So I hear you grew up in Manchester, do you mind please telling me what you studied there and what brought you to practice conceptual art in London today?
I studied my BA in Environmental Art at the Glasgow School of Art. I then went on do my MA at the Valand Academy in Gothenburg, followed by a year in Sweden, and Central Saint Martins in London and since then I have been residing in London.
You found success early on by winning the Mercury Art Prize selected by Tim Marlow and Sir Peter Blake; what an accomplishment, congratulations. I imagine that was an incredible feeling, how has it affected your career long-term?
To be honest it was a bit of a whirlwind. As a student, there are lots of adverts for open calls, prizes etc. and you never expect to win them at any point in time. I entered with a work in mind, which I felt met the brief. Then suddenly I am shaking hands with Peter Blake and Lauren Laverne and the work is on the front cover of the album. The prize was great exposure for my practice and certainly helped in creating exposure for my work.
Please tell us about the exhibition at Century Club? Do you have a favourite work that you feel is particularly relevant to the setting?
The exhibition is really a mix of works - old and new. They all share a recurring theme in that they are about the passing of time and our feelings and associations with the subject. I chose each work carefully with the interior of the Tap room in mind. It’s a challenging task as the space is not a white cube and the interior decor and furniture dictate where the work would go to some extent. Other than framed flat works it’s hard to fully imagine light-based and kinetic works working well, not being at odds with other design elements in the space. I decided on one kinetic flip clock piece, which formally seemed to be able to function alongside two existing lights - a light-box work that seemed to blend both in colour and form with the existing decor and drawings that could mirror one another across the space. The neon piece seems to work concealed in the corner, yet reflected in the numerous mirrored surfaces around in the space.
I have read that you sometimes collaborate with your brother, is a musician and composer. Do you mind elaborating on those collaborations and the influence music has on you and your practice?
My brother and I have been working for a number of years on projects that have been performed through Europe and in the U.S. The collaborative works concern the meeting points between the various media we employ. We are interested in the moments where electronic sound merges with live music; where music becomes visual; where image crosses into musical performance and where all elements combine to form their own physical performance space and definition. Essentially we have combined elements to attempt to blur together what the audience perceives as visual or musical, as live or artificial. We started working together when I was making more video and performance work but have gone on to use light-based installations alongside musicians and performers.
I got the impression that there is a personal element to your work. Could you please share a particular anecdote?
I think that all artists would be pushed to deny there is something personal in any work they create. Often people think that the text used in my work is based solely on my own words. However, some of the words chosen are done so because they work conceptually with the mediums used. For instance: the flip clock in its use of ‘something moved me’ with ‘something moved’. The idea was to create a timekeeper that was talking about its own movement in order to offer a subtitle to the viewer’s interaction with the work. My drawing and neon works often rely on finding texts within texts and in the process of doing so statements are adapted, edited and reworked.
Lastly, please tell me what is up next this year, any particular work, show or collaboration that you have on your mind at the moment?
I am working towards two main projects with my gallery Yoko Uhoda in Belgium. I have a solo show planned for 2017 in Knokke, which I am preparing for and I am also curating a group show on the subject of ‘waiting’, hopefully for the new space opening in Liège. In terms of collaborations, Adam (my composer brother) and I are continuing to develop ideas towards making a short film whose major elements are sound and subtitles.
So, next time you're in the Tap Room, please take a moment before you leave to look at the framed drawings hanging in an L-shaped formation. At a first glance, they look like aerial photographs of landscapes. On closer inspection, they reveal the titles “Now here is where everything happens” of the drawings written over and over, blurring the text into abstraction.
Maria Stenfors has more than 20 years of experience from the art world. She worked at several galleries in Stockholm and London, as well as an independent art advisor, prior to running her own eponymous contemporary art gallery in King’s Cross between 2010 and 2016. Passionate about ‘space and material’ she is an independent consultant alongside working in a gallery.