CC: For those who may not be familiar with your work, please could you describe your practice - I'm extremely drawn to your use of colour, materiality and iconography…
LM: Oh thank you that’s really kind! I think that’s what the sculptures aim to do... to seduce and entice the viewer with their zealous colour, lubricious glossiness and unhealthy preoccupation with nostalgia. I have a peculiar magpie like affinity to culture, picking out events and moments from my personal history that I feel have had a considerable impact on me and my sensibility. This can range from the mass hysteria of Princess Diana’s death to the garish aspirational designs of Laurence Llewelyn Bowen on Changing rooms. My practice embraces the subjects and moments that are deemed to be low culture, interweaving their iconography and ebullience with high culture methods of construction.
CC: In previous interviews you've talked about interrupting the norm/aesthetic of the art world and saleability something I find really exciting, why is this important to you and how do you implement in your work literally/conceptually…
LM: I worked with Fiona MacCarthy, (the leading Arts Historian on William Morris) on her National Portrait Gallery Exhibition, Anarchy and Beauty: William Morris and his Legacy 1860 - 1960. My work acquiring exhibits for this exhibition immersed me totally within the Arts and Crafts movement and acquainted me with Morris’ visionary socialist ideals and those in the years that followed him who passed a ‘News from Nowhere’ test. Although I don’t entirely agree with his politics, I do share his aspirations to make ‘Art for the People’, rather than for my contemporaries and those educated in fine art.
To me, it seems ludicrous to make work that is disingenuous and is so removed from my everyday life and upbringing. I never grew up around art or high culture and the thought of reading theory fills me with dread. I mean, I want to read it and I am so in awe of those artists that seem to have read absolutely everything. But I know that if I were to consciously cite theory in my practice, it would only be because I was embarrassed of seeming to have frivolous reference points that weren't weighty enough.
Although I inhaled Richard Sennet’ts ‘The Craftsman’ and Anne Carson’s ‘Men In the Off Hours’, it didn’t shape the work I made about femininity or hone my work in ceramics. My sculpture and installations draw from my everyday life and the stories of those around me who inspire me. My worst fear is that I would get so enamoured by my own resourcefulness that I would create a piece that was indecipherable to those closest to me. To me it's so important that I create my work honestly as then at least there's no possibility that the work will be hollow and conceited in it's intentions.
CC: I'm really interested in the relationship between domesticity and the visceral /sickly sweet qualities of your work. For me they gesture towards high/low culture, investigate appropriation of imagery...they are very rich works! What particular social histories/narratives (if any) are you interested in exploring in your practice?
LM: I feel that my practice is extremely intuitive and emotive, with sculptures being forged from my personal narrative, most prominently stories based around my family and the domestic setting. Highly decorative furniture often replaces pedestals and plinths, harking to those in the arts and crafts (such as the Bloomsbury group) who blurred the lines between life and art. I often combine film and sound within my sculptures, extrapolating imagery and audio that recounts the memories that have shaped me in a comedic and bittersweet fashion.
My sculpture takes the form of theatrical, set like structures; stages for storytelling and platforms for nostalgic imagery. These structures emulate the domestic setting and conjure images of home improvement, with cheap MDF platforms being pimped and primed to allow the viewer to suspend their disbelief. Here the ceramics I create act as performers and representatives for my oversaturated sensibility, taking the form of players who scintillatingly attempt to charm and seduce the viewer to succumbing to the ephemeral pleasure of my over-zealous taste.
I often work collaboratively, inviting my friends and family to create alongside me as I find that art can be quite a lonely discipline. I create works as springboards for conversations, ways to provoke the recountment of memories and to heal the insecurities we attempt to disclose.
CC: In previous chats you've mentioned the therapeutic benefits of working with clay (something I've found to be true also )and it's help with mental health. What is it about working with clay you enjoy and how has it personally helped you?
LM: When I was 22 I was diagnosed with Obsessive Thought Disorder and began taking antidepressants. I had suffered from anxiety and depression since I was a child so it was such a relief to put a name to how I was feeling. When I was younger, no one talked about mental illness, especially in my age group, and I felt perpetually alone and scared. Although OTD sounds like a totally made up condition, it completely debilitated me and monopolised everything I said and did. I had left art school once already and was so determined not to leave again. But with the anti depressants, my mind was finally able to breathe. I remember I was driving around Sheffield in my car when Rihanna’s ‘What’s My Name’ came on the radio. For the first time in months I could actually hear music and my body started to wiggle rather than cower. I blasted the song and couldn't stop smiling and singing. I felt for the first time in months that I had me back. I decided then that I was going to make artwork that made me happy and that hopefully could communicate the juxtaposing emotions in that everyday, utterly euphoric moment.
Before working in clay, I had used a lot of found objects, so my work was totally dependant on scavenger hunts in charity shops and car boot sales. The entities were always a disappointment, never entirely capturing my sensibility. It was then that I experienced Rebecca Warren's immense and gluttonously anthropomorphic clay sculptures. I was instantly drawn to this medium and the way that it solidified and eternalised the artist's manipulation. I started handbuilding in clay, creating monstrous deities to popular culture, extrapolating and deciphering the confusing and at time burdening world around me. As a naturally visceral medium, clay allows me to feed my neuroses and fears into the work through osmosis. I create entities that I see as extensions of myself, protagonists in my installations and storytellers of my narrative. But the act of making them itself also has a therapeutic function.
Now I make in Clay out of necessity. As an adult, I am still being treated for OTD, depression and anxiety, but making in clay is extremely cathartic. When I am in the studio, I am able to shut out the world and delve into this tactile medium, creating anything that I desire. It is total escapism and my respite from the anxiety of the day to day.
