Katie Anderson and Paula McQuinston, both graduated with a BA in Fine Art from University of Cumbria last year, are taking part in this year’s Spring Fling as new graduates. Both from the region, they chose to comeback and work in Dumfries & Galloway after their graduation.
Katie was awarded with a full-year residency with WASPS studios in Kirkcudbright, along with another graduate participant Emma Kerr, and Paula will open her studio in Annan. Both young artists work with installations and rise issues, discussions and sympathy through their work.
What are you showing during Spring Fling this year?
Paula: Well, this year’s Spring Fling, I’m working along the theme of maternal interruption, which I have been working along for three years now. So, hopefully, it’s going to go a bit ahead in this Spring Fling. With that theme in mind, and looking at pinpointing the exact moment that it occurs, and how childhood themes interpret through that work, so I’ve been looking mainly at stories that when you are a child that make you feel uneasy and lost, shall we say? So that gives you—
Katie: It’s like stories that you’re told as a child or memories that you build up as a child?
Paula: Stories that you’re told. Stories I am basing on are Alice in Wonderland, because you’re being drawn out of one world into another. And you are lost in both worlds. And it’s that moment that you are drawn out. So, the other thing I was working with was The Labyrinth. Do you know that one?
Paula: The David Bowie one.
Katie: Okay, it’s the creepy one?
Paula: The creepy one. The child’s taken out of one world into another and you’re lost in that world. And also she was lost in her own world before. The same with Alice in Wonderland really. So, what will be in my exhibition space will be a kind of mix between Alice in Wonderland and The Labyrinth for adults.
Katie: That sounds exciting!
Paula: So, hopefully, when visitors come along, they will be able to wander through this strange, uncomfortable world that I have made. There will be sound and lights and other things. And I’ll have a brush at the door, I’ll have to brush your feet off, hahaha, because there will stuff on the ground and you don’t want to be towing that halfway the street with you.
Katie: Well I’m sold! I’ll be in my studio all weekend, but I’ll come.
Paula: Come on the Friday night.
Katie: Yes. Can you give the date for the Friday night and the time.
Paula: Friday night I have an open evening, which is the 24th and opening at 6:30, and there will be some free drinks there. Come along, and get lost in my strange little world.
Katie: So my art’s developed into several key pieces. And I’ve sort of worked into two separate installations with some intermediary work. It’s the plan for what I’m going to show this year. And two of the works are outside based. And my practice is really based on an interest in objects and fascination with our relationship with objects, both as a kind of tangible thing, but also in terms of that kind of consumer culture and materialism and those sorts of things.
So, I tend to produce and remake familiar objects by changing some of the essence of the objects normally by material use or through an essence of the handmade. I try to transform these objects into something slightly less familiar and—
Katie: Yes, yes, taking the use away from an object has been something that’s been really practical in terms of some of the objects I’ve made. So, casting things like the bronze mobile phones, they suddenly became really impractical in terms of weight and then that they lost their function. But, keeping the familiarity of the object, it still looked the same as a regular mobile phone. It still has something of the aura of it, but had taken on something else.
And, after my degree show, I was sent a piece of text by someone who’d been around to see the show, and it was a section from a T.S. Elliot poem, which reads: And the wind shall say: “Here were decent godless people: their only monument the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls.”—Which resonates really well and really picks up on some of these things.
My objects were becoming a sort of cultural artefact or icons of a material age just about where I was aiming at. So that’s the notion of monuments that humankind would leave behind in this post-apocalyptic notion everyone is obsessed with currently in the film industry. The idea of roads and golf balls would be it.
Katie: So as my work developed, moving away from the college environment, using all the discarded, throwaway, rubbish objects, like the costa cups and cigarette boxes, some of these objects were losing their context, and in Kirkcudbright, I guess, the pace of life and everything, even from Carlisle, changed a little bit. It had a funny tweaking of the way that I make work, which is quite exciting.
And it’s also the first time I’ve started to produce work that goes outdoors. It’s different, it has a whole different set of challenges with it, but I still am interested in this ephemerality, the temporal, the transient kind of notions. At the same time juxtaposed with those more permanent objects and things that will outlive us, whether that’s just plastic or some material I used really impacts the way I make things.
I’ve been practicing and learning a little bit about glass casting, which is my most exciting technical thing of the minute. So there will be some of that going in amongst all this.
Paula: Well that sounds great. It sounds absolutely brilliant, really exciting work you do.
Katie: It’s a little bit nerve rocking and it’s a little bit different, but I’m enjoying pushing myself in a different direction. I think having left college was a really strange experience, and everyone who’s spoken to me has said something similar. When we were in this university environment, we were very much nursed along, and almost wrapped up, and looked after, and this kind of communication, and shared—
Paula: Kind of, all shared a world, isn’t it?
Katie: Yes. And I think one also has to work a little bit harder. I mean when you’re surrounded by students, everyone’s ready to jump on whatever it is you’re doing. But when you step beyond your little circle of art students, then the work is challenged a little bit more, and it’s got to work a little bit harder. This is something I’ve been finding more exciting actually.
