Rachel Whiteread, Agnes Martin, Frank Stella, Ettore Sottsass and Anni Albers. I look at other artists work daily. It’s hard to pinpoint a few, I love the St Ives artists, the American color-field artsists, in particular Ellsworth Kelly.
I’m lucky to live really close to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which must be one of the best in the world, I visit every exhibition. I often visit each show more than once, to take it all in. I am always amazed by the work on show. I particularly enjoy seeing the drawings that accompany the sculptures, they really show the workings and thought processes of the artist. I was blown away by the work of Peter Randall-Page .
What outside visual art, informs your practice?
I filter many elements from things such as magazines, books, views out of the car window, or simply the landscape when I’m out walking, anything I find useful. I try to keep my eyes open wherever I am.
How would you like people to engage with your work?
When contemplating a print I think about how someone will view the work. I want people to linger and feel there is something to discover. I’d like there to be some intrigue and a connection to the work without necessarily knowing what each print actually is. I’d like people to appreciate the colours and forms without worrying about meaning. I love work that is immediate, simplicity is everything.
Have you seen anything recently that has made an impression?
I bought a book recently; ‘Rachel Whiteread Drawings’ from the shop at The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield. Her drawings are exquisite.
Do you have anything exciting on the horizon?
I’m working towards a solo show at the Duckett & Jeffreys Gallery in May. I have also been offered my first international solo show at the r.mfa (Rochester Museum of Fine Arts) in the USA later in the year.
For up to date information about me and my work you can also visit my blog: www.emmalawrenson.blogspot.com