We catch up with the lovely Rachel Wrigley who is currently a resident artist in the PAPER studio as she tells us about her fascination with household objects, the importance of having a sketchbook and ‘keeping the faith’, all accompanied by laugher and… more laughter.
How did you learn about the PAPER residency opportunity?
It cropped up on Twitter and around that time I was talking to one of my tutors from my foundation course who mentioned that I should probably take a look at PAPER. So I started following them on Twitter and one day – OH MY GOD! This is perfect! Literally, I hadn’t seen any other opportunities that felt like this one – like it was talking directly to me!
So how are you finding it so far?
Alright! Obviously, not having a studio for a year was hard, so to get out of that for a bit I was just doing anything, just to get the ball rolling again, basically. And now I feel like I’m in the midst of it, ideas are coming back to me. It helps that I’m not employed and not doing anything else – this is all I’m doing, I come in and I’m working on my art!
Have you met any of the other artists who work here?
Yes, I’ve met a few, obviously it’s quiet at certain times but whenever anybody’s here I always say hi! For me, after returning from London, I feel like all of my networks are down there so coming to a new city, I’ve got to now invest myself in this.
How are you finding this transition?
It’s okay so far, I’m finding it a lot easier than I thought I would – it’s right that people are a lot friendlier in the North! *laughs* Yeah, I’m feeling very comfortable here. It’s really good having David and Simon to chat with as well, I know I can always ask for help when I need it.
Did you make any work during the year after graduating from Wimbledon?
I attempted to I attempted to, without a studio all the work I produced was made in my house… My sketchbook was my life, it kept me going!
What are you up to right now? Where do you look for inspiration?
Everything that you can see in the studio right now, this is me spitting out ideas, just trying to start and get somewhere. Usually, ideas come from architecture, household objects, which is really weird because I didn’t quite realise that these kind of things would prove so much of an inspiration for me until I wasn’t doing anything. I recognise that architecture always interested me, but I didn’t realise that the household itself was such a source of inspiration. So I’m hoping that during my time here I’m going to figure that out. This drawing (picture below) was one of the first things that I started off with – it began with what I intended to be a drawing of a house, a sort of ideal home, and then after getting half-way through I realised that I was drawing my house when I was 9 years old… I kept telling myself “no, that’s wrong, it’s not there!” but clearly it is! So yeah, I’m probably one little step further with figuring out why.
Imagery itself as well, using photography, playing around with the effect of blurring, that all comes through in my sketches, messing about with our perception of things.
Are you coming up with these ideas and technique as you go along?
Some of it yes, some of it no. Like I said, because my sketchbook was booming, every week, I’m just taking a little bit of out of there.
What motivates you to keep going?
Some ideas will come to me through ways of making a drawing –if that’s the case I’ll have to try to take it further, but what mostly happens is that I’ll have a photo of I’ve something that I’ve seen that has intrigued me, without even remembering why I took it. For example, this piece on the wall behind me (picture below), the idea came to me that I should cut out hexagonal shapes and stick them down – I’d say that’s me trying to really form a space… It’s an attempt at that. Generally, this is the kind of ideas I go with, I’m re-juggling the way that you would read an image or that space. But it is mostly play. I’ve learnt that better things come when you allow yourself to play, if it is a little bit too forced, then you can feel it as well!
That’s very good advice, I need to write that down! Are there any artists who inspire you or are you not really exploring other people’s work at the moment?
I have done a lot in the past, but for this residency I’ve tried to not research before I started, because I wanted to see what I could come up with organically. Obviously, during the degree, you’re encouraged to look at all kinds of people, and so I can’t deny that on my degree I was influenced by them and my practice still is, but I really want to see what I can come up with myself. I’m aware that you can end up copying, subconsciously copying other artists’ work. But in terms of inspiration: Rachel Whiteread, Anna Barriball, Tom Frideman, anybody that had anything to do with architecture or latex casting!
In your statement, you mention the importance of documentation – what do you mean by that?
The way I see it, for example with the photographs, that’s a capture of a moment. It’s the idea that something isn’t going to change from that point onwards and whether or not you can manipulate that point in time. It isn’t always a photograph though, the same goes for a pencil drawing, casting, it’s just about documenting this particular form and then altering it ever so slightly, so that it doesn’t read in quite the same way. My fascination with documentation began one day in the studio when I didn’t have a camera to hand. So instead of taking a photograph I made a graphite rubbing. The amount of information lost or gained from this process intrigued me and I have since been exploring how I can exploit various processes of documentation to tell truth or lies.’
Okay, so tell me about this big piece here. (picture below)
Paper cast – I started this on my first Saturday here and I felt like I just needed to do something, wasn’t exactly sure what, it just needed to happen, to get the ball rolling. It’s something that I’ve done in the past [paper casting], roll out a large sheet of paper, roll it out really thin across something. It’s still not dry! I’m hoping it’ll push me into thinking of different ways about going around the kinds of things that I’m doing. Generally though, you don’t find out what it’ll be like until it’s dry, and you can’t find out the way you want it to form, the way you want it to engage. The good thing is, if it doesn’t work out, I can always pulp it down again and start from scratch. You can feel it if you want! Actually it’s a lot like baking, rolling it out with a rolling pin – but making paper!
Let’s talk about the future – do you want to work as a ‘full time artist’?
Yes. Since being a child, I’ve always said that. It’s weird isn’t it? Most people would maybe decide after their A-levels or a foundation course, but I really never wanted to do anything else! I mean I toyed with the idea of being a hairdresser… *laughs* I think it’s a matter of confidence, once you’ve built that up it becomes much easier. Of course you have your doubts every now and then but that drive to make things, to create, is key.
Do you have a message to get across to your audience, or is it more about the creative process itself?
I prefer things that are easily readable. I don’t like to alienate the audience. I take my mum as a basis – if my mum can understand it then it’s fine! I’m not saying it’s not critically engaged, because it is, I’ve got all the theory behind it, but I still think that you should be able to communicate with everybody.
And lastly, do you have any advice for aspiring young artists?
This is going to sound really corny but during a summer camp, I met an Italian guy who told me to ‘be strong, stay strong’, just keep going, keep looking, keep searching, volunteer, build your network. The thing is people drop out, people get tired, and it’s about who’s still there at the end. Keep the faith!
You can visit Rachel in her PAPER studio every Saturday for the next few weeks, come along for a chat and see what she’s up to! To see more of Rachel’s work, click here.
Interview by Maja Lorkowska