CC: I'm interested in your thoughts about ceramics and contemporary art...ceramics and crafts have often been marginalised to feminine hobbies rather than art practice, I'm really excited by a reconceptualising and agency of artist and materials reauthorising those associations. Do you have any comments on this and whether it's something you think about in relation to your practice both positively and any challenges?
LM: It’s something that I think about constantly within my practice and actively try and subvert through gluttonous and often vulgar subject matters. As a woman using ceramics in contemporary art, there is a tendency for the work to be marginalised as craft. Whereas male artists who work in ceramics unquestionably make art (Jesse Wine and Granchester Pottery for example), my sculpture (which is how I define it) is often categorised as craft. I have no idea why. I mean, is that what craft is? Women’s work? It’s infuriating as I know a lot of the men who work in ceramics are interested in the craft and science of firings and glazings. But I’m not ashamed to say I’m not. I am happy with buying botz pots and throwing the glazes on without any idea of the outcome. I am not a ceramicist.
That’s not to shun craft. I was taught a lot of what I know from Wendy Proudfoot (my studio partner Paloma’s mum) who is a Ceramicist. She often dispares at my creations and tells me when things I want to create won’t work. Infuriatingly, she is always right. I try to prove her wrong but it’s to no avail because she is so ingrained in ceramics. To me that’s what a craftsperson is. Someone who resolutely knows the properties of their material and strives for perfection. Craft implies craftsmanship and I don’t feel that my approach to ceramics has a fraction of the skill set or knowledge that those who are truly adept in the craft have.
CC: How has the process of your work and relationship with materials changed over time/since finishing art school?
Well I only just finished studying my MA at the Royal College in June...so not a lot! But as I’m working as a shop assistant as well as an artist I have had to get far more organised and resilient. I think that’s one of the hardest parts about being emerging artist. Having to balance working a paid, reliable job that can pay for your studio and house every month and the sporadic money that can come from your practice.
CC: Could you talk about the ideas you’re hoping to bring to The Reinvention of Love with your work?
LM: The title of the exhibition really struck a chord with me and is actually going to be reiterated as the title of my work. On and off over the past two years I have been seeing a man that I met on Tinder. I say on and off because I used to infuriate him with my melodrama and he infuriated me with his evasiveness. As two utterly contrasting people, we argued incessantly about anything and everything. But, really oddly, we are so attracted to each other. Our tempestuous relationship always resulted in us taking a break from each other that could last from weeks to months. During this time I'd secretly pine for him but also pretend I didn't care about him. Because I'm that mature. He is absolutely gorgeous, smelling just like heaven and making me laugh hysterically. He's become my best friend.
This time that we’re seeing each other, I'm making a big effort not to run so hot and allow him to be who he is. He's also trying not to wind me up and say I'm impulsive and crazy. It feels like an impossible task for both of us, but it feels wonderful that we’re really trying. I feel like this unconventional relationship is a reinvention of what I thought Love would be like. It's not the instant attraction, it's how you deal with him becoming the real him and you becoming the real you.
For the Reinvention of Love, I have asked him come to the studio and learn the basics in pottery so we can collaborate on coil pots. I had the idea that he would make the actual pots and I’ll make these extended slip cast limbs that will engulf them. As a man who works in science, he’s quite excited to buy some ‘art clothes ’(as he calls them) and be a part of my narrative. It’s our hope that after they’re fired, he’ll glaze the parts that I create and I'll glaze the parts that he does. They’ll probably look terrible and oddly mutated, but I’m attracted to the sentiment of attempting to work together, no matter how futile it is.
CC: What can we look forward to in 2018 from you!
LM: My 2018 has got really busy suddenly so I’m both excited and totally terrified for the New Year. At the start of 2018, I am going on a residency to Colombia with the organisation FIBRA and taking part in a group ceramics show with Hotel Contemporary. Then in April I am so excited to be exhibiting my first solo exhibition after my MA as part of the Zabludowicz Invites programme. Finally I will be collaborating with the artist Jamie Fitzpatrick on a duo show for Vitrine’s Art Basel exhibition in June.
Lindsey Mendick (b. 1987, London) MA Royal College of Art, London. Recent and current exhibitions include: You See Me Like A UFO, Marcelle Joseph Projects (2017), Herland, Bosse & Baum, London (2017), In Dark Times, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2017), You Were High When I Was Doomed, IMT, London (2017) She’s Really Nice When You Get To Know Her, Visual Arts Center, Austin Texas (2016), My Own Private Idaho, Chalton Gallery, London, (2016), Anne et Lucie, Musee de Valence, France (2016) Résidence d’artistes de la Fondation Albert Gleizes, Moly Sabata, France (2016), EBC 005, East Bristol Contemporary, Bristol (2016), Blind Date, Royal Standard, Liverpool (2016), Performance: Disco 2000, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2015), I’m TEN, IMT gallery, London (2015), Mostyn 19, Mostyn Gallery, Wales (2015), It Was A Dark and Stormy Night, Castlefield Gallery, Manchester (2015). Lindseymendick.com @lindseymendick
Cairo Clarke graduated from Chelsea College of Arts in MA Curating and Collections in 2016 and is an independent curator and writer. Currently she is Assistant Curator of Kunstraum, London. In July Cairo curated Act 1, Part II as part of Art Night 17’s Associate Programme in East London, and completed a residency at Yinka Shonibare MBE’s Guest Projects in March 201 and co-curated the TPS x Bold Tendencies summer programme in 2016. Alongside of this she has spoken as part of Tate Modern’s Curating Radical Futures and Women in Art symposiums, Cairo has written for Arcadia Missa and Studio 1.1 as well as hosting artist talks for Century Club and House of Vans. @cairoc