How is the rural life in Dumfries & Galloway?
Paula: So are you enjoying working in the WASPS Studios, Katie?
Katie: Yeah, it’s been a really useful experience, because in this notion of going from university to the great outdoors, WASPS has made a really good interim space. And there is still a level of support. But it’s a lot more loose, and I think the opportunity of being there, being able to work in the area for a whole year has really given me a lot of opportunities and insight into the diverse nature of art in Dumfries & Galloway, which still surprises me regularly.
a small film of Katie’s Studio in WASPS
Paula: Oh Gosh yeah!
Katie: Everyone else moved up to Glasgow, or to New Castle or even London. Somewhere dead exciting and it’s fast paced. And fast paced doesn’t really do it for me for any period of time. And to think that we could maybe even have some exciting art things going on here is—
Paula: Is exciting in itself, yes.
Katie: There’s an awful lot going on for a place with the kind of population that we’ve got. That for me is really exciting. And although I’m going to be finishing up at the studios there, because my residency’s finishing up soon, I’m still looking forward to edging my way into all that kind of thing. It’s really exciting.
For example, for the past few months I’ve been working with the Stove Network, who are based in Dumfries and look to be at the centre of exciting and ‘happening’ arts in the region, and I’m really excited to see where they will go next!
Paula: Yes. I think there’s a lot going on now in art, in the entire arts scene for Dumfries & Galloway, not only in contemporary art, but in music, and craft, and everything that’s been put together through other organisations, which is brilliant. It’s really making the region come quite alive.
Your influence and inspiration
Paula: The artists that influenced me the greatest are artists like Mona Hatoum, and Louis Bourgeois, and Chris Newman. Chris Newman’s work is quite fascinating. He’s done this work called ‘Repeat, Repeat’, and it’s sounds and videos over all over of all of his work combined and taken out of context of their original works, and so when you work through that you get hit by different noises and see different videos that shouldn’t have gone together, it’s making a kind of weird world, which is so interesting.
And Karla Black’s work as well, it’s the domestic kind of materials she uses, and that’s what interests me the most about her stuff. And the person who influence me most is definitely Mona Hatoum.
Paula’s film/installation: Again and Again
Katie: Her work is amazingly beautiful.
Paula: It’s amazingly beautiful. Her installations are stunning, especially her glass balls made of web, which I like in contrast with Louis Bourgeoisie’s giant spiders. I think they work so peacefully. What about you Katie, what are your artist influences?
Katie: I go through phases. Sometimes Grayson Perry is my biggest biggest influence – yeah, he’s just amazing. Everything he does I could– and he got BAFTA last week, he did.
Paula: He’s amazing.
Katie: Yes. But I suppose when it comes down to it, the kind of artists that I’m into at the minute, there is a Glasgow-based artist Neil MacDonald. And he makes quite a lot of really nice cast work and has shown at GoMA, or has work in the show at GoMA at the minute. And Lorna McIntyre. who is also Glasgow based. I just really like the way she uses materials, and uses colour, which is one of those things that freaks me out. You will know most of my work lacks colour mostly because I can’t really cope with having more than a very small selection of colours going on at once.
And I really like Deirdre Nelson’s work as well. Her art’s kind of– I love textile based things, but the way she uses them in context to build up, the kind of work she makes and the influence of the kind of work she makes is fantastic. So at the minute those are the people that I tend to keep coming back to.
What would be the future development of your work and its relation to the region?
Katie: I find more and more that the kind of work I make is really influenced by the context of where it is put, so I make a golf ball in glass or in ice, but it is not anything until it finds a place to be sited in.
And when the relationship between site and object comes into play something more exciting and interesting happens.
Katie: So, I’ve started to explore sites a lot more in terms of my work as a context for the other elements, and I think that that becomes a much more immersive experience for me.
Paula: I think working in Dumfries & Galloway lets you use site a lot more as well. From being based in Carlisle for the last three years.
Katie: One of the things I noticed when I started at WASPS was that almost for everyone, you can see the influences locally of where their work is coming out. When I was driving on the A75 and I looked across and saw pretty much a painting that I’d seen the other week. Or I was driving somewhere else, and you start to notice the shapes and the colours and the tones, almost for everyone who is here, the environment inadvertently effects the kind of work that they make. So I suspect it will seep in gradually.
Paula: I am hoping that it will for me too. And after Spring Fling is finished, my work on maternal interruption would have come to–
Katie: Would have come to the culmination point.
Paula: It’s a culmination point for this topic, and I really want to start exploring more within the region, doing more site specific work. And within Dumfries & Galloway, because it’s such a beautiful environment to work within, rather than being in cities that – you could be in any city.
Katie: Yes, cities are great, they’ve got a lots of personality and character and the rest of that, but I don’t find that they work at the pace where I can still make work. I need that kind of easing off…