Claire is part of the group exhibition CASTOR now on view throughout Century where her beautiful piece 'Tableau' can be seen in the Club Room.
Hi Claire, please give us a little bit of background on yourself and your journey to becoming a contemporary artist?
I grew up in Worcester, West Midlands, and moved to London in 2006, beginning my BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths University in 2007. I found the structure of the course and socialising quite difficult so I spent most of my time in the workshops where I could establish some sort of routine and equip myself with some skills. Immediately after graduating I rented a studio with a friend and I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to exhibit several times in that first year which helped me establish my style as a contemporary artist. Since then, juggling paid work and making artwork has definitely been a sometimes testing balancing act, but I’m still here and I’ve managed to exhibit throughout the UK and also in Japan, France and Germany to date.
Finish and fabrication is such a huge part of the success of your work I was therefore wondering if you have a background in product design as well as fine art?
No, I don’t, however product design is also an interest of mine, and I actually founded a design studio called Ornamental Grace about a year ago. As I mentioned previously, a huge part of my degree was spent in the workshop, and in addition, I have had jobs working in fabrication in various ways, with high levels of execution which is now inherently part of the way I work.
I very much have a strong interest in making and process and I now teach mould-making and casting back at Goldsmiths as part of the Art Department. I currently spend five to seven days per week in a workshop environment and still wake up every day excited about that as I’m always discovering new things and experimenting with new materials.
Increasingly my material choices are becoming more refined and paired back. I’m very interested in the details at the moment and what happens when certain materials are put together in particular ways. I think this has come from a familiarity and knowledge of specific materials which I now want to play with and push further.
Leading on from the above question can you tell us about your making process and how these objects come to life (without giving away too many secrets)
My ideas tend to start as physical drawings and then often translate into the digital so I can get an idea of proportion and scale. When it comes to the making I often combine very traditional processes with the modern. For example, I often use an ancient plaster turning technique to make many of my components using a laser cut template, or I create objects from laser cut pieces which I then make a silicone mould from and cast into resin. I usually make everything myself which means to achieve the desired finish there is always a high level of labour.
I spend a lot of time sampling material swatches and compositions, and an idea is almost fully developed in a ‘prototype’ stage before launching into what I deem the final work. Sometimes these objects can lie around the studio for a while whilst I get used to them, adapt them or decide if I’m going to use them at all.
Documenting my making process is a really useful tool for me as I often find ideas can originate from something that was merely a functional part of the process, or something I had previously discarded.
Your works have an almost ‘fetishistic’ feel to them - are you interested in ‘fetish’ itself (i.e in a sexual sense) or more the fetishising of the object i.e the fetishism of the consumerist desirable object?
I am interested in the fetishising of objects specifically with regards to hyper-consumerism; which objects are highly desired and for what purpose. However, at its lowest level this is an interest and at its highest level, a concern; I am not interested in offering a critique. I am a maker of objects myself, and like most artists am accepting of our place within the consumerist world too, broadly speaking.
When making my works I often imagine them to be situated in a world where want and lust for luxury surroundings and objects becomes a common hysteria or psychosis. I often create a ballad like fictional world in my head where my work might pass as a regular every day object rather than an art object.
For research I look a lot at branding and advertising for design objects; mainly in design magazines. The framing of luxury and desire through photographic editorial features has become very much abstracted to the point of absurdity and the lines very much begin to blur with art.
Your pieces are stoically ambiguous - is that a function to toy with the audiences notions of what exactly they are looking at - is it art, design, decoration?
Yes, they are ambiguous and I am certainly toying with these notions but I’m not necessarily asking the audience to make a decision on the works classification and I’m also not saying one discipline is more worthy than the other. The ambiguity is a reflection of my own hybrid interests which I cannot deny and the making and exhibiting work allows me to publicly play with these ideas. I think categorical lines (if there ever were any) are becoming increasingly less welcome between art, design and craft, and as I continue to produce object based work it is not helpful for me to define my outcomes into these disciplined brackets.
Art Deco is an influence on your practice but another thing that struck me is the scale of your work: when I saw pictures I imagined them as much larger but the small scale also makes them much more jewel like with an almost Fabergé type quality. What is the role of art historical movements or the decorative arts to your works?
The piece on show at Century is actually one of the smallest pieces I have ever made, and not really a true reflection of the type of scale I usually work in, which is much larger.
My last show at Castor Projects was heavily influenced by the opulence of Art Deco however the role of other art historical movements and the decorative arts is something I am only just starting to figure out and I don’t want to pin myself down to any other movements at present as this is something which is always shifting and changing.
Finally, are there any projects you have coming up that you would like to tell us about?
I’m doing a solo presentation at Castor Projects early next year so I’ll be working hard developing new work for that. I will be launching a new edition alongside the show so do keep an eye on the Castor website for more details.
Claire Bailey is represented by Castor with further examples of her work on their website at castorprojects.co.uk